Choreographer Michael Kidd dies at 92

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Choreographer Michael Kidd, whose joyously athletic dances for ballet, Broadway and Hollywood delighted audiences for half a century and won him five Tonys and an Oscar, has died.

Kidd's nephew, Robert Greenwald, told the New York Times that Kidd died Sunday night at his Los Angeles home of cancer. Kidd's age is often listed as 88, but Greenwald told the Times that his uncle actually was 92.

To moviegoers, Kidd was known for 1954's "Seven Brides for Seven Brothers," in which a bunch of earthy backwoodsmen (some of them really stage dancers) prance exuberantly with their prospective brides.

He also directed dances for Danny Kaye in "Knock on Wood," took Fred Astaire out of his top hat to play a private eye in a Mickey Spillane spoof in "The Band Wagon," and taught Marlon Brando how to hoof for "Guys and Dolls."

There is no Oscar category for choreography, so the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences presented Kidd with a special award in 1997 for "his services in the art of the dance in the art of the screen."

"It's a total shock -- this came from out of the blue," he said of the honor.

For his work in theater, Kidd won Tonys for "Finian's Rainbow" (1947), "Guys and Dolls" (1951), "Can-Can" (1954), "Li'l Abner" (1957) and "Destry Rides Again" (1960).

In one of his few ventures into television, he directed Mikhail Baryshnikov in "Baryshnikov in Hollywood," which was nominated for an Emmy in 1981.

Originally a dancer with the Ballet Theater in New York, Kidd was given a chance to choreograph in 1945 and devised a sentimental story, "On Stage!" in which he also played the male lead. In it, a shy young dancer learns her craft with the help of a backstage worker who returns to sweeping the floor after she achieves her success.

Two years later Kidd was hired to stage the dances for the hit "Finian's Rainbow" and his career soared.

"Dancing," Kidd told the New York Times in 1954, "should be completely understandable -- every move, every turn should mean something, should be crystal clear to the audience. If you can make them laugh or cry, move them emotionally ... you've done your job."

Born Milton Greenwald in New York, Kidd was the son of a barber. He studied chemical engineering at City College but quit after three years finding it too impersonal. "It didn't deal with human beings," he complained.

He eventually won a scholarship to the American Ballet school.

Kidd married Mary Heater in 1940 and they had two daughters, Kristine and Susan. Kidd is survived by his second wife, the former dancer Shelah Hackett. The couple had two children, Amy Kidd and Matthew Kidd, the New York Times reported.
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