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Ludie Jones

Ludie Jones is a renowned tap-dancer, famous for her performances in the era of prohibition. She was born on January 28, 1916 in New York City to Lottie and Luther Jones, a family of seven. Jones was introduced to tap in the form of the Charleston at age three. Her mother enrolled her in dance lessons at Elks Hall. At age eleven, she was asked by Amanda Kemp, a ballet teacher, to teach tap dance to her students.

In 1934, Jones graduated from Wadleigh High School for Girls and began touring around England with the chorus line of “Lew Leslie’s Blackbirds of ’34.” Upon returning to the U.S., Jones immediately became a member of “The Lang Sisters” along with Marion Worthy and Peggy Wharton. The three of them attended Buddy Bradley’s School of Dancing in London and began working with Louis Armstrong at the Paramount Theatre in New York.

By 1941 “The Lang Sisters” had disbanded so Jones formed the group “The Three Poms” with Sybil Warner and Geraldine Ball. As a group, they were the opening act for the Cab Calloway Band. “The Three Poms” also did shows for troops during World War II in Okinawa, Japan, and the Phillipines before breaking up in the early 1950’s. In 1984, Jones was asked to join the musical “Shades of Harlem” and they toured internationally. That same year, she and Ruby Riley began teaching senior citizens how to dance at the Kennedy Center in Harlem. They called themselves the “Tapping Seniors."

In 2008, Jones was honored at the St. Louis Tap Festival and was given an award on behalf of the Robert L. Reed Tap Heritage Foundation. Two years later, she continued to teach with the “Tapping Seniors” and has been an active member of the Central Harlem Senior Citizens Coalition since 1984. Jones has been featured in many books including Tap Dancing America: A Cultural History by Constance Valis Hill.

Jones passed away on October 3, 2018.

Ludie Jones was interviewed by The HistoryMakers on April 26, 2010.

Accession Number

A2010.008

Sex

Female

Archival Photo 1
Interview Date

4/26/2010

Last Name

Jones

Maker Category
Marital Status

Single

Organizations
Schools

P.S. 141

J.H.S. 69

Wadleigh Secondary School for the Performing & Visual Arts

Search Occupation Category
Archival Photo 2
First Name

Ludie

Birth City, State, Country

New York

HM ID

JON22

Favorite Season

Winter

State

New York

Favorite Vacation Destination

Bahamas

Favorite Quote

I'm Good.

Bio Photo
Speakers Bureau Region State

New York

Interview Description
Birth Date

1/28/1916

Birth Place Term
Speakers Bureau Region City

New York

Country

USA

Favorite Food

Spaghetti, Sausage

Death Date

10/3/2018

Short Description

Dancer and dance instructor Ludie Jones (1916 - 2018) was a tap dance legend who tapped for over seventy years. Once a member of The Lang Sisters and The Three Poms, she later performed in Shades of Harlem and taught the Tapping Seniors at the Kennedy Center.

Employment

New York Telephone Company

Lew Leslie's Blackbirds of 1934

'Shades of Harlem'

Favorite Color

Blue

Timing Pairs
0,0:955,22:1905,38:9885,252:11880,286:26776,470:35826,564:40556,661:41244,672:46576,796:60110,905:63080,948:70091,1012:70850,1018$0,0:1236,18:7210,109:7622,114:45920,651:48626,698:48954,703:56292,846:56644,851:68964,1126:87308,1385:93528,1413:95408,1474:112200,1665:112900,1673:113600,1681:126100,1852:127135,1862:133040,1935:141738,2070:142198,2076:147724,2143:155544,2357:161380,2393:162000,2398:180476,2755:199156,2923:200092,3137:229890,3351:247672,3625:253653,3657:254199,3665:255655,3680:256110,3686:256474,3691:261664,3838:271890,3998
DAStories

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/608280">Tape: 1 Story: 1 - Slating of Ludie Jones' interview</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/608281">Tape: 1 Story: 2 - Ludie Jones lists her favorites</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/608282">Tape: 1 Story: 3 - Ludie Jones describes her mother's family background</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/608283">Tape: 1 Story: 4 - Ludie Jones describes her mother's move to New York City</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/608284">Tape: 1 Story: 5 - Ludie Jones describes her father's family background</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/608285">Tape: 1 Story: 6 - Ludie Jones talks about her parents' relationship</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/608286">Tape: 1 Story: 7 - Ludie Jones lists her siblings</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/608287">Tape: 1 Story: 8 - Ludie Jones describes the Phipps Houses in New York City</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/608288">Tape: 1 Story: 9 - Ludie Jones remembers the entertainment of her youth</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/608289">Tape: 2 Story: 1 - Ludie Jones describes the sights, sounds and smells of her childhood</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/608290">Tape: 2 Story: 2 - Ludie Jones recalls her start as a dancer</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/608291">Tape: 2 Story: 3 - Ludie Jones remembers one of her early dance performances</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/608292">Tape: 2 Story: 4 - Ludie Jones remembers the entertainers of her childhood</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/608293">Tape: 2 Story: 5 - Ludie Jones describes her educational experiences in New York City</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/608294">Tape: 2 Story: 6 - Ludie Jones remembers auditioning for 'Lew Leslie's Blackbirds of 1934'</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/608295">Tape: 2 Story: 7 - Ludie Jones recalls touring Europe with 'Lew Leslie's Blackbirds of 1934'</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/608296">Tape: 2 Story: 8 - Ludie Jones remembers the stars of 'Lew Leslie's Blackbirds of 1934'</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/608297">Tape: 2 Story: 9 - Ludie Jones describes the formation of the Lang Sisters</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/608298">Tape: 2 Story: 10 - Ludie Jones talks about the Lang Sisters' performances</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/608299">Tape: 3 Story: 1 - Ludie Jones remembers performing with notable jazz bandleaders</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/608300">Tape: 3 Story: 2 - Ludie Jones remembers touring with the Lang Sisters</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/608301">Tape: 3 Story: 3 - Ludie Jones talks about Bill "Bojangles" Robinson</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/608302">Tape: 3 Story: 4 - Ludie Jones remembers touring with the United Service Organizations</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/608303">Tape: 3 Story: 5 - Ludie Jones remembers her tap dance contemporaries, pt. 1</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/608304">Tape: 3 Story: 6 - Ludie Jones remembers her tap dance contemporaries, pt. 2</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/608305">Tape: 3 Story: 7 - Ludie Jones talks about her favorite tap dancers</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/608306">Tape: 3 Story: 8 - Ludie Jones reflects upon the decline of tap dancing</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/608307">Tape: 3 Story: 9 - Ludie Jones describes how she came to work for the New York Telephone Company</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/608308">Tape: 3 Story: 10 - Ludie Jones remembers dancing in 'Shades of Harlem'</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/608309">Tape: 4 Story: 1 - Ludie Jones recalls her experiences in France and the U.S. Virgin Islands</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/608310">Tape: 4 Story: 2 - Ludie Jones remembers being asked to tour with the 'Shades of Harlem'</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/608311">Tape: 4 Story: 3 - Ludie Jones remembers the Ludie Jones Day celebration in St. Louis, Missouri</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/608312">Tape: 4 Story: 4 - Ludie Jones reflects upon the changes in dance and music</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/608313">Tape: 4 Story: 5 - Ludie Jones describes her hopes and concerns for the African American community</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/608314">Tape: 4 Story: 6 - Ludie Jones reflects upon her life</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/608315">Tape: 4 Story: 7 - Ludie Jones reflects upon her legacy</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/608316">Tape: 4 Story: 8 - Ludie Jones describes how she would like to be remembered</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/608317">Tape: 5 Story: 1 - Ludie Jones narrates her photographs, pt. 1</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/608318">Tape: 5 Story: 2 - Ludie Jones narrates her photographs, pt. 2</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/608319">Tape: 5 Story: 3 - Ludie Jones narrates her photographs, pt. 3</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/608320">Tape: 5 Story: 4 - Ludie Jones narrates her photographs, pt. 4</a>

DASession

1$1

DATape

2$3

DAStory

3$1

DATitle
Ludie Jones remembers one of her early dance performances
Ludie Jones remembers performing with notable jazz bandleaders
Transcript
Can you remember your first show, the first show you were in?$$No, no, you mean as far as the dance class?$$Yeah, when you were a little--$$No, no (simultaneous)--$$(Simultaneous) The first time you were put onstage to dance?$$No, the only thing I can remember now is that when I, like when I told you, I had to sing this real southern song, "Oh, they picking on your baby, 'cause you're a pickaninny rose," she [Jones' dance instructor, Emma Kemp] had me to sing that. Everybody who did a specialty, they wore a dress, real pretty dresses, what have you, when my mother [Lottie Watkins Jones], my aunt had made a very beautiful, accordion pleated peach dress, when I got ready to go on--my mother had put the dress on me, and she saw me, you know, naturally, she's at the stage, she said, "Take that off of her, put those overalls on her." I tell you she's prejudiced, and I had to sing and dance in the overalls. And I sang, "Oh, they picking on your baby, because you're a pickaninny rose." Now she's a black woman.$Tell me about the personalities of Luis Russell and Louis Armstrong and?$$Well, Luis Russell was a, he was a very nice guy, I liked him. He'd come in and he'd vocalize and he'd have a little poodle, and he call 'em Charm, and he'd vocalize, "Oh, Charmee," that's how he would warm up, warm his throat up. And Luis Russell was, he was very staid, you know, he, I don't say he was, wasn't friendly, but he wasn't outgoing like Luis Russell--Louis Armstrong.$$Okay. So, Louis Armstrong had what? A bigger, bigger, personality (simultaneous)?$$(Simultaneous) Yeah.$$A lot of people have not heard of Luis Russell, these days, now, Louis Armstrong was the national icon--$$Oh yeah, but Luis Russell, at that time, he was quite big too. And then, like I said, I worked with Fats Waller.$$Yeah, now what was Fats Waller like? Now there were plays about Fats Waller--$$Oh, he was high all the time. He was high all the time (laughter).$$On what? What do you think he--$$He drank.$$Okay, so he drank.$$He was a lush.$$I know that he wrote a song about--called the 'Viper Drag' [sic. 'Viper's Drag'] or something.$$Yeah, something like that.$$About smoking, herb too, so I don't, I didn't--$$Well, I don't know about whether he smoked, I guess he could have, but I know he used to drink. He'd be drunk on that stage (laughter).$$Did that (simultaneous)--$$--(simultaneous) but I mean, he played that piano.$$What kind of a person was he?$$Oh, he was nice, he's dolly, very nice, very nice, dolly.$$Yeah, he seemed to be kind of a witty person, the way they portray him on--$$Say what?$$A witty person--$$Yeah.$$--a clever person, and his speech--$$Yeah, he would be, yeah, I enjoyed working with him. I only worked, you know, maybe about a month or so on the road with him.$$Who else were we talking about? We talked--oh, Cab Calloway.$$Oh, Cab Calloway, he was something else (laughter), we used to work with him and The Peters Sisters, at the time. Did you ever hear of The Peters Sisters? They were the fat girls, black girls, and they could sing, and they were on a show with Pearl Bailey and me, I mean, this is with The Poms now, I'm all switched from the Lang Sisters, now to The Poms--$$Now, well, let's just talk about the Lang Sisters for a minute. How did (simultaneous)--$$(Simultaneous) Oh, well, I didn't work with Cab with the Lang Sisters.$$Okay, how long did the Lang Sisters last?$$We came back in '35 [1935], '36 [1936]--about a year, two years, 'cause at that time, 'The Mikado' with Bill Robinson [Bill "Bojangles" Robinson] opened up, and Marion [Marion Worthy Warner] decided (simultaneous)--$$(Simultaneous) 'The Swing Mikado'?$$Yeah, Mikad- yeah [sic. 'The Hot Mikado,' W.S. Gilbert and Arthur Sullivan], and Marion went for an audition, I went too, but they didn't take me, she got the job, and--of course, and so that left me out. I wasn't working anymore, you know, Peggy [Peggy Wharton] had stopped, and Marion when she got the job, naturally she was a chorus girl went into the chorus, so I was by myself, I didn't work by myself, but in, let's see '39 [1939], I think it was, the--an agent, told me he had two girls that wanted to dance with me, and that's how I became The Three Poms.$$Okay, The Three Poms.$$Um-hm.$$All right, so it was with that group that you danced with Cab (simultaneous)--$$(Simultaneous) I was there with them for about, let's see, we went to Japan, we went to--all over the USO shows [United Service Organizations], the US- shows from north to south, east to west, twice--$$The Poms, were they formed at the onset of World War II [WWII], around the same time as the war?$$Yeah, while the war was on.$$Okay. So this is about, so it's about four years when you're not working with a group (simultaneous).$$(Simultaneous) Yeah. That's right, I didn't work.$$Well, what did you do?$$Nothing. My mother [Lottie Watkins Jones] was taking care of me (laughter).$$Did she like the idea of having you home?$$Oh yeah, oh yeah.$$All right.$$I didn't do anything.

