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Sandra Fortune-Green

Prima ballerina Sandra Fortune-Green was born on March 2, 1951 in Washington, D.C. to Elizabeth and Raymond Fortune. Fortune-Green began her dance career at age ten, enrolling in the renowned Jones-Haywood School of Dance under the instruction of Doris Jones and Claire Haywood. Fortune-Green flourished at the school, eventually becoming a principal dancer for the Capitol Ballet Company.

After Fortune-Green graduated from Theodore Roosevelt High School in 1968, she pursued her dance studies in New York at the School of American Ballet, the American Ballet Theatre, and the Joffrey Ballet, before settling back in Washington, D.C. to attend Howard University. In 1972, Fortune-Green left Howard to begin training for the prestigious Second International Ballet Competition in Moscow, Russia. She was the only African American to ever compete in this competition. Fortune-Green was eliminated after the second round of judging, but finished twenty-sixth out of the 126 dancers participating. After returning to the United States, Fortune-Green married her high school sweetheart, Joseph Green, on New Year’s Eve of 1975.

In 1987, Fortune-Green earned a Washington, D.C. Mayor’s Arts Award presented by Marion Barry, and in 1994, she was invited to join the faculty at Howard University’s dance department, where she taught ballet technique classes. Fortune Green also is on the dance faculty at the Duke Ellington School of Arts, a position she has held for more than thirty years. In 2007, Fortune-Green became the new owner of the Jones-Haywood School of Dance, the same studio she attended throughout her adolescence and early adulthood. Years earlier, Jones and Haywood stated in a 1974 interview that they hoped Fortune-Green would continue their legacy.

Fortune-Green has been widely recognized for her efforts within the performing arts, including a designation as an outstanding alumnus from Howard University. Fortune-Green was also featured in two major publications, Black Dance from 1619 to Today by Lynne Fauley Emery and The Black Tradition in Dance by Richard Long.

Sandra Fortune-Green was interviewed by The HistoryMakers on September 23, 2007.

Accession Number

A2007.270

Sex

Female

Interview Date

9/23/2007

Last Name

Fortune-Green

Maker Category
Marital Status

Married

Organizations
Schools

Barnard Elementary School

Theodore Roosevelt Senior High School

School of American Ballet

Howard University

Search Occupation Category
First Name

Sandra

Birth City, State, Country

Washington

HM ID

FOR10

Favorite Season

Summer

State

District of Columbia

Favorite Vacation Destination

Oceans

Favorite Quote

The Greatest Reward Comes From The Greatest Commitment.

Bio Photo
Speakers Bureau Region State

District of Columbia

Birth Date

3/2/1951

Birth Place Term
Speakers Bureau Region City

Washington

Country

United States

Favorite Food

Yogurt, Strawberries, Oatmeal

Short Description

Ballet dancer and dance instructor Sandra Fortune-Green (1951 - ) participated in the Second International Ballet Competition in Moscow, Russia in 1972 and was the only African American to ever compete. She was the owner of the Jones-Haywood School of Dance and taught ballet at Howard University and at the Duke Ellington School of Arts.

Employment

Howard University Dance department

Duke Ellington School of the Arts

Jones-Haywood School of Dance

Favorite Color

Black

Timing Pairs
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DAStories

Tape: 1 Story: 1 - Slating of Sandra Fortune-Green's interview

Tape: 1 Story: 2 - Sandra Fortune-Green lists her favorites

Tape: 1 Story: 3 - Sandra Fortune-Green describes her mother's sisters

Tape: 1 Story: 4 - Sandra Fortune-Green describes her maternal grandparents, pt. 1

Tape: 1 Story: 5 - Sandra Fortune-Green describes her maternal grandparents, pt. 2

Tape: 1 Story: 6 - Sandra Fortune-Green describes her father

Tape: 1 Story: 7 - Sandra Fortune-Green describes her earliest childhood memory

Tape: 1 Story: 8 - Sandra Fortune-Green recalls her neighborhood in Washington, D.C.

Tape: 1 Story: 9 - Sandra Fortune-Green remembers the segregation of Washington, D.C.

Tape: 1 Story: 10 - Sandra Fortune-Green describes her early education

Tape: 2 Story: 1 - Sandra Fortune-Green talks about her family

Tape: 2 Story: 2 - Sandra Fortune-Green describes her mother's interests

Tape: 2 Story: 3 - Sandra Fortune-Green recalls her start at the Jones-Haywood School of Ballet in Washington, D.C.

Tape: 2 Story: 4 - Sandra Fortune-Green remembers seeing the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theatre

Tape: 2 Story: 5 - Sandra Fortune-Green recalls performing with the Bolshoi Ballet

Tape: 2 Story: 6 - Sandra Fortune-Green remembers learning to dance on pointe

Tape: 2 Story: 7 - Sandra Fortune-Green describes her peers at the Jones-Haywood School of Ballet in Washington, D.C.

Tape: 2 Story: 8 - Sandra Fortune-Green recalls receiving criticism at the Jones-Haywood School of Ballet

Tape: 3 Story: 1 - Sandra Fortune-Green remembers her early performances at the Jones-Haywood School of Ballet

Tape: 3 Story: 2 - Sandra Fortune-Green describes Doris Jones' style of instruction

Tape: 3 Story: 3 - Sandra Fortune-Green remembers Theodore Roosevelt Senior High School in Washington, D.C.

Tape: 3 Story: 4 - Sandra Fortune-Green describes the black ballet community in Washington, D.C.

Tape: 3 Story: 5 - Sandra Fortune-Green remembers the assassination of Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr.

Tape: 3 Story: 6 - Sandra Fortune-Green describes her teachers at the School of American Ballet in New York City

Tape: 3 Story: 7 - Sandra Fortune-Green remembers the culture of the School of American Ballet

Tape: 4 Story: 1 - Sandra Fortune-Green recalls her summers in New York City

Tape: 4 Story: 2 - Sandra Fortune-Green remembers her influences as a dancer

Tape: 4 Story: 3 - Sandra Fortune-Green reflects upon her dance training

Tape: 4 Story: 4 - Sandra Fortune-Green talks about racial discrimination in ballet

Tape: 4 Story: 5 - Sandra Fortune-Green remembers training in Martha's Vineyard, Massachusetts

Tape: 4 Story: 6 - Sandra Fortune-Green describes her peers' economic background

Tape: 4 Story: 7 - Sandra Fortune-Green recalls her decision to attend college

Tape: 4 Story: 8 - Sandra Fortune-Green remembers performing with the Royal Winnipeg Ballet

Tape: 4 Story: 9 - Sandra Fortune-Green recalls training for the Second International Ballet Competition

Tape: 5 Story: 1 - Sandra Fortune-Green talks about the pressure to lose weight in ballet

Tape: 5 Story: 2 - Sandra Fortune-Green recalls training for the Second International Ballet Competition

Tape: 5 Story: 3 - Sandra Fortune-Green remembers partnering with Clover Mathis

Tape: 5 Story: 4 - Sandra Fortune-Green recalls auditioning for the Second International Ballet Competition

Tape: 5 Story: 5 - Sandra Fortune-Green recalls her experiences at the Second International Ballet Competition

Tape: 5 Story: 6 - Sandra Fortune-Green recalls the Sixth International Ballet Competition

Tape: 5 Story: 7 - Sandra Fortune-Green remembers meeting her husband

Tape: 5 Story: 8 - Sandra Fortune-Green describes the Seventh International Ballet Competition

Tape: 6 Story: 1 - Sandra Fortune-Green describes her transition to dance instruction

Tape: 6 Story: 2 - Sandra Fortune-Green recalls Claire Haywood's death

Tape: 6 Story: 3 - Sandra Fortune-Green recalls integration of the Capitol Ballet Company

Tape: 6 Story: 4 - Sandra Fortune-Green recalls her audiences in Washington, D.C.

Tape: 6 Story: 5 - Sandra Fortune-Green remembers Mayor Marion Barry's support for the arts

Tape: 6 Story: 6 - Sandra Fortune-Green recalls dancing with the Washington Ballet Company

Tape: 6 Story: 7 - Sandra Fortune-Green recalls acceptance at the Washington Ballet Company

Tape: 6 Story: 8 - Sandra Fortune-Green recalls teaching at the Duke Ellington School of the Arts in Washington, D.C.

Tape: 6 Story: 9 - Sandra Fortune-Green remembers her mother's death

Tape: 7 Story: 1 - Sandra Fortune-Green remembers her father's death

Tape: 7 Story: 2 - Sandra Fortune-Green recalls the 1988 benefit performance of Capitol Ballet

Tape: 7 Story: 3 - Sandra Fortune-Green recalls her aneurysm

Tape: 7 Story: 4 - Sandra Fortune-Green recalls her aneurysm recovery

Tape: 7 Story: 5 - Sandra Fortune-Green describes her daughter's career

Tape: 7 Story: 6 - Sandra Fortune-Green reflects upon her career

Tape: 7 Story: 7 - Sandra Fortune-Green reflects upon her legacy

Tape: 7 Story: 8 - Sandra Fortune-Green reflects upon her future

Tape: 7 Story: 9 - Sandra Fortune-Green narrates her photographs

DASession

1$1

DATape

3$7

DAStory

6$2

DATitle
Sandra Fortune-Green describes her teachers at the School of American Ballet in New York City
Sandra Fortune-Green recalls the 1988 benefit performance of Capitol Ballet
Transcript
And so for example in 1961 or '62 [1962], you were in New York City [New York, New York] at the School of American Ballet, the premier institution for ballet instruction in the country, in the world perhaps (simultaneous).$$(Simultaneous) Um-hm. And I went in the building just like everybody else. And I was taught just like everybody else.$$Tell me about--$$I remember I was in a class, Madame Tumkovsky [Antonina Tumkovsky], she was a Russian ballet instructor. And I was also in the class with Bujones, Fernando Bujones, gold medalist in Varna [Bulgaria] of the year. He was in my ballet class. Level two, that's what it was. And I remember I liked Tumkovsky because she was, she was commanding and the whole tone of someone who speaks Russian and they're speaking English, they always sound like they're fussing. So I was like, "My God, this woman's fussing all day long." But she kind of really wasn't. And she liked me for some reason. And I remember she called this girl a dummkopf, which is stupid, because this girl was obviously having some problems with left and right (laughter), so. So that was kind of like the joke in the class with this white girl who's she calling dummkopf. And I liked Madame Alexandra Tumkovsky [sic.]. I liked her. I liked her approach and I guess when I think back on it, probably why I liked her was because she taught everybody, and as a teacher, that's what she is supposed to do. Now these other pretentious teachers who only teach the talented children, as far as I'm concerned, that's not teaching 'cause it's easy to teach somebody who's talented 'cause you don't have to do that much work. But you try to work with somebody who's not so talented, and look at your results at the end of the year. Then you can evaluate your own pedagogy. So I can remember being a little nervous when George Balanchine and Diana Abrams [ph.] came into the studio to take attendance or take notes or whatever they were doing. They were pointing and talking and writing. And I always thought they were talking about me, I did. I said, "Oh god, okay Sandra [HistoryMaker Sandra Fortune-Green] get yourself together and you know, you lose your scholarship and Miss Jones [HistoryMaker Doris Jones] is gonna kill you," you know. So--but I went in that building just like everybody else. And I never for once thought that I didn't belong there.$$Were you ever treated any differently?$$Well maybe in ways that I was too immature and naive to notice. You know I can remember one teacher in particular who would walk past me, you know 'cause you walk the line. And she would say something to the girl in front. She would skip me, and then she would say something to the girl in back of me. Now I remember her, but it kind of--it didn't, it didn't bother me because this particular teacher, her approach was kind of like--I thought she was really not my style, so it didn't affect me. I liked Tumkovsky because her, her, her tone was commanding, her tone was energizing, her voice could drive you. And she was, she was more engaging in her teaching and her students. And this other lady was detached and I didn't like her style. So the fact that she wouldn't say anything to me, it didn't really bother me.$How did you I guess channel your emotions? Were you still dancing?$$Let's see, let's see '84 [1984]. Well no, but I was still very much, I was really into my teaching at that point. I really, really was. My head was, was in teaching for real now. There was still conversation about revitalizing Capitol Ballet [Capitol Ballet Company], and actually it did come back for a hot minute in 1988. We had a benefit performance as, as a kickoff to the revitalization. And that performance really was the last time I performed. We had guest artists of [HistoryMaker] Louis Johnson. We had Chita Rivera. We had--April Barry from the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater performed. We had Sylvester Campbell. We had Hinton Battle. Miss Jones [HistoryMaker Doris Jones] resurrected everybody, and it was wonderful. However, it was a brilliant kickoff. It was kind of like a family reunion, it was at The Kennedy Center [The John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, Washington, D.C.] in the Eisenhower Theater, but it didn't actually kickoff. So that was my last time performing for real. Now I just play around with stuff, so.$$And what did you perform that night?$$I did the pas de deux from 'Don Q' ['Don Quixote'] with Sylvester Campbell.$$Do you remember what the experience was like on the stage that night at The Kennedy Center?$$It was daunting. When I look at the videotape now, you can see that, you can see a little tension in my face. But you know when--but that's me, that's who I am, you know. So that was--luckily I was able to retrieve the, the video from that event out of this building as I sought--continued to look through Miss Jones' estate. So I have that as a part of my archival collection.$$Could you hear the audience or the see audience from the stage, or did you tune 'em out?$$You don't pay that any attention, because your mind is not on that (laughter). You just know that when it's time for the pirouettes, you better be on your legs. So that's where your, that's where your head is, or at least that's where it should be.$$How are you received at the end?$$Well, yeah. Because I think in D.C. [Washington, D.C.], it is something that is so needed, and over the years Capitol Ballet has had great support. Even if it's no more than buying a ticket. We've never had the kind of salary support. We've never toured or anything like that. There was a time where we, we danced at the black colleges [HBCUs]. But in terms of a real (air quotes) touring season, we just didn't have the, the financial support to do that kind of a thing.$$Were all of the administration support you mentioned, [HistoryMaker] Marion Barry, Sharon Pratt Kelly [HistoryMaker Sharon Pratt], was she supportive as well?$$Um-hm. We always were very well supported through D.C. Commission on the Arts [D.C. Commission on the Arts and Humanities], and National Endowment [National Endowment for the Arts], and any private donors that Miss Haywood [Claire Haywood] and Miss Jones knew. They were very, very strategic and had a different kind of what I would say unorthodox way of doing whatever they wanted to do.

Geraldine Rhodes Kennedy

Dance group manager Geraldine Rhodes Kennedy was born in 1932 in Union, North Carolina to Viola Williams and Albus Rhodes. Kennedy relocated with her mother and stepfather to Youngstown, Ohio when she was four years old. She was raised in a large family that included eight siblings. Kennedy attended East High School in Youngstown and graduated around 1950.

Following high school, Kennedy moved to New York City to live with her sister Florez. For a time, she worked in a bar, sending her tips to her father in Ohio, who was ill. This bar was frequented by former dancers from the Apollo Theater, many of whom Kennedy befriended. These dancers included Edna “Yak” Taylor, who often told Kennedy fascinating stories about the history and the times of the Apollo dancers.

During the 1970s, Kennedy became interested in doing a benefit for a senior citizens' center and recruited ex-chorus girls to put on a show. Using her connections from her time working with former dancers, Kennedy helped to create a group known as the Swinging Seniors. Kennedy’s nieces comprise the R&B group Sister Sledge, and in 1984 she worked for them briefly as a road manager while they toured Europe. Upon her return, dancer Bertye Lou Wood and Kennedy reunited some of their former dancing friends, Marion Coles, Cleo Hayes, Fay Ray and Elaine Ellis. Kennedy began managing the new dance ensemble. They rehearsed in the building that housed the former Cotton Club, renamed the Latin Quarter, and had their first performance in 1986. This group became known as the Silver Belles, and the group of African American senior dancers have been performing together ever since, appearing on Dan Rather’s 48 Hours and becoming the first group of its kind to perform in Atlantic City. In 2006, the Silver Belles were featured in the documentary Been Rich All My Life produced by filmmaker Heather Lyn MacDonald.

Geraldine Rhodes Kennedy was interviewed by The HistoryMakers on September 20, 2007.

Accession Number

A2007.267

Sex

Female

Interview Date

9/20/2007

Last Name

Rhodes-Kennedy

Maker Category
Occupation
Organizations
Schools

East High School

Search Occupation Category
First Name

Geraldine "Gerri"

Birth City, State, Country

Union

HM ID

RHO01

Favorite Season

Spring

State

North Carolina

Favorite Vacation Destination

Bermuda

Favorite Quote

None

Bio Photo
Speakers Bureau Region State

New York

Birth Place Term
Speakers Bureau Region City

New York

Country

United States

Favorite Food

Italian Food

Short Description

Dance group manager Geraldine Rhodes Kennedy ( - ) was the manager of the Silver Belles dance troupe.

