Ned Wayburn

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Ned Wayburn
BornMarch 30, 1874
DiedSeptember 2, 1942

Ned Wayburn, born Edward Claudius Weyburn, (March 30, 1874 – September 2, 1942) was a choreographer. He was born in Pennsylvania, a grandson of Samuel Fletcher Weyburn but spent much of his childhood in Chicago where he was introduced to theater and studied classical piano. At the age of 21, he abandoned his family's tradition of manufacturing and began teaching at the Hart Conway School of Acting in Chicago. There he worked with three faculty members who influenced his growing interest in dance and movement: C.H. Jacobsen, Colonel Thomas Hoyer Monstery, and Ida Simpson-Serven, whose teachings were based on Delsarte’s concepts about the meaning of gestures and their ability to communicate the emotion.

After leaving the school, Wayburn spent many years in theater staging shows for producers, he worked with such teams as William Hammerstein and Oscar Hammerstein, and Marc Klaw and A.L. Erlanger. In 1906, he began his own management group called the Headline Vaudeville Production Company. Through his own firm he staged many feature acts, while collaborating with other producers such as Lew Fields, Florenz Ziegfeld and the Shuberts. In 1915, he began working with Ziegfeld and became the main choreographer of the Ziegfeld Follies.

Wayburn’s choreography was based on five techniques: musical comedy, tapping and stepping, acrobatic work, toe specialties, and exhibition ballroom; as a child, he was captivated by Minstrel shows and recreated them in many of his works. Formation symmetry was common in minstrel shows, as well as parade. Wayburn used Minstrel style costumes and makeup in his show Minstrel Misses (1903).

His choreography was influenced by social dances of the time, his dancers moved in units of two or four, following popular trends. He took dances such as tangos, the Turkey Trot, the Grizzly Bear, the Black Bottom and the Charleston and recreated them for stage performances by using strong exaggerations of movement.

Some of his well-known shows were Phantastic Phantoms (1907), The Daisy Dancers (1906), Havana (1909), The Passing Show (1913), and all of the Ziegfeld Follies, he created steps such as the “Ziegfeld Walk” and the “Gilda Glide”, and is credited with developing the talent of such iconic performers as Fred Astaire, Jeanette MacDonald, Gilda Gray, Marilyn Miller, Ann Pennington, Barbara Stanwyck, Clifton Webb, Mae West, Groucho Marx, June Allyson and Fanny Brice. In 1920, he staged the musical comedy Poor Little Ritz Girl with music by Richard Rodgers and Sigmund Romberg.

Ned Wayburn was married for a time to a member of one of the two original "Florodora" sextets; in that production and others on Broadway, she was billed as Agnes Wayburn.


  • Stratyner, Barbara (1996). Ned Wayburn and the Dance Routine: From Vaudeville to the Ziegfeld Follies. Society of Dance History Scholars. ISBN 0-9653519-2-0.

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