Ferne Yangyeitie Caulker

Dancer and choreographer Ferne Yangyeitie Caulker was born on August 9, 1947, in Sierra Leone, Africa. Caulker studied with the National Dance Company of Ghana at the University of Ghana, Legon, then returned to the United States.

In 1969, Caulker founded the Ko-Thi Dance Company after returning from Ghana. The company was created to develop, educate, showcase and preserve African, Caribbean and African American dance and music. In the beginning, the company’s entire repertoire was created by Caulker. However, through the years, she developed and nurtured veteran choreographer/dancers and musicians who now contribute into the repertoire. Over the past thirty years, Caulker has developed a cadre of commissioned works by master dancers and musicians from throughout the African Diaspora.

Caulker began teaching at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee in 1971, creating the University’s first courses covering African, Caribbean and African American dance technique and history. Caulker then became a full professor at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee’s Dance Department.

Since 1981, Caulker and the Ko-Thi Dance Company have created major full length evening works, collaborating with various international artists from across world cultures, (East Indian, Irish), and cross disciplines, (Jazz and the spoken word), merging cross cultural forms such as the South African 'Boot Dance' and Tap. In 1995, Caulker received a Fulbright Research Fellowship, which allowed her to study in Tanzania, East Africa, for three months. While doing her own research, Caulker also taught at the University of Dar es Salaam, lectured children in the Arusha United African American Cultural Center and assisted a UWASA cultural group. In 1999, Caulker served on the Blue Ribbon Commission on the Arts in Education for the Wisconsin State Superintendent, and the following year, served for the National Endowment for the Arts 2000 Dance panel. She has proudly served on the Board of Directors of the Wisconsin Arts Board.

Accession Number

A2007.336

Sex

Female

Interview Date

11/30/2007

Last Name

Caulker

Maker Category
Middle Name

Yangyeitie

Organizations
Schools

Custer High School

Annie Walsh Memorial School

West Cornwall School for Girls

University of Wisconsin-Madison

University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee

Search Occupation Category
First Name

Ferne

HM ID

CAU01

Favorite Season

Fall, Summer

Favorite Quote

God Doesn't Give You Anything You Can't Handle.

Bio Photo
Speakers Bureau Region State

Wisconsin

Interview Description
Birth Date

8/9/1947

Speakers Bureau Region City

Milwaukee

Country

Sierra Leone

Favorite Food

Crane-Crane, Cussava Leaf

Short Description

Dancer and choreographer Ferne Yangyeitie Caulker (1947 - ) was the founder and director of the Ko-Thi Dance Company. She began her teaching career at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee in 1971, creating the University’s first courses that covered African, Caribbean and African American dance techniques and history.

Employment

Ko-Thi Dance Company

Favorite Color

Orange

Timing Pairs
0,0:267,4:890,12:2759,55:3293,63:6764,107:7476,116:9523,166:10235,176:23114,272:24520,295:38632,466:40348,499:40660,504:43156,541:44248,556:45574,577:46120,585:46822,596:47368,604:48070,615:48616,623:50020,654:51658,681:58940,730:63775,789:65513,811:68041,851:68910,863:70253,883:70648,889:74772,904:75864,922:76200,927:87456,1114:91950,1131:95391,1186:97703,1200:99161,1220:99566,1226:104083,1277:105910,1311:114067,1425:114343,1430:117172,1479:120001,1530:130316,1693:133202,1740:133826,1749:136478,1807:144122,2005:145838,2042:146462,2051:156709,2135:157318,2144:157840,2155:158884,2174:160537,2198:161755,2210:164452,2282:165148,2293:166801,2327:170860,2337:171484,2346:172186,2359:176632,2433:177646,2476:178738,2493:182020,2501:184018,2535:184388,2541:184832,2550:185350,2558:186682,2574:187126,2581:190826,2636:191122,2641:191640,2649:193194,2671:193638,2678:193934,2683:195044,2703:195710,2713:196376,2724:202548,2762:204738,2807:212841,2941:213790,2957:218944,2996:223762,3057:225067,3078:228982,3131:232320,3147$0,0:11690,244:11970,249:13860,287:18772,312:19708,331:26361,408:27098,425:28371,448:29577,472:30448,492:30716,497:31587,517:33731,554:33999,559:34535,568:35406,607:36076,619:37483,639:38019,648:38488,656:39158,673:39493,679:43630,688:44162,696:44922,709:45758,721:46366,731:46746,737:47126,743:47430,748:48722,769:49102,776:49482,783:50166,793:51914,820:52218,825:54574,863:55182,873:58510,879:59086,889:59590,897:59878,902:60886,918:61318,925:62110,939:64054,982:64702,994:65566,1009:66358,1021:67582,1034:68086,1043:68590,1051:69454,1066:70246,1078:75332,1091:76160,1102:76712,1109:79012,1132:80760,1156:81128,1161:84329,1172:84644,1178:85463,1193:85904,1202:86534,1222:87038,1233:87479,1242:87794,1248:88802,1275:89684,1290:94661,1387:95480,1406:95984,1415:96236,1420:97118,1441:97370,1446:97685,1452:98315,1474:104715,1524:105225,1534:105735,1541:113060,1632:113444,1640:115364,1675:116132,1693:116580,1701:117220,1713:117476,1718:117924,1727:127074,1827:127606,1836:129658,1875:130114,1882:132546,1942:133002,1950:133458,1957:138094,1975:139158,1991:139842,2002:142525,2018:143521,2034:144351,2046:146094,2066:148584,2100:148916,2105:157854,2203:158289,2209:159507,2226:161856,2247:162291,2253:165162,2289:165945,2299:166815,2310:168120,2329:174361,2351:174900,2358:175362,2365:176286,2382:179751,2459:180598,2474:184679,2536:184987,2541:185295,2546:185680,2552:191110,2598:193440,2622:193840,2628:194800,2641:195600,2652:200880,2740:203440,2780:209270,2812:209674,2817:215431,2899:218500,2906:219300,2915:220500,2929:228850,2983:229291,2991:229795,3001:230173,3008:230551,3016:234765,3046:238908,3076:244260,3139:244685,3145:246020,3151
DAStories

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/449772">Tape: 1 Story: 1 - Slating of Ferne Yangyeitie Caulker's interview</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/449773">Tape: 1 Story: 2 - Ferne Yangyeitie Caulker lists her favorites</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/449774">Tape: 1 Story: 3 - Ferne Yangyeitie Caulker describes her mother's family background</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/449775">Tape: 1 Story: 4 - Ferne Yangyeiete Caulker talks about her maternal grandparents</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/449776">Tape: 1 Story: 5 - Ferne Yangyeitie Caulker recalls her early awareness of racial discrimination</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/449777">Tape: 1 Story: 6 - Ferne Yangyeitie Caulker describes her father's family background, pt. 1</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/449778">Tape: 1 Story: 7 - Ferne Yangyeitie Caulker describes her paternal ancestry</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/449779">Tape: 1 Story: 8 - Ferne Yangyeitie Caulker describes her father's family background, pt. 2</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/446588">Tape: 2 Story: 1 - Ferne Yangyeitie Caulker describes her father</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/446589">Tape: 2 Story: 2 - Ferne Yangyeitie Caulker describes her father's education</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/446590">Tape: 2 Story: 3 - Ferne Yangyeitie Caulker recalls her early experiences in the United States</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/446591">Tape: 2 Story: 4 - Ferne Yangyeitie Caulker describes her likeness to her father</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/446592">Tape: 2 Story: 5 - Ferne Yangyeitie Caulker describes the Sande initiation</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/446593">Tape: 2 Story: 6 - Ferne Yangyeitie Caulker describes the sights, sounds and smells of her childhood, pt. 1</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/449780">Tape: 3 Story: 1 - Ferne Yangyeitie Caulker describes the sights, sounds and smells of her childhood, pt. 2</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/449781">Tape: 3 Story: 2 - Ferne Yangyeitie Caulker remembers living with her maternal grandmother</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/449782">Tape: 3 Story: 3 - Ferne Yangyeitie Caulker talks about American attitudes toward African culture</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/449783">Tape: 3 Story: 4 - Ferne Yangyeitie Caulker describes her early education</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/449784">Tape: 3 Story: 5 - Ferne Yangyeitie Caulker remembers Custer High School in Milwaukee, Wisconsin</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/449785">Tape: 3 Story: 6 - Ferne Yangyeitie Caulker describes her early personality</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/449786">Tape: 3 Story: 7 - Ferne Yangyeitie Caulker describes her early interest in dance</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/446601">Tape: 4 Story: 1 - Ferne Yangyeitie Caulker talks about Pearl Primus</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/446602">Tape: 4 Story: 2 - Ferne Yangyeitie Caulker describes the Katherine Dunham Company's legacy</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/446603">Tape: 4 Story: 3 - Ferne Yangyeitie Caulker talks about the importance of history</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/446604">Tape: 4 Story: 4 - Ferne Yangyeitie Caulker recalls her courses at the University of Wisconsin-Madison</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/446605">Tape: 4 Story: 5 - Ferne Yangyeitie Caulker talks about her dance philosophy</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/446606">Tape: 4 Story: 6 - Ferne Yangyeitie Caulker describes her dance training</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/446607">Tape: 4 Story: 7 - Ferne Yangyeitie Caulker recalls her dance experiences in Ghana</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/449787">Tape: 5 Story: 1 - Ferne Yangyeitie Caulker recalls visiting the Elmina Castle in Ghana, pt. 1</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/449788">Tape: 5 Story: 2 - Ferne Yangyeitie recalls visiting the Elmina Castle in Ghana, pt. 2</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/449789">Tape: 5 Story: 3 - Ferne Yangyeitie Caulker talks about South African dance traditions</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/449790">Tape: 5 Story: 4 - Ferne Yangyeitie Caulker remembers founding the Ko-Thi Dance Company</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/449791">Tape: 5 Story: 5 - Ferne Yangyeitie Caulker talks about African American dance companies</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/449792">Tape: 5 Story: 6 - Ferne Yangyeitie Caulker describes the Ko-Thi Dance Company's educational outreach</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/449793">Tape: 5 Story: 7 - Ferne Yangyeitie Caulker describes the growth of the Ko-Thi Dance Company</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/446753">Tape: 6 Story: 1 - Ferne Yangyeitie Caulker talks about gentrification in Milwaukee, Wisconsin</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/446754">Tape: 6 Story: 2 - Ferne Yangyeitie Caulker describes her hopes for the black arts community</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/446755">Tape: 6 Story: 3 - Ferne Yangyeitie Caulker describes her hopes and concerns for the African American community</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/446756">Tape: 6 Story: 4 - Ferne Yangyeitie Caulker reflects upon the success of the Ko-Thi Dance Company</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/446757">Tape: 6 Story: 5 - Ferne Yangyeitie Caulker talks about discrimination in funding for the arts</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/446758">Tape: 6 Story: 6 - Ferne Yangyeitie Caulker describes Ko-Thi Dance Company's performances</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/446759">Tape: 6 Story: 7 - Ferne Yangyeitie Caulker reflects upon her life and legacy</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/446760">Tape: 6 Story: 8 - Ferne Yangyeitie Caulker describes her life philosophy</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/446761">Tape: 6 Story: 9 - Ferne Yangyeitie Caulker describes how she would like to be remembered</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/449794">Tape: 7 Story: 1 - Ferne Yangyeitie Caulker narrates her photographs</a>