Employment

Sister Sledge (Musical group)

Silver Belles (Dance group)

Favorite Color

Green

Timing Pairs
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DAStories

Tape: 1 Story: 1 - Slating of Geraldine Rhodes Kennedy's interview

Tape: 1 Story: 2 - Geraldine Rhodes Kennedy lists her favorites

Tape: 1 Story: 3 - Geraldine Rhodes Kennedy describes her earliest childhood memory

Tape: 1 Story: 4 - Geraldine Rhodes Kennedy talks about her mother, pt. 1

Tape: 1 Story: 5 - Geraldine Rhodes Kennedy talks about her stepfather's family background

Tape: 1 Story: 6 - Geraldine Rhodes Kennedy talks about her mother's family background

Tape: 1 Story: 7 - Geraldine Rhodes Kennedy talks about her father's family background

Tape: 1 Story: 8 - Geraldine Rhodes Kennedy lists her siblings

Tape: 1 Story: 9 - Geraldine Rhodes Kennedy remembers her childhood in Youngstown, Ohio

Tape: 1 Story: 10 - Geraldine Rhodes Kennedy describes the sights, sounds and smells of her childhood in Youngstown, Ohio

Tape: 1 Story: 11 - Geraldine Rhodes Kennedy recalls living with her sister in Harlem in New York, New York after graduating from high school in 1956

Tape: 1 Story: 12 - Geraldine Rhodes Kennedy remembers working at the Apollo Theater box office

Tape: 1 Story: 13 - Geraldine Rhodes Kennedy talks about chorus girls' life in 1950s New York, New York

Tape: 1 Story: 14 - Geraldine Rhodes Kennedy recalls racial discrimination that her fellow dancers experienced during United Service Organization tours

Tape: 1 Story: 15 - Geraldine Rhodes Kennedy talks about fellow Silver Belles' careers after show business

Tape: 1 Story: 16 - Geraldine Rhodes Kennedy talks about establishing a legacy for show dancers

Tape: 1 Story: 17 - Geraldine Rhodes Kennedy remembers creating the Silver Belles

Tape: 2 Story: 1 - Geraldine Rhodes Kennedy contrasts today's performers with those of the 1950s and 1960s

Tape: 2 Story: 2 - Geraldine Rhodes Kennedy contrasts clothing styles of the late 1950s and 1960s with contemporary dress codes

Tape: 2 Story: 3 - Geraldine Rhodes Kennedy tells stories about the Silver Belles

Tape: 2 Story: 4 - Geraldine Rhodes Kennedy explains the importance of activity for seniors

Tape: 2 Story: 5 - Geraldine Rhodes Kennedy describes the Silver Belles' shows

Tape: 2 Story: 6 - Geraldine Rhodes Kennedy explains the impact of seniors dancing

Tape: 2 Story: 7 - Geraldine Rhodes Kennedy talks about the documentary of the Silver Belles, 'Been Rich All My Life,' pt. 1

Tape: 2 Story: 8 - Geraldine Rhodes Kennedy describes the new generation of Silver Belles

Tape: 2 Story: 9 - Geraldine Rhodes Kennedy talks about the documentary of the Silver Belles, 'Been Rich All My Life,' pt. 2

Tape: 2 Story: 10 - Geraldine Rhodes Kennedy narrates her photographs

DASession

1$1

DATape

1$1

DAStory

13$17

DATitle
Geraldine Rhodes Kennedy talks about chorus girls' life in 1950s New York, New York
Geraldine Rhodes Kennedy remembers creating the Silver Belles
Transcript
And prior to this period, there had been chorus girls?$$Oh, yeah.$$And how, how did they perform? What was their routine like?$$Well, they did--oh, the chorus girls? Like--$$I don't necessarily mean their dances. But you're saying that there were no longer chorus girls. So, I was wondering what the lifestyle was like.$$They no longer performed at the Apollo Theater [New York, New York]. They had a strike I think in 1936. And after that--$$And what did they strike for?$$Wages, I guess wages and days off. Because the chorus girls back in that day, they worked seven days a week, and I think five and six shows a day. And they also did rehearsal, twice at night time--in the morning, whenever they could rehearse.$$Wow.$$But they worked seven days a week. And when they did have the strike, they got one day off. And I think they were paid, I think they got a ten dollar raise or something like that.$$Well, what--$$But prior to that, they had no days off.$$They were working every day?$$Every day.$$And were people falling out and fainting from that type of schedule? Or--$$No, they'd never fall out. They were a hardy stock, you know, they were tremendous. In fact, I have some of the chorus girls now. They're now in their eighties and nineties, you know. But, no, they didn't pass out from it.$$And where did you come into contact with chorus girls in Harlem [New York, New York]?$$Well, when I had a--I got a job at the--God--the Palm Cafe [New York, New York], and I met [Edna] 'Yak' Taylor. Yak Taylor was a dancer. She had been a dancer and a chorus girl. And she used to sit to talk to me and tell me all about, you know, the chorus girls and the shows that they did and the places they went. And I got interested. And I also realized at that time, once they retired, you never heard anything else about them. And if they died, they really didn't hear anything about them, you know. So that's--I started watching and listening and thinking how important it was for them to get some sort of recognition. But it took me a long, long time to be able to do what I wanted to do.$$Could you share with us a little bit, or some of the stories that Yak Taylor told you about being a chorus girl? Do you remember any of what she said?$$Oh, she was a tremendous dancer. She was--they used to talk about standing in the wings and stealing dance steps. The costumes--it was just, she just talked about everything, you know.$$And can you name some of the other venues where chorus girls would perform in Harlem, or in the New York area?$$Well, they performed at--Cleo [Hayes] performed at the Cotton Club [New York, New York], which was on Lenox Avenue, not here. And then they had Connie's Inn [New York, New York]. They had Smalls [Jazz Club, New York, New York].$$Where's Connie's Inn?$$Well, that--$$Well, where was it? I apologize.$$I don't remember. I don't know exactly where that was, you know.$$Okay. So, you said Smalls, Connie's--$$Connie's Inn, the Lafayette Theatre [New York, New York], the Cotton Club. Those were some of the venues, yeah.$$And was that a good living for them? Was it something that they really enjoyed?$$Well, it was a living, you know; it was a living.$$And were most of them trained dancers or--$$I don't think so. I know Bertye Lou [Wood] said she wasn't a trained dancer. Cleo wasn't a trained dancer, but some of them were.$How, then, did you come up with the idea of the Silver Belles?$$Well, I went to--I had to go to Europe as a road manager for my nieces. So, I went on tour with them. And when I came back, you know, I wanted to do, I wanted to keep doing what I was doing. And so one of my friends, Bertye Lou Wood, I was talking to her about it. And she got the, she got the ladies for me. And we had a meeting and then we got together and got the Silver Belles.$$And, the members of the Silver Belles, they had danced together before?$$Yeah, they were all friends, but years ago. Well, they hadn't danced together for almost forty or fifty years since they had danced anywhere, you know. But--$$And did you need to convince anyone to come aboard?$$Not really, because they really wanted to do it. I think it was in their blood, and they really wanted to do it. Bertye Lou said that she wasn't going to--she would join, but she wasn't going to dance. But she was the first one up on stage. So, yes.$$And what kind of music did the, do the Silver Belles choose to dance to?$$The big band sound. Count Basie music, Duke Ellington music, you know, the big band sound.$$And is that music usually live or--$$No, we had--it was always live. Yeah, when we did the first show down at the Latin Quarter [New York, New York], we had Grover Mitchell's big band. We also did a show with The Cadillacs on the bill, okay. So, we did Atlantic City [New Jersey], and Sister Sledge was headlining and we did a show with them.$$And Sister Sledge--I was going to actually ask you some additional questions about that. Is that group related to you?$$It was my nieces, my sister's [Florez K. Sledge] children.$$And so when you went on that European tour, you were--$$Working for the--$$--the European manager for Sister Sledge?$$Yes.$$And then later you combined the Silver Belles and the Sister Sledge performance?$$No, we didn't. No, when I came back, I did not want to be a road manager anymore, okay. I'd lost my identity, so I wanted to be my own thing; I wanted to do my own thing. So when I came back, I got the Silver Belles together, and I started doing shows with them. And we did Carnegie Hall [New York, New York] with Cab Calloway. We did Lena Horne's eightieth birthday. We did Dan Rather's '48 Hours with Dan Rather.' We did quite a few things, yeah.$$What about the program that you did with President [William Jefferson "Bill"] Clinton?$$Well, that was Equity Cares [Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS], yeah.$$And--$$And Clinton was there.$$What is Equity Cares?$$Equity Cares is for AIDS [autoimmune deficiency syndrome]. They were doing a show, a thing for AIDS.$$(OFF CAMERA DISCUSSION)$$So in all of these instances, you are raising money?$$Well, see, the purpose of the Silver Belles is to raise funds. They don't work that often, but they want to do something, especially for kids, okay. So that was the purpose of them coming out of retirement and having fun, and being able to, you know, raise funds for different things.$$Now, you mentioned several names. But can you give us perhaps a list of the Silver Belles?$$Okay. Bertye Lou Wood, [HistoryMaker] Elaine Ellis, Cleo Hayes, Harriet Browne, Hazel Walker Rogers, Ruby Riley, [HistoryMaker] Fay Ray. These were all of--we only have four left, but these were all of the ladies that we had.

Ayisha McMillan Cravotta

Ballerina Ayisha Nell McMillan Cravotta was born on February 21, 1978 in Golden Valley, Minnesota. In 1981, McMillan moved with her family to Oak Park, Illinois. McMillan began dance at the age of two at the Academy of Movement and Music and soon dreamed of becoming a ballerina. At the age of eleven, McMillan joined MOMENTA, the resident dance company of the Academy of Movement and Music. From 1989 to 1993, she danced with the Bryant Ballet, based in Chicago, where Homer Hans Bryant, former principal dancer with the Dance Theater of Harlem, became her mentor. With the Bryant Ballet, McMillan flourished in the multicultural environment where classical ballet and African dance forms were explored side by side.

At a young age, McMillan made extraordinary sacrifices for her craft. During the summer months, beginning in 1989, she attended the Boston Ballet School in Massachusetts where she was mentored by ballet great, Elaine Bauer. In addition, McMillan was selected for private instruction by Asaf and Mikhail Messerer of the Bolshoi Ballet. Later, Asaf Messerer lived in McMillan’s Oak Park home while he taught McMillan. She also received pre-professional intensive training in classical ballet and early American modern dance. She traveled between Oak Park, Boston and Houston, Texas and trained with the Houston Ballet during summer break.

In 1990, at age twelve, McMillan danced in the Soviet-American ballet production of Coppelia. She also attended the Soviet-American Ballet School. At thirteen, she attended the Von Heideke Ballet School. In 1992, when McMillan was fourteen years old, she won a full scholarship to the Houston Ballet Academy. After high school, McMillan attended Rice University, where she graduated as an anthropology and art history major while dancing professionally with the Houston Ballet.

In 2002, McMillan left Texas and joined the North Carolina Dance Theater where she danced in A Midsummer Night’s Dream among other productions. In 2004, she became the first African American dancer to play the role of Clara in The Nutcracker. McMillan retired from the stage in 2007 at the age of 29.
McMillan was interviewed by The HistoryMakers on June 19, 2007.

Accession Number

A2007.178

Sex

Female

Interview Date

6/19/2007

Last Name

McMillan Cravotta

Maker Category
Occupation
Organizations
Schools

Academy of Movement and Music

Grace Lutheran School

Fenwick High School

Lamar High School

Rice University

Search Occupation Category
First Name

Ayisha

Birth City, State, Country

Golden Valley

HM ID

MCM03

Favorite Season

Fall

Sponsor

Patricia Keenan and Robert McMillan

State

Minnesota

Favorite Vacation Destination

Chicago, Illinois

Favorite Quote

None

Bio Photo
Speakers Bureau Region State

North Carolina

Birth Date

2/21/1978

Birth Place Term
Speakers Bureau Region City

Charlotte

Country

United States

Favorite Food

Chocolate Brownies

Short Description

Dancer Ayisha McMillan Cravotta (1978 - ) is a ballerina who became the first African American dancer to play the role of Clara in The Nutcracker.

Main Sponsor
Favorite Color

Blue

Timing Pairs
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DAStories

Tape: 1 Story: 1 - Slating of Ayisha McMillan Cravotta's interview

Tape: 1 Story: 2 - Ayisha McMillan Cravotta lists her favorites

Tape: 1 Story: 3 - Ayisha McMillan Cravotta describes her maternal family history

Tape: 1 Story: 4 - Ayisha McMillan Cravotta describes her mother's godmother, blues singer Edith Wilson

Tape: 1 Story: 5 - Ayisha McMillan Cravotta describes her paternal family history

Tape: 1 Story: 6 - Ayisha McMillan Cravotta continues to describe her family history

Tape: 1 Story: 7 - Ayisha McMillan Cravotta recalls how her parents met and their education

Tape: 1 Story: 8 - Ayisha McMillan Cravotta talks about her parents move from Chicago, Illinois to Minneapolis, Minnesota

Tape: 1 Story: 9 - Ayisha McMillan Cravotta describes her earliest childhood memory

Tape: 1 Story: 10 - Ayisha McMillan Cravotta talks about her early childhood years in Golden Valley, Minnesota

Tape: 2 Story: 1 - Ayisha McMillan Cravotta describes her family's history in Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority and The Links

Tape: 2 Story: 2 - Ayisha McMillan Cravotta remembers her family's move from Minnesota to Oak Park, Illinois

Tape: 2 Story: 3 - Ayisha McMillan Cravotta describes her elementary school years at Grace Lutheran School in River Forest, Illinois

Tape: 2 Story: 4 - Ayisha McMillan Cravotta recalls her tantrums before ballet classes as a girl

Tape: 2 Story: 5 - Ayisha McMillan Cravotta talks about her experience in MOMENTA

Tape: 2 Story: 6 - Ayisha McMillan Cravotta remembers Tanya Wideman and Sarita Smith Childs, black role models in her ballet classes

Tape: 2 Story: 7 - Ayisha McMillan Cravotta describes her ballet training and private lessons with Homer Hans Bryant

Tape: 2 Story: 8 - Ayisha McMillan Cravotta chronicles her ballet training as a youth

Tape: 2 Story: 9 - Ayisha McMillan Cravotta recalls one of her favorite performances as a child

Tape: 2 Story: 10 - Ayisha McMillan Cravotta describes her training in various dance forms

Tape: 3 Story: 1 - Ayisha McMillan Cravotta talks about her experience at the Boston Ballet School where she studied under Elaine Bauer

Tape: 3 Story: 2 - Ayisha McMillan Cravotta recalls her experiences with international ballet students

Tape: 3 Story: 3 - Ayisha McMillan Cravotta describes receiving ballet instruction from Asaf Messerer

Tape: 3 Story: 4 - Ayisha McMillan Cravotta talks about her training from Mikhail Messerer and dancing in the Soviet American Ballet School's production of "Coppelia"

Tape: 3 Story: 5 - Ayisha McMillan Cravotta remembers balancing her school work with ballet training

Tape: 3 Story: 6 - Ayisha McMillan Cravotta talks about why she wanted to become an architect

Tape: 3 Story: 7 - Ayisha McMillan Cravotta talks about her parents' divorce

Tape: 3 Story: 8 - Ayisha McMillan Cravotta recalls her first date while a student at the Houston Ballet Academy

Tape: 3 Story: 9 - Ayisha McMillan Cravotta talks about issues of body image

Tape: 4 Story: 1 - Ayisha McMillan Cravotta talks about pre-professional ballet training with Homer Hans Bryant in the Bryant Ballet

Tape: 4 Story: 2 - Ayisha McMillan Cravotta talks about racial dynamics in the ballet world and ballerinas she admired

Tape: 4 Story: 3 - Ayisha McMillan Cravotta recalls her interactions with idols, Nina Ananiashvili and Virginia Johnson

Tape: 4 Story: 4 - Ayisha McMillan Cravotta talks about her college application strategy and her decision to attend Rice University in Houston, Texas

Tape: 4 Story: 5 - Ayisha McMillan Cravotta recalls her first professional ballet performance, body image issues, and mentor Lauren Anderson

Tape: 4 Story: 6 - Ayisha McMillan Cravotta describes an experience of racial discrimination, and the microaggressions faced by black ballet dancers

Tape: 4 Story: 7 - Ayisha McMillan Cravotta talks about meeting Debbie Allen

Tape: 4 Story: 8 - Ayisha McMillan Cravotta talks about the North Carolina Dance Theatre

Tape: 4 Story: 9 - Ayisha McMillan Cravotta talks about her historical debut as Clara in "The Nutcracker" at North Carolina Dance Theatre

Tape: 5 Story: 1 - Ayisha McMillan Cravotta describes her experience at Rice University in Houston, Texas

Tape: 5 Story: 2 - Ayisha McMillan Cravotta talks about her studies at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte

Tape: 5 Story: 3 - Ayisha McMillan Cravotta talks about her historic role as Clara in "The Nutcracker"

Tape: 5 Story: 4 - Ayisha McMillan Cravotta talks about dancing Tinker Bell, one of her favorite roles

Tape: 5 Story: 5 - Ayisha McMillan Cravotta describes dancing the role of Clara as a woman of color and racist aesthetics in the ballet world

Tape: 5 Story: 6 - Ayisha McMillan Cravotta talks about why she did not join a black ballet company

Tape: 5 Story: 7 - Ayisha McMillan Cravotta talks about her relationship with HistoryMaker Earl Calloway who appointed her as Grand Marshal of the 2005 Bud Billiken Parade

Tape: 5 Story: 8 - Ayisha McMillan Cravotta talks about her hip injury and why she decided to retire from professional dancing

Tape: 5 Story: 9 - Ayisha McMillan Cravotta describes her last performance

Tape: 6 Story: 1 - Ayisha McMillan Cravotta describes the minimal changes in dance during her decade-long career

Tape: 6 Story: 2 - Ayisha McMillan Cravotta describes inspirational ballerinas and why she pursued a career in ballet

Tape: 6 Story: 3 - Ayisha McMillan Cravotta describes the impact of her training by Asaf Messerer of the Bolshoi Ballet

Tape: 6 Story: 4 - Ayisha McMillan Cravotta talks about her first mentor, Dorothy Samachson, and her mother's second marriage

Tape: 6 Story: 5 - Ayisha McMillan Cravotta describes her transition into marketing for the North Carolina Dance Theatre

Tape: 6 Story: 6 - Ayisha McMillan Cravotta reflects upon her legacy

Tape: 6 Story: 7 - Ayisha McMillan Cravotta expresses her desire to see more black women welcomed into the ballet world

