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The Man Behind Arthur Murray Studios – The Champion of the Dance Lesson

This year, we’re celebrating 100 years since Arthur Murray gave his first dance lesson. On April 4th, in studios throughout the world, we’ll join together in the biggest “birthday” dance ever to salute the master of the global groove! This bio, drawn from Wikipedia, will help give you a sense of the history of the dance legacy that we’re delighted to share with you!

Arthur Murray (April 4, 1895 – March 3, 1991) was a dance instructor and businessman, whose name is most often associated with the dance studio chain that bears his name.  His pupils included Eleanor Roosevelt, the Duke of Windsor, and John D. Rockefeller Jr.

Arthur Murray was born in Galicia, Austria-Hungary in 1895 as Moses Teichmann. In August 1897, he was brought to America by his mother Sarah on the S.S. Friesland, and landed at Ellis Island. The Teichmanns settled in Ludlow Street, in Manhattan with his father, Abraham Teichmann. He started his business of teaching the world to dance in 1912 at the age of 17; he taught at night while working as a draftsman by day.

Murray was shy 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 was afraid to socialize with girls.  At the age of 14, a friend of his whom he admired because of his popularity with girls, taught him his first dance steps.  To get practice on the dance floor, Murray attended weddings in his neighborhood, where he found willing dance partners of every size and age.  Murray won his first dance contest at the Grand Central Palace, a public dance hall. The 1st prize had been a silver cup, but Murray went home without anything to show for his win. His partner of the evening took it. This loss made an impression on Murray, and in later years every winner in his dance contests took home a prize.

He soon began teaching ballroom dancing to the residents of Boston, Massachusetts at the Devereaux Mansion in Marblehead, Massachusetts before moving to Asheville, North Carolina.

At the outbreak of WWI, under pressure of the anti-German feelings prevalent in the US, Teichmann changed to a less German-sounding name

Murray was inspired by a casual remark made by an associate one evening at a hotel: “… You know, I have a fine idea on how you can collect your money. Just teach ’em what to do with the left foot and don’t tell ’em what to do with the right foot until they pay up!”  Murray thought about the man’s remark, and devised the idea of teaching dance steps with footprint diagrams. Within a couple of years, over 500,000 dance courses were sold.

On April 24, 1925, Murray married his famous dance partner, Kathryn Kohnfelder 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 Murrays opened a dance school offering personal instruction. Their business prospered, 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 hotel chains throughout the country, and the name “Arthur Murray” became a household word.

There are now hundreds of Arthur Murray studios globally, with specially trained instructors, making Arthur Murray the most successful dance instructor in history.  His slogan was: “If you can walk, we teach you how to dance”, and the company guaranteed that the pupils learn to dance. After WWII, Murray’s business grew with the rise of interest in Latin Dance. Murray went on television with a dance program hosted by his wife, Kathryn Murray, The Arthur Murray Party, which ran from 1950 to 1960, on CBS, NBC, DuMont, ABC, and then on CBS again.