DASession

1$1

DATape

4$5

DAStory

2$6

DATitle
Ferne Yangyeitie Caulker describes the Katherine Dunham Company's legacy
Ferne Yangyeitie Caulker describes the Ko-Thi Dance Company's educational outreach
Transcript
And then in comes [HistoryMaker] Katherine Dunham, and here is another black woman who now is the complete opposite from Pearl [Pearl Primus], light skinned, but who would not negotiate her colored-ness. Who said I'm light but I'm black and she went the Caribbean route, Haiti. Pearl went the African route with the 'Fanga' [Pearl Primus]. But these two women, I was stuck in the middle of the two of them. Looking at both of them going, my god, I can be all of this; I can be all of this. And then when I saw the academic level of the work they were doing, Katherine was writing grants and getting funded and writing articles and then now there is this huge amount of legacy this woman has left of her written works that go back to the '40s [1940s] and Pearl you know it just--. And then in steps Lavinia Williams, who was one of the dancers in Katherine's company and was her right hand. Lavinia became mu- became very accessible to me.$$Now was she--let's kind of put this in, I guess in the context of biography. When did, did you, when did you meet Katherine Dunham?$$I met Katherine--I had taken, the first time I had actually, actually really physically met her and got a chance to sit near her and take a class from her was at the--in East St. Louis [Illinois], when we did the--well there was a workshop down in East St. Louis and that's actually where I met the drummer Mor Thiam, who really helped us a lot with building the drum corps and gave us the training mechanism that we used on gym base in Ko-Thi Dance Company is Mor Thiam's technique.$$That's M-O-R capital T-H-I-A-M (simultaneous).$$(Simultaneous) T-H-I-A-M, um-hm. And she actually brought him from Senegal. So that's where I met Mor Thiam and, and took the workshop with Dunham and I was ju--$$Now about what year is that?$$That was like in the early '70s [1970s]--$$Okay.$$--mid-'70s [1970s].$$So, but you were inspired by her prior to--$$Yeah I was inspired by--$$--you became aware of her.$$--by Katherine from reading about her and then I got a chance to actually meet her. Then it was later on that I met Lavinia Williams and met a whole 'nother group of people who were actually--you know she was like their guru. Noel Hall [Noel Nantambu Hall] and Rima Pinnuck [ph.], Thomas Pinnuck [ph.], these were people in New York [New York] who were like studying with Lavinia because Lavinia learned all of the Dunham technique 'cause she was in the company [Katherine Dunham Company] but she branched off and started really doing a lot of the Haitian dance form and started teaching it and became known as a specialist in Haitian dance. And then Noel Hall studied with her, in fact she pretty much gave him all of her knowledge before she passed, and we then commissioned Noel Hall to come to Milwaukee [Wisconsin] and he choreographed a--we call it 'Suite Lavinia,' S-U-I-T-E, but S-W-E-E-T Lavinia. And it's a whole, it's a whole show that's forty-five minutes long of just the Haitian dance pantheon and he gave that all to us. So we have the lineage now through the choreography and the repertoire of--from Noel, from Lavinia to Katherine, Haiti, you know.$How did you form, how did assemble your dancers? Were the people already here involved in African dance on some level, or did you have to train them all from scratch or how did you do it?$$It was both, it was both. I, I, I started off the way most dance companies start off is you have somebody who's, who is a teacher who has an idea for a philosophy and a concept, starts throwing down some classes. And then the natural progression out of the classes is you take the students who are in your classes and you put together some kind of mini-show. And what happened with Ko-Thi [Ko-Thi Dance Company] was very simple actually. I'm like actually stunned sometimes when I think about it because there was no plan per se until ten years after we'd been working--that's when I made a conscious decision to turn it into a real serious dance company, okay. But the first ten years really we started just doing shows and people would see the shows and say you know we want you guys to come to our school and our educational outreach was what the company became, was an educational tool and put together a format that we're still using that we call Drumtalk. This format has great flexibility in terms of what it can do in a school, in terms of going into geography. We've had residencies in schools that would just blow your mind in terms of we'll go in and talk to the principal and the principals and the teachers will decide that you know this whole week that you all are here we're going to focus on Africa. We went one time to a school where each room--each classroom took a part of Africa, and that's all they focused on, and then we came in and did the whole movement thing, and it was awesome because you walk down the halls and--. I mean from the minute you entered the school it was Africa for the whole week. To me that was when a light went on for me. This was twenty years ago 'cause we're thirty-eight years old now so that's twenty, thirty years ago. We do social science, geography, history, music, song, dance and fitness and health and learning group work dynamics. How, how to work with one and other, how to, how to see yourself in space you know what I'm saying 'cause that's a whole different way of communicating in the world when you learn dance as a form in a classroom because it teaches you how to negotiate space. And that's really important in the workplace, you know. So if you never danced again in your whole life you go into a job you have to learn how to negotiate space, boundaries. How do you work with other people who are different from you, how do you communicate you know to other people? The arts teach that, that's the benefit of that, so it's for everybody. And so that's, that's was the essence of Ko-Thi Dance Company. So to preserve, promulgate, teach and give children experience and audiences and experiences--that's two-pronged, one is the actual physical experience in class the second one is the experience as an audience because those two things have to occur, you know. And it's the audience building that is the hardest you know for our community, for those of us who are in these forms.

Prince Spencer

Dancer Prince C. Spencer was born on October 3, 1917 in Jenkinsville, South Carolina to Lottie and Bunyon Spencer. Spencer’s family moved from South Carolina to Virginia, then moved to Boston, Massachusetts and finally settled in Toledo, Ohio. In 1941, Spencer joined the dance troupe, The Four Step Brothers, replacing longtime member Sylvester Johnson. The Four Step Brothers was a group of African American tap dancers that originated in the mid-1920s. They performed in several Hollywood films, and by 1946, had performed with Frank Sinatra. That same year, the group embarked on a six month European tour that included performances at the Parisian Le Lido and various other venues throughout Italy and Spain. The Four Step brothers served as trailblazers in the dance world, setting standards in their art and breaking down racial barriers. In almost forty years of performances onstage, in films and television, they danced throughout the world, inspiring others to emulate their tap and acrobatic feats.

The Four Step Brothers appeared uncredited in the 1947 film That’s My Gal. The group returned to the silver screen in 1953, appearing alongside Bob Hope in a film entitled Here Come the Girls. Throughout the 1950s and 1960s, the group became frequent guest performers on the "Ed Sullivan Show" and also performed on Jack Benny’s television show. They also toured Europe again in the 1950s, performing for the Queen of England.

The Four Step Brothers were awarded a Life Achievement Award from the Dance Masters of America in 1960. Spencer continued working in Hollywood, playing small roles and collaborating frequently on projects with comedian Redd Foxx. In 1985, the group received an additional life achievement award for helping to break the color barrier, and in 1988, they received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. The following year, Spencer appeared as himself in the film Harlem Nights with Eddie Murphy and Richard Pryor.

Prince Spencer was interviewed by The HistoryMakers on November 3, 2007.

Spencer passed away on October 29, 2015.

Accession Number

A2007.319

Sex

Male

Interview Date

11/3/2007

Last Name

Spencer

Maker Category
Marital Status

Married

Occupation
Organizations
Schools

Woodward Career Technical High School

Search Occupation Category
First Name

Prince

Birth City, State, Country

Jenkinsville

HM ID

SPE05

Favorite Season

Spring

State

South Carolina

Favorite Vacation Destination

California

Favorite Quote

It Don't Mean A Thing If It Ain't Got That Swing.

Bio Photo
Speakers Bureau Region State

Nevada

Interview Description
Birth Date

10/3/1917

Birth Place Term
Speakers Bureau Region City

Las Vegas

Country

USA

Favorite Food

Pig Feet, Black-eyed Peas

Death Date

10/29/2015

Short Description

Dancer Prince Spencer (1917 - 2015 ) was a member of the dance troupe, The Four Step Brothers who appeared in a film with Bob Hope entitled "Here Come the Gals." The troupe toured Europe and performed for the Queen of England. Spencer appeared on the sitcom "Sanford & Son" and in the film "Harlem Nights."

Employment

Four Step Brothers

Major Bowes Dixie Jubilee

Redd Foxx

Food Basket Supermarket

Favorite Color

Brown

DAStories

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/475172">Tape: 1 Story: 1 - Slating of Prince Spencer's interview</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/475173">Tape: 1 Story: 2 - Prince Spencer lists his favorites</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/475174">Tape: 1 Story: 3 - Prince Spencer describes his mother's family background</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/475175">Tape: 1 Story: 4 - Prince Spencer remembers his paternal uncles</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/475176">Tape: 1 Story: 5 - Prince Spencer describes his earliest childhood memory</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/475177">Tape: 1 Story: 6 - Prince Spencer recalls moving to Toledo, Ohio</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/475178">Tape: 1 Story: 7 - Prince Spencer lists his siblings</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/475179">Tape: 1 Story: 8 - Prince Spencer remembers his neighborhood in Toledo, Ohio</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/475180">Tape: 1 Story: 9 - Prince Spencer describes the sights, sounds and smells of his childhood</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/475181">Tape: 1 Story: 10 - Prince Spencer remembers the Hamilton School in Toledo, Ohio</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/475182">Tape: 1 Story: 11 - Prince Spencer remembers his early interest in dance</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/475183">Tape: 1 Story: 12 - Prince Spencer describes the Warren A.M.E. Church in Toledo, Ohio</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/475184">Tape: 1 Story: 13 - Prince Spencer remembers his early influences</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/475185">Tape: 1 Story: 14 - Prince Spencer recalls his introduction to professional dance</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/475186">Tape: 2 Story: 1 - Prince Spencer recalls touring with Ben Bernie</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/475187">Tape: 2 Story: 2 - Prince Spencer remembers dancing with Major Bowes' 'Dixie Jubilee'</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/475188">Tape: 2 Story: 3 - Prince Spencer recalls joining The Four Step Brothers</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/475189">Tape: 2 Story: 4 - Prince Spencer describes his early career with The Four Step Brothers</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/475190">Tape: 2 Story: 5 - Prince Spencer recalls performing with Frank Sinatra</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/475191">Tape: 2 Story: 6 - Prince Spencer remembers touring Europe</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/475192">Tape: 2 Story: 7 - Prince Spencer recalls the changes in The Four Step Brothers' lineup</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/475193">Tape: 2 Story: 8 - Prince Spencer describes The Four Step Brothers' dance style</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/475194">Tape: 2 Story: 9 - Prince Spencer recalls his work with jazz musicians</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/475195">Tape: 2 Story: 10 - Prince Spencer talks about his film appearances</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/475196">Tape: 3 Story: 1 - Prince Spencer remembers Ed Sullivan</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/475197">Tape: 3 Story: 2 - Prince Spencer talks about his career with the Four Step Brothers</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/475198">Tape: 3 Story: 3 - Prince Spencer remembers Sammy Davis, Jr.</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/475199">Tape: 3 Story: 4 - Prince Spencer talks about his wife</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/475200">Tape: 3 Story: 5 - Prince Spencer recalls buying property in Nevada</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/475201">Tape: 3 Story: 6 - Prince Spencer describes his Food Basket supermarket in Chicago, Illinois</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/475202">Tape: 3 Story: 7 - Prince Spencer remembers working for Redd Foxx</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/475203">Tape: 3 Story: 8 - Prince Spencer remember Redd Foxx's financial problems</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/475204">Tape: 4 Story: 1 - Prince Spencer remembers the death of Redd Foxx</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/475205">Tape: 4 Story: 2 - Prince Spencer recalls working as a casino host</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/475206">Tape: 4 Story: 3 - Prince Spencer reflects upon the changes in the dance world</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/475207">Tape: 4 Story: 4 - Prince Spencer remembers receiving a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/475208">Tape: 4 Story: 5 - Prince Spencer reflects upon his life</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/475209">Tape: 4 Story: 6 - Prince Spencer describes his hopes for the African American community</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/475210">Tape: 4 Story: 7 - Prince Spencer reflects upon his legacy and message to future generations</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/475211">Tape: 4 Story: 8 - Prince Spencer narrates his photographs</a>