Tape: 6 Story: 8 - Ayisha McMillan Cravotta narrates her photographs

DASession

1$1

DATape

5$2

DAStory

4$4

DATitle
Ayisha McMillan Cravotta talks about dancing Tinker Bell, one of her favorite roles
Ayisha McMillan Cravotta recalls her tantrums before ballet classes as a girl
Transcript
And--$$So that was a big highlight in your career?$$Oh, it was, it was great.$$Other highlights--was that the biggest, or were there other highlights here in North Carolina and Charlotte?$$To here in, in Charlotte, I would have to--I think, hands down, dancing the role of Tinker Bell and having it created on me in, in "Peter Pan" in Jean-Pierre [Bonnefoux]'s "Peter Pan" was--it was like the cherry on top of an ice cream sundae (laughter). It was fantastic because I--the--all of the performance, all of the performance energy that I had been, that I, that I found in myself, you know, when I was really little doing the jazz le pazz, I could put all of that into this role. I could put, I could create this character to be the way that I wanted her to be. And she was very--this Tinker Bell that, that I did--got to be really cheeky. She was jealous, she's very jealous of Wendy, and she was no shrinking violet (laughter). She played tricks on Wendy. She was trying to get her put out, but in a very--but she had attitude, too (laughter). I could put as much attitude into it. I could really shape it to be what I wanted to be, and then I could just take it and run. I could really--and it was wonderful dancing to great wonderful--I had a lot of very intricate petit allegro or very small steps to do, you know, small quick steps to do here and there. And then at other times, I would just get to leap and jump, and then wham with my, with my hands on my hips and, and thrown a little attitude wherever I, wherever I wanted to throw it--attitude, you know, oozing out of my ear. It was just so much fun.$Tell me about the Academy [of Movement and Music, Oak Park, Illinois]. How old were you, and what was that experience like? Did you love ballet from the start?$$I loved ballet from the start. If I'm to be honest about it, I loved it from the start. There was a time when I was maybe eight, or seven. Well, there is a time before that, too, when I, when I rebelled against the ballet. I wanted to go to gymnastics. I went to Leaps and Bounds in Oak Park. And I, I did gymnastics until I realized--yeah, this is not for me (laughter). I just remember feeling like what--they're jumping off of high beams and things and that's just--I would rather just jump. So, I, I went back to ballet and I had--I loved it. I, however, when I was eight, and maybe a lot of kids go through this when you're establishing your independence. But I would throw a tantrum before it was time to go to ballet class every single, every single time, and this was at least twice a week. I would, I would get into a little huffy, diva fit which, of course, was not popular with my mother [Connie Van Brunt]. It was not going to be okay. And I would say, mom, I don't know why you're making me go to ballet. I'm not going to be a ballerina when I grow up. I'm going to be an architect. So, I, I don't want to go to ballet. I don't know why you're making me go. My mother would say, Ayisha, you're going to be an architect who has grace and poise. Get in the car (laughter). I would get in the car (laughter) and I would go to ballet. And here's the crazy part--I would go there, and I would love it. And I, or at least, I remember registering the thought, and being in class, and standing at the bar, and having a thought actually register to me--I like this more than anybody else in here (laughter). I mean, just really feeling like, oh, I'm really serious about this. I, I really, really like this. And that's how much I would really love it. But for some reason, you know, that was Tuesday. But, you know, on Thursday, it was a whole new, ugh, why do I have to go? So, and my mother's intention was never for me to be a ballerina. My mother just wanted me to be a, a well-rounded middle-class black child who would grow up to be a well-rounded, happy, good woman. That's all she ever wanted. And that I became a ballerina was, was really my choice, and, and I loved it. I got to, I got to dance a lot of very sophisticated things, a lot of very sophisticated works at an early age.

Eleo Pomare

Choreographer and dancer Eleo Pomare was born on October 20 1937 in Santa Marta, Colombia. His father, Tawny Forbes, was the captain of a civilian freighter that was torpedoed near Colón, Panama during World War II. Pomare, at age six, who was with his father during the attack, survived and moved to live with his mother, Mildred Pomare Lee, in Panama. In 1947 Pomare was sent, alone, to New York City to live with an aunt and uncle who cared for him until some years later when his mother also moved to New York. He attended the New Lincoln School in Harlem, and later both P.S. #184 and James Fenimore Cooper Junior High School. At New York’s famed High School of Performing Arts, Pomare was mentored by Verita Pearson, and was exposed to such guest teachers as Uta Hagen and Martha Graham. While still a student, Pomare taught dance to other youth at the Police Athletic League (PAL). Soon, his pupils were performing at churches, schools and nearby Fort Dix. Moving into a building that housed Syvilla Fort’s studio near Town Hall, Pomare was exposed to the Durham technique by Walter Nicks and Talley Beatty. Graduating from the High School of Performing Arts in 1953, Pomare maintained his own dance company as he continued his training with Louis Horst, José Limón, Asadata Dafora, Pearl Reynolds and Curtis James. Pomare also befriended author James Baldwin, whose writing greatly influenced him.

In 1960, Pomare held his first major performance at the 92nd Street YMHA to favorable reviews. The following year he was awarded a John Hay Whitney Fellowship to study dance with Kurt Jooss in Essen, Germany. Pomare left the Jooss School and went on to reestablish the Eleo Pomare Dance Company, based in Amsterdam. He became a sensation in Europe. Using his own approach to choreography and teaching, he created his most celebrated works: Missa Luba, which combined the Catholic Mass with the music and voices of the Congolese Boys’ Choir; Blues for the Jungle, which depicted the history of African Americans from the earliest days of enslavement to the fight for equal rights in the 1960s; and Las Desenamoradas, which was inspired by Garcia Lorca’s play, The House of Bernarda Alba.

Over the years, Pomare received a number of dance fellowships including the aforementioned John Hay Whitney Fellowship and a Guggenheim Fellowship in 1972. The Eleo Pomare Dance Company toured North America, Europe, Australia, Asia, the Caribbean and Africa. They also performed in Lagos, Nigeria for FESTAC ’77, the World Festival of African Arts. Some of his featured dancers include Dudley Williams, Loretta Abbott, Al Perryman, Dyane Harvey, Charles Grant, Chuck Davis, Martial Roumain, Carl Paris, Leni Wylliams and Diana Ramos. In 1986, Pomare created Morning Without Sunrise, set to music by Max Roach, in honor of the heroism of Nelson Mandela.

In 1968, Pomare, along with Carole Johnson, Rod Rodgers, Gus Solomon and Pearl Reynolds, formed the Association of Black Choreographers and THE FEET, a black dance magazine. The Eleo Pomare Dance Company celebrated twenty-five years of dance in 1983, and January 7, 1987, was declared Eleo Pomare Day by the borough president of Manhattan, David Dinkins.

Pomare was a highly sought after teacher and choreographer until his death on August 8, 2008, at the age of 70.

Eleo Pomare was interviewed by The HistoryMakers on April 18, 2007.

Accession Number

A2007.147

Sex

Male

Interview Date

4/18/2007

Last Name

Pomare

Maker Category
Occupation
Schools

Fiorello H. LaGuardia High School of Music & Art and Performing Arts

P.S. 184

James Fenimore Cooper Junior High School

Search Occupation Category
First Name

Eleo

Birth City, State, Country

Santa Marta

HM ID

POM01

Favorite Season

Summer

Favorite Vacation Destination

Anywhere Warm

Favorite Quote

I Ain't Doing That.

Bio Photo
Speakers Bureau Region State

New York

Birth Date

10/20/1937

Birth Place Term
Speakers Bureau Region City

New York

Country

Colombia

Favorite Food

West Indian Food

Death Date

8/8/2008

Short Description

Choreographer and dancer Eleo Pomare (1937 - 2008 ) founded his own successful company in Amsterdam. He co-founded the Association of Black Choreographers and later THE FLEET, a black dance magazine.

Employment

Eleo Pomare Dance Company

R. H. Macy and Co.

Favorite Color

Black

Timing Pairs
0,0:2300,23:2900,30:8640,71:17662,136:18202,142:19606,158:33601,321:44845,433:55608,565:60104,577:131610,1046:133270,1058:215860,1665:216220,1671:216580,1676:225580,1911:226120,1947:232397,1973:258120,2315:282623,2484:292130,2585$0,0:570,7:5694,99:8298,149:15890,237:16302,243:16920,251:19392,282:24170,346:24786,357:30564,421:34212,469:34668,475:39055,496:40657,523:58950,705:60364,720:62990,752:74199,839:83022,949:88835,994:90226,1014:98680,1080:99450,1089:116420,1214:117134,1225:147599,1476:166029,1619:177222,1700:213420,1985
DAStories

Tape: 1 Story: 1 - Slating of Eleo Pomare's interview

Tape: 1 Story: 2 - Eleo Pomare lists his favorites

Tape: 1 Story: 3 - Eleo Pomare describes his mother's family background

Tape: 1 Story: 4 - Eleo Pomare describes his father's background

Tape: 1 Story: 5 - Eleo Pomare describes the feud between his maternal and paternal families

Tape: 1 Story: 6 - Eleo Pomare describes his mother's upbringing in San Andres, Colombia

Tape: 1 Story: 7 - Eleo Pomare remembers his father's death

Tape: 1 Story: 8 - Eleo Pomare describes how his parents met

Tape: 1 Story: 9 - Eleo Pomare describes his parents' personalities and who he takes after

Tape: 1 Story: 10 - Eleo Pomare describes his earliest childhood memories

Tape: 1 Story: 11 - Eleo Pomare describes the sights, sounds and smells of his childhood

Tape: 1 Story: 12 - Eleo Pomare recalls how he came to the United States

Tape: 2 Story: 1 - Eleo Pomare remembers the Carnival in Panama

Tape: 2 Story: 2 - Eleo Pomare describes Latin American dance and music

Tape: 2 Story: 3 - Eleo Pomare describes the impact of African culture on Latin America

Tape: 2 Story: 4 - Eleo Pomare describes his experiences upon arrival in New York City

Tape: 2 Story: 5 - Eleo Pomare remmebers P.S. 184 in New York City

Tape: 2 Story: 6 - Eleo Pomare describes his uncle's influence on his education

Tape: 2 Story: 7 - Eleo Pomare recalls his relatives in the Harlem neighborhood of New York City

Tape: 2 Story: 8 - Eleo Pomare remembers the Harlem community

Tape: 3 Story: 1 - Eleo Pomare reflects upon the influence of the church on his dance career

Tape: 3 Story: 2 - Eleo Pomare remembers James Fenimore Cooper Junior High School in New York City

Tape: 3 Story: 3 - Eleo Pomare recalls his woodshop class at James Fenimore Cooper Junior High School

Tape: 3 Story: 4 - Eleo Pomare describes his decision to attend the High School of Performing Arts

Tape: 3 Story: 5 - Eleo Pomare talks about teaching dance in New York City, pt. 1

Tape: 3 Story: 6 - Eleo Pomare talks about teaching dance in New York City, pt. 2

Tape: 3 Story: 7 - Eleo Pomare recalls African American dancers from his youth

Tape: 4 Story: 1 - Eleo Pomare describes the High School of Performing Arts in New York City

Tape: 4 Story: 2 - Eleo Pomare recalls his teachers at the High School of Performing Arts

Tape: 4 Story: 3 - Eleo Pomare describes his volunteer work as a dance teacher in New York City

Tape: 4 Story: 4 - Eleo Pomare describes his decision to leave his family home

Tape: 4 Story: 5 - Eleo Pomare describes his relationship with his maternal family

Tape: 4 Story: 6 - Eleo Pomare remembers seeing a performance by Talley Beatty

Tape: 4 Story: 7 - Eleo Pomare recalls the African American dancers of his generation

Tape: 4 Story: 8 - Eleo Pomare reflects upon the works of Pearl Primus and Katherine Dunham

Tape: 4 Story: 9 - Eleo Pomare remembers his classmate, Arthur Mitchell

Tape: 5 Story: 1 - Eleo Pomare describes the first Eleo Pomare Dance Company

Tape: 5 Story: 2 - Eleo Pomare remembers his company's first performance in New York City

Tape: 5 Story: 3 - Eleo Pomare remembers obtaining a John Hay Whitney Foundation fellowship

Tape: 5 Story: 4 - Eleo Pomare describes the Folkwang School of Music, Theatre and Dance in Essen, Germany

Tape: 5 Story: 5 - Eleo Pomare describes the European Eleo Pomare Dance Company

Tape: 5 Story: 6 - Eleo Pomare describes his decision to return to the United States, pt. 1

Tape: 5 Story: 7 - Eleo Pomare describes his decision to return to the United States, pt. 2

Tape: 6 Story: 1 - Eleo Pomare describes his dance piece, 'Missa Luba'

Tape: 6 Story: 2 - Eleo Pomare recalls the Second World Black and African Festival of Arts and Culture

Tape: 6 Story: 3 - Eleo Pomare describes his dance piece, 'Blues for the Jungle'

Tape: 6 Story: 4 - Eleo Pomare remembers performing "Junkie" from 'Blues for the Jungle'

Tape: 6 Story: 5 - Eleo Pomare describes his dance piece, 'Las Desenamoradas'

Tape: 6 Story: 6 - Eleo Pomare talks about his choreographic method

Tape: 6 Story: 7 - Eleo Pomare recalls founding the Association of Black Choreographers, pt. 1

Tape: 7 Story: 1 - Eleo Pomare recalls founding the Association of Black Choreographers, pt. 2

Tape: 7 Story: 2 - Eleo Pomare reflects upon black choreographers

Tape: 7 Story: 3 - Eleo Pomare reflects upon the cultural influences in his choreography

Tape: 7 Story: 4 - Eleo Pomare talks about the Harlem Cultural Council Dancemobile

Tape: 7 Story: 5 - Eleo Pomare describes his fellowship from the John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation

Tape: 7 Story: 6 - Eleo Pomare remembers the political climate of the late 1970s

Tape: 7 Story: 7 - Eleo Pomare recalls the lack of funding for African American dance companies

Tape: 7 Story: 8 - Eleo Pomare describes his dance piece, 'Morning Without Sunrise,' pt. 1

Tape: 8 Story: 1 - Eleo Pomare describes his dance piece, 'Morning Without Sunrise,' pt. 2

Tape: 8 Story: 2 - Eleo Pomare reflects upon his dance career

Tape: 8 Story: 3 - Eleo Pomare reflects upon his teaching style

Tape: 8 Story: 4 - Eleo Pomare recalls the members of the Eleo Pomare Dance Company

Tape: 8 Story: 5 - Eleo Pomare remembers performing at the Adelaide Festival in Australia

Tape: 8 Story: 6 - Eleo Pomare talks about contemporary dance companies

Tape: 8 Story: 7 - Eleo Pomare describes his recent choreographic work

Tape: 8 Story: 8 - Eleo Pomare describes his hopes and concerns for the African American community

Tape: 8 Story: 9 - Eleo Pomare reflects upon his life

Tape: 8 Story: 10 - Eleo Pomare talks about his family

Tape: 8 Story: 11 - Eleo Pomare describes how he would like to be remembered

DASession

1$1

DATape

3$6

DAStory

1$4

DATitle
Eleo Pomare reflects upon the influence of the church on his dance career
Eleo Pomare remembers performing "Junkie" from 'Blues for the Jungle'
Transcript
I was close to so many places where I'm, I'm excited by music, the way Carnival, the music affected me, the, the parallel to it was the small churches or the churches in Harlem [New York, New York]. And at the time I didn't realize that I was really studying theater (laughter) by attend, by going to these places. I can remember at the corner, at the corner of a 125th Street [Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Boulevard] was Daddy Grace Temple [Grace Temple, New York, New York] right there at the corner. And, and I used to visit Prophet Jones' [James F. Jones] small church. And mainly for, for the music, it's the music that attracted me. And a passion that, that is very difficult to define, the, the life, you know, that, that pushed you, (laughter) you know. And I wouldn't say it had anything to do with my beliefs, my [maternal] uncle [Barsabas Anab Pomare] had already influenced me when it came to the purpose of an Almighty and whatnot. But the sincerity, the humanness of what I saw in these places gave me some sense of, of the depth of emotion. It also prepared me for, for what I would make if, if I was an actor, what I would make if I was a painter. And the search would be to, to, to not be involved with the religion but to be involved with the ability to, to, to experience so deeply, so real, you know, to see people who actually feel. And the, the, that, I had, had really a phenomenal interest to me. And, of course, there were the five cents parties the grind sessions and all of that that you were forbidden to go to, red light, blue light parties and things of that nature.$$Yeah, the church experience, I mean, I, sounds a lot like, you ever read, read James Baldwin where he describes a little church where he was a, he was a, a boy pastor in the church and could (simultaneous)--$$(Simultaneous) Oh, oh, yes, James--$$He, he could make--$$James was a friend of mine.$$Yeah, okay.$$As a matter of fact, I often tell people that James Baldwin is the reason, had something to do with what, with my sitting where I am right now.$$Okay.$$You know, he--$$Did you meet him before you started dance, you know, dancing professionally, did you?$$Not before.$$Okay.$$See I lived in the village, Greenwich Village [New York, New York]. And at that time there used to be these afternoon soirees for the intellectual or the searching mind and whatnot. And I, I first met James at one of these affairs that was given by someone by the name of Lionel Mitchell who, who was a writer. He's written for the Amsterdam News [New York Amsterdam News], and the, the black newspapers.$I, for instance, when I started doing "Junkie" ['Blues for the Jungle,' Eleo Pomare], Judy Dearing said to me, "You will never be convincing because first of all, you're holding the joint improperly, no one holds a joint like that." You know, where I learned how to do "Junkie"? In back of the Apollo Theater [New York, New York]. It was a place called the Bucket of Blood [ph.] (laughter). A bar, and for several nights John Parks, a whole group of us, would do field work, until I learned from those guys who hung out in back of the Apollo, they got so they would do this to me (gesture) they would say hello. But I learned that you don't nod as if you've had many dance classes. Everything you learned about form and structure have to go out of the window because you're creating a different reality. And this thing was accurate. I can remember the premier of that, it was like all hell broke loose in the theater, (laughter) you know, it's like that (gesture). And when the dancers for the first time used the word it was like brand new, no one, no one, you know, come at you down the aisle going, "Hey, man, you, you wanna buy a joint (makes noise)?" And you realize someone is dying down there in the aisle. That's the theater I am in to. Along with the other craftsman type things that I've done. So what was interesting about that to me is, is the audience. You, you know, it's interesting to see an integrated audience look at it, and watch, it looks like mixture of people where everyone is going like (gesture). And then the middle class blacks, especially the ones out of the, not in the East, the southern middle class, "Why did you bring that dance to our theater? Why did you do this? That is only pushing us back decades. You should have, you, you know." What is pushing you back decades is your phoniness. And so it's, it is, it could have caused me great angst, great pain, you know, but you don't do something you believe and then apologize for it. So that was that.

