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FOR all his solo virtuosity, Fred Astaire created new dimensions in dance partnership. There were not only the women he danced with: the matching perfection of Ginger Rogers, the gorgeous Rita Hayworth, stylish Barrie Chase. His choreography partner Hermes Pan - a second set of eyes for every detail. Musicians: Cole Porter, Irving Berlin, the Gershwins. The inanimate objects he brought to life: coatracks, canes.

More important for an entertainer, Astaire made partners of us all. From his first film ``Dancing Lady'' in 1933 through his TV specials, Astaire's performances still unite audiences of all ages. Everyone sees him as a contemporary.

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Astaire was always the master of illusion - hiding his big hands, limning lyrics unforgettably with an inadequate voice. He portrayed elegance during hard times, casualness in top hat and tails. He made weeks of rehearsal disappear in one performance so fresh it looked like improvisation. Astaire's is a permanent invitation to sing and dance.

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