Elaine Ellis

Dancer Elaine Ellis (also known as Calamity Jane) was born November 30, 1917 in Panama. She moved to New York with her mother, Flossie Freeman McNeil, and father, Clifford McNeil, at the age of seven. As a young girl, Ellis learned to dance. She was instructed by friends who attended the Henry LeTang School of Dance. After graduating from Jamaica High School, Ellis taught touch typing and eventually became a traveling instructor. Interested in going into business for herself, Ellis owned and operated a dry cleaner and later a cosmetics counter in a local department store. Disenchanted with business ownership, Ellis answered an open call at the Cotton Club for Spanish girls, and although she only knew four Spanish words, was the last chorus girl hired in 1939.

When the Cotton Club closed in 1940, Ellis continued to perform at Café Zanzibar, Club Mimo, the Lenox Lounge, in Atlantic City and at the Apollo Theater. At the Apollo Theater, Ellis performed with Bill “Bojangles” Robinson, Duke Ellington, Don Redman, and Andy Kirk. A married mother of two, Ellis eventually quit dancing to begin a lucrative twenty-five year bartending career. Ellis tended bars all over Harlem and gained quite a following, winning awards for the most congenial and best bar maid.

In 1986, Ellis was invited by Geraldine Rhodes-Kennedy to join the Silver Belles. Ellis was honored to join a group of former chorus girls including Bertye Lou Wood, Fay Ray, Cleo Hayes, and Marian Coles. The Silver Belles performed at senior centers and regularly, at the Cotton Club. In 1986, the Silver Belles were featured in a documentary about their lives, "Been Rich All My Life" directed and produced by Heather Lyn MacDonald.

Ellis passed away on December 21, 2013, at the age of 96.

Elaine Ellis was interviewed by The HistoryMakers on October 25, 2007.

Accession Number

A2007.304

Sex

Female

Interview Date

10/25/2007

Last Name

Ellis

Maker Category
Occupation
Organizations
Schools

Ps 57 Crescent School

Jamaica High School

Search Occupation Category
First Name

Elaine

Birth City, State, Country

Panama

HM ID

ELL02

Favorite Season

Fall

Favorite Quote

Que Sera, Sera.

Bio Photo
Speakers Bureau Region State

New York

Interview Description
Birth Date

11/30/1917

Birth Place Term
Speakers Bureau Region City

New York

Country

Panama

Favorite Food

Turkey

Death Date

12/21/2013

Short Description

Dancer Elaine Ellis (1917 - 2013 ) was a member of the Silver Belles, a senior dance group of the former Harlem Chorus Girls. Ellis performed with Bill "Bojangles" Robinson, Duke Ellington, Don Redmond, and Andy Kirk during her career.

Employment

Max Sued School

Cotton Club

Café Zanzibar

Club Mimo

Lenox Lounge

Apollo Theater

Silver Belles

Favorite Color

Tan

Timing Pairs
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DAStories

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/466423">Tape: 1 Story: 1 - Slating of Elaine Ellis' interview</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/466424">Tape: 1 Story: 2 - Elaine Ellis lists her favorites</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/466425">Tape: 1 Story: 3 - Elaine Ellis describes her mother's family background</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/466426">Tape: 1 Story: 4 - Elaine Ellis describes her father's family background</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/466427">Tape: 1 Story: 5 - Elaine Ellis recalls living in Panama as a child</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/466428">Tape: 1 Story: 6 - Elaine Ellis remembers moving to New York City</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/466429">Tape: 1 Story: 7 - Elaine Ellis describes her early education</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/466430">Tape: 1 Story: 8 - Elaine Ellis recalls learning to dance</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/466431">Tape: 1 Story: 9 - Elaine Ellis talks about her neighborhoods in Queens and the Bronx, New York</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/466432">Tape: 1 Story: 10 - Elaine Ellis describes her early work experiences</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/466433">Tape: 1 Story: 11 - Elaine Ellis remembers dancing at the Cotton Club in New York City</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/466434">Tape: 1 Story: 12 - Elaine Ellis talks about her son and husband</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/466435">Tape: 1 Story: 13 - Elaine Ellis recalls working as a dancer in Atlantic City, New Jersey</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/466436">Tape: 1 Story: 14 - Elaine Ellis recalls working at the Apollo Theater in New York City</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/466437">Tape: 1 Story: 15 - Elaine Ellis recalls working as a bartender</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/466438">Tape: 2 Story: 1 - Elaine Ellis remembers her bartending awards</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/466439">Tape: 2 Story: 2 - Elaine Ellis recalls joining the Silver Belles dancing troupe</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/466440">Tape: 2 Story: 3 - Elaine Ellis recalls her experiences as a dancer at clubs in New York City</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/466441">Tape: 2 Story: 4 - Elaine Ellis remembers the Silver Belles documentary</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/466442">Tape: 2 Story: 5 - Elaine Ellis narrates her photographs</a>

DASession

1$1

DATape

1$2

DAStory

11$2

DATitle
Elaine Ellis remembers dancing at the Cotton Club in New York City
Elaine Ellis recalls joining the Silver Belles dancing troupe
Transcript
When did you decide to start auditioning for dance performances (simultaneous)?$$(Simultaneous) Oh, when I saw the ad for Spanish girls in the newspapers, in one of the newspapers. I don't know if it was the Amsterdam [New York Amsterdam News] or which one. But there was an ad for colored, for Spanish girls.$$Now, when you were working these other businesses, were you still dancing?$$Whenever I went out, I would show off a little bit.$$What kind of places did you go to?$$Different nightclubs.$$I thought maybe you might mention some of them, maybe some of them that don't exist anymore.$$Any ones, I bet you it wouldn't be existing now.$$Excellent.$$I think one was--I wish I had known you were going to ask me this. I know somebody that would have been able to tell me that.$$Who knows all the clubs?$$Yeah.$$Okay. Well, you know, I'm not going to press you if you don't remember exactly the name. I just wondered if you could think of any.$$I worked at the Lenox Lounge [New York, New York] for a while. And there was another place I worked on 7th Avenue [Adam Clayton Powell Jr. Boulevard]. I can't remember the name of it, where you went down the steps. I worked there for quite a while dancing. I remember the man that owned it. His name was Boodlum [ph.].$$Boodlum?$$(Laughter) Yeah.$$So, tell us about answering the advertisement for the Spanish chorus girls. Where was that audition held (simultaneous)?$$(Simultaneous) It was downtown at the Cotton Club [New York, New York].$$Okay.$$And I went down there, and it was a lineup of Spanish, beautiful Spanish women. But they couldn't swing, not then anyhow. The Cotton Club girls were all present. They were all present, and they put us in a line. And the first thing they asked for was the time step, which I knew. And I worked it. And then one of the girls--I saw one of the girls in the line that belonged--that worked there, motioned for me to come in the back, and I did. And they said, "Do you want to work here?" And I said, "Yeah." And they said, "We'll teach you the routines." And they did. I remember all the girls that taught me, too.$$Do you remember any of their names?$$Yes, I do.$$Will you tell us a couple?$$There were two sisters, oh, I remembered them up until now.$$Up until I just asked you.$$McCormack. Dolly McCormack and Pearl McCormack.$$And did they teach you--$$And Dot Dash [Dorothy Dash], she was married to Ed Smalls who owned Small's Paradise [New York, New York].$$Yes.$$She's the one that took me and really taught me the routines.$$And did they teach you the routines there at the Cotton Club?$$Yeah.$$How did that work?$$It worked fine.$$How much time did you spend learning?$$Every afternoon I'd go and work out with them; they took a lot of time with me. They were very kind to me.$$And how long after you started training with them did you start performing with them?$$Not too long afterwards, because I was hired.$$That same day?$$Yeah. And I remember the first time I danced I was in the lineup. All the old Cotton Club girls, they knew I was just starting with them. And they'd holler, "Smile, smile." And I won't even tell you what else they would call me. And they said, "You got to smile. And turn." They were telling me the steps while I was performing. And while we were performing, all the showgirls--you know, they had ponies and they had showgirls. The showgirls were the tall statuesque beautiful women. They would be parading while we were dancing. The ones who danced were called ponies. And that's what I was, because I'm short. But all the girls were so beautiful--tall and statuesque. They would pose, walk, and perform. That's all they did, they didn't dance at all. I'll never forget that.$$And when you were performing at the Cotton Club, what street was it on?$$It was downtown, I think on 40-something Street [48th Street] and Broadway.$$Because now we're at the Cotton Club, but we're on 12th Avenue I think and 125th Street--$$Right, right.$$--just to make the distinction.$$Right, it was a big difference.$$And what kind of bands--do you remember any of the bands?$$Andy Kirk for one, and Don Redman. Cab [Cab Calloway] didn't work--I never worked with Cab there. But I remember Andy Kirk and Don Redman.$$What was your schedule like?$$Well, I, I, I had a son [William Monroe (ph.)], so I couldn't, I didn't hang out. I used to just go to work, and after work I'd take a cab home because I knew he'd be up waiting for me.$When Geri [HistoryMaker Geraldine Rhodes Kennedy] started the group [Silver Belles], you know I wanted to be in it. Because they--she had all the great dancers, people that I really always used to look up to as far as their ability. So I was so proud to be invited. And I danced as much for her, with her group, than I did before, because we made all the big spots.$$Which ones?$$We worked Atlantic City [New Jersey] on the boardwalk with the Sister Sledge, and we were the only black female group ever to work on that boardwalk at that time. So we got a lot of, we were well-known; we became well-known. And we did a lot of benefits. When I say benefits, we used to work at a lot of senior citizen centers to try to keep the people, the elderly people, interested in doing something. Geri said that people were just sitting around waiting to die, and if they saw that we had so much fun dancing and doing things, they might wake up and do something to keep themselves, you know, motivated. That's how we got started.$$And do you think that that happened?$$Oh, it certainly did. It certainly did. I didn't know that I would become one of the ones waiting to die. At the time that we joined, none of us even thought about it. We were having so much fun just being with each other. But I think we did a lot of good, because a lot of people said, "If they're that old and they're up there dancing, we can do it too, you know." And I heard a couple of groups got started after seeing us.$$Really?$$Uh-huh.$$Perhaps at one of the senior centers?$$Yeah.$$That's excellent. So you would agree with Geri that dancing prolongs a person's life?$$Yes.$$Activity of any kind, but I just am focused on dancing.$$Well, it was fun because dancing is fun. If you like it, it's fun, and you show it. And if you show them all the energy that you have, then they'll want to do something, too. At least they'll give up sitting around waiting, thinking they can't do anything.$$Why do you think that people reach a certain age and think that they can't do anything?$$Because there's nothing out there for elderly people to do. There's nothing. Now they're opening up a lot of rehab places, but at one time there was no place for them to go. You can't, you can't hang out. There's no--where are you going to go? You need money for anything that you do. And after they retire, they don't have that kind of money. So, consequently, they just sit around and wait 'til they're taken. That's about all--

Fay Ray

Fay Ray was born in 1919 in Louisiana. Life for Ray was not easy. At the age of eleven, Ray decided to leave a hard life of picking cotton. Dressed as a boy, she rode the train to Shreveport. There, she joined a Vaudeville circuit and traveled the nation. On the circuit, Ray learned to tap dance from some of the best dances of her day. At the age of sixteen, Ray left the vaudeville circuit to sing and dance solo.

