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Mildred Cruzat

Maker interview details

Profile image of Mildred Cruzat
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  • August 26, 2003


  • Category: CivicMakers
  • Occupation(s): Community Leader
    Civic Leader


  • Born: February 17, 1927
  • Birth Location: Detroit, Michigan


  • Favorite Color: Baby Blue, White, Bright Yellow
  • Favorite Food: Chocolate
  • Favorite Time of Year: Spring
  • Favorite Vacation Spot: Cape Town, South Africa; Martha's Vineyard, Massachusetts

Favorite Quote

"The Mintage Of Wisdom Is To Know That Rest Is Rust, And That Real Life Is In Love, Laughter, And Work."
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Mildred Cruzat was born in Detroit, Michigan on February 17, 1927. The third of four children, she attended public schools in Detroit and then spent a year at Highland Park Junior College in Detroit. Following that, she went to New York, where she attended the American School of Ballet at Carnegie Hall.

While studying in New York, Cruzat worked as a sales associate at Bloomingdale's, but after completing her ballet training she joined the Larry Steele Smart Affair dance troupe, based in New York and Atlantic City, New Jersey. In 1950, she went to Ziggy Johnson's School of Ballet in her native Detroit, where she became an instructor. That same year she also performed with Shuffle Along in a Broadway performance. Cruzat's next destination was St. Louis, where in 1951 she worked as a performer on the Spider Burke TV Show, the first African American television show in the St. Louis market. After her departure from the program, Cruzat spent many years raising her three children.

Cruzat resumed dancing in 1975, working with the Joseph Holmes Dance Theatre in Chicago, where she stayed for five years. In 1981, Cruzat joined the Tony Wilson Dance Company and the Bell School of Performing Arts as an instructor of children's and adult ballet and fitness. Cruzat joined the Chicago Urban League in 1983, working in the Young Parents Center, teaching fitness and dance to young mothers. That same year, she opened the Millie Cruzat Total Fitness Center, where she is still an instructor to all ages for fitness and dance. Cruzat joined the COPE program at the University of Chicago in 1985 as an instructor of dance for teenagers with children. In 1987, Cruzat joined the Beethoven Elementary School staff as a ballet instructor and remained there for eight years, and in 1992, was hired by Lake Meadows Fitness Center as an instructor. She held that position until 1995. In 2002, Cruzat joined the Stewart Modeling Agency, where she continues to work as a model.

In addition to owning her own fitness center, modeling and instructing, Cruzat was active in a number of organizations. She was a member of the Rainbow/PUSH Coalition, and she served on the boards of the Joseph Holmes Dance Troupe and the Katherine Dunham Retrospective. She was an avid tennis player, and in 1973 was a quarterfinalist in the Women's 35 Singles at the American Tennis Association National Championships. She devoted her life to fostering the development of African American children through dance and fitness. Cruzat lived in Chicago. She had three children.

Cruzat was interviewed by The HistoryMakers on August 26, 2003.

Cruzat passed away on July 28, 2021.

Previews from the Digital Archive


Watch the full interview in the Digital Archive