Skinny and Likes to Tap
I started dancing in high school with Lynne Kurdziel-Formato—she was a professor at UB, but also choreographer of the Swing Choir at St. Joe’s High School in Buffalo. She pulled me out of the back of the class and started teaching me choreography. Lynne is my mentor in dance and musical theater. She really taught me about being a triple threat: a singer, actor and dancer, and doing all three equally well—like George M. Cohan, Fred Astaire, Gene Kelly—so you can do anything they throw at you.
I kind of had a natural talent for dance. I wasn’t a good dancer; I just had a talent for picking it up. In my senior year Lynne told me I should watch a film called A Damsel in Distress. It was a Fred Astaire film. It wasn’t the first Fred Astaire film I saw, but it was the first one I really focused on and knew I was watching Fred Astaire. Lynne said, “You should watch Fred Astaire because you have a lot of his qualities: You’re skinny and you’re lanky and you like to tap. You even kind of look like him.”
So I watched the film, and I immediately fell in love with all that he represented. That just kind of became the end of that, or rather the beginning. Lynne convinced me, rather easily, to attend UB for dance.
The dancer I was when I came to UB is nowhere near the dancer I was when I left. My development at UB was remarkable. When I came I was just somebody who could move well, but I left as a dancer.
Jeffry Denman received his B.A. from UB in 1992. Today he is a performer, author and choreographer. Dancing in the Dark, which he wrote, is soon to be produced Off Broadway: Denman plays Fred Astaire.