In 1943, Ray moved to New York where she found steady work as a chorus line dancer. Ray performed at Café Zanzibar, Club Ebony, 845, the Cotton Club and the Apollo Theater. Ray’s chorus line performed with premiere bands like Duke Ellington, Cab Calloway, Louis Armstrong and Jimmy Lunceford who wrote Just for Dancers for Ray’s chorus line.

During World War II, Ray stopped dancing for a time, moved to Providence, Rhode Island and became a certified welder at Walch Kaiser, welding ship seams for the navy. Ray danced in the first black USO show and traveled to Europe, the Middle East and the Far East. When she turned fifty years old, Ray retired from dancing, spent two years welding on the Alaskan Pipe Line and drove a New York taxi-cab.

In 1985, Ray joined a senior dance group with other former Harlem chorus girls, the Silver Belles. Managed by Geraldine Rhodes-Kennedy, the group began rehearsing at the Cotton Club, made their debut performance at the Latin Casino and have been performing ever since. The Silver Belles have appeared in Atlantic City and on Dan Rather’s 48 Hours. In 2006, the Silver Belles were featured in a documentary, Been Rich All My Life, about their lives, produced by filmmaker Heather Lynn MacDonald.

Ray passed away on September 14, 2013

Fay Ray was interviewed by The HistoryMakers on October 18, 2007.

Accession Number

A2007.297

Sex

Female

Interview Date

10/18/2007

Last Name

Ray

Maker Category
Occupation
Search Occupation Category
First Name

Fay

Birth City, State, Country

Natchitoches

HM ID

RAY03

Favorite Season

Fall

State

Louisiana

Favorite Vacation Destination

Mexico

Favorite Quote

Let's Have Fun.

Bio Photo
Speakers Bureau Region State

New York

Interview Description
Birth Date

10/11/1919

Birth Place Term
Speakers Bureau Region City

New York

Country

USA

Favorite Food

Beans (Red), Rice

Death Date

9/14/2013

Short Description

Dancer Fay Ray (1919 - 2013 ) was a member of the Silver Belles, a senior dance group of former Harlem chorus girls. Ray performed as a chorus girl at several New York City theaters, including the Apollo Theatre and performed with the bands of Duke Ellington and Louis Armstrong. She also danced in the first black USO show.

Employment

Triangle Records

The Cotton Club

B. Siegel Company

Café Zanzibar

Favorite Color

Blue

DAStories

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/544848">Tape: 1 Story: 1 - Slating of Fay Ray's interview</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/544849">Tape: 1 Story: 2 - Fay Ray lists her favorites</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/544850">Tape: 1 Story: 3 - Fay Ray describes her mother's family background</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/544851">Tape: 1 Story: 4 - Fay Ray remembers running away from home</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/544852">Tape: 1 Story: 5 - Fay Ray describes her relationship with her father</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/544853">Tape: 1 Story: 6 - Fay Ray talks about her parents' relationship</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/544854">Tape: 1 Story: 7 - Fay Ray describes her early education</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/544855">Tape: 1 Story: 8 - Fay Ray describes her travels in Italy</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/544856">Tape: 1 Story: 9 - Fay Ray remembers her guardian in Alexandria, Louisiana</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/544857">Tape: 1 Story: 10 - Fay Ray recalls being sexually abused as a child</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/544858">Tape: 1 Story: 11 - Fay Ray remembers learning to play the piano</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/544859">Tape: 1 Story: 12 - Fay Ray recalls the influence of Bill "Bojangles" Robinson and Shirley Temple</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/544860">Tape: 2 Story: 1 - Fay Ray remembers being abused by the police in Alexandria, Louisiana</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/544861">Tape: 2 Story: 2 - Fay Ray recalls hitchhiking to Winnfield, Louisiana</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/544862">Tape: 2 Story: 3 - Fay Ray remembers her guardian in Winnfield, Louisiana</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/544863">Tape: 2 Story: 4 - Fay Ray remembers joining a traveling vaudeville company</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/544864">Tape: 2 Story: 5 - Fay Ray talks about settling in Detroit, Michigan</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/544865">Tape: 2 Story: 6 - Fay Ray recalls how she earned a living in Detroit, Michigan</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/544866">Tape: 2 Story: 7 - Fay Ray remembers a recently deceased friend</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/544867">Tape: 2 Story: 8 - Fay Ray recalls joining a community of deaf mute entertainers in Detroit, Michigan</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/544868">Tape: 2 Story: 9 - Fay Ray talks about her life in Detroit, Michigan</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/544869">Tape: 2 Story: 10 - Fay Ray remembers moving to Chicago, Illinois</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/544870">Tape: 3 Story: 1 - Fay Ray remembers Pearl Bailey</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/544871">Tape: 3 Story: 2 - Fay Ray recalls performing as a chorus girl on Broadway</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/544872">Tape: 3 Story: 3 - Fay Ray talks about the jazz nightclubs of New York City</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/544873">Tape: 3 Story: 4 - Fay Ray describes the working conditions for chorus girls in New York City</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/544874">Tape: 3 Story: 5 - Fay Ray remembers New York City's Harlem neighborhood</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/544875">Tape: 3 Story: 6 - Fay Ray remembers working as a taxicab driver in New York City</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/544876">Tape: 3 Story: 7 - Fay Ray recalls her transition to a career as a welder</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/544877">Tape: 3 Story: 8 - Fay Ray remembers living in Providence, Rhode Island</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/544878">Tape: 3 Story: 9 - Fay Ray recalls her secretarial position at Triangle Records</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/544879">Tape: 3 Story: 10 - Fay Ray reflects upon her work ethic</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/544880">Tape: 3 Story: 11 - Fay Ray remembers her friendship with Joe Louis</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/544881">Tape: 3 Story: 12 - Fay Ray talks about her apartment building in New York City</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/544882">Tape: 3 Story: 13 - Fay Ray describes her travels in Europe</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/544883">Tape: 4 Story: 1 - Fay Ray recalls her return from Europe to New York City</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/544884">Tape: 4 Story: 2 - Fay Ray talks about her role in the documentary 'Been Rich All My Life'</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/544885">Tape: 4 Story: 3 - Fay Ray recalls her Christmas vacation in Sweden</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/544886">Tape: 4 Story: 4 - Fay Ray describes her mentorship of young entertainers</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/544887">Tape: 4 Story: 5 - Fay Ray remembers joining the Silver Belles</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/544888">Tape: 4 Story: 6 - Fay Ray talks about performing with the Silver Belles</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/544889">Tape: 4 Story: 7 - Fay Ray reflects upon her experiences with the Silver Belles</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/544890">Tape: 4 Story: 8 - Fay Ray recalls the Silver Belles' performance at the Apollo Theater in New York City</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/544891">Tape: 4 Story: 9 - Fay Ray describes her plans for the future</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/544892">Tape: 4 Story: 10 - Fay Ray describes how she would like to be remembered, pt. 1</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/544893">Tape: 4 Story: 11 - Fay Ray describes how she would like to be remembered, pt. 2</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/544894">Tape: 5 Story: 1 - Fay Ray dances the shimmy sham with interviewer Adrienne Jones</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/544895">Tape: 5 Story: 2 - Fay Ray dances the shimmy sham</a>