George W. Faison

Broadway dancer and choreographer George William Faison was born on December 21, 1945, in Washington, D.C. He attended Dunbar High School, where he studied with the Jones-Haywood Capitol Ballet and Carolyn Tate of Howard University; his first performance was with the American Light Opera Company. After graduating from high school, Faison attended Howard University with plans of becoming a dentist; during this time he also worked in theater with the acclaimed African American theater director Owen Dodson.

In 1966, two years after he entered Howard, Faison saw a production of the Alvin Ailey Company; within a week, he had decided to become a professional dancer and left Howard University to move to New York City. There, Faison studied at the School of American Ballet, where he took classes with Arthur Mitchell, June Taylor, Claude Thompson, Dudley Williams, Charles Moore, and James Truitte, among others. Faison began his first professional job with the Long Wharf Theater in New Haven, Connecticut, and continued studying dance with Harlem Youth Opportunities Unlimited (HARYOU) and Harkness House.

In 1967, Faison auditioned with the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater, where he would remain for the next three years. In 1970, Faison left the Alvin Ailey dance company to pursue his own career. After a part in the Broadway musical Purlie, Faison created the George Faison Universal Dance Experience with a budget of $600 dollars. The group’s dancers included such notables as Renee Rose, Debbie Allen, Al Perryman and Gary DeLoatch; Faison was the artistic director, choreographer and dancer for the group.

In 1972, Faison made his choreographic debut with Don’t Bother Me, I Can’t Cope on Broadway, which was the start of a series of successful choreography jobs that included Via Galactica, Tilt and 1974’s all-black retelling of The Wizard of Oz entitled The Wiz. The Wiz was a huge success, and helped to launch the careers of singer Stephanie Mills and actor Geoffrey Holder. That same year, Faison became the first African American to win a Tony award. The George Faison Universal Dance Experience disbanded the following year, and Faison began focusing on musical theater; subsequently he worked as a choreographer for entertainers like Earth, Wind and Fire, Ashford and Simpson, Dionne Warwick, Patti Labelle and Cameo, among others.

1981 brought the massive critical success of Apollo, Just Like Magic, an off-Broadway production that transitioned him from choreographer to director. In 1997, Faison directed and choreographed King, a musical performed at President Clinton’s inauguration. In 1996 he founded the American Performing Arts Collaborative (A-PAC), after which time, Faison constructed an arts center called the Faison Firehouse Theater, a project of A-PAC which committed its resources to Harlem.

Accession Number

A2007.073

Sex

Male

Interview Date

3/5/2007 |and| 5/14/2007

Last Name

Faison

Maker Category
Middle Name

W.

Occupation
Organizations
Schools

Paul Laurence Dunbar High School

Howard University

Search Occupation Category
First Name

George

Birth City, State, Country

Washington

HM ID

FAI02

Favorite Season

Spring

State

District of Columbia

Favorite Vacation Destination

Anywhere

Favorite Quote

What Are You Doing?

Bio Photo
Speakers Bureau Region State

New York

Birth Date

12/21/1945

Birth Place Term
Speakers Bureau Region City

New York

Country

United States

Favorite Food

Chicken

Short Description

Choreographer and dancer George W. Faison (1945 - ) founded the George Faison Universal Dance Experience. Faison was the choreographer of the Broadway musicals Via Galactica, Tilt and The Wiz.

Employment

Arthur Mitchell Dance Company

Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater

George Faison Universal Dance Experience

George Faison Firehouse Theater

Favorite Color

Blue

Timing Pairs
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DAStories

Tape: 1 Story: 1 - Slating of George W. Faison's interview, session 1

Tape: 1 Story: 2 - George W. Faison lists his favorites

Tape: 1 Story: 3 - George W. Faison describes his father's family background

Tape: 1 Story: 4 - George W. Faison describes his father

Tape: 1 Story: 5 - George W. Faison describes his mother's family background

Tape: 1 Story: 6 - George W. Faison describes his parents' relationship

Tape: 1 Story: 7 - George W. Faison talks about his maternal family passing for white

Tape: 1 Story: 8 - George W. Faison recalls accompanying his father to work

Tape: 1 Story: 9 - George W. Faison lists his siblings

Tape: 1 Story: 10 - George W. Faison describes his earliest childhood memories

Tape: 1 Story: 11 - George W. Faison describes his neighborhood in Washington, D.C.

Tape: 1 Story: 12 - George W. Faison describes the sights, sounds, and smells of his childhood, pt. 1

Tape: 2 Story: 1 - George W. Faison describes the sights, sounds and smells of his childhood, pt. 2

Tape: 2 Story: 2 - George W. Faison describes the sights, sounds, and smells of his childhood, pt. 3

Tape: 2 Story: 3 - George W. Faison recalls the wealthy, white neighborhoods of Washington, D.C.

Tape: 2 Story: 4 - George W. Faison recalls the teachers who influenced him

Tape: 2 Story: 5 - George W. Faison recalls his early exposure to the arts

Tape: 2 Story: 6 - George W. Faison describes his experiences of racial discrimination

Tape: 2 Story: 7 - George W. Faison recalls his early influences

Tape: 3 Story: 1 - George W. Faison recalls his early interest in dance

Tape: 3 Story: 2 - George W. Faison remembers the band at Paul Laurence Dunbar High School in Washington, D.C.

Tape: 3 Story: 3 - George W. Faison recalls teaching himself to dance

Tape: 3 Story: 4 - George W. Faison recalls auditioning for the American Light Opera Company

Tape: 3 Story: 5 - George W. Faison remembers dancing with the American Light Opera Company

Tape: 3 Story: 6 - George W. Faison recalls his experiences while at Paul Laurence Dunbar High School

Tape: 3 Story: 7 - George W. Faison describes the Jones-Haywood School of Ballet in Washington, D.C.

Tape: 3 Story: 8 - George W. Faison recalls his training at the American Light Opera Company

Tape: 3 Story: 9 - George W. Faison recalls the Howard University Players

Tape: 4 Story: 1 - George W. Faison recalls his decision to study the fine arts at Howard University in Washington, D.C.

Tape: 4 Story: 2 - George W. Faison recalls the Civil Rights Movement at Howard University

Tape: 4 Story: 3 - George W. Faison remembers improving his dance technique at Howard University

Tape: 4 Story: 4 - George W. Faison recalls his decision to move to New York City

Tape: 4 Story: 5 - George W. Faison remembers joining the Arthur Mitchell Company

Tape: 4 Story: 6 - George W. Faison reflects upon his decision to pursue a dance career

Tape: 4 Story: 7 - George W. Faison recalls dancing on the 'ABC's Stage 67' program

Tape: 4 Story: 8 - George W. Faison describes the dance community in New York City, pt. 1

Tape: 4 Story: 9 - George W. Faison describes the dance community in New York City, pt. 2

Tape: 4 Story: 10 - George W. Faison recalls the Harlem Youth Opportunities Unlimited program

Tape: 5 Story: 1 - George W. Faison remembers Thelma Hill

Tape: 5 Story: 2 - George W. Faison describes Alvin Ailey's choreographic style

Tape: 5 Story: 3 - George W. Faison recalls his audition for the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater

Tape: 5 Story: 4 - George W. Faison recalls touring Europe with the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater

Tape: 5 Story: 5 - George W. Faison recalls watching the Civil Rights Movement from Italy

Tape: 5 Story: 6 - George W. Faison remembers Alvin Ailey

Tape: 5 Story: 7 - George W. Faison recalls lessons from Alvin Ailey

Tape: 5 Story: 8 - George W. Faison reflects upon his generation

Tape: 5 Story: 9 - George W. Faison recalls the camaraderie of the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater

Tape: 6 Story: 1 - George W. Faison recalls his career with the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater

Tape: 6 Story: 2 - George W. Faison remembers his interest in choreography

Tape: 6 Story: 3 - George W. Faison recalls his decision to leave the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater, pt. 1

Tape: 6 Story: 4 - George W. Faison recalls Alvin Ailey's parting advice

Tape: 6 Story: 5 - George W. Faison describes his first ballet

Tape: 6 Story: 6 - George W. Faison talks about his transition to choreography

Tape: 6 Story: 7 - George W. Faison recalls dancing in 'Purlie'

Tape: 6 Story: 8 - George W. Faison remembers meeting Miles Davis, pt. 1

Tape: 7 Story: 1 - George W. Faison recalls meeting Miles Davis, pt. 2

Tape: 7 Story: 2 - George W. Faison recalls choreographing a ballet to Miles Davis' music

Tape: 7 Story: 3 - George W. Faison recalls the start of his career as a choreographer

Tape: 7 Story: 4 - George W. Faison describes 'Suite Otis'

Tape: 7 Story: 5 - George W. Faison talks about licensing his choreography

Tape: 7 Story: 6 - George W. Faison remembers Gary DeLoatch

Tape: 7 Story: 7 - George W. Faison remembers choreographing Broadway productions

Tape: 7 Story: 8 - George W. Faison recalls choreographing 'The Wiz'

Tape: 8 Story: 1 - George W. Faison recalls the conception of 'The Wiz'

Tape: 8 Story: 2 - George W. Faison remembers the first performances of 'The Wiz'

Tape: 8 Story: 3 - George W. Faison describes the development of 'The Wiz'

Tape: 8 Story: 4 - George W. Faison remembers the Broadway production of 'The Wiz'

Tape: 8 Story: 5 - George W. Faison describes the impact of HIV/AIDS on the theater community

Tape: 8 Story: 6 - George W. Faison remembers lessons from his work on 'The Wiz'

Tape: 8 Story: 7 - George W. Faison talks about 'The Wiz' movie

Tape: 8 Story: 8 - George W. Faison recalls staging musical artists

Tape: 8 Story: 9 - George W. Faison remembers writing 'If This Hat Could Talk'

Tape: 9 Story: 1 - Slating of George W. Faison's interview, session 2

Tape: 9 Story: 2 - George W. Faison recalls the conflict between Charlie Smalls and Gilbert Moses

Tape: 9 Story: 3 - George W. Faison describes Hinton Battle's role in 'The Wiz'

Tape: 9 Story: 4 - George W. Faison describes the perceptions of African American theater

Tape: 9 Story: 5 - George W. Faison describes the influences on his choreography for 'The Wiz'

Tape: 9 Story: 6 - George W. Faison recalls being invited to choreograph to 'The Wiz'

Tape: 9 Story: 7 - George W. Faison recalls the costuming on 'The Wiz,' pt. 1

Tape: 9 Story: 8 - George W. Faison recalls the costuming on 'The Wiz,' pt. 2

Tape: 9 Story: 9 - George W. Faison describes the 'Emerald City Ballet (Psst)'

Tape: 9 Story: 10 - George W. Faison remembers the success of 'The Wiz'

Tape: 10 Story: 1 - George W. Faison recalls the rehearsals for 'The Wiz'

Tape: 10 Story: 2 - George W. Faison talks about Stephanie Mills

Tape: 10 Story: 3 - George W. Faison describes the cast of 'The Wiz'

Tape: 10 Story: 4 - George W. Faison recalls the difficulty of producing a show on Broadway

Tape: 10 Story: 5 - George W. Faison recalls the critical response to 'The Wiz'

Tape: 10 Story: 6 - George W. Faison remembers negotiating his royalties for 'The Wiz'

Tape: 10 Story: 7 - George W. Faison recalls the success of 'The Wiz' at the Tony Awards

Tape: 10 Story: 8 - George W. Faison reflects upon his Tony Award for Best Choreography

Tape: 11 Story: 1 - George W. Faison talks about the choreographers on Broadway

Tape: 11 Story: 2 - George W. Faison recalls his transition to concert staging

Tape: 11 Story: 3 - George W. Faison remembers staging Ashford and Simpson

Tape: 11 Story: 4 - George W. Faison talks about working with Earth, Wind, and Fire

Tape: 11 Story: 5 - George W. Faison remembers 'The Josephine Baker Story'

Tape: 11 Story: 6 - George W. Faison recalls writing 'Sing, Mahalia, Sing'

Tape: 11 Story: 7 - George W. Faison reflects upon the changes on Broadway

Tape: 11 Story: 8 - George W. Faison recalls opening the Faison Firehouse Theater in New York City

Tape: 12 Story: 1 - George W. Faison describes his parents' influence on his career

Tape: 12 Story: 2 - George W. Faison talks about his admiration of Dorothy Height

Tape: 12 Story: 3 - George W. Faison describes his mentors, pt. 1

Tape: 12 Story: 4 - George W. Faison talks about Storyville

Tape: 12 Story: 5 - George W. Faison describes his mentors, pt. 2

Tape: 12 Story: 6 - George W. Faison talks about the novels of Toni Morrison

Tape: 12 Story: 7 - George W. Faison talks about black dance

Tape: 12 Story: 8 - George W. Faison describes his hopes and concerns for the African American community

Tape: 12 Story: 9 - George W. Faison reflects upon his legacy

DASession

1$2

DATape

2$9

DAStory

2$4

DATitle
George W. Faison describes the sights, sounds, and smells of his childhood, pt. 3
George W. Faison describes the perceptions of African American theater
Transcript
Let me ask you, you did very well with sights and sounds, what about smells. Were the smells of food or--?$$Oh food, yeah, food cooked, you know.$$Any other smells?$$Smells, or the perfume my mother [Agnes Crockett Faison] would wear, you know, or the clothes she would wear, you know.$$So--$$Refine, I don't know I guess that you know you don't know where, you don't know--I grew up not knowing or caring or thinking about where I belonged. I thought I belonged everywhere. So venturing out of that neighborhood would become, and you know, would give my parents, "Where are you? Boy what are you doing?" And I would, I, I can remember in high school [Paul Laurence Dunbar High School; Paul Laurence Dunbar Senior High School, Washington, D.C.] it's the, the early, the early '60s [1960s] when Kennedy [President John Fitzgerald Kennedy] went to the Trinity Church [Holy Trinity Catholic Church, Washington, D.C.], you know, not, know, you know and you read about these things. But, it was the '60s [1960s] and everybody was hopeful. Motown [Motown Records] was, you know, you know we all of a sudden saw Diana Ross and, and The Supremes or, no The Supremes and The Temptations and all of the people that [HistoryMaker] Berry Gordy had mentored and looking shiny and new on 'Ed Sullivan Show' ['The Ed Sullivan Show']. We had a TV, and we would gather in, in front of that. Seeing, you know seeing that, but that was later. Earlier it was, it was the Howard Theatre [Washington, D.C.] and seeing everybody, Moms Mabley, making jokes, saying how, how JFK and Jackie [Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis] were her grandbabies, you know, and you know saying, you know saying how they were part of her family. Or seeing Pearl Bailey or Etta Ja- or watching them turn Etta James, because she was fair-skinned and a blonde, pink and green and, and, and blue under all of these lights, the magic of the theater, Roy Hamilton. You know we, you know we all were and are still very prolific. We had a new song along with a new dance coming through our neighborhood every week. So, what was I missing? Gladys Knight was a kid, you know what I mean. [HistoryMaker] Smokey Robinson was coming through, The Platters, who was I missing? A kid, who was I missing? I knew all of the people that I knew, so we you know. Growing, just growing up and seeing the Jewel Box Revue, you know, twenty-five, twenty-four female impersonators and one woman, you know, who was the man. It was like, you know, and us, and Peg Leg Bates, a man dancing with one leg and, and all of that and you know ventriloquist with black dummies. I didn't miss anything, I mean because I saw myself. It was me. And going to the movies and seeing the movies, the movie of Oscar Micheaux who made black cowboy films, and then all of those other shorts that were made of the Apollo [Apollo Theater, New York, New York], you know. What was I mi- you know, I didn't know I was missing something.$Can we talk a little bit about the creative process, you know what happened, you know, in, in the process of building the, the play. I know that it had been, you know, a play before it was a musical right.$$Well, it was a play before the mu- well it was a musical and Judy Garland was the star.$$Right, right, right, right, right.$$And our biggest challenge was to get them to fall in love, yes with a black girl, our black Dorothy. And that was really kind of met with a lot of opposition because all, I guess all white people, you know, thought that Judy Garland and, and Dorothy of 'The Wiz' belonged to them, but we had been watching Judy Garland be Dorothy since 1939 right along with them, even if it were from the crow's nest. And we fell in love with her, with that same message and all of the other white characters that were in that. So, you know, in doing it that was our challenge, and then you know they would, you know back then that was 1975 so we weren't so urban. You know there were a few words out of that, but those were a few words out of 'Raisin' ['A Raisin in the Sun,' Lorraine Hansberry] and 'Purlie' and all of the other things that we could, could do or what was on TV in '75 [1975], whatever was on in TV in '75 [1975] which, which would probably have been 'Good Times' right.$$Right, 'Good Times' right.$$With J.J. [J.J. Evans] and all of that and Esther Rolle's family and how smart they could be or whatever blaxploitation film. But 'The Wiz' actually gave us an opportunity to, to emerge from, from that day to day life and then take on characters that we weren't allowed to take on or subjects, a script that had the coherence that we needed it to, you know, to move on, move on be- beyond slavery or civil rights, move on and be, you know, what, the promise of what being in the theater could really be. We could dance and sing, have smiles on our faces, wear colorful costumes, wear sequins and beautiful things, silks and velvets and all of those things, and then be characters that were yes not too far from us, but far enough for us to, to imagine something else. We were emerging from civil rights was like ten years old. 'Purlie' was five years prior to, to all of this. And then we were joined by 'Eubie!' and other black musicals that kind of kept Broadway alive at that point. I know they wouldn't admit it, but all they were doing was being wrapped in, in music, you know, musicals like 'Raisin' and 'Purl-,' well 'Purlie,' 'Lilies of the Field' which was that same year and 'Eubie!' and, and 'Bubbling' ['Bubbling Brown Sugar,' Loften Mitchell] and revue kinds of shows. But this was our first musical.

