Born John Ewing Richter in New Brunswick, New Jersey, Cole virtually invented the idiom of American Show Dancing known as "Theater Dance." He developed amode of jazz-ethnic-ballet that prevails as the dominant dancing style in today's musicals, films, nightclub revues, television commercials and music videos.
Cole is remembered as the prime innovator of the theatrical jazz dance heritage. Early on he decided to pursue dance with the Denishawn Dance Company led by Ruth St. Denis and Ted Shawn. Cole also performed with Doris Humphrey and Charles Weidman, but eventually left the modern dance world for commercial dance career in nightclubs, performing with Alice Dudley, Anna Austin and Florence Lessing.
Cole is credited with choreographing and/or directing the stage musicals Alive and Kicking, Magdalena, Carnival in Flanders, Zenda, Foxy, Kismet, A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum, Kean, Donnybrook!, Jamaica, and Man of La Mancha.
His film work includes Moon Over Miami, Cover Girl, Tonight and Every Night, Gilda, Down To Earth, The Merry Widow, Meet Me After The Show, Gentlemen Prefer Blondes, There's No Business Like Show Business, The I Don't Care Girl, The Thrill of Brazil, Kismet, Les Girls, Let's Make Love, and many others. He was most famous in Hollywood for his work with Rita Hayworth and Marilyn Monroe.