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

Bio Photo
Speakers Bureau Region State

North Carolina

Interview Description
Birth Date

2/21/1978

Birth Place Term
Speakers Bureau Region City

Charlotte

Country

USA

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

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/99688">Tape: 1 Story: 1 - Slating of Ayisha McMillan Cravotta's interview</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/99689">Tape: 1 Story: 2 - Ayisha McMillan Cravotta lists her favorites</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/99690">Tape: 1 Story: 3 - Ayisha McMillan Cravotta describes her maternal family history</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/99691">Tape: 1 Story: 4 - Ayisha McMillan Cravotta describes her mother's godmother, blues singer Edith Wilson</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/99692">Tape: 1 Story: 5 - Ayisha McMillan Cravotta describes her paternal family history</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/99693">Tape: 1 Story: 6 - Ayisha McMillan Cravotta continues to describe her family history</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/99694">Tape: 1 Story: 7 - Ayisha McMillan Cravotta recalls how her parents met and their education</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/99695">Tape: 1 Story: 8 - Ayisha McMillan Cravotta talks about her parents move from Chicago, Illinois to Minneapolis, Minnesota</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/99696">Tape: 1 Story: 9 - Ayisha McMillan Cravotta describes her earliest childhood memory</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/99697">Tape: 1 Story: 10 - Ayisha McMillan Cravotta talks about her early childhood years in Golden Valley, Minnesota</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/99698">Tape: 2 Story: 1 - Ayisha McMillan Cravotta describes her family's history in Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority and The Links</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/99699">Tape: 2 Story: 2 - Ayisha McMillan Cravotta remembers her family's move from Minnesota to Oak Park, Illinois</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/99700">Tape: 2 Story: 3 - Ayisha McMillan Cravotta describes her elementary school years at Grace Lutheran School in River Forest, Illinois</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/99701">Tape: 2 Story: 4 - Ayisha McMillan Cravotta recalls her tantrums before ballet classes as a girl</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/99702">Tape: 2 Story: 5 - Ayisha McMillan Cravotta talks about her experience in MOMENTA</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/99703">Tape: 2 Story: 6 - Ayisha McMillan Cravotta remembers Tanya Wideman and Sarita Smith Childs, black role models in her ballet classes</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/99704">Tape: 2 Story: 7 - Ayisha McMillan Cravotta describes her ballet training and private lessons with Homer Hans Bryant</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/99705">Tape: 2 Story: 8 - Ayisha McMillan Cravotta chronicles her ballet training as a youth</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/99706">Tape: 2 Story: 9 - Ayisha McMillan Cravotta recalls one of her favorite performances as a child</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/99707">Tape: 2 Story: 10 - Ayisha McMillan Cravotta describes her training in various dance forms</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/99708">Tape: 3 Story: 1 - Ayisha McMillan Cravotta talks about her experience at the Boston Ballet School where she studied under Elaine Bauer</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/99709">Tape: 3 Story: 2 - Ayisha McMillan Cravotta recalls her experiences with international ballet students</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/99710">Tape: 3 Story: 3 - Ayisha McMillan Cravotta describes receiving ballet instruction from Asaf Messerer</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/99711">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"</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/99712">Tape: 3 Story: 5 - Ayisha McMillan Cravotta remembers balancing her school work with ballet training</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/99713">Tape: 3 Story: 6 - Ayisha McMillan Cravotta talks about why she wanted to become an architect</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/99714">Tape: 3 Story: 7 - Ayisha McMillan Cravotta talks about her parents' divorce</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/99715">Tape: 3 Story: 8 - Ayisha McMillan Cravotta recalls her first date while a student at the Houston Ballet Academy</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/99716">Tape: 3 Story: 9 - Ayisha McMillan Cravotta talks about issues of body image</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/99717">Tape: 4 Story: 1 - Ayisha McMillan Cravotta talks about pre-professional ballet training with Homer Hans Bryant in the Bryant Ballet</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/99718">Tape: 4 Story: 2 - Ayisha McMillan Cravotta talks about racial dynamics in the ballet world and ballerinas she admired</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/99719">Tape: 4 Story: 3 - Ayisha McMillan Cravotta recalls her interactions with idols, Nina Ananiashvili and Virginia Johnson</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/99720">Tape: 4 Story: 4 - Ayisha McMillan Cravotta talks about her college application strategy and her decision to attend Rice University in Houston, Texas</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/99721">Tape: 4 Story: 5 - Ayisha McMillan Cravotta recalls her first professional ballet performance, body image issues, and mentor Lauren Anderson</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/99722">Tape: 4 Story: 6 - Ayisha McMillan Cravotta describes an experience of racial discrimination, and the microaggressions faced by black ballet dancers</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/99723">Tape: 4 Story: 7 - Ayisha McMillan Cravotta talks about meeting Debbie Allen</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/99724">Tape: 4 Story: 8 - Ayisha McMillan Cravotta talks about the North Carolina Dance Theatre</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/99725">Tape: 4 Story: 9 - Ayisha McMillan Cravotta talks about her historical debut as Clara in "The Nutcracker" at North Carolina Dance Theatre</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/99726">Tape: 5 Story: 1 - Ayisha McMillan Cravotta describes her experience at Rice University in Houston, Texas</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/99727">Tape: 5 Story: 2 - Ayisha McMillan Cravotta talks about her studies at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/99728">Tape: 5 Story: 3 - Ayisha McMillan Cravotta talks about her historic role as Clara in "The Nutcracker"</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/99729">Tape: 5 Story: 4 - Ayisha McMillan Cravotta talks about dancing Tinker Bell, one of her favorite roles</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/99730">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</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/99731">Tape: 5 Story: 6 - Ayisha McMillan Cravotta talks about why she did not join a black ballet company</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/99732">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</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/99733">Tape: 5 Story: 8 - Ayisha McMillan Cravotta talks about her hip injury and why she decided to retire from professional dancing</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/99734">Tape: 5 Story: 9 - Ayisha McMillan Cravotta describes her last performance</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/99735">Tape: 6 Story: 1 - Ayisha McMillan Cravotta describes the minimal changes in dance during her decade-long career</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/99736">Tape: 6 Story: 2 - Ayisha McMillan Cravotta describes inspirational ballerinas and why she pursued a career in ballet</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/99737">Tape: 6 Story: 3 - Ayisha McMillan Cravotta describes the impact of her training by Asaf Messerer of the Bolshoi Ballet</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/99738">Tape: 6 Story: 4 - Ayisha McMillan Cravotta talks about her first mentor, Dorothy Samachson, and her mother's second marriage</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/99739">Tape: 6 Story: 5 - Ayisha McMillan Cravotta describes her transition into marketing for the North Carolina Dance Theatre</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/99740">Tape: 6 Story: 6 - Ayisha McMillan Cravotta reflects upon her legacy</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/99741">Tape: 6 Story: 7 - Ayisha McMillan Cravotta expresses her desire to see more black women welcomed into the ballet world</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/99742">Tape: 6 Story: 8 - Ayisha McMillan Cravotta narrates her photographs</a>

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

Interview Description
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

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DAStories

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/465850">Tape: 1 Story: 1 - Slating of Eleo Pomare's interview</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/465851">Tape: 1 Story: 2 - Eleo Pomare lists his favorites</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/465852">Tape: 1 Story: 3 - Eleo Pomare describes his mother's family background</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/465853">Tape: 1 Story: 4 - Eleo Pomare describes his father's background</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/465854">Tape: 1 Story: 5 - Eleo Pomare describes the feud between his maternal and paternal families</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/465855">Tape: 1 Story: 6 - Eleo Pomare describes his mother's upbringing in San Andres, Colombia</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/465856">Tape: 1 Story: 7 - Eleo Pomare remembers his father's death</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/465857">Tape: 1 Story: 8 - Eleo Pomare describes how his parents met</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/465858">Tape: 1 Story: 9 - Eleo Pomare describes his parents' personalities and who he takes after</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/465859">Tape: 1 Story: 10 - Eleo Pomare describes his earliest childhood memories</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/465860">Tape: 1 Story: 11 - Eleo Pomare describes the sights, sounds and smells of his childhood</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/465861">Tape: 1 Story: 12 - Eleo Pomare recalls how he came to the United States</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/465862">Tape: 2 Story: 1 - Eleo Pomare remembers the Carnival in Panama</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/465863">Tape: 2 Story: 2 - Eleo Pomare describes Latin American dance and music</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/465864">Tape: 2 Story: 3 - Eleo Pomare describes the impact of African culture on Latin America</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/465865">Tape: 2 Story: 4 - Eleo Pomare describes his experiences upon arrival in New York City</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/465866">Tape: 2 Story: 5 - Eleo Pomare remmebers P.S. 184 in New York City</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/465867">Tape: 2 Story: 6 - Eleo Pomare describes his uncle's influence on his education</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/465868">Tape: 2 Story: 7 - Eleo Pomare recalls his relatives in the Harlem neighborhood of New York City</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/465869">Tape: 2 Story: 8 - Eleo Pomare remembers the Harlem community</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/465870">Tape: 3 Story: 1 - Eleo Pomare reflects upon the influence of the church on his dance career</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/465871">Tape: 3 Story: 2 - Eleo Pomare remembers James Fenimore Cooper Junior High School in New York City</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/465872">Tape: 3 Story: 3 - Eleo Pomare recalls his woodshop class at James Fenimore Cooper Junior High School</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/465873">Tape: 3 Story: 4 - Eleo Pomare describes his decision to attend the High School of Performing Arts</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/465874">Tape: 3 Story: 5 - Eleo Pomare talks about teaching dance in New York City, pt. 1</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/465875">Tape: 3 Story: 6 - Eleo Pomare talks about teaching dance in New York City, pt. 2</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/465876">Tape: 3 Story: 7 - Eleo Pomare recalls African American dancers from his youth</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/465877">Tape: 4 Story: 1 - Eleo Pomare describes the High School of Performing Arts in New York City</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/465878">Tape: 4 Story: 2 - Eleo Pomare recalls his teachers at the High School of Performing Arts</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/465879">Tape: 4 Story: 3 - Eleo Pomare describes his volunteer work as a dance teacher in New York City</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/465880">Tape: 4 Story: 4 - Eleo Pomare describes his decision to leave his family home</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/465881">Tape: 4 Story: 5 - Eleo Pomare describes his relationship with his maternal family</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/465882">Tape: 4 Story: 6 - Eleo Pomare remembers seeing a performance by Talley Beatty</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/465883">Tape: 4 Story: 7 - Eleo Pomare recalls the African American dancers of his generation</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/465884">Tape: 4 Story: 8 - Eleo Pomare reflects upon the works of Pearl Primus and Katherine Dunham</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/465885">Tape: 4 Story: 9 - Eleo Pomare remembers his classmate, Arthur Mitchell</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/465886">Tape: 5 Story: 1 - Eleo Pomare describes the first Eleo Pomare Dance Company</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/465887">Tape: 5 Story: 2 - Eleo Pomare remembers his company's first performance in New York City</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/465888">Tape: 5 Story: 3 - Eleo Pomare remembers obtaining a John Hay Whitney Foundation fellowship</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/465889">Tape: 5 Story: 4 - Eleo Pomare describes the Folkwang School of Music, Theatre and Dance in Essen, Germany</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/465890">Tape: 5 Story: 5 - Eleo Pomare describes the European Eleo Pomare Dance Company</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/465891">Tape: 5 Story: 6 - Eleo Pomare describes his decision to return to the United States, pt. 1</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/465892">Tape: 5 Story: 7 - Eleo Pomare describes his decision to return to the United States, pt. 2</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/465893">Tape: 6 Story: 1 - Eleo Pomare describes his dance piece, 'Missa Luba'</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/465894">Tape: 6 Story: 2 - Eleo Pomare recalls the Second World Black and African Festival of Arts and Culture</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/465895">Tape: 6 Story: 3 - Eleo Pomare describes his dance piece, 'Blues for the Jungle'</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/465896">Tape: 6 Story: 4 - Eleo Pomare remembers performing "Junkie" from 'Blues for the Jungle'</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/465897">Tape: 6 Story: 5 - Eleo Pomare describes his dance piece, 'Las Desenamoradas'</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/465898">Tape: 6 Story: 6 - Eleo Pomare talks about his choreographic method</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/465899">Tape: 6 Story: 7 - Eleo Pomare recalls founding the Association of Black Choreographers, pt. 1</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/465900">Tape: 7 Story: 1 - Eleo Pomare recalls founding the Association of Black Choreographers, pt. 2</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/465901">Tape: 7 Story: 2 - Eleo Pomare reflects upon black choreographers</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/465902">Tape: 7 Story: 3 - Eleo Pomare reflects upon the cultural influences in his choreography</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/465903">Tape: 7 Story: 4 - Eleo Pomare talks about the Harlem Cultural Council Dancemobile</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/465904">Tape: 7 Story: 5 - Eleo Pomare describes his fellowship from the John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/465905">Tape: 7 Story: 6 - Eleo Pomare remembers the political climate of the late 1970s</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/465906">Tape: 7 Story: 7 - Eleo Pomare recalls the lack of funding for African American dance companies</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/465907">Tape: 7 Story: 8 - Eleo Pomare describes his dance piece, 'Morning Without Sunrise,' pt. 1</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/465908">Tape: 8 Story: 1 - Eleo Pomare describes his dance piece, 'Morning Without Sunrise,' pt. 2</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/465909">Tape: 8 Story: 2 - Eleo Pomare reflects upon his dance career</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/465910">Tape: 8 Story: 3 - Eleo Pomare reflects upon his teaching style</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/465911">Tape: 8 Story: 4 - Eleo Pomare recalls the members of the Eleo Pomare Dance Company</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/465912">Tape: 8 Story: 5 - Eleo Pomare remembers performing at the Adelaide Festival in Australia</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/465913">Tape: 8 Story: 6 - Eleo Pomare talks about contemporary dance companies</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/465914">Tape: 8 Story: 7 - Eleo Pomare describes his recent choreographic work</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/465915">Tape: 8 Story: 8 - Eleo Pomare describes his hopes and concerns for the African American community</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/465916">Tape: 8 Story: 9 - Eleo Pomare reflects upon his life</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/465917">Tape: 8 Story: 10 - Eleo Pomare talks about his family</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/465918">Tape: 8 Story: 11 - Eleo Pomare describes how he would like to be remembered</a>

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.

Martha Jordan

Martha Jordan was born on January 22, 1927, in St. Louis, Missouri. Jordan was adopted as a baby by Dr. Chalmers Weaver, a local dentist and his wife, Eliza. Jordan attended Simmons Elementary School, and because of her love for music, Jordan took tap and ballet classes as well as piano lessons. Jordan then attended Charles H. Sumner High School where she danced in the Y Circus, a type of music revue that featured popular musicians of that time; she graduated in 1943, at age sixteen.

