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maxine barrat, dancer


Dancing with a Star

The Maxine Barrat Story

6x9 paperback,

List price $25.00


For over a dozen years we've seen the magazine covers, talk show appearances, the heartbreaks, the through-the-roof ratings and the launching of careers. Well, fans of Dancing With the Stars—and all fans of the dance, the time has come to unveil both the underlying story of this ABC-TV juggernaut and a gold nugget of American dance history.
"What's behind this world-wide ballroom dance phenomenon?"
Cameras may take us into studios, observing rehearsals, dance-couple dialogues, fittings and finally DWTS contestants' performances, but the true story that sparked these contemporary miniature dramas actually took place many years ago. The real—and enduring—story is about an American dance legend named Maxine Barrat.
It all began with a World War I dance craze, propelled by Vernon and Irene Castle, America's high priest and priestess of dance. As Americans took to the dance floor between the wars, along came Maxine Barrat and Don Loper, "artistic heirs to the Castles" (Look, June 2, 1942). Their timing was perfect. It was the height of the Hollywood M-G-M musical extravaganza and the golden age of supper clubs, when the elite and influential could gather to socialize over cocktails, dine on fine cuisine, dance to the strains of legendary bands and be entertained by all the top acts of the day. Loper & Barrat's big break came at the world-famous Copacabana nightclub, where they set foot onto the dance floor as a fledgling act and were fast-tracked into the annals of entertainment history.
Now this bold spirit, female trailblazer and true-to-life legend, Maxine Barrat, is unwittingly at the center of today's dance buzz. Behind the scenes she still turns heads as she did when her name was headline news years ago—a pop culture star of old made new again. She is at once the megastar and the professional dancer celebrated via Dancing With the Stars and So You Think You Can Dance, which features brilliant young dancers working their hearts out to make it as professionals in their field.
Her story is the stuff of dreams—riveting, exotic, passionate—from fracturing her back as a child in a dance recital fall that put her in a full body cast for almost half a year, to sneaking into Radio City Music Hall as a teenager to watch her idol Ginger Rogers on the silver screen; to dancing in the arms of Gene Kelly in her first Broadway show; to appearing in a second Broadway production costumed in yards and yards of flowing white silk in a winter gown and ermine-lined hood, specially designed for her by renowned Vincente Minnelli, who was still working on Broadway and had not yet made a name for himself as a great film director.
A stint at the glamorous Copacabana catapulted Loper & Barrat to international stardom: ocean voyages to Rio and Europe; a special performance for the King of Denmark; and an M-G-M film contract to star with Kathryn Grayson, Mickey Rooney, Gene Kelly, Judy Garland, Eleanor Powell, Lucille Ball, Red Skelton, Lena Horne, Donna Reed and more, in what has been called "M-G-M at its Best," Thousands Cheer.
"Will you dance with me in my next film?" Fred Astaire asked Maxine, and she flew to Hollywood for a screen test with him. She reinvented herself as a nightclub singer, donated her time and talents to the war effort and continued her stellar career in the world of fashion. Then a phone call from a DuMont Television Network exec, "How would you like your own TV show?" and it was back to New York and a new career in the up-and-coming medium of television. Maxine's sensational life is interlaced with those of the stars she befriended, from Kathryn Hepburn and Ginger Rogers, to those with whom she danced and romanced—from admiring South American caballeros, Hollywood moguls and stars, to a one-and-a-half-year affair with Gone with the Wind matinee idol Clark Gable.
Maxine Barrat is a performing arts legend who holds a vital key to the American dance story. She is the real star.
It's time to put Maxine Barrat back on the dance floor.