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Mercedes Ellington

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Information about Mercedes Ellington

Profile image of Mercedes Ellington

Profession

Category:
ArtMakers
Occupation(s):
Dancer
Choreographer

Favorites

Favorite Color:
Cerise
Favorite Food:
Lamb Chops
Favorite Time of Year:
Fall, Winter
Favorite Vacation Spot:
None
Favorite Quote:
Don't Piss In My Vest Pocket And Tell Me It's Raining.

Birthplace

Born:
2/9/1939
Birth Location:
New York, New York

Profession

Category:
ArtMakers
Occupation(s):
Dancer
Choreographer

Favorites

Favorite Color:
Cerise
Favorite Food:
Lamb Chops
Favorite Time of Year:
Fall, Winter
Favorite Vacation Spot:
None
Favorite Quote:
Don't Piss In My Vest Pocket And Tell Me It's Raining.

Birthplace

Born:
2/9/1939
Birth Location:
New York
See how Mercedes Ellington is related to other HistoryMakers

Biography

Dancer and choreographer Mercedes Ellington was born on February 9, 1939 in New York City to Ruth Silas Batts and trumpet player and conductor Mercer Ellington, son of renowned composer and bandleader Duke Ellington. Ellington was raised by her maternal grandparents Louise Petgrave Silas and Alfred Silas, who enrolled her in dance and ballet classes at an early age. Ellington received a scholarship to attend The Metropolitan Opera School of Ballet, but decided to enroll at The Julliard School at her father’s insistence. She graduated with her B.A. degree in classical and modern dance in 1960.

Ellington’s first professional role was in a production of West Side Story in Australia. She also appeared in productions of On the Town and Pal Joey at the New York City Center. In 1963, Ellington became the first African American member of the June Taylor Dancers, the featured performers on The Jackie Gleason Show. She danced with the June Taylor Dancers for seven years, until she moved on to perform in Broadway shows like No, No Nannette, The Night That Made America Famous, The Grand Tour, and Happy New Year. In 1981, Ellington starred in Sophisticated Ladies alongside her father, who conducted the Duke Ellington Orchestra. In 1983, she co-founded BalleTap, later named DancEllington, with Maurice Hines. Ellington produced award-winning choreography in musicals such as Blues in the Night, Juba, Satchmo and Tuxedo Junction. The organization dissolved in 1992, and Ellington went on to direct the Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS Tribute to the Spirit of Harlem in 2001. In 2004, Ellington founded Duke Ellington Center for the Arts, a non-profit organization dedicated to scholarship, education, and performance connected to the legacy of Duke Ellington.

Ellington’s choreography and commitment to her grandfather’s legacy earned her numerous honors and awards, including the Actor’s Equity Association’s Paul Robeson Award and the FloBert Lifetime Achievement Award. She also served as a judge for the Capezio Dance Awards, and as a member of the Screen Actors’ Guild and the American Tap Dance Foundation. In addition, Ellington served on the local and national boards of the American Federation of Television and Radio Artists. In 2016, she also co-authored a book entitled Duke Ellington: An American Composer and Icon with Stephen Brower.

Mercedes Ellington was interviewed by The History Makers on August 12, 2016.

