Thursday, September 11, 2014

The Man Who Made the Jailhouse Rock: Alex Romero, Hollywood Choreographer

with author Mark Knowles
Sunday October 12th 2:00 p.m.

Choreographer Alex Romero created Jailhouse Rock, the iconic Elvis Presley production number, but never received screen credit for his contribution. MARK KNOWLES, who traced the history of tap dancing in his acclaimed book, Tap Roots, has written a lively book on Romero which he will discuss at Crowell Library on October 12 at 2:00 p.m. Known for his inventive style and creative use of props, Alex Romero was instrumental in bringing rock and roll to the screen. Knowles’ biography includes first-person accounts of Romero’s collaborations with Gene Kelly, Fred Astaire, Judy Garland, Frank Sinatra, and others.

The son of a Mexican general, Romero escaped the Mexican Revolution, joined his family's vaudeville dance act and became a dancer in Hollywood. Part of Jack Cole's exclusive Columbia dance troupe, he was eventually hired as a staff assistant at MGM, where he worked on Take Me Out to the Ballgame, American in Paris, Seven Brides for Seven Brothers, and On the Town, among many others. When Romero transitioned into full-time choreography, he created the dances for numerous films, including Love Me or Leave Me, I'll Cry Tomorrow, Tom Thumb, Whatever Happened to Baby Jane, and additional movies for Elvis.

Mark Knowles has directed and/or choreographed over 300 productions nationally and internationally, from Buenos Aires to Broadway, as well as innumerable film and television productions. Locally, he has taught dance at the American Academy of Dramatic Arts, La Salle High School, Occidental College and UC Irvine. Mr. Knowles is the author of four books, The Tap Dance Dictionary, Tap Roots: The Early History of Tap Dancing,(winner of the American Library Association’s Choice Award for Outstanding Academic Text), and The Wicked Waltz and Other Scandalous Dances.