Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Umbrella dance at Pitt to mark Gene Kelly's 100th birthday - Pittsburgh Post Gazette

The University of Pittsburgh will attempt to break a Guinness World Record next Thursday and simultaneously honor Gene Kelly on the centennial of the dancer's birthday, when 3,000 incoming freshmen will hold umbrellas and dance to overtake the record for "Greatest Number of People Simultaneously Performing an Umbrella Dance at a Single Venue."

The event, designed to be reminiscent of Mr. Kelly's iconic "Singin' in the Rain" dance, invites students to hold umbrellas while taking part in a choreographed dance from 3 to 4 p.m. on the lawn adjacent to Pitt's Petersen Events Center.

The late Mr. Kelly, an awarding-winning dancer, director, choreographer, actor and singer, was a Pittsburgh native and Pitt alumnus. The current Guinness record was set in September 2011 in Bucharest, Romania, with 1,461 participants.

Another event to honor Mr. Kelly and part of Pitt's own 225th anniversary celebration, will be 8 to 9:30 p.m. Oct. 25, when Patricia Ward Kelly, Mr. Kelly's widow and the author of a forthcoming memoir about him, will host "Pitt's Gene Kelly Centennial Celebration," an evening of Kelly on film with Pittsburgh- and Pitt-centered commentary on Kelly's life and career. Mrs. Kelly has recently given sold-out presentations on Gene Kelly at the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences in Los Angeles and Lincoln Center in New York City.

For the dance event, part of the 2012 freshman orientation, students will hold aloft umbrellas and attempt to dance the Cupid Shuffle, a line dance. Witnesses, head-counters, and videographers will document the event and send the information to the Guinness authorities for their verification.

Mr. Kelly received a Bachelor of Arts degree in economics from Pitt in 1933. While at Pitt, he became involved with the University's Cap and Gown Club, serving as its director from 1934 to 1938, and taught dance at his family's dance studio in Squirrel Hill. He also choreographed musicals at the Pittsburgh Playhouse and Nixon Theater. Mr. Kelly enrolled in Pitt's School of Law but left to concentrate on teaching dance.

Mr. Kelly's younger brother Fred, also a Pitt alumnus, was honored in 2004 when the lobby of Pitt's Stephen Foster Memorial was renamed the Fred Kelly Lobby. An on-campus plaque honoring Gene Kelly is located outside the William Pitt Union.

Pitt students set Guinness World Records at the past two New Student Orientations, for the "World's Largest Torch-lit Logo" in 2010 and the "World's Largest Glow Stick Design" in 2011.

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