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Marla Blakey

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Information about Marla Blakey

Profile image of Marla Blakey

Profession

Category:
ArtMakers
Occupation(s):
Choreographer
Dancer

Favorites

Favorite Color:
Green
Favorite Food:
Olives
Favorite Time of Year:
Fall
Favorite Vacation Spot:
Greece
Favorite Quote:
Live Your Life Like Your Ass Is On Fire.

Birthplace

Born:
4/26/1949
Birth Location:
Washington, District of Columbia

Profession

Category:
ArtMakers
Occupation(s):
Choreographer
Dancer

Favorites

Favorite Color:
Green
Favorite Food:
Olives
Favorite Time of Year:
Fall
Favorite Vacation Spot:
Greece
Favorite Quote:
Live Your Life Like Your Ass Is On Fire.

Birthplace

Born:
4/26/1949
Birth Location:
Washington
See how Marla Blakey is related to other HistoryMakers

Biography

Dancer, choreographer, and theatrical producer Marla D. Blakey was born on April 26, 1949, in Washington, D.C. Blakey grew up in Boston, Massachusetts, where, as a teen, she created stage shows with neighborhood children at St. Mark’s Social Center, part of the church program ministered by her legendary grandfather, Reverend Samuel L. Laviscount, pastor of St. Mark’s Congregational Church.

At the age of sixteen following her graduation from Jeremiah E. Burke High School in Boston, Massachusetts, Blakey went, with her mother’s permission, directly to Atlantic City, New Jersey, where she performed as a dancer at Club Harlem. There, Blakey performed with Sammy Davis, Jr., Billy Eckstein, Sarah Vaughan, and the bands of Duke Ellington and Cab Calloway, among many others. Blakey was still under twenty years of age when she danced in Las Vegas, Miami and Chicago; after performing around the United States, she went to Europe, dancing in Amsterdam, London, Germany, Belgium, and Italy. While in Europe, Blakey put together her own dance group and produced and booked shows at U.S. Army bases. After a few years in Europe, Blakey returned to Boston where she opened her own dance studio, and formed the Marla Blakey Dancers.

In 1975, Blakey moved to Los Angeles to advance her career; it was there that she choreographed and staged shows for artists such as Donna Summer, Anne Murray, Aretha Franklin, Bette Midler, David Bowie, Sting, and several Motown artists. During this time period, Blakey choreographed and staged her first television special Motown Returns to the Apollo for NBC. Blakey’s career on stage, as a producer, and her affinity for jazz music was forged through the influence of her father, Ruble Blakey, who sang with Lionel Hampton’s band; she first met her father at the age of twelve in Paris, France, where he was working as a booking agent for some jazz greats.

During Blakey’s thirty years of travel, performing, and producing shows, her heart was never far away from her childhood years on the Island of Martha’s Vineyard, where her mother owned a summer home. In 1988, Blakey moved to Martha’s Vineyard to become a year round resident. On Martha’s Vineyard, Blakey continues to be a prolific and significant producer, director, and choreographer; each summer she brings productions to the island’s performing arts centers and playhouses.