Carmen De Lavallade

Dance luminary Carmen De Lavallade was born on March 6, 1931, to Grace Grenot and Leo Paul De Lavallade in Los Angeles, California. There, her aunt, Adele De Lavallade, owned the Hugh Gordon Book Shop, one of the first African American history bookshops on Central Avenue. Her cousin, Janet Collins, was the first African American prima ballerina at the Metropolitan Opera in New York City. De Lavallade discovered her talent for dance early. In 1945, she began studying ballet with Melissa Blake, and at the age of sixteen, upon graduation from Thomas Jefferson High School, she was awarded a scholarship to study dance with the renowned Lester Horton.

In 1949, De Lavallade became a member of the celebrated Lester Horton Dance Theater, where from 1950 to 1954, she enjoyed the status of lead dancer. During this time, De Lavallade continued to study dance, becoming proficient in ballet and other forms of modern and ethnic dance. Lester Horton insisted that she study other art forms, including painting, acting, music, set design and costuming. De Lavallade began studying ballet privately with Italian ballerina Carmelita Maracci and later acting with Stella Adler. In 1954, De Lavallade made her Broadway debut in House of Flowers, and that same year, Alvin Ailey, the founder of the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater, moved to New York City to partner with her in that production.

During that engagement in 1955, De Lavallade met and married dancer and actor Geoffrey Holder. With Holder, she completed her signature solo, Come Sunday, which he suggested choreographing to a black spiritual, sung by Odetta Gordon. In 1956, De Lavallade danced as the prima ballerina at the Metropolitan Opera performances of Samson and Delilah, and Aida. Also in 1956, she made her television debut in John Butler’s ballet Flight, and in 1957, she appeared in the television production of Duke Ellington's A Drum Is a Woman. In pursuit of an acting, Lena Horne introduced her to the executives at Twentieth Century Fox, and between 1952 and 1955, she appeared in several films, including Carmen Jones with Dorothy Dandridge. In 1959, she starred in Odds Against Tomorrow with Harry Belafonte. De Lavallade also appeared in several off-Broadway productions, including Othello and Death of a Salesman.

By the early 1960s, De Lavallade was a principal guest performer with Alvin Ailey’s company and on the company's first European tour in 1962, the billing was De Lavallade-Ailey American Dance Company. In 1964, she danced with Donald McKayle and in 1965 appeared in Agnes deMille’s American Ballet Theater productions of The Four Marys and The Frail Quarry. In 1970, De Lavallade joined the prestigious Yale School of Drama as a choreographer and performer-in-residence. She staged musicals, plays and operas, and later became a professor and member of the Yale Repertory Theater. Between 1990 and 1993, De Lavallade returned to the Metropolitan Opera as choreographer for Porgy and Bess and Die Meistersinger.

In 2004, De Lavallade received the Black History Month Lifetime Achievement Award, the Rosie Award and the Bessie Award in 2006.

De Lavallade resides in New York City with her husband, Geoffrey Holder.

De Lavallade was interviewed by The HistoryMakers on December 12, 2006.

Accession Number

A2006.162

Sex

Female

Interview Date

12/12/2006

Last Name

De Lavallade

Marital Status

Married

Organizations
Schools

Vernon City Elementary School

Thomas Jefferson High School

Los Angeles City College

Search Occupation Category
First Name

Carmen

Birth City, State, Country

Los Angeles

HM ID

DEL05

Favorite Season

Fall, Spring

State

California

Favorite Vacation Destination

None

Favorite Quote

None

Bio Photo
Speakers Bureau Region State

New York

Birth Date

3/6/1931

Birth Place Term
Speakers Bureau Region City

New York

Country

United States

Favorite Food

Berries, Fish

Short Description

Choreographer, actress, and dancer Carmen De Lavallade (1931 - ) performed in films, television and in live performances, including the operas, "Aida," and "Samson and Delilah." In 2004, De Lavallade received the Black History Month Lifetime Achievement Award, the Rosie Award and the Bessie Award in 2006.

Employment

Lester Horton Dance Theater

Yale School of Drama

Favorite Color

Warm Colors

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DAStories

Tape: 1 Story: 1 - Slating of Carmen De Lavallade's interview

Tape: 1 Story: 2 - Carmen De Lavallade lists her favorites

Tape: 1 Story: 3 - Carmen De Lavallade describes her mother's family background, pt. 1

Tape: 1 Story: 4 - Carmen De Lavallade describes her mother's family background, pt. 2

Tape: 1 Story: 5 - Carmen De Lavallade recalls the impact of her mother's illness

Tape: 1 Story: 6 - Carmen De Lavallade describes her father's family background

Tape: 1 Story: 7 - Carmen De Lavallade recalls her paternal family's move to Los Angeles, California

Tape: 1 Story: 8 - Carmen De Lavallade recalls being raised by her father in Los Angeles, California

Tape: 1 Story: 9 - Carmen De Lavallade remembers St. Martha's Church in Vernon, California

Tape: 1 Story: 10 - Carmen De Lavallade remembers her childhood holidays

Tape: 1 Story: 11 - Carmen De Lavallade describes her cousin, ballerina Janet Collins

Tape: 1 Story: 12 - Carmen De Lavallade recalls Janet Collins' early ballet career

Tape: 2 Story: 1 - Carmen De Lavallade remembers Janet Collins' duet with Talley Beatty

Tape: 2 Story: 2 - Carmen De Lavallade talks about her cousin, Alma Collins

Tape: 2 Story: 3 - Carmen De Lavallade recalls Vernon City Elementary School in Vernon, California

Tape: 2 Story: 4 - Carmen De Lavallade recalls her activities at Vernon City Elementary School

Tape: 2 Story: 5 - Carmen De Lavallade describes the demographics of Vernon City Elementary School

Tape: 2 Story: 6 - Carmen De Lavallade remembers her early interest in dancing

Tape: 2 Story: 7 - Carmen De Lavallade recalls her dance training with Melissa Blake

Tape: 2 Story: 8 - Carmen De Lavallade recalls her time at Los Angeles' Thomas Jefferson High School

Tape: 2 Story: 9 - Carmen De Lavallade remembers her high school classmate, O.C. Smith

Tape: 2 Story: 10 - Carmen De Lavallade recalls performing 'Scheherazade' at Thomas Jefferson High School

Tape: 2 Story: 11 - Carmen De Lavallade remembers her dance training with Lester Horton

Tape: 2 Story: 12 - Carmen De Lavallade recalls when Bella Lewitsky left the Lester Horton Dance Theater

Tape: 3 Story: 1 - Carmen De Lavallade describes Rudy Gernreich's choreography

Tape: 3 Story: 2 - Carmen De Lavallade talks about the Lester Horton Technique

Tape: 3 Story: 3 - Carmen De Lavallade recalls performing in Lester Horton's 'Salome'

Tape: 3 Story: 4 - Carmen De Lavallade recalls her ballet training with Carmelita Maracci

Tape: 3 Story: 5 - Carmen De Lavallade reflects upon the business side of dance

Tape: 3 Story: 6 - Carmen De Lavallade remembers Lester Horton's death

Tape: 3 Story: 7 - Carmen De Lavallade recalls moving from Los Angeles to New York City

Tape: 3 Story: 8 - Carmen De Lavallade recalls being hired as a dancer in 'Carmen Jones'

Tape: 3 Story: 9 - Carmen De Lavallade describes the cast and crew of 'Carmen Jones'

Tape: 3 Story: 10 - Carmen De Lavallade recalls joining the dance company of 'House of Flowers'

Tape: 3 Story: 11 - Carmen De Lavallade recalls performing in 'Yerma'

Tape: 3 Story: 12 - Carmen De Lavallade recalls her career path after Lester Horton's death

Tape: 4 Story: 1 - Carmen De Lavallade recalls the makeup for Jack Cole's choreography in 'Lydia Bailey'

Tape: 4 Story: 2 - Carmen De Lavallade remembers working with choreographer Jack Cole

Tape: 4 Story: 3 - Carmen De Lavallade describes Geoffrey Holder's generosity as a husband

Tape: 4 Story: 4 - Carmen De Lavallade recalls performing 'A Drum Is a Woman' on live television

Tape: 4 Story: 5 - Carmen De Lavallade recalls touring with Alvin Ailey's company in Southeast Asia

Tape: 4 Story: 6 - Carmen De Lavallade describes her role in 'Odds Against Tomorrow'

Tape: 4 Story: 7 - Carmen De Lavallade recalls her experiences on 'The Ed Sullivan Show'

Tape: 4 Story: 8 - Carmen De Lavallade recalls memorable performers from the 1960s

Tape: 4 Story: 9 - Carmen De Lavallade remembers learning pointe from Carmelita Maracci

Tape: 4 Story: 10 - Carmen De Lavallade describes her transition to acting

Tape: 4 Story: 11 - Carmen De Lavallade recalls teaching at New Haven's Yale School of Drama

Tape: 5 Story: 1 - Carmen De Lavallade talks about Ballet Tap USA

Tape: 5 Story: 2 - Carmen De Lavallade remembers 'The Four Marys'

Tape: 5 Story: 3 - Carmen De Lavallade recalls teaching at New Haven's Yale School of Drama

Tape: 5 Story: 4 - Carmen De Lavallade describes differences between dancing and acting

Tape: 5 Story: 5 - Carmen De Lavallade describes her teaching style

Tape: 5 Story: 6 - Carmen De Lavallade recalls understudying as Googie Gomez in 'The Ritz'

Tape: 5 Story: 7 - Carmen De Lavallade recalls acting with Christopher Lloyd in 'A Midsummer Night's Dream'

Tape: 5 Story: 8 - Carmen De Lavallade talks about playwright Adrienne Kennedy

Tape: 5 Story: 9 - Carmen De Lavallade describes her idea for a play

Tape: 5 Story: 10 - Carmen De Lavallade remembers her portrayal of Emilia in 'Othello'

Tape: 5 Story: 11 - Carmen De Lavallade recalls appearing on 'The Cosby Show'

Tape: 5 Story: 12 - Carmen De Lavallade reflects upon aging as a performer

Tape: 5 Story: 13 - Carmen De Lavallade recalls choreographing 'Lucia di Lammermoor'

Tape: 5 Story: 14 - Carmen De Levallade recalls performing with Benny Goodman and Bill Evans

Tape: 5 Story: 15 - Carmen De Lavallade reflects upon teaching at the Yale School of Drama

Tape: 6 Story: 1 - Carmen De Lavallade talks about her work with Gus Solomons jr

Tape: 6 Story: 2 - Carmen De Lavallade describes her monologue, 'Willie's Lady Sings the Blues'

Tape: 6 Story: 3 - Carmen De Lavallade talks about her dramatic monologues

Tape: 6 Story: 4 - Carmen De Lavallade talks about learning from one's past

Tape: 6 Story: 5 - Carmen De Lavallade reflects upon the world of dance

Tape: 6 Story: 6 - Carmen De Lavallade talks about the importance of originality

Tape: 6 Story: 7 - Carmen De Lavallade describes how she would like to be remembered

Tape: 6 Story: 8 - Carmen De Lavallade reflects upon her life

DASession

1$1

DATape

1$4

DAStory

11$2

DATitle
Carmen De Lavallade describes her cousin, ballerina Janet Collins
Carmen De Lavallade remembers working with choreographer Jack Cole
Transcript
Well at that time what did you want to become? What did you think, you and your sisters [Yvonne De Lavallade Davis and Elaine De Lavallade Johnson], what did you talk about becoming? Teachers, nurses?$$Yeah, the usual. But I think I--at an early age I was always dancing around the, I don't know at school--my cousin, Janet Collins, now this is my cousin, who became one of the--it's too bad Janet died about a couple years ago, and she was one of the great dancers, you know, of color and she was the first, well of color, ballerinas--or, prima ballerinas at the Met Opera [Metropolitan Opera] and Janet was at that time was dancing with Talley Beatty and [HistoryMaker] Katherine Dunham and all that so you know, I mean gee, Janet would blow into town like (unclear), gee whiz, what do you want better than that. She was vivacious and lovely, and I want to be like Janet, I want to be like Janet. So that was my, she was my light. So I (simultaneous)--$$(Simultaneous) Your beacon. She was, yeah--$$Yes absolutely. She was just remarkable.$$What other stories can you tell me? When did she come to town?$$Once a year or something like that, you know, and with her giggly self. I remember when she came to town, I think it was her last concert at the Wilshire Ebell Theatre [Los Angeles, California]. I remember her being very tired and sitting in a chair and I remember rubbing her feet for her. I mean, she was just one of those mythical people to me, you know. And when I went to New York [New York] she was partially responsible for my going because I know--oh, it's such a complicated story because I think in my travels I went there with the, with the Lester Horton company [Lester Horton Dancers] and I auditioned for 'House of Flowers' and went back to New York--to, to L.A. [Los Angeles, California], and my mentor [Lester Horton] died. And Janet was the one who got my job for me (laughter)--or who negotiated for me for 'House of Flowers' because she knew Saint Subber, the producer.$$Had you seen her perform?$$Oh yes. There was nothing like Janet in the world. She was like, she was this creature, that was so fast and so light on her feet that, you know, you'd look at this side of the stage and she's there and then she's no longer there she's over there and you don't know how she got there. She was like a will of the wisp, she was beautiful.$It was a wonderful piece, it was very good, and he was, to work with him, duet, oh my goodness, I would talk to Gwen Verdon because she danced with him a lot and it was a terror to work with him, but he was, he was very nice to me.$$Why was it a terror to work with him?$$Because he was like working with a tornado. He's was--he's intense and he means business, and I learned those steps so fast he said next to Gwen Verdon I was the quickest, I was scared to death of the man. Not only that, he had one eye that kind of was out of focus, and he would look at you and with his hawk nose--. He was magnificent, I mean a body like a cat and he developed his technique, the Jack Cole technique, was the most difficult technique I've ever danced, it's all in plie, it was all kind of--. I don't know it was a special kind of way of moving that's extremely difficult, and he didn't let you get away with anything, it was very precise. And I got through the day with Jack Cole and the machetes and the chicken blood--it was tomato juice--and we were laughing all the time on the set [of 'Lydia Bailey'] and Mr. Curtiz [sic. Jean Negulesco] asked, when we looked at ourselves, we thought we looked funny, and Mr. Curtiz asked Mr. Cole, "Will you tell your people to be quiet, please," (laughter), you know. But I loved Jack, I think he was, I learned a lot from him, discipline, discipline, discipline. And every once in a while you need that you know; you get complacent, the body gets complacent, so he scared me enough that I really learned very quickly. We had a drummer named Emanuel Vanderhans, better known as Gaucho. He was my cousin Janet Collins' drummer when she would do certain concerts. And Gaucho, Jack told me that Gaucho told him, he said, "Don't you yell at her; you just tell her what to do and she'll do it. If you don't, I'm going to dress your head up with my drum," (laughter). And he told me that. Gaucho was my guardian.$$Was Gaucho black?$$He was from Dutch Guiana. Very brown but he was from the Guianas. I loved him, but he was like my uncle, he was like my Uncle Gaucho, he would watch out, nobody's going to get near me and if anybody gives me the eye he's going to (gesture), you know. Which was really great, I could relax.

Maurice Hines, Jr.

Choreographer, dancer, actor and director Maurice Robert Hines, Jr. was born on December 13, 1943 in New York City. His parents were Alma Hines and Maurice Hines, Sr. He is the brother of the late jazz tap dancer and actor, Gregory Hines. A graduate of Jose Quintanos School for Young Professionals, Hines began studying tap dancing in New York City at age five at the Henry LeTang Dance Studio in 1948. LeTang realized his pupil’s gift for dance and began choreographing numbers tailored for Hines and his younger brother Gregory.

In 1954, when Hines was 10 years old, he and Gregory appeared in the Broadway musical comedy The Girl in Pink Tights. Following in the footsteps of the famed Nicholas brothers, they soon began appearing on stage throughout the country. They toured as the opening act for such headliners as Lionel Hampton and Gypsy Rose Lee. Their father joined the act as a drummer, and the threesome became known as Hines, Hines & Dad, performing to rave reviews in New York, Las Vegas and Europe. They made television appearances on The Pearl Bailey Show, Hollywood Palace and appeared 35 times on The Tonight Show.

In 1973, Hines began his solo career singing and dancing as Nathan Detroit in the hit musical National Touring Company of Guys and Dolls with Debbie Allen and Richard Roundtree. After his performance, Hines created a sensation in the hit Broadway musical Eubie, which opened at the Ambassador Theatre in New York on September 20, 1978 and closed October 7, 1979. The show also starred his brother Gregory and was choreographed by Henry LeTang. In 1981, Hines returned to Broadway with his performance in Bring Back Birdie with Chita Rivera. That same year, he also appeared in Sophisticated Ladies.

Turning his talents to the big screen, Hines made his film debut in 1984, in Francis Ford Coppola’s Cotton Club and during that same time with Mercedes Ellington formed Ballet Tap USA, a dance company. In 1986, he conceived, directed, choreographed, and starred in the musical Uptown…It’s Hot!. The show played for seventeen sold-out weeks in Atlantic City before moving to Broadway where Hines received a Tony Award nomination as Best Actor in a Musical. He went on to direct several theater productions including the National Tour of the musical Harlem Suite with leading ladies Jennifer Holiday, Stephanie Mills and Melba Moore and internationally the musical Havana Night in Cuba.

