Choreographed 'Where the Boys Are,' 'Dolls'

Dancer and choreographer Robert Sidneydied March 26 of pneumonia in Los Angeles. He was 98.

Sidney worked on Broadway, in films, television and live entertainment, and was known for his association with leading ladies of dance such as Rita Hayworth, June Allyson, Mitzi Gaynor, Cyd Charisse, Debbie Reynolds, Joey Heatherton and Ann-Margret.

Sidney made his debut as an actor at the age of 15 in a Theater Guild production of “The Good Earth” in his native New York City. He attended NYU and joined summer stock theaters making his Broadway debut in 1936 in “On Your Toes,” followed by the touring company of “I Married an Angel.”

His long association with George Balanchine began when he appeared in Balanchine’s “Keep Off the Grass.” He later accepted a dual position as stage manager/dance captain for Eddie Cantor’s “Banjo Eyes” and became an assistant to Broadway director-producer-designer Hassard Short. While serving in the U.S. Army, he choreographed touring musical show, “This Is The Army,” and made his motion picture debut when it was filmed by Warner Bros., starring Ronald Reagan.

After appearing in and participating in the choreography of several Broadway shows, he began working in Hollywood and was placed under contract to Columbia Pictures. His first job at Columbia was creating flamenco dance sequences in “The Loves of Carmen” for Rita Hayworth. Subsequently, he was a choreographer on films for Fox, MGM, RKO and Paramount, including “Bloodhounds of Broadway,” “An Affair to Remember,” “Please Don’t Eat the Daisies,” “Where the Boys Are,’ “How the West Was Won,” “The Singing Nun” and “Valley of the Dolls.”

Moving into television, he staged the unlikely duo of Burt Lancaster and Kirk Douglas in “It’s Great Not to Be Nominated” number from the 31st Academy Awards, one of four Oscar shows on which he was choreographer.

His TV credits include the Dean Martin variety shows and specials for Mitzi Gaynor, Betty Hutton, Perry Como, Danny Thomas, Pearl Bailey, Dom DeLuise, Tennessee Ernie Ford and Bing Crosby.

He also choreographed the televised versions of such musicals as “Roberta,” starring Bob Hope; “Anything Goes” and “Irving Berlin’s Salute to America.” He worked with Gaynor on her 1961 Las Vegas debut at the Flamingo Hotel and then created nightclub and personal appearance acts for “Minsky’s Follies,” starring Tempest Storm, and performers Jerry Antes, Cyd Charisse and Tony Martin, Joey Heatherton, Betty Hutton and Debbie Reynolds.

His career is chronicled in his book “With Malice Towards Some, Tales From A Life Dancing With Stars.”

Sidney was a founder of the Professional Dancers Society, which raises funds to aid dancers in need, which later became an affiliate of the Actors Fund. His final appearance was on March 16 at the annual Gypsy Award luncheon, which honored Mary Tyler Moore at the Beverly Hilton Hotel.

Sidney is survived by many nieces, nephews, great and great, great nieces and nephews.

Donations are suggested to the Professional Dancers Society, P.O. Box 15605, Beverly Hills, CA 90209.

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