Arthur Murray, dance teacher,dies

March 04, 1991|By New York Times News Service

Arthur Murray, the immigrant baker's son who danced his way to fame and fortune as the world's best-known teacher of ballroom dancing, died yesterday at his home in Honolulu. He was 95.

Mr. Murray's daughter, Phyllis Murray McDowell, said her father died of pneumonia. He had been active and in good health until very recently, she said.

Mr. Murray liked to tell stories of how learning to dance well had helped other people achieve poise, success and happiness, but his own life was his best success story -- and a testimony to his skill as a promoter and an executive as well as asa rumba dancer, fox-trotter, waltzer and bunny-hugger.

A native New Yorker, Mr. Murray was a shy, gangling wallflower when he entered Morris High School in the Bronx.

But he found he had a flair for ballroom dancing, won some contests, gained self-confidence and began giving lessons.

He plunged into business for himself, building a lucrative mail-order operation and then a network of more than 300 franchised dance studios.

, The Murray method involved the use of clearly drawn diagrams to show the student exactly how tomove the feet; of well-groomed instructors who were told to keep smiling; of studios that Mr. Murray kept clean, neat and decorous; and of newly fashionable dance steps, some of which Mr. Murray helped to popularize by paying handsome young people to dance them in nightclubs.

Dancing was more than a pastime and a business, Mr. Murray used to say. It even helped in understanding one's fellow man, or rather, one's fellow dancer, he said.

He once wrote that "the man who treats the lady as though she were a china doll, holds her gently, and is careful to see that she does not collide with every pillar, is more than often a man of fine sensibility."

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