See how Marla Blakey is related to other HistoryMakers
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  • Tape: 1 Story: 1 - Slating of Marla Blakey's interview, pt. 1
  • Tape: 1 Story: 2 - Marla Blakey lists her favorites
  • Tape: 1 Story: 3 - Slating of Marla Blakey's interview, pt. 2
  • Tape: 1 Story: 4 - Marla Blakey describes her maternal family background, pt. 1
  • Tape: 1 Story: 5 - Marla Blakey describes her maternal family background, pt. 2
  • Tape: 1 Story: 6 - Marla Blakey remembers the Roxbury community in Boston, Massachusetts
  • Tape: 1 Story: 7 - Marla Blakey describes her likeness to her mother and maternal aunts
  • Tape: 1 Story: 8 - Marla Blakey describes her father's background
  • Tape: 1 Story: 9 - Marla Blakey remembers meeting her father in Paris, France at age twelve
  • Tape: 1 Story: 10 - Marla Blakey remembers the year of her father's passing
  • Tape: 2 Story: 1 - Marla Blakey talks about her father's life as a booking agent in Paris, France
  • Tape: 2 Story: 2 - Marla Blakey remembers her maternal grandfather, Reverend Samuel Laviscount
  • Tape: 2 Story: 3 - Marla Blakey lists her siblings
  • Tape: 2 Story: 4 - Marla Blakey remembers her elementary school years in Roxbury, Boston, Massachusetts
  • Tape: 2 Story: 5 - Marla Blakey talks about HistoryMaker Elma Lewis
  • Tape: 2 Story: 6 - Marla Blakey remembers her experiences at Jeremiah E. Burke High School in Boston, Massachusetts
  • Tape: 2 Story: 7 - Marla Blakey recalls entering show business with help from dance teacher Stanley Brown
  • Tape: 2 Story: 8 - Marla Blakey remembers her early show business experiences in Atlantic City, New Jersey
  • Tape: 2 Story: 9 - Marla Blakey recalls being jailed overnight while performing in Las Vegas, Nevada in 1969
  • Tape: 3 Story: 1 - Marla Blakey remembers performing in Larry Steele's 'Smart Affairs' at the Eden Roc Miami Beach Hotel in Miami, Florida
  • Tape: 3 Story: 2 - Marla Blakey describes her experience as a showgirl at Club Harlem in Atlantic City, New Jersey
  • Tape: 3 Story: 3 - Marla Blakey remembers her career after 'Smart Affairs'
  • Tape: 3 Story: 4 - Marla Blakey recalls her return to Boston, Massachusetts to found the Marla Blakey Dancers
  • Tape: 3 Story: 5 - Marla Blakey talks about the Chickering Piano Factory artist lofts in Boston, Massachusetts
  • Tape: 3 Story: 6 - Marla Blakey recalls going to Hollywood in Los Angeles, California
  • Tape: 3 Story: 7 - Marla Blakey recalls her career as a choreographer
  • Tape: 3 Story: 8 - Marla Blakey remembers highlights from her career as a choreographer
  • Tape: 3 Story: 9 - Marla Blakey recalls family gatherings in Boston, Massachusetts
  • Tape: 3 Story: 10 - Marla Blakey remembers her maternal grandparents
  • Tape: 4 Story: 1 - Marla Blakey reflects upon her career in show business
  • Tape: 4 Story: 2 - Marla Blakey tells a story from Sidney Poitier's birthday party
  • Tape: 4 Story: 3 - Marla Blakey remembers big acts she choreographed
  • Tape: 4 Story: 4 - Marla Blakey recalls working with The Temptations
  • Tape: 4 Story: 5 - Marla Blakey remembers ending her Hollywood career to move to Martha's Vineyard, Massachusetts in 1988
  • Tape: 4 Story: 6 - Marla Blakey recalls directing her first theatrical production on Martha's Vineyard in Massachusetts
  • Tape: 4 Story: 7 - Marla Blakey remembers her production of Ntozake Shange's "For Colored Girls Who Have Considered Suicide / When the Rainbow is Enuf"
  • Tape: 4 Story: 8 - Marla Blakey talks about plays she directed at the Martha's Vineyard Playhouse
  • Tape: 4 Story: 9 - Marla Blakey remembers producing and directing 'The Dancers'
  • Tape: 5 Story: 1 - Marla Blakey reflects upon her approach to show business
  • Tape: 5 Story: 2 - Marla Blakey talks about producing jazz shows on Martha's Vineyard
  • Tape: 5 Story: 3 - Marla Blakey recalls jazz musicians from her recent productions
  • Tape: 5 Story: 4 - Marla Blakey explains her plans for the future
  • Tape: 5 Story: 5 - Marla Blakey talks about the lifestyle on Martha's Vineyard
  • Tape: 5 Story: 6 - Marla Blakey remembers African American women she has helped get into show business
  • Tape: 5 Story: 7 - Marla Blakey talks about her dream of opening a jazz club in Italy
  • Tape: 5 Story: 8 - Marla Blakey describes her day jobs
  • Tape: 5 Story: 9 - Marla Blakey reflects upon her life
  • Tape: 5 Story: 10 - Marla Blakey describes her hopes and concerns for the African American community
  • Tape: 6 Story: 1 - Marla Blakey talks about the play she co-wrote
  • Tape: 6 Story: 2 - Marla Blakey gives advice to young people interested in performance careers
  • Tape: 6 Story: 3 - Marla Blakey describes how she would like to be remembered
  • Tape: 6 Story: 4 - Marla Blakey narrates her photographs