After leaving the school, Wayburn spent many years in theater staging shows for producers.
He worked with such teams as Oscar and William Hammerstein, and Marc Klaw and A.L.
Erlanger. In 1906, he began his own management group called the Headline Vaudeville
Production Company. Through his own firm he staged many feature acts, while collaborating
with other producers such as Lew Fields, William Ziegfeld and the Shuberts. In 1915, he
began working with Florenz Ziegfeld and created the incredibly successful Ziegfeld Follies.
Wayburn’s choreography was based on six idioms or techniques: musical comedy, tapping and stepping, acrobatic work, modern
American ballet, toe specialties, and exhibition ballroom. He was also known to be influenced by social traditions of the time
period. As a child, he was captivated by Minstrel shows and recreated them in many of his works. Formation symmetry was
common in minstrel shows, as well as parade. Wayburn used Minstrel style costumes and makeup in his show Minstrel Misses
His choreography was greatly affected by social dances of the time. His dancers moved in units of two or four, following popular
trends. He also used a group of dancers to form shapes, as inspired by the Cotillion. During this a group would form the letters V,
C, and W as well as coils and bisected circles. He also was famous for taking dances such as tangos, the Turkey Trot, the Grizzly
Bear, the Black Bottom and the Charleston and re-creating them for stage performances by using strong exaggerations of
Some of his well known shows were Phantastic Phantoms (1907), The Daisy Dancers (1906), The Passing Show (1913), and of
course all of the Ziegfeld Follies. He created steps such as the “Ziegfeld Walk” and the “Gilda Glide”, and worked with many well-
known performers of the time such as Fred Astaire, Gilda Gray, Marilyn Miller, Ann Pennington, Barbara Stanwyck, Clifton
Webb, Mae West, Evelyn Law and Fanny Brice.
- This information is from Wikipedia
Ned Wayburn, born Edward Claudius Weyburn, (March 30, 1874 - September 2, 1942) was
easily the most famous and influential choreographer in the early twentieth century. He was
born in Pennsylvania but spent much of his childhood in Chicago where he was introduced to
theater and studied classical piano. At the age of 21, he abandoned his family’s tradition of
manufacturing and began teaching at the Hart Conway School of Acting in Chicago. There he
worked with three faculty members that directly influenced his growing interest in dance and
movement: C.H. Jacobsen, Colonel Thomas Hoyer Monstery, and Ida Simpson-Serven
whose teachings were based on Delsarte’s concepts about the meaning of gestures and their
ability to communicate the emotion.
cavity or region, you must, out of consideration for your own health, avoid any violent bending exercise. This does not imply that you should
not exercise properly. You should, for it is easily possible to strengthen the tender muscles into a normal condition by suitable and systematic
Try this test: Lie flat on your back on the floor. Now, without aid of the hands or elbows or any outside assistance, bring your body to a sitting
position. If you cannot do this, get your back muscles into training before you attempt any difficult exertion. If you succeed in your test, you
can safely consider your abdominal muscles to be in sufficiently good condition to go ahead with acrobatic dancing.
Let me describe a few of the most common of the acrobatic tricks that all acrobatic dancers must know, and you will no doubt recognize them as
being also favorite tumbling acts of boys and girls on the lawn. The most complicated and difficult acrobatic exercises are taught in full in the
Ned Wayburn Studios, and are printed in detail, with simple instruction for their successful accomplishment, in the Ned Wayburn Home Study
Course in Stage Dancing. The few we give you here are not difficult, and can be mastered at home by anyone who persistently practices and
follows the descriptions with care.
THERE is a very decided distinction to be drawn between acrobatics pure and simple, and acrobatic dancing, which is quite another matter. It
is, of course, acrobatic dancing that you see on the stage accompanying and accentuating the more formal dancing steps in musical comedies,
revues, and spectacular performances, and it is this acrobatic dancing that receives wide attention in the teaching of the dancing art in the Ned
There are properly two divisions into which acrobatic dancing is naturally separated:
(1) Bending exercises; including the back bend, hand-stand, inside-out, front over, back limber, cartwheel, tinseca, nip-up, the various splits,
and several more advanced feats that should be attempted only after thorough physical preparation.
