Dupree Dance was founded by Roland Dupree in 1978 as a result of his impressive and successful career in dancing, teaching and choreography. Roland remains the inspiration behind our great company and is the very definition of a 'Renaissance Man.'
Early YearsRoland Dupree began his career as a tap dancer at the age of ten in his home town of Fall River, Massachusetts. Within six months, his award winning performances were already gaining recognition on local competition stages. His first break came at the age of eleven when he was hired to perform four shows a weekend at a night club called Carry's Cafe in Providence, Rhode Island. His salary was an astronomical $20 per weekend ($5 a performance). Needless to say, the showbiz bug hit him!
Having saved up all the money that Roland made as a performer at Carry's Cafe for a period of six months, his parents packed up and moved to Hollywood, California. It was there that twelve year old Roland enrolled in Meglin's Dance School, a then famous dance academy which sent all their top students to motion picture studios for movie and stage auditions. Before long, Roland was sent to Columbia Studio for his first Hollywood audition. After reading a few cubes and doing a few 'magical steps', he landed the job and partnered with a twelve year old girl in a dance sequence on his first movie "You Can't Take It With You". This led to many other auditions and jobs, including a movie starring Bing Crosby called "The Starmaker" which featured all the multi-talented youngsters at that time.
At age fourteen, Roland requested an interview with the principal of his Junior High school. With great enthusiasm, he sold the principal on the idea of having a tap class during a study period. It was then that Roland discovered that he also had a deep love for teaching.
Acting and Choreographing CareerBefore long, Roland's career blossomed when Universal Studio was developing a group of fourteen young dancers to appear in a number of musical films that would feature swing tap. The group was called the "Jivin Jacks and Jills" and Universal Studio held a cattle-call audition with every young teem dancer present. Roland landed the job and received a year's contract with Universal Studio where he performed in eight musicals with Donald O'Conner.
Roland decided to try his hand at acting and, after many auditions, was chosen for the role of Shirley Temple's boy friend in the movie 'Miss Annie Rooney'. This led to a studio contract at Metro Goldwyn Mayer Studio where, after many minor roles, he was finally given the role of Ann Southern's love sick bell-hop in the film 'Masie Goes to Reno.'
Roland's acting experience quickly moved to choreography when he caught wind that a top dance director (choreographer) was looking for an assistant with which to do films. After applying for and receiving the job, Roland was intrigued by how different it was to choreograph for films versus for live audiences on stage. It was such a great learning experience that he decided to work for many dance directors of that time and learn as much as he could about the camera for future use.
Roland then received a telephone call from Walt Disney Studios looking for someone to play the 'live action' of the character Peter Pan for its original full length film. Since computers were not year realized, all the animated full length characters in those days had to be filmed with live actors in order to make the characters look real. Roland got the job and his 'live action' of the Peter Pan character ultimately transposed into a cartoon fashion by the studio's animators.
Before long, jobs became scare when motion picture studios started making fewer musicals. It was at this time that Roland decided to create his own job by hiring two girls and choreographing a dance act called "The Dupree Trio". The group was featured in night clubs throughout the United States, including Las Vegas. With the advent of television, "The Dupree Trio" was also seen on many variety shows.
Developing 'West Coast Jazz'After a few years of traveling with the night club act, Roland decided to focus all of his attention into his choreography. While staging "The Dupree Trio", Roland began to develop a jazz style that would later be referred to as 'West Coast Jazz'. Having studied years of ballet, modern, and tap during the course of his young careers, he decided to combine the technique, line and placement of ballet, the isolations and interpretations of modern dance, and the very complex but exciting rhythms of tap, executed in body movement rather than sound. What a better way of introducing his West Coast jazz style and influencing young dancers than by teaching it? So he rented a local hall and started holding jazz classes.
Having heard of Roland's jazz style, motion picture and stage celebrities began taking his classes, as well as the young dancers of that time. Teaching four classes a day and choreographing for celebrities was not an easy task, but Roland embraced it. His new-found success included 'The Bobby Darin Show', 'The Rosemary Clooney Show', and two television specials and live performance seasons with the Ice Follies where he served as the choreographer for Peggy Fleming, a gold-metal ice skating champion. After taking just one Roland's jazz classes, Juliette Prowse hired him to become his personal choreographer for a year and a half. Equally impressed with his classes was his student Barbara Eden from the television sitcom 'I Dream of Genie'. After choreographing a night club act for Barbara, Roland was flown to New York to create a dance number for Lesley Ann Warren which was featured on the Jackie Gleason Show, and then staged a night club act for Gavin MacLeod, the Captain of the television series 'Love Boat'.
Opening "Dupree Dance Academy"After such great success as a choreographer and teacher, Roland opened up the largest dance academy of the west coast that would accommodate a number of teachers and all phases of dance including ballet, tap, modern, jazz, musical theater, and turns and leaps. And so came the advent of "Dupree Dance Academy". Believing that everyone had something to offer, Roland hired a number of teachers to impart other styles of jazz so that all dancers would benefit from their individual styles and expertise. He began a training program geared towards students who aspired to become full fledged teachers. Many of these students are currently touring in conventions across the United States. By the eighties, Dupree Dance Academy had a staff of 30 teachers and approximately 2,000 students per week, and was housed in a 10,000 square food building on Third Street in Los Angeles, California. Amongst numerous celebrities who attended his class on a daily basis were Richard Chamberlain, Cher, Drew Barrymore, Mary Heart, Kirk Douglas, and Burt Lancaster.
Expanding Dupree Dance Across the United StatesAfter time, it became increasingly difficult for all dancers to travel to Hollywood and experience dance education for Roland Dupree. His solution? Roland decided to bring Dupree Dance academy to cities throughout the United States. And so 'Dupree Dance' became the success that it is today. As time passed, the summer program of Dupree Jazz' N Tap Camp was introduced and has become a popular summer event in the dance world. The entire premise of both events (Dupree Dance Convention and recently renamed Summer Intensive) is to learn from the best, have a great time, and enjoy the experience of being around a truly exciting faculty who have the privilege to work for a company founded by the "Original Peter Pan" himself, Roland Dupree.
Roland Dupree's passing
Roland Dupree passed away from natural causes on June 21, 2015 at the age of 89. Dupree is survived by Judy Larson, his adopted sister; Cory Lindquist, his nephew and Joy Holland Cesca, his niece.
Roland’s vision and legacy continue!
I grew up as a “Dupree kid” and Roland Dupree gave me my very first scholarship at the age of 10 during an audition class he held at his Dallas Dupree convention. Just a couple of years later, I received another scholarship from Roland to train at his Los Angeles Dupree Academy during the summer. Throughout my teenage years, Roland continued to educate and inspire me as a dancer and young professional. He was infectious to dancers of all ages and truly knew how to ‘pull out the best’ from students in every class. At the age of 19, Roland hired me to become a part of his prestigious faculty at Dupree Dance. I served as a Dupree teacher and later as the Dupree Director during the 15 years prior to taking over the company. For a large majority of that time, I was blessed enough to work alongside Roland Dupree and learn from his intimate knowledge as an educator and entrepreneur. I absorbed and admired Roland's keen business skills, enthusiasm for dance education and commitment to an inviting and quality atmosphere that has always set Dupree Dance aside in an ever-growing convention circuit. My husband and I are blessed to be at the realm of an incredible company founded by Roland and are tied deeply and permanently to continuing his legacy in the dance industry through Dupree Dance.