See how Mercedes Ellington is related to other HistoryMakers
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  • Tape: 1 Story: 1 - Slating of Mercedes Ellington's interview
  • Tape: 1 Story: 2 - Mercedes Ellington lists her favorites
  • Tape: 1 Story: 3 - Mercedes Ellington talks about her maternal family's ballroom dances
  • Tape: 1 Story: 4 - Mercedes Ellington describes her mother's family background
  • Tape: 1 Story: 5 - Mercedes Ellington describes her maternal grandmother
  • Tape: 1 Story: 6 - Mercedes Ellington remembers her maternal grandparents' home
  • Tape: 1 Story: 7 - Mercedes Ellington describes her earliest childhood memories
  • Tape: 1 Story: 8 - Mercedes Ellington recalls her early dance lessons and recitals
  • Tape: 1 Story: 9 - Mercedes Ellington describes the sights of her childhood
  • Tape: 1 Story: 10 - Mercedes Ellington remembers New York City's Sugar Hill neighborhood
  • Tape: 1 Story: 11 - Mercedes Ellington describes Our Lady of Lourdes School in New York City
  • Tape: 1 Story: 12 - Mercedes Ellington recalls being raised by her grandparents
  • Tape: 2 Story: 1 - Mercedes Ellington talks about living with her maternal grandparents
  • Tape: 2 Story: 2 - Mercedes Ellington describes her father's early interests
  • Tape: 2 Story: 3 - Mercedes Ellington talks about her paternal grandparents' marriage
  • Tape: 2 Story: 4 - Mercedes Ellington describes her relationship with her paternal grandmother
  • Tape: 2 Story: 5 - Mercedes Ellington remembers Duke Ellington's mistresses, pt. 1
  • Tape: 2 Story: 6 - Mercedes Ellington talks about Duke Ellington's world tours
  • Tape: 2 Story: 7 - Mercedes Ellington remembers Duke Ellington's affairs
  • Tape: 2 Story: 8 - Mercedes Ellington shares her hope to bring Duke Ellington's music to Cuba
  • Tape: 2 Story: 9 - Mercedes Ellington talks about her parents' relationship
  • Tape: 2 Story: 10 - Mercedes Ellington recalls her relationship with her mother
  • Tape: 2 Story: 11 - Mercedes Ellington describes her siblings
  • Tape: 2 Story: 12 - Mercedes Ellington describes her father's musical talents
  • Tape: 2 Story: 13 - Mercedes Ellington talks about her early dance influences
  • Tape: 2 Story: 14 - Mercedes Ellington recalls enduring discrimination in dance school
  • Tape: 3 Story: 1 - Mercedes Ellington remembers the limited opportunities for dancers of color
  • Tape: 3 Story: 2 - Mercedes Ellington recalls her family's advice about her career
  • Tape: 3 Story: 3 - Mercedes Ellington talks about The Juilliard School
  • Tape: 3 Story: 4 - Mercedes Ellington describes the Martha Graham modern dance technique
  • Tape: 3 Story: 5 - Mercedes Ellington recalls living at The Juilliard School's International House
  • Tape: 3 Story: 6 - Mercedes Ellington recalls living with her father
  • Tape: 3 Story: 7 - Mercedes Ellington remembers her first professional role
  • Tape: 3 Story: 8 - Mercedes Ellington recalls her grandfather's influence
  • Tape: 3 Story: 9 - Mercedes Ellington describes her father's second marriage
  • Tape: 4 Story: 1 - Mercedes Ellington describes her father's death and his will
  • Tape: 4 Story: 2 - Mercedes Ellington lists her performances in New York City
  • Tape: 4 Story: 3 - Mercedes Ellington recalls auditioning for 'The Jackie Gleason Show'
  • Tape: 4 Story: 4 - Mercedes Ellington remembers being selected as a June Taylor Dancer
  • Tape: 4 Story: 5 - Mercedes Ellington describes her experience as a June Taylor Dancer
  • Tape: 4 Story: 6 - Mercedes Ellington recalls her salary on 'The Jackie Gleason Show'
  • Tape: 4 Story: 7 - Mercedes Ellington describes Jackie Gleason's big band show
  • Tape: 4 Story: 8 - Mercedes Ellington recalls joining the cast of 'No, No Nanette'
  • Tape: 5 Story: 1 - Mercedes Ellington talks about the filming of 'The Jackie Gleason Show'
  • Tape: 5 Story: 2 - Mercedes Ellington recalls her first Broadway performance in 'No, No, Nanette'
  • Tape: 5 Story: 3 - Mercedes Ellington describes her union memberships
  • Tape: 5 Story: 4 - Mercedes Ellington talks about female empowerment on Broadway
  • Tape: 5 Story: 5 - Mercedes Ellington recalls her paternal grandfather seeing her performance
  • Tape: 5 Story: 6 - Mercedes Ellington remembers Duke Ellington's death
  • Tape: 5 Story: 7 - Mercedes Ellington describes the production behind 'Sophisticated Ladies'
  • Tape: 5 Story: 8 - Mercedes Ellington describes her additional sources of income
  • Tape: 5 Story: 9 - Mercedes Ellington lists her volunteer activities
  • Tape: 5 Story: 10 - Mercedes Ellington recalls competing in ballroom dancing competitions
  • Tape: 6 Story: 1 - Mercedes Ellington recalls the cast of 'Sophisticated Ladies'
  • Tape: 6 Story: 2 - Mercedes Ellington describes the hectic performances of 'Sophisticated Ladies'
  • Tape: 6 Story: 3 - Mercedes Ellington remembers Gregory Hines's termination from the production of 'Sophisticated Ladies'
  • Tape: 6 Story: 4 - Mercedes Ellington talks about the success of 'Sophisticated Ladies'
  • Tape: 6 Story: 5 - Mercedes Ellington describes her father's role in 'Sophisticated Ladies'
  • Tape: 6 Story: 6 - Mercedes Ellington describes the creation of BalleTap USA
  • Tape: 6 Story: 7 - Mercedes Ellington recalls touring with BalleTap USA in Japan
  • Tape: 6 Story: 8 - Mercedes Ellington talks about choreographing 'Blues in the Night'
  • Tape: 6 Story: 9 - Mercedes Ellington recalls choreographing 'Juba'
  • Tape: 6 Story: 10 - Mercedes Ellington talks about the inspiration behind 'Juba'
  • Tape: 7 Story: 1 - Mercedes Ellington recalls choreographing 'Tuxedo Junction'
  • Tape: 7 Story: 2 - Mercedes Ellington talks about her philosophy for performances
  • Tape: 7 Story: 3 - Mercedes Ellington describes her hopes for Duke Ellington's legacy
  • Tape: 7 Story: 4 - Mercedes Ellington describes her brother's management of the Duke Ellington estate
  • Tape: 7 Story: 5 - Mercedes Ellington talks about her engagement
  • Tape: 7 Story: 6 - Mercedes Ellington shares her views on marriage
  • Tape: 7 Story: 7 - Mercedes Ellington describes the Duke Ellington Center for the Arts
  • Tape: 7 Story: 8 - Mercedes Ellington talks about her father's role in the Ellington family legacy
  • Tape: 7 Story: 9 - Mercedes Ellington describes her siblings
  • Tape: 7 Story: 10 - Mercedes Ellington reflects upon her legacy
  • Tape: 7 Story: 11 - Mercedes Ellington describes 'Duke Ellington: An American Composer and Icon'
  • Tape: 7 Story: 12 - Mercedes Ellington reflects upon her life
  • Tape: 7 Story: 13 - Mercedes Ellington shares her advice for aspiring dancers
  • Tape: 8 Story: 1 - Mercedes Ellington narrates her photographs