(2) High-Kicking exercises; including all the so-called "legmania" varieties of dancing, which are best acquired109 by thorough preparation of
the body in the Ned Wayburn foundation technique and studious attention to the drill in the Ned Wayburn Americanized ballet technique.
All of the acrobatic dancing tricks that are properly classified under bending exercises have for their foundation the back bend and the hand
stand, as they are called, both of which must be mastered absolutely before attempting other and more complicated acrobatic exercises.
I want to go on record with the emphatic statement that acrobatic dancing must not be attempted except by those who are entirely and
absolutely physically fit. The acrobatic dancer must possess unusual strength in the arms, in order that the weight of the body may be safely
supported; and there must be strength and flexibility of the waist muscles and the abdominal muscles, and of all the muscles of the back and
shoulders, to enable the performer to execute the front and back bends and their companion strenuous exercises. First, the pupil must have an
unusual adaptability to this type of dancing, and then must prepare carefully and properly in advance of entering upon the real work of the
The best development comes from our limbering and stretching exercises. There is nothing else like it nor anything equally as good as a
foundation for all types of dancing, and it is especially needed by the amateur entering upon an acrobatic dancing career. We have put literally
thousands of pupils through this course, and every student of our acrobatic dancing classes who has taken this essential preliminary course has
come through in fine shape.
You must be extremely careful if you have or ever have had any abdominal trouble. You must get the abdomen110 strengthened before you
undertake any acrobatic work. If you have had an operation for peritonitis, appendicitis, hernia, or elsewhere in the abdominal
NED WAYBURN’S ACROBATIC DANCING
Stand erect. Spread the feet about fifteen inches apart. Have the toes pointed well out, at about a sixty
degree angle. Raise the arms directly overhead, the hands111 shoulder-width apart. Put your head
back, pushing forward with your knees. Lean back, bending the arms as far back as you can, till the
palms of the hands rest on the floor. In doing the back bend, relax the lower jaw and keep the mouth
slightly open to breathe. Throw the strain of the bend in the small of the back. To come up, acquire a
little rocking motion forward and back, lean forward, and you will come up easily.
How to do a back bend while standing near a wall.
Stand about 3 feet from the wall, with your back to the wall, feet about two feet apart. Bend back,
touch the wall with the palms and walk down the wall with your hands until you touch the floor. Then
walk up with your hands until you are erect.
Take a wide step forward with the left foot, place both hands flat on the floor at least eighteen inches
apart in front of the left toe, fingers open and pointed directly front, right leg perfectly straight,
extended straight back. Swing the right leg up and over and follow it with the left leg, and when you
come down bring down the left leg first, then the right leg, bringing the left knee close up to the chest.
Do not kick hard or you will go over.
How to do a hand stand while standing near a wall.
Advance whichever foot comes natural to you to do this act (people are right and left footed as well as
right and left handed); let us say your right foot. Stand facing the wall with the right foot advanced to
within about two feet of it. Place both hands on the floor, about eighteen inches apart, in front of left
foot, fingers open and pointed front, right leg extended back and straight. Kick up with the left foot
over your back so as to bring the soles of both feet against the wall, the left foot reaching the wall first;
knees straight, heels together.
The cartwheel is the hand stand done sidewise. Instead of kicking up, as in the hand stand, put one hand
down and then the other, going sidewise, kicking your feet up. Keep your head back, so as to retain
your sense of direction.
One of my star pupils in acrobatic dancing is Miss Evelyn Law, a principal dancer of the "Follies," and in
"Louie the Fourteenth." She came to me four years ago, a little girl fifteen years old. There are few girls
who have worked so hard to succeed as has Evelyn, and there are certainly few who have achieved the
top line in their profession as quickly as she has. In every respect, Miss Law is a credit to the American
stage. She started in her first appearance in an engagement which I got for her at a salary of $75.00 a
week. Then her salary jumped to $125.00 a week, in "Two Little Girls in Blue," plus her mother's fare;
later, as a featured member of the114 "Follies," which engagement I was also very happy to secure for
her, her weekly salary reached the $750.00 mark. But Evelyn deserves her good fortune, because she
has worked hard. Indeed, no girl could do the remarkable work which she is doing were she to live
anything but a life of rigorous attention to every detail pertaining to health and physical fitness. She not
only has ability, but she has the capacity for putting her heart into her job. She writes: "The
encouragement which I have received urges me on to greater effort; and I am constantly trying to
improve myself. I realize that only by constantly striving can I hope to win the recognition of
producers and at the same time please the public." She writes of her present work that it is "a privilege
which must be honored by my unflagging effort to put forth my best."