In 2006, Hines collaborated on a new Broadway dance musical, Hot Feet, with Maurice White, the creator of the renown R&B group Earth, Wind and Fire and also released a jazz album, To Nat King Cole with Love.

Hines resides in New York City.

Hines was interviewed by The HistoryMakers on January 9, 2007.

Accession Number

A2006.154

Sex

Male

Interview Date

12/8/2006 |and| 1/9/2007

Last Name

Hines

Search Occupation Category
First Name

Maurice

Birth City, State, Country

New York

HM ID

HIN02

Favorite Season

Christmas

Sponsor

Carol H. Williams Advertising

State

New York

Favorite Vacation Destination

None

Favorite Quote

Gotcha!

Bio Photo
Speakers Bureau Region State

New York

Birth Date

12/13/1943

Birth Place Term
Speakers Bureau Region City

New York

Country

United States

Favorite Food

Chicken, Fish

Short Description

Choreographer, entertainer, and stage director Maurice Hines, Jr. (1943 - ) received a Tony Award for his performance in 'Uptown...It's Hot!'

Main Sponsor
Favorite Color

Black

Timing Pairs
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DAStories

Tape: 1 Story: 1 - Slating of Maurice Hines, Jr. interview, session 1

Tape: 1 Story: 2 - Maurice Hines, Jr. lists his favorites

Tape: 1 Story: 3 - Maurice Hines, Jr. describes his mother's family background

Tape: 1 Story: 4 - Maurice Hines, Jr. recalls walking with his brother on Harlem's Lenox Avenue

Tape: 1 Story: 5 - Maurice Hines, Jr. recalls his and his brother's first dance lessons

Tape: 1 Story: 6 - Maurice Hines, Jr. describes his father's family background

Tape: 1 Story: 7 - Maurice Hines, Jr. recalls the start of his father's drumming career

Tape: 1 Story: 8 - Maurice Hines, Jr. recalls his early performances at New York City's Apollo Theater

Tape: 1 Story: 9 - Maurice Hines, Jr. describes his childhood in New York City's Harlem neighborhood

Tape: 1 Story: 10 - Maurice Hines, Jr. describes the role of religion in his childhood

Tape: 1 Story: 11 - Maurice Hines, Jr. describes his family

Tape: 1 Story: 12 - Maurice Hines, Jr. recalls his maternal uncle paying for his dance lessons

Tape: 1 Story: 13 - Maurice Hines, Jr. recalls seeing the Nicholas brothers for the first time

Tape: 2 Story: 1 - Maurice Hines, Jr. recalls Bill "Bojangles" Robinson's performances with Shirley Temple

Tape: 2 Story: 2 - Maurice Hines, Jr. remembers African American tap dancers

Tape: 2 Story: 3 - Maurice Hines, Jr. remembers Harlem's dance culture in the 1950s

Tape: 2 Story: 4 - Maurice Hines, Jr. remembers his early dance training

Tape: 2 Story: 5 - Maurice Hines, Jr. recalls his first Broadway role

Tape: 2 Story: 6 - Maurice Hines, Jr. recalls his mother acting as his business manager

Tape: 2 Story: 7 - Maurice Hines, Jr. describes his experiences of discrimination in Miami, Florida

Tape: 2 Story: 8 - Maurice Hines, Jr. how African American artists were received in Europe

Tape: 2 Story: 9 - Maurice Hines, Jr. recalls the formation of Hines, Hines and Dad

Tape: 2 Story: 10 - Maurice Hines, Jr. remembers Johnny Carson's support

Tape: 2 Story: 11 - Maurice Hines, Jr. describes the changes in the entertainment industry

Tape: 2 Story: 12 - Maurice Hines, Jr. remembers working with Ella Fitzgerald

Tape: 3 Story: 1 - Maurice Hines, Jr. recalls opening for Ella Fitzgerald in Las Vegas, Nevada

Tape: 3 Story: 2 - Maurice Hines, Jr. remembers meeting Tallulah Bankhead in Las Vegas, Nevada

Tape: 3 Story: 3 - Maurice Hines, Jr. recalls portraying Nathan Detroit in 'Guys and Dolls'

Tape: 3 Story: 4 - Maurice Hines, Jr. recalls his and his brother's career changes

Tape: 3 Story: 5 - Maurice Hines, Jr. recalls the end of his act with his brother, Gregory Hines

Tape: 3 Story: 6 - Maurice Hines, Jr. remembers performing in 'Sophisticated Ladies'

Tape: 3 Story: 7 - Maurice Hines, Jr. talks about the importance of respect

Tape: 3 Story: 8 - Maurice Hines, Jr. recalls his early choreography

Tape: 3 Story: 9 - Maurice Hines, Jr. recalls performing with his brother in 'Eubie!'

Tape: 3 Story: 10 - Maurice Hines, Jr. remembers acting with his brother in 'The Cotton Club'

Tape: 3 Story: 11 - Maurice Hines, Jr. remembers collaborating with Maurice White on 'Hot Feet'

Tape: 4 Story: 1 - Maurice Hines, Jr. describes the reviews of his musical, 'Hot Feet'

Tape: 4 Story: 2 - Maurice Hines, Jr. shares his perspective on Broadway critics

Tape: 4 Story: 3 - Maurice Hines, Jr. describes the challenges of choreography

Tape: 4 Story: 4 - Maurice Hines, Jr. talks about the success of 'Hot Feet'

Tape: 4 Story: 5 - Maurice Hines, Jr. describes his and his brother's styles of tap dance

Tape: 4 Story: 6 - Maurice Hines, Jr. recalls choreographing the music video for Quincy Jones' 'I'll Be Good to You'

Tape: 5 Story: 1 - Slating Maurice Hines, Jr.'s interview, session 2

Tape: 5 Story: 2 - Maurice Hines, Jr. talks about choreographer Michael Peters

Tape: 5 Story: 3 - Maurice Hines, Jr. recalls working with his brother on 'The Cotton Club'

Tape: 5 Story: 4 - Maurice Hines, Jr. recalls his nightclub circuit in the Catskill Mountains

Tape: 5 Story: 5 - Maurice Hines, Jr. recalls his return to the entertainment business

Tape: 5 Story: 6 - Maurice Hines, Jr. remembers New York City's cabaret nightclubs

Tape: 5 Story: 7 - Maurice Hines, Jr. recalls replacing his brother in 'Sophisticated Ladies'

Tape: 5 Story: 8 - Maurice Hines, Jr. describes his style of tap choreography

Tape: 5 Story: 9 - Maurice Hines, Jr. talks about his show, 'Uptown... It's Hot'

Tape: 5 Story: 10 - Maurice Hines, Jr. talks about racial discrimination on Broadway

Tape: 5 Story: 11 - Maurice Hines, Jr. remembers marketing his musical, 'Hot Feet'

Tape: 5 Story: 12 - Maurice Hines, Jr. recalls the impact of his Tony Award nomination

Tape: 6 Story: 1 - Maurice Hines, Jr. talks about African American performers in Broadway shows

Tape: 6 Story: 2 - Maurice Hines, Jr. remembers working with the stars of 'Dreamgirls'

Tape: 6 Story: 3 - Maurice Hines, Jr. describes his choreographic work in Cuba and the Dominican Republic

Tape: 6 Story: 4 - Maurice Hines, Jr. remembers choreographing for the Rockettes

Tape: 6 Story: 5 - Maurice Hines, Jr. recalls musicals featuring Savion Glover and Gregory Hines

Tape: 6 Story: 6 - Maurice Hines, Jr. reflects upon the changes in dance training

Tape: 6 Story: 7 - Maurice Hines, Jr. reflects upon his experiences as an actor

Tape: 6 Story: 8 - Maurice Hines, Jr. remembers his transition to Los Angeles, California

Tape: 6 Story: 9 - Maurice Hines, Jr. talks about African American dance company directors

Tape: 6 Story: 10 - Maurice Hines, Jr. describes his project, 'Yo Alice'

Tape: 6 Story: 11 - Maurice Hines, Jr. talks about his style of choreography

Tape: 6 Story: 12 - Maurice Hines, Jr. remembers 'Jelly's Last Jam' and 'Pippin'

Tape: 7 Story: 1 - Maurice Hines, Jr. talks about his mentor, Joe Layton, pt. 1

Tape: 7 Story: 2 - Maurice Hines, Jr. talks about his mentor, Joe Layton, pt. 2

Tape: 7 Story: 3 - Maurice Hines, Jr. describes the history of African American dancers

Tape: 7 Story: 4 - Maurice Hines, Jr. talks about his collaboration with Maurice White

Tape: 7 Story: 5 - Maurice Hines, Jr. remember his brother, Gregory Hines' death

Tape: 7 Story: 6 - Maurice Hines, Jr. reflects upon the changes in show business

Tape: 7 Story: 7 - Maurice Hines, Jr. talks about his daughter

Tape: 7 Story: 8 - Maurice Hines, Jr. talks about the development of his spirituality

Tape: 7 Story: 9 - Maurice Hines, Jr. reflects upon his career

Tape: 8 Story: 1 - Maurice Hines, Jr. describes his early challenges as an entertainer

Tape: 8 Story: 2 - Maurice Hines, Jr. reflects upon his mother's support for his career

Tape: 8 Story: 3 - Maurice Hines, Jr. describes his recent projects

Tape: 8 Story: 4 - Maurice Hines, Jr. describes the importance of stage presence

Tape: 8 Story: 5 - Maurice Hines, Jr. describes how he would like to be remembered

Tape: 8 Story: 6 - Maurice Hines, Jr. narrates his photographs

DASession

1$1

DATape

1$4

DAStory

8$4

DATitle
Maurice Hines, Jr. recalls his early performances at New York City's Apollo Theater
Maurice Hines, Jr. talks about the success of 'Hot Feet'
Transcript
How old were you when you--?$$When we started traveling? Oh, we were eight and ten when all of a sudden we hit it big. Because we got with this great teacher, Henry LeTang. And Henry took us to see--I'll tell you the punch line of the story--to see this lady at the Apollo Theater [New York, New York] because he wanted us to get on the 'Amateur Night' ['Amateur Night at the Apollo']. So, we went to--upstairs, and she looked at us and she said, "Yeah, they're cute. So--but don't put them on the show, because they're cute, they'll win because they're cute." And she didn't know we really could dance. And Henry said, "Okay, do whatever you want." And I asked her, I said, "Well, what do you do?" And she said, "Well, I'm a comedian on the regular show." So, she said, "Well you go out and see the regular show" because the 'Amateur Night' was after the regular show, in between the two shows in the evening. So, we go out there and we sit in the front. She, obviously she was the, she was the star because they made seats for us. And at the end of the show when the star comes out, it was Dinah Washington. And I--she came on singing 'Blue Gardenia.' And I said, "Oh," and I remember saying--because she said she was a comedian. And of course, the place went crazy, it was Dinah Washington singing. So, then she said--we went on the show, and she stood in the wings. She said, "Henry LeTang, they really can dance." She said, "They should have been on." He said, "Well, I didn't want to tell you that, because you just thought they were cute." So, we were doing flips and dips, like the Nicholas brothers [HistoryMaker Fayard Nicholas and Harold Nicholas]. She said, "Okay, I'll tell you what. Put 'em on next week with Ruth," meaning Ruth Brown. So, that was 1955. And that was the first time we ever worked the Apollo Theater, and we worked it fifteen times. They would have us every other week. And, and we worked, oh, we worked with (unclear)--the Spaniels, (unclear) there was Lar- Larry Williams, 'Bony Maronie.' We worked it with everybody. And we did one great show. It was a wonderful show with the Four Aces, Gregory [Gregory Hines] and I, The Hines Kids, [HistoryMaker] Diahann Carroll, and Nipsey Russell. It was a great show, it was a great show. And I'm still friends with Diahann to this day.$$Are any of those shows on tape?$$No, they did not tape them. The only thing are pictures--that great photographer, he did this kind of picture with pictures around it, with one in a circle, which I have.$So, they forced me. And when I was looking--and, oh, this wonderful story. When I was doing the end, the end of the ballet "Faces"--it's called "Faces" when all the dancers dance. I look over, and I see Maurice White like wiping his face. I thought, you know, he'd been there all day and he was tired. I thought he was just wiping his eyes. And he was crying. I asked his manager, I said, "Herb [Herb Powell], what's--is Maurice okay?" He said, "Yeah. He never thought that his music would inspire dancing like this." See, that's the humbleness of the man. And I, I got choked up, I did. Because I wanted him to be happy. He was, he was the one I really wanted to please. I mean, I want Maurice White to say, "It's okay." But he said more than that. He can't wait to do it again, he can't wait, you know.$$Well, you exceeded the Joffrey Ballet. Remember when they did their little Prince thing ['Billboards'], and they did all that stuff to Prince music (simultaneous)?$$(Simultaneous) Oh, yes, yes.$$And I thought that was great, until I saw 'Hot Feet' [Heru Ptah]. And I'm like, this is how it should be done.$$Well, that's an honor, that's an honor.$$This is how it should be done.$$Because I adore Joffrey Ballet. So, that's an honor that you said that, and I'm very pleased you said it. Because I di- thought that they--but this is--that's me up there. Everyone that saw it--all the dancers, all the dancers that came--all my buddies that know me from 'Jelly's Last Jam' [George C. Wolfe], and 'Guys and Dolls,' Debbie Allen said, "Maurice [HistoryMaker Maurice Hines, Jr.], that's you up there. That's how you dance, you know." That's it. So, now, with me getting in it, now there'll be some tap in it. Because [HistoryMaker] Louis Johnson said, "You cannot get in this show and not tap. Now, they're going to want you to tap. You can do all that other jazz stuff. But you--." I'll be part of the ballet. I'm going to do, I'm going to change the ballet, and I'm going to dance more in it with Vivian [Vivian Nixon].

Randy Duncan

Renowned choreographer and dancer Randy Louis Duncan was born on December 14, 1958 in Chicago, Illinois. Growing up and attending public schools on Chicago’s west side, Duncan’s career began at age fifteen with the Joseph Holmes Chicago Dance Theatre. Duncan later began formal dance studies with Geraldine Johnson, followed by classes at the Sammy Dyer School of Theater, Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater, and Illinois State University. Duncan credits Harriet Ross and Joseph Holmes with much of his inspiration.

Drawing upon ballet, jazz dance, and modern dance for his choreography, Duncan created works that have been performed by numerous dance companies including the Joffrey Ballet of Chicago, River North Dance Company and Gus Giordano Jazz Dance Chicago as well as companies in Seattle and Tel Aviv. In 1987, Duncan choreographed for the first all-African American cast of A Chorus Line. Duncan’s musical theater credits include Guys and Girls, Street Dreams, West Side Story, Carousel, Hello Dolly, and Don’t Bother Me I Can’t Cope. He has taught and judged dance competitions throughout North America, Europe and the Middle East. Duncan’s classes in jazz dance have taken him to Mexico, England, France, Amsterdam, and Israel.

Duncan has been a three-time recipient of Chicago’s prestigious Ruth Page Award for Outstanding Choreographer of the Year (1988, 1990, and 1992). In 1994, Duncan won the Jazz Dance World Congress Award. He regularly serves on panels for the National Endowment for the Arts, the Illinois Arts Council, Arts Midwest and the Illinois Arts Alliance. Other awards include the 1999 Artistic Achievement Award from the Chicago National Association of Dance Masters, and the 2000 Black Theater Alliance Award for Best Choreography.

An avid supporter of HIV/AIDS causes, Duncan has donated his time and choreography to Dance for Life, creating world premieres for Chicago’s largest dance benefit for HIV/AIDS. His television ballet, Urban Transfer, was produced and distributed nationwide by PBS-TV’s WTTW. Duncan’s first major motion picture by Paramount Pictures, Save the Last Dance, earned him a nomination for the American Choreography Award for dance on film.

Duncan was interviewed by The HistoryMakers on November 15, 2006.

Accession Number

A2006.142

Sex

Male

Interview Date

11/15/2006

Last Name

Duncan

Maker Category
Occupation
Schools

Illinois State University

Joseph Medill Elementary School

Austin Polytechnical Academy Hs

Search Occupation Category
First Name

Randy

Birth City, State, Country

Chicago

HM ID

DUN03

Favorite Season

December

State

Illinois

Favorite Vacation Destination

Acapulco, Mexico

Favorite Quote

Just Do It.

Bio Photo
Speakers Bureau Region State

Illinois

Birth Date

12/14/1958

Birth Place Term
Speakers Bureau Region City

Chicago

Country

United States

Favorite Food

Lasagna

Short Description

Choreographer and dancer Randy Duncan (1958 - ) was a three-time recipient of Chicago's prestigious Ruth Page Award for Outstanding Choreographer of the Year (1988, 1990, and 1992), among numerous other awards and his works were performed internationally.

