Biography of Famous American Dancer Arthur Murray

About the famous American dancer Arthur Murray, history and biography.

Arthur Murray (1895- ). Born Murray Teichman on the Lower East Side of New York City, Arthur Murray was one of 5 children born to a poor Austrian immigrant couple. He worked throughout his school days to increase the family income with any odd jobs he could find.

Murray was always shy and introverted as a child and self-conscious about his tall, lanky appearance. He wanted very much to be a part of the social activities that most of his friends enjoyed, particularly the dances, but he was afraid to socialize with girls. Finally, at the age of 14, Joe Feigenbaum, a friend of his whom he particularly admired because of his popularity with the girls, taught him his 1st dance steps.

In order to get some practice on the dance floor, Murray attended weddings in his neighborhood, where he always found willing dance partners of every size and age.

Murray won his 1st dance contest at the Grand Central Palace, a public dance hall where he later became a part-time dance teacher after graduation from high school. The 1st prize had been a silver cup, but Murray went home without anything to show for his championship dancing. His partner of the evening took it, and it eventually ended up in a pawnshop. This loss made a lasting impression on Murray, and in later years every winner in his dance contests took home a prize.

In between jobs as a dance instructor, Murray worked as a draftsman at the Brooklyn Navy Yard and as a reporter at the New Haven Register. Deciding to further his education, he enrolled at Georgia Tech. Murray supported himself by conducting dance parties at the Georgian Terrace Hotel, where he proved both his ability as a businessman and his excellence as a dance instructor.

Murray was inspired by a casual remark made by William Jennings Bryan one evening at the hotel: "... You know, I have a fine idea on how you can collect your money. Just teach 'em with the left foot and don't tell 'em what to do with the right foot until they pay up!"

Murray thought about what Bryan had said and came up with the brilliant idea of teaching simple dance steps with footprint diagrams and doing it by mail. Within a couple of years, over 500,000 dance courses were sold mail order.

On April 24, 1925, Murray married his famous dance partner, Kathryn, whom he had met at a radio station in New Jersey. She was in the audience while he was broadcasting a dance lesson.

After their marriage, the mail-order business became less popular and the Murrays opened up a dance school offering personal instruction. Their business began to prosper, especially in 1938 and 1939 when Arthur picked 2 little-known dances, the "Lambeth Walk" and "The Big Apple," and turned them into dance crazes. They were taught at large hotel chains throughout the country, and the name "Arthur Murray" became a household word.

There are now hundreds of Arthur Murray studios all over the world, with specially trained instructors, making Arthur Murray the most successful dance instructor in history.

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