There's inspiration for all my dancing pupils in Evelyn Law's success.
MR. WAYBURN ADDRESSES A CLASS IN ACROBATIC DANCING
I HAVE watched this class with a great deal of interest. You really are getting a physical foundation here for wonderful dancing; you are beginning
to handle yourselves in a scientific way. I congratulate you.
To make a success at acrobatic or any other dancing you must not strain yourselves. Train, but don't strain. Be patient and keep practicing, and
you will go far.
You are very wise to develop your ability along the line of acrobatic dancing rather than as an acrobat. There is a vast difference. As a mere
acrobat one has to be a top-liner and wonderfully expert to get any kind of a salary at all, but as an acrobatic dancer you can command a place in
the very best stage productions, high class musical comedies, musical revues, vaudeville, etc., and also in the better grade motion pictures and
presentations, and get a very good salary. But if you let the acrobatic tricks dominate your dance, you will be classed as an acrobat, and not as an
acrobatic dancer; so look out—keep your dancing up to grade and throw in these acrobatic tricks as a surprise and a climax, and you've got
something the public and the producers want and will pay for.
After you have acquired these wonderful tricks and gotten hold of your bodies, and succeeded in bringing out in a physical way all the grace that
nature gave you, then you can be116 taken and schooled in the soft, beautiful Americanized ballet work, and you will find that after this training
you are now getting, our ballet technique will delight you and be comparatively easy for you. You know, of course, that in this course the ballet is
not taught in the old, antiquated way, taking years of your time before you are permitted to do solo work. We teach you our own modern,
scientific way, giving you first our foundation technique, then letting you learn how to use your arms, head, the upper part of your body and your
legs gracefully and prettily, and making you as good ballet dancers as the old long-drawn-out practice ever made, enabling you to qualify for a
paying engagement without a discouraging wait of years and years. Pavlowa, you know, was kept subordinate twelve years before she was
permitted to attempt a solo dance in public. Imagine our American girls submitting to such apprenticeship! Not one of you would consider such a
thing. And fortunately you do not have to, for we have revolutionized all that.
Now you are getting a wonderful dancing repertoire, with acrobatic dancing, musical comedy work and the tap and step dancing. When you add
our ballet course to that, then you are ready for any call that may come to you in your lifetime. This is my aspiration for you. We are trying to
realize ideals. When you have finished here you will be accomplished dancers, not mere machines going through a bunch of set exercises. Add the
spiritual touch to your work now as you start on the home stretch. Finish here going strong, and your speed will carry you far.
Don't be satisfied to qualify merely as acrobats. When you come to me for a letter of recommendation to some first-class theatrical manager, I
don't want to have to say to him: "Enclosed you will please find one acrobat." I117 have better hopes of the graduate pupils of my courses than
I want to say a word here to any who feel that they are slow and not keeping up with the pace set by the rest of the class, and that word of advice is,
take the same class for another four weeks' period. Don't have any false pride about it. You want to fit yourself perfectly for your profession. If
the four weeks you have already had here are not time enough to do that, go in for another month. Really, two months is a very short time for
completing a training of so much value to you.
I tell pupils in the courses in the other branches of dancing we teach, that if they feel stiff or have difficulty in performing their steps, they would
do well to go into this class, the acrobatic dancing class, for a month, because here the students get all sorts of primary acrobatic tricks and gain
in strength and flexibility. All dancing is easier to those who take this work. And besides, if you go out and accept an engagement you will be
proficient in cartwheels, splits, and many other neat tricks that will be of great service to you. These are stunts that you cannot learn in a theatre;
no one has time to teach them to you, nor the necessary equipment or facilities, and you want to be ready when the stage director calls for those
who are capable of doing something unusual, to show him on the spot. And you cannot afford to try to learn things from another girl. You may
injure yourself severely if you do. These difficult feats should only be attempted under the best instruction. Do not allow any girl or boy who is
inexperienced to try to teach you anything in the line of acrobatic work.
Fresh air in your lungs, correct diet, and nine glasses of water a day will do wonders for you in many ways. You have heard me say this before.