Employment

'Save The Last Dance'

Joseph Holmes Chicago Dance Theatre

Joffrey Ballet

Chicago Academy for the Arts

Favorite Color

Blue

Timing Pairs
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DAStories

Tape: 1 Story: 1 - Slating of Randy Duncan's interview

Tape: 1 Story: 2 - Randy Duncan lists his favorites

Tape: 1 Story: 3 - Randy Duncan describes his mother's family background, pt. 1

Tape: 1 Story: 4 - Randy Duncan lists his siblings

Tape: 1 Story: 5 - Randy Duncan describes his mother's family background, pt. 2

Tape: 1 Story: 6 - Randy Duncan describes his father's family background, pt. 1

Tape: 1 Story: 7 - Randy Duncan talks about reuniting with his paternal family

Tape: 1 Story: 8 - Randy Duncan describes his maternal grandmother

Tape: 1 Story: 9 - Randy Duncan recalls Reverend Martin Luther King Jr.'s visits to Chicago, Illinois

Tape: 1 Story: 10 - Randy Duncan describes his maternal grandparents

Tape: 1 Story: 11 - Randy Duncan describes his father's ancestry

Tape: 2 Story: 1 - Randy Duncan talks about his maternal great-grandmother

Tape: 2 Story: 2 - Randy Duncan describes his neighborhoods in Chicago, Illinois

Tape: 2 Story: 3 - Randy Duncan describes his father's family background, pt. 2

Tape: 2 Story: 4 - Randy Duncan describes his parents and how he takes after his mother

Tape: 2 Story: 5 - Randy Duncan describes his earliest childhood memory

Tape: 2 Story: 6 - Randy Duncan describes his early interest in gymnastics and dance

Tape: 2 Story: 7 - Randy Duncan remembers his audition for a production of 'West Side Story'

Tape: 2 Story: 8 - Randy Duncan describes his early interests

Tape: 2 Story: 9 - Randy Duncan describes the sights, sounds and smells of his childhood

Tape: 2 Story: 10 - Randy Duncan describes his education in Chicago, Illinois

Tape: 2 Story: 11 - Randy Duncan describes his extracurricular activities

Tape: 2 Story: 12 - Randy Duncan remembers Joseph Medill Elementary School in Chicago, Illinois

Tape: 3 Story: 1 - Randy Duncan remembers Austin High School in Chicago, Illinois

Tape: 3 Story: 2 - Randy Duncan describes the All-City High School Theatrical Troupe, pt. 1

Tape: 3 Story: 3 - Randy Duncan describes the All-City High School Theatrical Troupe, pt. 2

Tape: 3 Story: 4 - Randy Duncan remembers Illinois State University in Normal, Illinois

Tape: 3 Story: 5 - Randy Duncan describes the history of the Joseph Holmes Chicago Dance Theatre

Tape: 3 Story: 6 - Randy Duncan talks about the influence of dance teacher Harriet Ross

Tape: 3 Story: 7 - Randy Duncan remembers dancing for the Joseph Holmes Chicago Dance Theatre

Tape: 4 Story: 1 - Randy Duncan recalls becoming the artistic director of Joseph Holmes Chicago Dance Theatre, pt. 1

Tape: 4 Story: 2 - Randy Duncan recalls becoming the artistic director of Joseph Holmes Chicago Dance Theatre, pt. 2

Tape: 4 Story: 3 - Randy Duncan describes his and Joseph Holmes' dance styles

Tape: 4 Story: 4 - Randy Duncan describes Harriet Ross' role at the Joseph Holmes Chicago Dance Theatre

Tape: 4 Story: 5 - Randy Duncan describes his career after leaving the Joseph Holmes Chicago Dance Theatre

Tape: 4 Story: 6 - Randy Duncan describes his ballet, 'A Tri-Fling'

Tape: 4 Story: 7 - Randy Duncan recalls the Joffrey Ballet's move to Chicago, Illinois

Tape: 4 Story: 8 - Randy Duncan describes his choreography for the Joffrey Ballet

Tape: 5 Story: 1 - Randy Duncan lists the dance companies with whom he worked

Tape: 5 Story: 2 - Randy Duncan describes his influences as a choreographer

Tape: 5 Story: 3 - Randy Duncan recalls the Joseph Holmes Chicago Dance Theatre's tour in Israel

Tape: 5 Story: 4 - Randy Duncan describes his international dance tours

Tape: 5 Story: 5 - Randy Duncan remembers his work on the film 'Save the Last Dance,' pt. 1

Tape: 5 Story: 6 - Randy Duncan remembers his work on the film 'Save the Last Dance,' pt. 2

Tape: 5 Story: 7 - Randy Duncan talks about dance instruction and choreography

Tape: 5 Story: 8 - Randy Duncan describes his ballet, 'Ida/A Day in the Life of Ida B. Wells'

Tape: 5 Story: 9 - Randy Duncan describes the ballets created for dance companies in Chicago, Illinois

Tape: 5 Story: 10 - Randy Duncan reflects upon his life, pt. 1

Tape: 6 Story: 1 - Randy Duncan describes his choreographic process

Tape: 6 Story: 2 - Randy Duncan reflects upon his life, pt. 2

Tape: 6 Story: 3 - Randy Duncan reflects upon the changes in professional dance

Tape: 6 Story: 4 - Randy Duncan describes how he would like to be remembered

DASession

1$1

DATape

2$4

DAStory

7$2

DATitle
Randy Duncan remembers his audition for a production of 'West Side Story'
Randy Duncan recalls becoming the artistic director of Joseph Holmes Chicago Dance Theatre, pt. 2
Transcript
(Simultaneous) Well, 'West Side Story' truly inspired me. But the early movies, the early musical movies that would, that would come on, those were also very inspiring. And I'd, I'd watch them all the time, from Elvis Presley, all the time, watch Elvis Presley movies, so, you know.$$The dances.$$(Singing) "You know that can't be true," you know. And I, you know, all of that stuff, I just loved it, 'Jailhouse Rock,' all that stuff. But anything that would come on that had music to it, any movie musical, I would, I would watch, but it was particularly 'West Side Story' that said, "Boom, I want to do that; I want to do that." Yeah, because they were flipping; they were singing; they were dancing. And you know, they had regular clothes on, and it wasn't like they were in tights and leotards. It was, it was really fascinating to, to watch. And so, two years later when I was twelve, there was actually an audition for 'West Side Story' [Arthur Laurents] a high school audition. I wasn't even in high school yet, but I called in and asked if I could audition anyway, and they said sure. This was the first time they're gonna have this all-city production, you know, of (simultaneous)--$$(Simultaneous) And what year was that?$$That was in '72 [1972] I believe, yeah. And I, I, I, I, I had called and said, "Well, I'm not in high school, but can I come and audition anyway. I'm in eighth grade." And they said, "Well, sure," and so I came down. And there were all these high school students, I mean like over a thousand kids waiting to audition for this, which was gonna be a, a premier of this, or maiden venture, for 'West Side Story' that was going to take place at the Civic Opera House [Chicago, Illinois]. So, I went down, and I'd never, remember, I've never had any training before; it was all self-taught. So there were all these people that were there. And some of them were really good, and some of them really weren't so good. But there were a lot of folks there who had some training before. And the choreographer said, you know, she called a number of us up to come and do what she did, just kind of replicate what she did, and I said okay. I didn't know what an audition was at first, but I found out real fast. So I went up there and did that and came and sat back down. I said, "Hm, I don't think I did really well." But on the sheet for the audition, the, the publicity sheet, it said they were looking for acrobats. And so, I raised my hand amongst all these thousands of folks, and I raised my hand. I said, "I thought you were looking for some, some acrobats for the show." And she said, "Well, can you do any?" You know, now there's a panel of judges up there as well. And I looked around, and I said, with my little young self, I said, "Well, yeah." They said, "Well, come on up, and let's see (laughter)," and so I, I came up on stage and did all my little 'Bozo's Circus' ['The Bozo Show'] tricks (laughter), and I got this great applause, and next thing you know I was a Shark.$$Amazing.$$Yeah, and that started everything off. And she asked me if I wanted a scholarship at the school where she was teaching, which was Sammy Dyer School of Theatre [Sammy Dyer School of the Theatre] here in Chicago [Illinois]. And I said sure. I went back home and you know, parents [Betty Mason Boglin (ph.) and Ernest Duncan], everybody was so, so happy that I went off and did, and this was all on my own. Nobody's pushing me to do anything. I just went out there and (simultaneous)--$$(Simultaneous) Curiosity--$$--and did it, yeah.$$--and talent.$$Yeah, and I think that's when they found out this boy's got something. Yeah, so, that's how it all started off though.$This was at, also at a time when the company was getting ready to take off in its first European tour, and I needed to get a, a program together for that. So actually, it wasn't the first European tour with the, the, the first tour we took that was kind of outside, you know, across the water somewhere was Hawaii (laughter). So the company actually went to Hawaii for three weeks and, and performed at various universities and auditoriums that they did, that they had there. So that was one of the first things that, that we did, and came back, did a full concert of which Oprah Winfrey, when she came here for ABC [sic.] (laughter), when she came here for 'The Today Show' ['Today'], one of the opportunities that she thought would be good was to host the Joseph Holmes Dance Theatre [Joseph Holmes Chicago Dance Theatre] in a, in an event for a fundraiser. So, she hosted the event. And this was prior to Joseph's [Joseph Holmes] death first. And then after that, she did another event for us in which I was the artistic director. And this is when we had our performance at the Auditorium Theatre [Chicago, Illinois]. And she was just so impressed, yes, really, really impressed with the company. So, there is, there is that connection as well. And before you know it, the critics started coming out to see the company when I was there, 'cause everybody wanted to know, "Okay, now that Joseph is gone, what is this company gonna look like under [HistoryMaker] Randy Duncan's direction?" Now they had seen some of my choreography, some of my own choreography on the company, in which they really enjoyed. And then so everybody was coming out for this first concert after Joseph's death at the Auditorium Theatre. There were concerts before that and in between that time. And on the night of Joseph's death, actually, we had a, a, a performance in a really big, College of DuPage [Glen Ellyn, Illinois], which was just tremendously sad. Nobody knew but me at that time. I wouldn't tell the dancers until the end of the performance. But I had to keep it to myself 'cause I didn't want anybody, you know, falling out on stage (laughter) at all. But, but anyway, everything just started rolling from that, that day forward, and we started getting more funding. The critics had come out to see the performances and thought, "Wow, this guy has got something here." And I got some really, really good press, very, very good reviews, glowing reviews as a matter of fact. And folks said, "I want to buy into his dream." And so that's really what started happening. So we started our European tour. We went to France.

Charles Randolph-Wright

Charles Randolph-Wright was born an only child in York, South Carolina, on August 26, 1956, to Ruth and Charles Randolph-Wright, Sr. He attended Jefferson elementary and junior high schools. Randolph-Wright graduated with honors from York High School in 1974, where he was the first African American A.B. Duke Scholarship recipient.

Randolph-Wright entered Duke University as a pre-med major. During his junior year at Duke University, Randolph-Wright decided to change his major to religion and theater. In 1976, he was afforded the opportunity to go to London. Subsequently, he studied acting with the Royal Shakespeare Company and danced with Alvin Ailey in New York. Randolph-Wright graduated with honors from Duke University in 1978 with his B.A. degree in theater and religion.

In 1979, Randolph-Wright relocated to New York City where he was cast in Pippin and in the original cast of Dreamgirls. Randolph-Wright has built a dynamic and diversified career in performing, producing, directing and writing for theater, television, and film. He was the producer and writer for the Showtime cable television series Linc’s. Randolph-Wright’s musical staging has been seen on a variety of programs, including The Golden Girls. Randolph-Wright’s direction of Senor Discretion Himself won the Helen Hayes Award for the Best Musical. He made his film directorial debut in 2006 with Preaching to the Choir, which won feature prizes at the ninth annual American Black Film Festival.

Randolph-Wright serves on the board of directors of the Roundabout Theater and the artistic board at Duke University. He is also a founding member of the Wright Family Foundation of South Carolina. After learning that an ancestor was a free man during slavery, this foundation converted the family’s former funeral home into a family history museum.

Accession Number

A2006.129

Sex

Male

Interview Date

11/5/2006

Last Name

Randolph-Wright

Organizations
Schools

York High School

Jefferson Elementary School

Duke University

York Junior High School

Search Occupation Category
First Name

Charles

Birth City, State, Country

York

HM ID

RAN05

Favorite Season

Summer

Sponsor

Amy Tate Billingsley

State

South Carolina

Favorite Vacation Destination

Brazil

Favorite Quote

None

Bio Photo
Speakers Bureau Region State

New York

Birth Date

8/26/1956

Birth Place Term
Speakers Bureau Region City

New York

Country

United States

Favorite Food

Chicken

Short Description

Choreographer and film director Charles Randolph-Wright (1956 - ) was cast in the original theatrical production of 'Dreamgirls,' and produced and wrote for the Showtime cable television series, 'Linc's.' He was also the award-winning director of the musical, 'Senor Discretion Himself,' and the film, 'Preaching to the Choir.'

Main Sponsor
Favorite Color

Blue

Timing Pairs
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DAStories

Tape: 1 Story: 1 - Slating of Charles Randolph-Wright's interview, pt. 1

Tape: 1 Story: 2 - Charles Randolph-Wright lists his favorites

Tape: 1 Story: 3 - Charles Randolph-Wright describes his mother's family background

Tape: 1 Story: 4 - Slating of Charles Randolph-Wright's interview, pt. 2

Tape: 1 Story: 5 - Charles Randolph-Wright recalls his mother's move to York, South Carolina

Tape: 1 Story: 6 - Charles Randolph-Wright describes his maternal grandmother

Tape: 1 Story: 7 - Charles Randolph-Wright talks about his Native American ancestry

Tape: 1 Story: 8 - Charles Randolph-Wright describes his mother's high standards

Tape: 1 Story: 9 - Charles Randolph-Wright reflects upon his upbringing

Tape: 1 Story: 10 - Charles Randolph-Wright describes his father's family background, pt. 1

Tape: 2 Story: 1 - Charles Randolph-Wright describes the Wright Funeral Home in York, South Carolina

Tape: 2 Story: 2 - Charles Randolph-Wright describes his father's family background, pt. 2

Tape: 2 Story: 3 - Charles Randolph-Wright describes his paternal grandfather, pt. 1

Tape: 2 Story: 4 - Charles Randolph-Wright talks about his family's values

Tape: 2 Story: 5 - Charles Randolph-Wright describes his paternal grandfather, pt. 2

Tape: 2 Story: 6 - Charles Randolph-Wright talks about how his parents met and married

Tape: 2 Story: 7 - Charles Randolph-Wright describes his childhood holidays

Tape: 2 Story: 8 - Charles Randolph-Wright describes York, South Carolina

Tape: 2 Story: 9 - Charles Randolph-Wright talks about Hylan Lewis' study, 'Blackways of Kent'

Tape: 2 Story: 10 - Charles Randolph-Wright describes the sights, sounds and smells of his childhood

Tape: 3 Story: 1 - Charles Randolph-Wright talks about his paternal grandmother

Tape: 3 Story: 2 - Charles Randolph-Wright recalls Jefferson Elementary School in York, South Carolina, pt. 1

Tape: 3 Story: 3 - Charles Randolph-Wright recalls Jefferson Elementary School in York, South Carolina, pt. 2

Tape: 3 Story: 4 - Charles Randolph-Wright describes his childhood personality

Tape: 3 Story: 5 - Charles Randolph-Wright describes his religious upbringing

Tape: 3 Story: 6 - Charles Randolph-Wright recalls attending Jefferson Junior High School in York, South Carolina

Tape: 3 Story: 7 - Charles Randolph-Wright recalls the desegregation of York High School, pt. 1

Tape: 3 Story: 8 - Charles Randolph-Wright recalls the desegregation of York High School, pt. 2

Tape: 3 Story: 9 - Charles Randolph-Wright recalls his experiences at the integrated York High School

Tape: 4 Story: 1 - Charles Randolph-Wright describes his family's civil rights involvement, pt. 1

Tape: 4 Story: 2 - Charles Randolph-Wright describes his family's civil rights involvement, pt. 2

Tape: 4 Story: 3 - Charles Randolph-Wright describes his mother's teaching style

Tape: 4 Story: 4 - Charles Randolph-Wright recalls his teachers at York High School in York, South Carolina

Tape: 4 Story: 5 - Charles Randolph-Wright recalls his election as vice president of the state student government

Tape: 4 Story: 6 - Charles Randolph-Wright recalls winning the Sons of the American Revolution award

Tape: 4 Story: 7 - Charles Randolph-Wright remembers his aspirations in high school

Tape: 4 Story: 8 - Charles Randolph-Wright remembers retaking the SAT examination

Tape: 4 Story: 9 - Charles Randolph-Wright describes his decision to attend Duke University

Tape: 5 Story: 1 - Charles Randolph-Wright recalls his experiences at Duke University

Tape: 5 Story: 2 - Charles Randolph-Wright recalls befriending Duke University's campus staff

Tape: 5 Story: 3 - Charles Randolph-Wright recalls the support of his literature professor

Tape: 5 Story: 4 - Charles Randolph-Wright recalls his foray into the arts at Duke University

Tape: 5 Story: 5 - Charles Randolph-Wright recalls his first experience in London, England

Tape: 5 Story: 6 - Charles Randolph-Wright describes the impact of his time in London, England

Tape: 5 Story: 7 - Charles Randolph-Wright reflects upon his experiences at Duke University

Tape: 5 Story: 8 - Charles Randolph-Wright recalls being cast in his first professional role in 'Pippin'

Tape: 5 Story: 9 - Charles Randolph-Wright describes his mother's support for his career

Tape: 5 Story: 10 - Charles Randolph-Wright recalls working with disco singer Anita Ward

Tape: 6 Story: 1 - Charles Randolph-Wright remembers choreographing disco acts

Tape: 6 Story: 2 - Charles Randolph-Wright describes his transition from acting to directing

Tape: 6 Story: 3 - Charles Randolph-Wright talks about stereotypes of African Americans

Tape: 6 Story: 4 - Charles Randolph-Wright talks about the importance of storytelling

Tape: 6 Story: 5 - Charles Randolph-Wright remembers directing 'Guys and Dolls'

Tape: 6 Story: 6 - Charles Randolph-Wright describes Frank Loesser's musical 'Senor Discretion Himself'

Tape: 6 Story: 7 - Charles Randolph-Wright describes his collaborations with Budd Schulberg

Tape: 6 Story: 8 - Charles Randolph-Wright talks about his play, 'Cuttin' Up'

Tape: 6 Story: 9 - Charles Randolph-Wright describes how his family inspired his play, 'Blue'

Tape: 7 Story: 1 - Charles Randolph-Wright talks about Phylicia Rashad's performance in 'Blue'

Tape: 7 Story: 2 - Charles Randolph-Wright talks about working with Nona Hendryx

Tape: 7 Story: 3 - Charles Randolph-Wright reflects upon the impact of the Harlem Renaissance

Tape: 7 Story: 4 - Charles Randolph-Wright recalls directing a production of 'Hair'

