Published: March 11, 2011
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Meet SBF member Gerry Atkins and read about how his amazingly long dancing career spanned almost four decades and led him to become a Can-Can Soloist and have his own dance group! We interviewed Gerry to find out more about his Showbiz career...

Ladies and Gentlemen: SBF's Star of the Month!
Gerry Atkins

Sydney, Tivoli Theatre
One Dam' Thing After Another
Publicity shot
  • How old were you when you started dancing and what inspired you to take it up?
    Gerry Atkins: I was about 10 years old when I started dancing school, but I had been dancing since I can first remember. As soon as the Andrews Sisters or Al Jolson came on the radio, I was up, dancing around the house!
    Quote ...If you are a dancer don't wait for stardom, use your career, don't let your career use you...

  • What was your first professional job?
    GA: It was the musical Zip Goes a Million, I was only 15 when I went on tour in the U.K. I went to the Casino Theatre, now the Prince Edward, in London to audition. The advert said: "Strong Male Classical Dancers". Being only 15, my father had to sign the contract. After two weeks rehearsal, we opened in Golders Green Hippodrome. During the tour we went as far North as the Theatre Royal in Newcastle and as far South as the Palace Theatre in Plymouth. The tour lasted 4 months and the love of travelling has remained with me till this day. I can just get a high being on a train station or at an airport! As I was the baby of the company, everybody looked after me. I couldn't have had a better beginning to my career.

  • New York, Broadway Theatre
Folies Bergere, CanCan
Gerry & Dancers
1964 How did you come to be a Can-Can soloist and how many years did you perform it for?
    GA: In 1958 the original Folies Bergere came to London and I auditioned as can-can soloist. With the exception of a few contracts, I was can-can soloist with the Folies Bergere in London, Vienna, Paris, New York, the Windmill Revue in Australia, the Moulin Rouge in Paris and with my own show Suivez les Girls for 20 years, dancing the can-can until 1991.

  • Could you please tell us more about your own dance group?
    GA: I set up my first group using 4 girl dancers, a girl singer and myself. We worked all over Europe plus 6 months cruising on the Holland America Line's Rotterdam out of New York. We had a contract for a world cruise, but at the same time I was offered the contract for the Moulin Rouge in Paris. Because of my love for the can-can, there was no decision to make and I accepted the contract for the Moulin Rouge. After my 2 years contract had finished in the Moulin, I set up my second group, making a larger show called Suivez les Girls with 4 girl dancers, Marilyn Chaney as a girl singer and the adagio couple: Dolf & partner. The show ran for over 20 years.

  • Vienna, Moulin Rouge
Variety, Can Can
Gerry Atkins & the Girls
1963 What's your most memorable show and the highest moment of your life as a performer?
    GA: I guess the highest moment has to be when I was on Broadway with the Folies Bergere, but the most memorable was when I was in the U.K. tour of Cole Porter's Can-Can with choreography by Michael Kidd.

  • What was your most challenging show?
    GA: As I was only 17 at the time, probably Can-Can because of Michael Kidd's choreography!
    Quote ...Because of my love for the can-can, there was no decision to make and I accepted the contract for the Moulin....
    Michael Kidd won 5 Tonys (The Oscars of Broadway) for his choreography, 1947 for Finian's Rainbow, 1950 Guys and Dolls, 1953 Can-Can, 1956 Li'l Abner, and in 1956 Destry Rides Again. When Can-Can was on Broadway, one of the chorus dancers was Conchita Del Rivero, who later shorten her name to Chita Rivera! I doubt hardly any SBF members are old enough to have seen the original show, but surely every dancer must have seen Kidd's exciting and energetic choreography in the film Seven Brides for Seven Brothers.

  • UK Tour
Can-Can, Quaz'Arts Ball
Fancy dress scene
1955 What's your funniest moment on stage?
    GA: It was in the can-can, when I used to leap-frog over 5 girls and land in the splits. The girl that I used to propel me over was off. Her understudy could not support me and all 5 girls collapsed into a heap with me on top of them. On instinct, I jumped up, did a presentation to the audience and shouted: "Voila!"... It didn't seem funny at the time, at least until we got off stage, but looking back it brings a smile to my face.

  • What was your most embarrassing costume?
    GA: In Cole Porter's Can-Can there was a scene of the Quaz' Arts Ball with everybody in fancy dress. I was a sun-flower complete with a bee fixed to a skull cap on the top of my head!!!

  • Did you ever have a show, where everything went wrong?
    GA: No, not where everything went wrong, but on the first performance of our Space number, our smoke machine got out of control and filled the night club with so much smoke, the audience couldn't see us and we couldn't see to work. Looking back I am surprised we didn't set off a sprinkler system or the fire brigade turn up!

  • What's the strangest audience you have performed for?
    GA: One night in a casino when the audience consisted of one solitary man and he sat there reading a newspaper, not even watching the show!

    UK, Westcliff-on-Sea
Palace Theatre, Palace of Varieties
Fudge & Gerry
  • How have your Showbiz years helped you in your life after the stage and if you could do it all over again, would you?
    GA: YES, YES, YES! I would, and I wish I could, do it all over again. I think show business has helped me put on a smile when dealing with the public and to give the impression - at least - that "the public is always right", even when they are not.

  • What advice would you give to up and coming performers and what, from your own experience, are the "do's & don't" of this business?
    GA: Get out there and work, work, work! This is where you will learn your skills. If you are a dancer don't wait for stardom, use your career, don't let your career use you. Work wherever you can and SAVE your money, there'll be a time when you need it.

  • UK, Westcliff-on-Sea
Palace Theatre, Glamorous Night
Aubrey Budd, Elaine Price & Gerry
1966 What are you doing now?
    GA: Since retiring - that's a laugh - I am now running a bed & breakfast in the Algarve with Dolf, my partner of over 40 years.
    Quote ...I think show business has helped me put on a smile when dealing with the public and to give the impression - at least - that "the public is always right", even when they are not...
    I am also busy writing my memoirs, though I doubt they will ever be a published. The writing is more for my own pleasure, a way of living again all the memories of the wonderful life I have experienced.

  • What do you think of ShowBiz Friends?
    GA: It's a great site. I only wish it had been around years ago, but then we didn't have computers.

    Thank you Gerry for this wonderful interview and congratulations on your long, long career!