Jordan promised her parents that she would go to college if they allowed her to work at the Plantation Club in St. Louis as a dancer for one year. When that year ended, she did not attend college, and instead went to Chicago with show producer-dancer Hortense Allen Jordan to work at the Rhumboogie Club as a chorus girl. Jordan performed with the chorus line for shows that featured Cab Calloway, Nat King Cole, Duke Ellington, and Pearl Bailey, who was one of her good friends. Jordan appeared in one of the first all African American shows in Las Vegas at the Dunes Hotel: Smart Affairs , produced by Larry Steele.

In the early 1960s, Jordan moved to Los Angeles during the decline in popularity of chorus line shows; there she took a real estate course and received her broker’s license. At this time, Jordan became engaged to music great, Louis Jordan, and they married in 1966. Louis Jordan was famous for his recorded hits, Let the Good Times Roll and Is You Is or Is You Ain’t My Baby. Jordan traveled and sang with the Louis Jordan Band and took care of the finances. Jordan stopped touring in the early 1970s and began working as an office manager for a Santa Monica elementary school. Louis Jordan passed away in 1975, and in 1980, Jordan moved to Las Vegas where she worked for the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department as a records technician. She then retired in 1990.

Jordan served as president of the Las Vegas Chapter of Links, Inc.; a member of the Girl Friends, Inc.; and founder and CEO of the Louie Jordan Commemorative Scholarship Foundation.

Jordan passed away on May 28, 2016 at age 89.

Accession Number

A2007.126

Sex

Female

Interview Date

4/6/2007

Last Name

Jordan

Maker Category
Occupation
Schools

Charles H. Sumner High School

Simmons Elementary School

Saint Louis University

First Name

Martha

Birth City, State, Country

St. Louis

HM ID

JOR04

Favorite Season

Summer

State

Missouri

Favorite Vacation Destination

Greek Islands

Bio Photo
Speakers Bureau Region State

Nevada

Interview Description
Birth Date

1/22/1927

Birth Place Term
Speakers Bureau Region City

Las Vegas

Country

USA

Favorite Food

Soul Food

Death Date

5/28/2016

Short Description

Entertainer and dancer Martha Jordan (1927 - 2016 ) appeared in one of the first all African American shows in Las Vegas, Smart Affairs, produced by Larry Steele, and was the founder and CEO of the Louie Jordan Commemorative Scholarship Fund. Jordan worked as a backup chorus dancer for music legends such as Cab Calloway, Nat King Cole, Duke Ellington, and Pearl Bailey, in addition to touring with her husband, Louis Jordan.

Employment

Plantation Club

Rhumboogie Cafe

Dunes Hotel

Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department

Favorite Color

Purple

Timing Pairs
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DAStories

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/482667">Tape: 1 Story: 1 - Slating of Martha Jordan's interview</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/482668">Tape: 1 Story: 2 - Martha Jordan lists her favorites</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/482669">Tape: 1 Story: 3 - Martha Jordan describes her mother's family background</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/482670">Tape: 1 Story: 4 - Martha Jordan describes her father's family background</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/482671">Tape: 1 Story: 5 - Martha Jordan describes her parents' personalities</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/482672">Tape: 1 Story: 6 - Martha Jordan describes her community in St. Louis, Missouri</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/482673">Tape: 1 Story: 7 - Martha Jordan remembers performing with the Y Circus in St. Louis, Missouri</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/482674">Tape: 1 Story: 8 - Martha Jordan recalls her early education</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/482675">Tape: 1 Story: 9 - Martha Jordan describes her early interest in music and dance</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/482676">Tape: 1 Story: 10 - Martha Jordan remembers her childhood friends</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/482677">Tape: 1 Story: 11 - Martha Jordan describes her extracurricular activities</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/482678">Tape: 2 Story: 1 - Martha Jordan talks about her adoption, pt. 1</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/482679">Tape: 2 Story: 2 - Martha Jordan talks about her adoption, pt. 2</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/482680">Tape: 2 Story: 3 - Martha Jordan recalls breaking the dress code at Charles H. Sumner High School in St. Louis, Missouri</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/482681">Tape: 2 Story: 4 - Martha Jordan remembers he popular musicians from her childhood</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/482682">Tape: 2 Story: 5 - Martha Jordan talks about her family reunions</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/482683">Tape: 2 Story: 6 - Martha Jordan remembers performing for soldiers during World War II</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/482684">Tape: 2 Story: 7 - Martha Jordan describes her decision to pursue a career in show business</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/482685">Tape: 2 Story: 8 - Martha Jordan describes her early dancing career</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/482686">Tape: 2 Story: 9 - Martha Jordan describes the culture of show business</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/482687">Tape: 3 Story: 1 - Martha Jordan describes her experiences as a chorus girl, pt. 1</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/482688">Tape: 3 Story: 2 - Martha Jordan describes her experiences as a chorus girl, pt. 2</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/482689">Tape: 3 Story: 3 - Martha Jordan talks about African American owned clubs and theater productions</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/482690">Tape: 3 Story: 4 - Martha Jordan describes her dancing career in Las Vegas, Nevada</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/482691">Tape: 3 Story: 5 - Martha Jordan describes her dancing and real estate career in Los Angeles, California</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/482692">Tape: 3 Story: 6 - Martha Jordan describes the racial discrimination in the entertainment industry</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/482693">Tape: 3 Story: 7 - Martha Jordan describes her marriage to Louis Jordan</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/482694">Tape: 3 Story: 8 - Martha Jordan talks about Louis Jordan's singing career</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/482695">Tape: 4 Story: 1 - Martha Jordan describes her travel experiences</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/482696">Tape: 4 Story: 2 - Martha Jordan remembers her colleagues in show business, pt. 1</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/482697">Tape: 4 Story: 3 - Martha Jordan remembers her colleagues in show business, pt. 2</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/482698">Tape: 4 Story: 4 - Martha Jordan remembers her colleagues in show business, pt. 3</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/482699">Tape: 4 Story: 5 - Martha Jordan describes her career in Los Angeles, California and Las Vegas, Nevada</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/482700">Tape: 4 Story: 6 - Martha Jordan describes her organizational involvement</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/482701">Tape: 4 Story: 7 - Martha Jordan talks about her autobiography, 'The Debutante That Went Astray'</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/482702">Tape: 4 Story: 8 - Martha Jordan reflects upon her life</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/482703">Tape: 4 Story: 9 - Martha Jordan describes how she would like to be remembered</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/482704">Tape: 5 Story: 1 - Martha Jordan narrates her photographs</a>

DASession

1$1

DATape

3$4

DAStory

1$3

DATitle
Martha Jordan describes her experiences as a chorus girl, pt. 1
Martha Jordan remembers her colleagues in show business, pt. 2
Transcript
Now, tell me what it's like to, to be a chorus girl.$$To be a chorus girl. Well, you know, at sixteen, it's altogether different than it would be now. But then, it was very, very exciting because you get the chance at the time--I got a chance to travel around the world. I got--well not actually around the world, around the United States. I got a chance--well, I'm a flighty sixteen and I got a chance to meet people, you know. You get to be flighty and, like I said, and I got to meet celebrities and that was my big thing. So when I first went, I went with Hortense [Hortense Allen Jordan] and she--and we worked the Plantation [Plantation Club; Palladium] in St. Louis [Missouri]. From there, we went to Chicago [Illinois]. Well, Charlie Glenn owned the Rhumboogie [Rhumboogie Cafe] in Chicago, which is a black owned club. The Plantation was really all white. Nat Cole [Nat King Cole] was one that we worked with at the Plantation in St. Louis. It was owned--really owned by the mafia 'cause all the guys, Tony [Tony Scarpelli] and all of them, all the bosses were mafia, but you knew this and nobody bothered you and you did not socialize at all, thank goodness. I mean, you were not--you know, you--it was not permitted and all this, which was good because we didn't want to anyhow because they were all Caucasians and we, you know, couldn't go out and--well, you couldn't go out and socialize for the simple reason you didn't have anybody because it was a white club. It was in St. Louis. But when I left there, we rehearsed--in the Plantation, we did three shows a night and, and when we left there and we went to the Rhumboogie which we only did two shows a night, so a much easier job. As a chorus girl, usually if you're in a club and if you're gonna stay in a club for a while just like, say the Rhumboogie and you're gonna be there for like--he hired the whole chorus line so that meant--the chorus line is the backbone of a show. Like, you have celebrities that come in, but you change your celebrities. Your chorus line, you usually do a show a good month without changing, so that means that we have, okay, we're doing three numbers. While we're doing those three numbers before the month is out, we will have to rehearse. And we were working at night, so we will rehearse during the day to learn the new show which you're doing three numbers in the new show, so it is not an easy--it's not--it's not all what it is cut out to be that you don't work. You're working very hard. You're working at night and you're tired and you're facing--you got to be on that stage and you have to be perppy [ph.] and looking good and frisky and smiling and all this. Now, we have nothing to do with the costumes. We have a costumer. Most of the shows have costumers that they get. Any show that you're on, they usually have a costume person. And they come in and they--the producer that you're working for does the show, they'll teach you the routines if--okay, say for instance, we had Larry Steele who was not a dancer, he had Hortense Allen who took us into the Plantation and also the Rhumboogie. Hortense was a dancer and a producer, but she worked with Larry and Ziggy [Joe "Ziggy" Johnson] in the Rhumboogie when we first went in the Rhumboogie. Ziggy was the producer and an emcee, but Hortense was a predominant dancer, but they worked together as a team to teach us the routines for the show. It might be Ziggy's idea that he wanted to do a Christmas show. Okay, Hortense might put some of the steps and things to the different numbers. He has a designer in Chicago at the Rhumboogie who does the costumes. They'll do costumes for these--we have three--a set of three costumes for this show. While we're rehearsing for the new show, she's making costumes for that new show. So when the new show comes in, we--we'll rehearse--okay, say for, for instance, to make it kind of easy, we rehearse about--all of us our professionals, so we rehearse about two weeks for the new show. So, we're learning three numbers in two weeks. That's just about it. So, you're rehearsing two weeks out of that month plus you're doing your show at night. That's the hardest time really is when you're working at night and rehearsing in the day. And we'll rehearse like about--usually you rehearse at least two to three hours a day. You do not rehearse on weekends. They finally said no weekends, thank goodness. But you do--so you have that, that free. But most of the shows, you do rehearse especially when you're in a club.$And what about--you worked with Louis Armstrong or Ethel Waters?$$I worked with Ethel in the Club Baron, one--a club I worked in New York [New York] when I first got in. And, boy, she was--she was--Ethel was--she was a singer, but you couldn't do too much around her to distract anything. That's--really, she would go off on you if you did. But we'd be in the line, if you're putting your feet, messing your feet too much, she would--we'd sway and, but if you mess your feet too much, Ethel would wanna come down and lay you out and all, but she was nice people to work with. She was okay, she really was.$$And what about Louis Armstrong?$$Oh, that was my bud. We had an affair and he was really great people, he really was. He's one of the nicest men in the world, really. Pops was just great. He was--he never changed. Now, he married women that changed and I used to say, "Pops, you got women that--you got some wives that they, they, they--your talent went to their heads," which they did 'cause he was very down to earth, very regular, and would treat everybody equal. But he had some--a couple of wives that though they were better than everybody, which was not true 'cause they were all ex-chorus girls and they were ridiculous. But, Pops was great. I know my mother [Jordan's adoptive mother, Eliza Stone Weaver] was very sick once and he sent her a, a dozen of the prettiest red roses I had ever seen in my life. And the pe- the women at the, at, at the hospital flipped because they knew it was from Louis Armstrong, you know. 'Cause they kept asking about, "Is that your son?" "No, hell no (laughter)," unh-uh.$$Well, you, you talked about Sammy Davis [Sammy Davis, Jr.], but did you know much about the, the Rat Pack, about--$$No (simultaneous).$$(Simultaneous) None, so you didn't know--$$No. I was around Sammy--$$--Jerry Lewis?$$I was around Sammy, but--I met Sinatra [Frank Sinatra] once, but I never--I never was around them, unh-uh.$$What about Jerry Lewis?$$Hm?$$Jerry Lewis.$$Jerry Lewis, I, I met him once.$$Okay.$$I just met him with Louis [Louis Jordan] once and I had a picture made with him, but that's it.$$Okay. So, I mean, you worked with so many wonderful talents, Sarah Vaughan?$$One of my greatest friends, one of my greatest friends. I adored her and we adored each other. Sassy was just--she's beautiful people. We met years ago before she got to be the great Miss Vaughan and we remained friends until she died, actually. I mean, she was just--she was a sweetheart. And so many people didn't realize, the woman had a heart of gold. And they used to say, "Oh, she's so ugly," but she wasn't. To me, she was beautiful 'cause she was just that sweet. But, you know, a lot of people--you'd be--you have to see through it and, well her voice. Let's not even discuss that (laughter). I won't even go into that, so, really 'cause she had a voice and a range that I don't think anybody can copy. But Sassy was so down, it was just something else.