Tape: 7 Story: 5 - Charles Randolph-Wright shares a message for African American youth

Tape: 7 Story: 6 - Charles Randolph-Wright describes how he would like to be remembered

Tape: 7 Story: 7 - Charles Randolph-Wright recalls celebrating New Year's Eve in Brazil

Tape: 7 Story: 8 - Charles Randolph-Wright reflects upon his life

Tape: 7 Story: 9 - Charles Randolph-Wright talks about giving back to his community

DASession

1$1

DATape

2$5

DAStory

1$8

DATitle
Charles Randolph-Wright describes the Wright Funeral Home in York, South Carolina
Charles Randolph-Wright recalls being cast in his first professional role in 'Pippin'
Transcript
Okay, so we were talking about your [paternal] ancestors and the Wright family.$$Right.$$And--$$It was (simultaneous)--$$(Simultaneous) Isaac [Isaac Wright] and Harriet [Harriet Wright (ph.)], I wanna--$$Isaac and Harriet, yes, and I mean, you hear about these things growing u-, you hear about your relatives growing up but you really (laughter) pay no attention to it, and it was astonishing. You know, fifty years later to--for all of us to be stand--these cousins to stand around down in the woods and look at this, this tombstone of, of our ancestors. These extraordinary people who had businesses, who had their own--you know, they had they had their own companies I mean they were very enterprising in the Carolinas, you know, hundred years ago. My--Fannie Wright [Fannie Wylie Wright], who was I'm trying to think of all the connections now, but so the, the family funeral home [Wright Funeral Home, York, South Carolina] was started with Fannie and her husband, Isaac [Isaac "Bub" Wright]. And Isaac died of influenza at the turn of the century she had twelve children. They had twelve children, and she ended up running a funeral home, two farms and raising twelve children by herself, and this was early 1900s. And so our funeral home is about to turn, you know, a hundred. And so it's--then it went to Fannie--there was Fannie. Then it went to Isaac [Isaac N. Wright, Sr.] then it went to now my cousin Isaac [Isaac N. Wright, Jr.], you know. So everyone--we laughed everyone in my family is called Isaac, Paul, Charles or Robert, you know. And you go back if you look at the records Isaac, Paul, Charles, Robert, it's just aren't there any other names in our family? And what's interesting too is to see the--I went back to the records in York County [South Carolina] where we're from and on the roles, you know, they had the slave roles. And you saw the slave markings and all the names, Isaac, Paul, Charles, Robert, et cetera, but they were Withers-, they were Witherspoons because they were listed as Witherspoon. And right after emancipation, you see these names same names, but they're Wrights. And, and I, I saw that on, on paper and I just remember standing there to--and I just started weeping. You know, just that I could almost touch them--that I could--I was so proud of what they had done that they said, no, we're taking a stand even with our name. You know, our name is important that's what we're doing. So I spent, you know, these, these generations that, that had this, this business this family business 'cause if you have a family funeral business. Obviously, you're--it's so different from--I always tell people it's very different from 'Six Feet Under,' the television show that everyone watch. I say that's the black family that has the funeral home is the elite family, they're the upper-class family. The, the woman in that family is the arbiter of style a lot of times. It's this--it's that, that thing of, you know, these kids go to go to great schools, and they get to have this in life allegedly. You know, but it's, it's an energy that you never ever see. You don't see that kind of history you don't see that. So when I wrote 'Blue' [Charles Randolph-Wright] which is about a funeral home family. It was intentionally showing this elite family, which, you know, critics had trouble with because they said that, you know, family like this doesn't exist. You know, people like that don't exist.$So I went to New York [New York], and I said okay, I p- (simultaneous)--$$(Simultaneous) Wait, you went to New York after graduation?$$So after graduation, so I came back to Duke [Duke University, Durham, North Carolina], we had started these things I did everything imaginable in theater (laughter). You know, finished up my credits and as I said pre-med was the major, so I had all my courses physics both organic chemistry--all the things I needed to be a pre-med major. And again I went through the exact same thing I went through in high school [York High School, York, South Carolina] because here I was, from Duke, black kid from the South. And I was a religion and theater major who was pre-med applying to med schools, and they went crazy because they thought, oh he'll be humane. You know, what a great doctor this will be this whole thing so again my friends were killing themselves trying to get schools to see them. And I was getting, you know, offer after offer to come to this school to come to that school and I couldn't decide what to do. You know, I went to I, you know, I visited I went to Harvard [Harvard Medical School, Boston, Massachusetts] thinking do I go do this what do I do? And I got back to New York and the same day I got my--I had auditioned for the show 'Pippin' and got in it. And it was my first professional role and which was a tour which was outside the city. And I thought okay that's my sign. And I'm going to do this until--'cause I can always go back to school but I can't, you know, I'm twenty, I'm twenty-one I can't always have this career. I'm not going to be this young, I can't do this. So I ended up, you know, going after this performing career and started it and got my first job and it was, you know, and I've worked ever since.$$Okay. (Laughter) So you graduated from (simultaneous)--$$(Simultaneous) So there, I'm done (laughter).$$No (laughter) you graduated from Duke in '78 [1978]?$$Seventy-eight [1978]--$$Okay.$$--but I actually left Duke--I finished--I through all my credits together and I finished in December 1977, but I was class of '78 [1978]. So, that's when I went to New York in January to start auditioning and to see if someone says I can do it. If I get a job or even close to a job, then I'll do this. If not, I was gonna go to med school or grad school or something else in the fall 'cause I had done my med boards. I had done, you know, the--I had done all my boards just in case and, and had these offers. So I was trying to decide do I go to school or do I go after this career. And then when I got, you know, this first job I went, that's it.

Jawole Willa Jo Zollar

Choreographer and dancer Jawole Willa Jo Zollar was born in 1950 and raised in Kansas City, Missouri. One of six children, Zollar grew up in a family that was steeped in African American culture. She grew up listening to jazz music and imagining movement in her head. Her first dance teacher was Joseph Stevenson, a student of American dance pioneer Katherine Dunham. Having earned her B.A. degree in dance from the University of Missouri in Kansas City and an M.F.A. degree from Florida State University, Zollar moved to New York City in 1980 to study dance with Dianne McIntyre at Sounds in Motion. In 1984, she left McIntyre’s studio to establish the internationally acclaimed dance company, Urban Bush Women in 1984.

Zollar’s dance company, Urban Bush Women, uses live music, cappella vocalizations and movement to interpret the religious traditions and folklore of the African Diaspora. Her work with Urban Bush Women has earned five grants from the National Endowment for the Arts and a fellowship from the New York Foundation for the Arts. Zollar has also garnered accolades as a teacher and speaker. These include receiving a New York Dance and Performance BESSIE Award in 1992, the Alumni Achievement Award from the University of Missouri in 1993 and Worlds of Thought Resident Scholar at Mankato University in 1993.

Zollar has created works for Alvin Ailey, the American Dance Theater, Ballet Arizona, Philadanco, Dayton Contemporary Dance Company and others. Zollar is Artist in Residence at Florida State University. Her other university commissions include Florida A & M University and the University of Maryland, College Park. She has lectured at such prestigious universities as MIT and UCLA. In 1999, she received the Martin Luther King Distinguished Service Award. Zollar’s company was prominently featured in the PBS documentary, Free to Dance. In 2002, Zollar was awarded an honorary doctorate from Columbia University.

Urban Bush Women continue to tour extensively throughout the United States and Europe. Zollar resides in Tallahassee, Florida and Brooklyn, New York.

Accession Number

A2006.098

Sex

Female

Interview Date

8/2/2006

Last Name

Zollar

Maker Category
Middle Name

Willa Jo

Organizations
Schools

University of Missouri, Kansas City

Florida State University

Central Academy of Excellence

Search Occupation Category
Speakers Bureau

No

First Name

Jawole

Birth City, State, Country

Kansas City

HM ID

ZOL02

Favorite Season

Fall, Spring

State

Missouri

Favorite Vacation Destination

Spas

Favorite Quote

Go For What You Know.

Bio Photo
Speakers Bureau Region State

Florida

Birth Date

12/21/1950

Birth Place Term
Speakers Bureau Region City

Tallahassee

Country

United States

Favorite Food

Arugula

Short Description

Artistic director and dancer Jawole Willa Jo Zollar (1950 - ) was the founding artistic director of Urban Bush Women, a performance ensemble and dance company based in Brooklyn, New York.

Employment

Sounds in Motion

Dance Repertory Theater at Florida State University

Florida State University

Favorite Color

Orange

Timing Pairs
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DAStories

Tape: 1 Story: 1 - Slating of Jawole Willa Jo Zollar's interview

Tape: 1 Story: 2 - Jawole Willa Jo Zollar lists her favorites

Tape: 1 Story: 3 - Jawole Willa Jo Zollar explains why she changed her name to Jawole

Tape: 1 Story: 4 - Jawole Willa Jo Zollar describes her mother's family background

Tape: 1 Story: 5 - Jawole Willa Jo Zollar describes her mother's education in Kansas City

Tape: 1 Story: 6 - Jawole Willa Jo Zollar describes her mother's career as a jazz musician

Tape: 1 Story: 7 - Jawole Willa Jo Zollar describes her maternal grandmother

Tape: 1 Story: 8 - Jawole Willa Jo Zollar talks about her mother's previous marriages

Tape: 1 Story: 9 - Jawole Willa Jo Zollar describes her father's family background, pt. 1

Tape: 2 Story: 1 - Jawole Willa Jo Zollar describes her father's family background, pt. 2

Tape: 2 Story: 2 - Jawole Willa Jo Zollar describes how her parents met and married

Tape: 2 Story: 3 - Jawole Willa Jo Zollar describes her personality during her childhood

Tape: 2 Story: 4 - Jawole Willa Jo Zollar describes her education in Kansas City, Missouri

Tape: 2 Story: 5 - Jawole Willa Jo Zollar describes the role of religion in her childhood

Tape: 2 Story: 6 - Jawole Willa Jo Zollar describes her childhood community in Kansas City

Tape: 2 Story: 7 - Jawole Willa Jo Zollar describes her awareness of race as a child

Tape: 2 Story: 8 - Jawole Willa Jo Zollar recalls facing racial discrimination in Tallahassee, Florida

Tape: 3 Story: 1 - Jawole Willa Jo Zollar describes classes that influenced her at Central High School

Tape: 3 Story: 2 - Jawole Willa Jo Zollar talks about wearing short, natural hair

Tape: 3 Story: 3 - Jawole Willa Jo Zollar recalls her experiences at the University of Missouri-Kansas City

Tape: 3 Story: 4 - Jawole Willa Jo Zollar talks about her influences as a dancer

Tape: 3 Story: 5 - Jawole Willa Jo Zollar describes her graduate work at Florida State University

Tape: 3 Story: 6 - Jawole Willa Jo Zollar recalls moving to New York City to pursue dance

Tape: 3 Story: 7 - Jawole Willa Jo Zollar recalls her decision to found a dance company

Tape: 3 Story: 8 - Jawole Willa Jo Zollar describes the feminist themes in her choreography

Tape: 4 Story: 1 - Jawole Willa Jo Zollar describes what inspired her work in the 1980s

Tape: 4 Story: 2 - Jawole Willa Jo Zollar explains why she chose dance as a career

Tape: 4 Story: 3 - Jawole Willa Jo Zollar describes her social activism

Tape: 4 Story: 4 - Jawole Willa Jo Zollar talks about the African American arts community

Tape: 4 Story: 5 - Jawole Willa Jo Zollar reflects upon her life

Tape: 4 Story: 6 - Jawole Willa Jo Zollar describes how she would like to be remembered

Tape: 4 Story: 7 - Jawole Willa Jo Zollar imagines choreography based on her life

DASession

1$1

DATape

3$3

DAStory

7$8

DATitle
Jawole Willa Jo Zollar recalls her decision to found a dance company
Jawole Willa Jo Zollar describes the feminist themes in her choreography
Transcript
When did you, let's say, get your own wings? I mean, did that happen in 1983 when you started--$$Eighty-three [1983] I was starting to think about it, and, but I didn't feel like interestingly enough, I thought, but what role models do I have? Who's been successful? Dianne [HistoryMaker Dianne McIntyre] was having a hard time financially. Alvin Ailey was losing his mind literally, I mean, he'd had had several mental breakdowns that were public and, you know, [HistoryMaker] Eleo Pomare was, you know, had terrible drinking problem and I was like well what makes me think I can do this because this is clearly really hard, so how am I possibly gonna do this? And then I had several events that helped me to do that. One is that I went to a folk art exhibit, a visionary art exhibit at Brooklyn Museum [New York, New York], and when I went to that exhibit, one of the things that struck me is that these were all people who were doing their work not from some idea of being successful, but they were doing their work out of an impulse they had to do it. They had some calling late in life, some revelation, some vision that made them become artists, and when I saw the power of this work and I was like, they're not worried about all those external things, they're just doing their work. And so that was one revelation moment. Another was a dream I had which was a very powerful dream. My mother [Dorothy Zollar Hoover] and father [Alfred Zollar, Jr.] who rarely appeared in the same dream, like almost never, they had both passed away by this time. We were sitting in a circle in the ocean, you know, we were just like sitting, me and my family all in a circle with plates of food like right in front of us. And, you know, we were just sitting there and then my father got up and sang this song to the tune of 'Oh Mary Don't You Weep,' but the vamp was, "Success is not the test, success is not the test." And he sang this song about--you know, because he lost his business eventually through alcoholism and neglect, and he talked about that he got caught up in external things as opposed to looking at, and wanting to prove himself on an external place as opposed to, look, working from an internal place and he was cautioning me against getting caught up in what were external measures of success. And then he--you know, he sang this song and then he sat back down with the family, then this huge wave came and turned over all the food into the ocean, and I knew that dream was really profound. And it was lucid, you know, it was one of those dreams that even though, of course, no, you can't sit in the ocean, it was just--it had a logic to it and it was in vivid color which is usually when dreams come to me like that, they're giving me other information. And so that was like, okay. Then a woman who was working at Sounds in Motion who was Dianne's cousin, Loyce Stuart [ph.], pointed out to me 'cause I was working for Dianne, she said, "Every time you kind of facilitate one of Dianne's concerts, I noticed that you go into a deep depression," 'cause I was having these really deep depressions, and I said, "Yeah." She said, "It's 'cause you're not doing your own work." That you, it's--you need to have your own company, your own work. And so kind of those things then I, I formed the company [Urban Bush Women].$So two things I wanted to talk about. I--in hearing about your past, I hear that you were equally as much influenced by women as men?$$Um-hm.$$I'm wondering why you chose in the work, the dance, to primarily speak about women and women's issues.$$Well, I didn't originally choose to. (Laughter) Originally before I had a name, as I was forming this company and looking for a name, I had men working with me. But, you know, men are more scarce (laughter) in dance, I guess, and so they would--you know, we would be rehearsing and then they'd get a better job and off they were. Then I'd get another man in and we'd get other men in and then they would work with us and then, they were gone--got a better job. And I was really influenced by Sweet Honey in the Rock and Women of the Calabash, and so I thought, well why not have a company of all women? Because there was this group of women who were committed and while the men were, you know, coming in and out, there was this core group of women who were not coming in and out, so I thought, well, why not? So that's how it became all women. And I think the women's issues just came about 'cause that's who we were. Had it been a group of all men that I worked with, it probably would have been different issues but, you know, I had been interested in feminist studies and feminist ideas, so that was part of my education and background as well as I had been--always been a spiritual seeker, so that was part of my background, so that went into the work. The social justice concerns had been a part of my background so that went into the work. So, all of the things, my interest in anthropology, that went into the work. So all of that just went into--so rather than being fragmented, it was the first time I felt like I could do something, make something that was about all of my different interests and I didn't have to keep my feminist side over here and my spiritual side over here and my political side over here.$$So when you are identifying yourself in your own private world, are you black first or woman first?$$I can't do that. I just can't do that. I don't think there's--you know, I can't separate those things. I think that I was aware of double standards very early on. I remember proclaiming to my parents [Dorothy Zollar Hoover and Alfred Zollar, Jr.]--I must have been about ten, and I have no idea where this came from, I said, "I'm never gonna change my last name if I get married 'cause I think it's unfair that," you know, "why should women change their names," (laughter) you know, and I like my name, Zollar [HistoryMaker Jawole Willa Jo Zollar]. What if I married a Smith and I would become a Smith and I have not--I'm not gonna become a Smith for, I'm not gonna lose my name Zollar, so. I somehow--but then I remember, now I'm just remembering my mother used to always say, "What's good for the goose is good for the gander." So maybe that put those notions in there early on. So I don't know that I can separate any of those things because they're really tied to my identity.$$When you were coming up with names for the company, and let's just put in periods, the '80s [1980s], Reagan's [President Ronald Wilson Reagan] president, there's a crack epidemic that's starting to spread throughout the country. I mean, dismal days for African Americans. Why Urban Bush Women?$$Well, the name has a history. In 19--late '60s [1960s], there's a jazz musician named Gary Bartz who I really loved his music. He had an album called 'Harlem Bush Music,' and he talked about bush as being this concept of the inner city, you know, that Harlem [New York, New York] was like this--another kind of bush. That instead of being--it was thickly, you know, it was densely populated, it was thick, it was creative, it was dangerous, it was fertile. So that, you know, the inner city was another kind of bush, so he had this album 'Harlem Bush Music.' And so when we were looking for names for the company, and when I was--I was over at a friend's house, John Armwood, and we were, you know, we were talking and drinking and laughing and just, you know, putting on music and just, you know, brainstorming names and I picked up an album by the Art Ensemble of Chicago called 'Urban Bushmen,' and I held it up to him, I said, "Urban Bush Women," (laughter) "Urban Bush Women!" And he knew the Art Ensemble of Chicago, and he called them and said, "I have this friend who wants to, you know, name her company Urban Bush Women, is it gonna be all right?" And they said, "Yeah, yeah, that's fine, that's cool." So, Urban Bush Women.