Well, I shall say it a good118 many times more, just as long as I have students under my charge who want to be "healthy, wealthy and wise"—and
good looking and good dancers. And please do not treat this advice lightly. I can only ask you to observe these simple rules. I have no way of
enforcing them, and possibly because they are simple you do not give them the consideration they deserve. Now let me tell you some facts, and
then you decide whether or not you think it wise to neglect yourself.
Surely none of you will object to taking a glass of water nine times a day. Do not drink ice water, nor take water with meals. Liquids taken while
eating will bloat you, make you fat, or make it impossible to assimilate your food properly, and that will keep you underweight. Take a glass on
arising, one after breakfast, one before and after dinner and luncheon, one at about eleven in the morning and another at four, and one just
before getting into bed. Water taken into the system this way induces a healthful perspiration which eliminates the bodily impurities. Your skin
must be ventilated, which means that the pores must be opened, and water-drinking as I have directed will do this. If you drink milk, sip it slowly;
don't pour it down. Don't eat between meals. Have a meal an hour and a half before class or before a performance, then the digestive process will
have had time to complete its work and leave you in the best condition for mental and physical exertion.
After exercising here in your class, do not dress and hurry out into the street until your pores are closed. You have free shower baths at your
disposal in your dressing rooms here in the studios, put there for just the purpose of enabling you to get into perfect condition before you go
outdoors. Use them, with my compliments, please, and keep fit; then take a good rub down.
It is important to you to have a good clear skin and complexion. Some of you have it, and you want to keep it; some will be glad to know how to
get it. I am going to tell you just how to acquire it and keep it, and clear up any little blemishes on your skin,—but it is so simple I am afraid you
won't think it worth doing. To have clear skins you must have pure blood and good circulation of the blood, and to obtain these you must breathe
deeply and correctly and so get fresh air, full of oxygen, into your lungs. That's all there is to it. And now, here is the correct way to breathe to
accomplish all this, and I wish you would practice it now here in the class as I tell you about it:
Breathe in through your nostrils, with the mouth closed. Inhale slowly and way down deep, filling your lungs as full as you can; then exhale slowly
through your mouth. Do this as an exercise, and do it ten times before you stop. Then do it again whenever you think of it, not less than three
times a day. You cannot do it too often, no danger of that! It won't hurt you or cost you a cent. The air drawn into your lungs this way expands
your chest and increases your lung capacity. This makes good wind for dancing, and all dancers need lots of wind; you have to have it, you have
to call for lots of breath when you dance rapidly or long. Start in right now, and by the time you have a stage engagement you will be prepared
with a bellows that will furnish all the air you call for—and meanwhile watch your skin and your complexion put on the clear, healthy, beautiful
appearance that every woman envies. The air in this room, as in any room, is not entirely free of impurities; it is not the best air for your
breathing exercises. Outdoors—say, over in Central Park, only a block from here—is where you find the beautifying, pure oxygen that will start
your blood tingling, expand your120 chest, and give you the real beauty of skin and complexion that nature meant all women should have. Walk.
Exercise. While you're out walking, take your beauty-breathing exercise as you go.
In my office I have a list of foods, with sixteen rules for good health. The word "diet" suggests starvation and going hungry and a lot of
disagreeable things like that, I suppose, and so you would much rather not hear about it. Well, it isn't as bad as you think, and a proper diet is a
health insurance, and should be carefully observed. Do you know that I have made a study of diets and dieting, and of anatomy—the structure of
the human body? My interest in dancing and in my pupils here—and in my own health—has prompted me to study that subject thoroughly. I
could tell you a great deal about getting and keeping healthy, if you cared to hear it and if I had time to go into the subject.
My best dancers, and all good dancers, diet. That is, they are careful to eat what is best for them, and not everything that may tickle the palate yet
raise a rumpus inside one and upset the whole system, and make them cross and cranky and homely and bad actors generally.
Good food, pure air, plenty of water, internally and externally, the right amount of sleep, not more than eight hours, and not less than seven,
proper exercise and practice—all of these are essential to make good dancers—to make you good dancers.
Come in to my office tonight after class. Weigh yourselves before you come in. Then talk to me about yourself and get my diet list to take home,
|Private lockers and dressing rooms
|An excerpt from: The Art Of Stage Dancing
by Ned Wayburn