Monday, November 5, 2012

Performance Choreography Of The Four Tops & The Temptations

Edited by Azizi Powell

This post showcases a few examples of the soul music and the performance routines of two classic Rhythm & Blues groups - The Four Tops and The Temptations.

The content of this post is presented for folkloric, entertainment, and aesthetic purposes.

All copyrights remain with their owners.
UPDATE: July 27, 2017:
Thanks to Brad Knopp for sharing a link to the Wikipedia page for Cholly Atkins, the choreographer for these two groups and other Motown recording groups. That information is an important part of this post and should have been included in the original post. I've excerpted a portion of that page in the comment section below. Hat tip to Brad Knopp!

(The video examples of these two music groups are presented with the videos of the groups alternating in alphabetical order using the first letter of the group.)

Example #1

The four tops - I can't help myself - Live HQ

bol2funk, Uploaded on Feb 25, 2008

classic soul

Example #2

Ain't Too Proud To Beg - Temptations

Tj Limbu, Uploaded on Oct 8, 2007

Example #3

Four Tops - Standing In The Shadows Of Love (1967)

Freya0815007, Uploaded on Apr 7, 2010

HQ-Video. Four Tops - Standing In The Shadows Of Love, released 1966.

Example #4

Temptations - My Girl

rjtorre, Uploaded on Nov 16, 2005


The Manhattans, Cadillacs, Drifters, Temptations & Four Tops - Battle of the Groups (@Apollo 1985)

MyRhythmNSoulTV Published on Mar 26, 2014

On May 5th, 1985 the Apollo's renovation is celebrated with a 50th Anniversary grand reopening and television special, "Motown Salutes the Apollo." and was hosted by Bill Cosby.


My thanks to the showcased Rhythm & Blues groups. Also, thanks to the composers of these featured songs, and to the producers and uploaders of these sound files and videos for helping to spread awareness of this type of music and this group throughout the world.

Finally, thank you for visiting pancocojams.

Viewer comments are welcome


  1. In addition to the performance routines, it's interesting to notice other things about these performances such as how still the audience is for instance in the Temptations' "My Girl" performance.

    The way the audience sat so still was the standard demeanor for White Americans then and it still is the standard audience demeanor now, depending on which performance is occuring, when it is occuring, and the racial/ethnic composition of the audience.

    The expectation that the audience will clap, shout exhortations, sing along, wave their hands, and/or dance in their seats or in the aisle during a music performance comes from African American traditions.

    I believe that the two standard expectations inherent in these two cultural norms sometimes still makes for some uncertainity about what is expected and acceptable audience behaviour during performances when there are relatively equal numbers of Black Americans and White Americans.

    For instance, there appeared to be an equal number of Black audience members and White audience members at a concert in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania that I attended two years ago of the legacy of Black university drum lines. As is part of our tradition, a large number of the Black audience members clapped along with the performances, and some Black audience members stood up to show their appreciation for certain acts. My sense was that many of the White audience members were dismayed and even irritated by both of those responses, but particularly by folks standing up since it meant that the show was difficult to see for those who remained seated. I personally don't like people to stand up during performances, but the difference is that with Black audiences I expect that to happen. And I understand that this is just another way that we have of joining in the performance by giving the performers some of our energy, and by letting them know that what they are doing is connecting with their audience.

    I'm sure that given where and when they were performing their song, The Temptations didn't expect the audience to respond the way they would if that had been an all Black or a majority Black audience during that same decade. But it still seems quite inconguent for me to see the audience sitting so still & proper during that group's performance.

  2. Also, it's interesting to notice in that clip of "My Girl" that three of the Temptations wore their hair in a short natural while two members still had a processed (chemically straigthened) hair style.

    That processed hair style for men was losing its popularity among a growing number of African American men in the mid 1960s. And by the 1970s, as a result of the "Black Pride" movement, few if any Black male performers had a "process", and most African American male & African American female performers, like many of their younger fans, wore their hair in afros (also called "naturals"). And the bigger and wider the afro, the more attractive it was considered to be.

  3. Maybe I missed it, but I was trying to see who was the predominant choreographer for all those black vocal groups I always enjoyed watching. Seemed like I remembered it being mainly one man. Anybody remember?...

  4. Kept researching and suddenly found my answer. I'll share the info. here to pay respect, and in case anybody else might be interested. "Cholly" Atkins -

    1. Brad Knopp, thanks for asking that question about the choreographer for a number of Black recording groups and thanks for sharing the information that you found.

      Here's an excerpt from "Cholly" Atkins' Wikipedia page

      "Charles “Cholly” Atkins (September 30, 1913 – April 19, 2003)[i] was an American dancer and vaudeville performer, who later became noted as the house choreographer for the various artists on the Motown label....

      In the mid-1950s, Cholly began teaching dance steps to the Cadillacs, Shirelles, Moonglows, Frankie Lymon & the Teenagers, Little Anthony & The Imperials, and other vocal groups.[3][ii] His dance steps were a new style coined "vocal choreography", as singers enhanced their vocal performances with stylish combinations of gestures and steps. After working as a freelance choreographer in 1962 for The Miracles, Atkins was hired by Berry Gordy to work as a Motown choreographer in 1964, and set about developing the routines that would later become the trademark moves of other Motown acts like The Supremes, The Temptations (Atkins was also featured in the video for their hit single "Lady Soul"), The Four Tops, The Marvelettes, Gladys Knight & The Pips and others.[iii] Atkins would, in fact, continue working with Motown artists well into the 1980s. He choreographed for non-Motown artists as well, namely the dance routines of The Cadillacs in the 1950s, and the Sylvers, as well as The O'Jays during the mid-1970s, appearing with them on an episode of Soul Train."...

    2. Brad, I meant to also write that I've added a hat tip to you in the post itself that points people to this excerpt about Cholly Atkins.

      Thanks again!