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

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

Interview Description
Birth Date

12/21/1945

Birth Place Term
Speakers Bureau Region City

New York

Country

USA

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
0,0:37100,410:37860,419:56352,632:59316,775:60252,794:72186,1112:72576,1118:88042,1264:97117,1417:102896,1468:106428,1506:110400,1530:123270,1711:133760,1777:139340,1867:149870,2004:150320,2010:169928,2180:170540,2187:178856,2282:180988,2321:232550,2960$0,0:1463,35:2079,44:13616,223:25643,349:29210,403:32777,448:33299,455:34082,467:36866,523:38258,541:38867,549:39215,554:58664,757:61013,782:70980,874:82950,1146:83300,1152:83720,1159:104790,1423:105910,1444:115801,1532:124579,1666:125041,1674:128660,1722:129122,1729:129738,1740:130123,1746:159450,2064:165110,2085:165593,2093:166628,2113:167594,2127:170932,2149:183962,2267:188617,2318:199755,2437:203547,2501:204179,2511:204495,2516:204811,2521:213556,2620:214447,2632:218160,2659
DAStories

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/486525">Tape: 1 Story: 1 - Slating of George W. Faison's interview, session 1</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/486526">Tape: 1 Story: 2 - George W. Faison lists his favorites</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/486527">Tape: 1 Story: 3 - George W. Faison describes his father's family background</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/486528">Tape: 1 Story: 4 - George W. Faison describes his father</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/486529">Tape: 1 Story: 5 - George W. Faison describes his mother's family background</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/486530">Tape: 1 Story: 6 - George W. Faison describes his parents' relationship</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/486531">Tape: 1 Story: 7 - George W. Faison talks about his maternal family passing for white</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/486532">Tape: 1 Story: 8 - George W. Faison recalls accompanying his father to work</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/486533">Tape: 1 Story: 9 - George W. Faison lists his siblings</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/486534">Tape: 1 Story: 10 - George W. Faison describes his earliest childhood memories</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/486535">Tape: 1 Story: 11 - George W. Faison describes his neighborhood in Washington, D.C.</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/486536">Tape: 1 Story: 12 - George W. Faison describes the sights, sounds, and smells of his childhood, pt. 1</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/486537">Tape: 2 Story: 1 - George W. Faison describes the sights, sounds and smells of his childhood, pt. 2</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/486538">Tape: 2 Story: 2 - George W. Faison describes the sights, sounds, and smells of his childhood, pt. 3</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/486539">Tape: 2 Story: 3 - George W. Faison recalls the wealthy, white neighborhoods of Washington, D.C.</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/486540">Tape: 2 Story: 4 - George W. Faison recalls the teachers who influenced him</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/486541">Tape: 2 Story: 5 - George W. Faison recalls his early exposure to the arts</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/486542">Tape: 2 Story: 6 - George W. Faison describes his experiences of racial discrimination</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/486543">Tape: 2 Story: 7 - George W. Faison recalls his early influences</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/486544">Tape: 3 Story: 1 - George W. Faison recalls his early interest in dance</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/486545">Tape: 3 Story: 2 - George W. Faison remembers the band at Paul Laurence Dunbar High School in Washington, D.C.</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/486546">Tape: 3 Story: 3 - George W. Faison recalls teaching himself to dance</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/486547">Tape: 3 Story: 4 - George W. Faison recalls auditioning for the American Light Opera Company</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/486548">Tape: 3 Story: 5 - George W. Faison remembers dancing with the American Light Opera Company</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/486549">Tape: 3 Story: 6 - George W. Faison recalls his experiences while at Paul Laurence Dunbar High School</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/486550">Tape: 3 Story: 7 - George W. Faison describes the Jones-Haywood School of Ballet in Washington, D.C.</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/486551">Tape: 3 Story: 8 - George W. Faison recalls his training at the American Light Opera Company</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/486552">Tape: 3 Story: 9 - George W. Faison recalls the Howard University Players</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/486553">Tape: 4 Story: 1 - George W. Faison recalls his decision to study the fine arts at Howard University in Washington, D.C.</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/486554">Tape: 4 Story: 2 - George W. Faison recalls the Civil Rights Movement at Howard University</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/486555">Tape: 4 Story: 3 - George W. Faison remembers improving his dance technique at Howard University</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/486556">Tape: 4 Story: 4 - George W. Faison recalls his decision to move to New York City</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/486557">Tape: 4 Story: 5 - George W. Faison remembers joining the Arthur Mitchell Company</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/486558">Tape: 4 Story: 6 - George W. Faison reflects upon his decision to pursue a dance career</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/486559">Tape: 4 Story: 7 - George W. Faison recalls dancing on the 'ABC's Stage 67' program</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/486560">Tape: 4 Story: 8 - George W. Faison describes the dance community in New York City, pt. 1</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/486561">Tape: 4 Story: 9 - George W. Faison describes the dance community in New York City, pt. 2</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/486562">Tape: 4 Story: 10 - George W. Faison recalls the Harlem Youth Opportunities Unlimited program</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/486563">Tape: 5 Story: 1 - George W. Faison remembers Thelma Hill</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/486564">Tape: 5 Story: 2 - George W. Faison describes Alvin Ailey's choreographic style</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/486565">Tape: 5 Story: 3 - George W. Faison recalls his audition for the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/486566">Tape: 5 Story: 4 - George W. Faison recalls touring Europe with the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/486567">Tape: 5 Story: 5 - George W. Faison recalls watching the Civil Rights Movement from Italy</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/486568">Tape: 5 Story: 6 - George W. Faison remembers Alvin Ailey</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/486569">Tape: 5 Story: 7 - George W. Faison recalls lessons from Alvin Ailey</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/486570">Tape: 5 Story: 8 - George W. Faison reflects upon his generation</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/486571">Tape: 5 Story: 9 - George W. Faison recalls the camaraderie of the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/486572">Tape: 6 Story: 1 - George W. Faison recalls his career with the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/486573">Tape: 6 Story: 2 - George W. Faison remembers his interest in choreography</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/486574">Tape: 6 Story: 3 - George W. Faison recalls his decision to leave the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater, pt. 1</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/486575">Tape: 6 Story: 4 - George W. Faison recalls Alvin Ailey's parting advice</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/486576">Tape: 6 Story: 5 - George W. Faison describes his first ballet</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/486577">Tape: 6 Story: 6 - George W. Faison talks about his transition to choreography</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/486578">Tape: 6 Story: 7 - George W. Faison recalls dancing in 'Purlie'</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/486579">Tape: 6 Story: 8 - George W. Faison remembers meeting Miles Davis, pt. 1</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/486580">Tape: 7 Story: 1 - George W. Faison recalls meeting Miles Davis, pt. 2</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/486581">Tape: 7 Story: 2 - George W. Faison recalls choreographing a ballet to Miles Davis' music</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/486582">Tape: 7 Story: 3 - George W. Faison recalls the start of his career as a choreographer</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/486583">Tape: 7 Story: 4 - George W. Faison describes 'Suite Otis'</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/486584">Tape: 7 Story: 5 - George W. Faison talks about licensing his choreography</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/486585">Tape: 7 Story: 6 - George W. Faison remembers Gary DeLoatch</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/486586">Tape: 7 Story: 7 - George W. Faison remembers choreographing Broadway productions</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/486587">Tape: 7 Story: 8 - George W. Faison recalls choreographing 'The Wiz'</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/486588">Tape: 8 Story: 1 - George W. Faison recalls the conception of 'The Wiz'</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/486589">Tape: 8 Story: 2 - George W. Faison remembers the first performances of 'The Wiz'</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/486590">Tape: 8 Story: 3 - George W. Faison describes the development of 'The Wiz'</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/486591">Tape: 8 Story: 4 - George W. Faison remembers the Broadway production of 'The Wiz'</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/486592">Tape: 8 Story: 5 - George W. Faison describes the impact of HIV/AIDS on the theater community</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/486593">Tape: 8 Story: 6 - George W. Faison remembers lessons from his work on 'The Wiz'</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/486594">Tape: 8 Story: 7 - George W. Faison talks about 'The Wiz' movie</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/486595">Tape: 8 Story: 8 - George W. Faison recalls staging musical artists</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/486596">Tape: 8 Story: 9 - George W. Faison remembers writing 'If This Hat Could Talk'</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/486597">Tape: 9 Story: 1 - Slating of George W. Faison's interview, session 2</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/486598">Tape: 9 Story: 2 - George W. Faison recalls the conflict between Charlie Smalls and Gilbert Moses</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/486599">Tape: 9 Story: 3 - George W. Faison describes Hinton Battle's role in 'The Wiz'</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/486600">Tape: 9 Story: 4 - George W. Faison describes the perceptions of African American theater</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/486601">Tape: 9 Story: 5 - George W. Faison describes the influences on his choreography for 'The Wiz'</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/486602">Tape: 9 Story: 6 - George W. Faison recalls being invited to choreograph to 'The Wiz'</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/486603">Tape: 9 Story: 7 - George W. Faison recalls the costuming on 'The Wiz,' pt. 1</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/486604">Tape: 9 Story: 8 - George W. Faison recalls the costuming on 'The Wiz,' pt. 2</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/486605">Tape: 9 Story: 9 - George W. Faison describes the 'Emerald City Ballet (Psst)'</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/486606">Tape: 9 Story: 10 - George W. Faison remembers the success of 'The Wiz'</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/486607">Tape: 10 Story: 1 - George W. Faison recalls the rehearsals for 'The Wiz'</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/486608">Tape: 10 Story: 2 - George W. Faison talks about Stephanie Mills</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/486609">Tape: 10 Story: 3 - George W. Faison describes the cast of 'The Wiz'</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/486610">Tape: 10 Story: 4 - George W. Faison recalls the difficulty of producing a show on Broadway</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/486611">Tape: 10 Story: 5 - George W. Faison recalls the critical response to 'The Wiz'</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/486612">Tape: 10 Story: 6 - George W. Faison remembers negotiating his royalties for 'The Wiz'</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/486613">Tape: 10 Story: 7 - George W. Faison recalls the success of 'The Wiz' at the Tony Awards</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/486614">Tape: 10 Story: 8 - George W. Faison reflects upon his Tony Award for Best Choreography</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/486615">Tape: 11 Story: 1 - George W. Faison talks about the choreographers on Broadway</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/486616">Tape: 11 Story: 2 - George W. Faison recalls his transition to concert staging</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/486617">Tape: 11 Story: 3 - George W. Faison remembers staging Ashford and Simpson</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/486618">Tape: 11 Story: 4 - George W. Faison talks about working with Earth, Wind, and Fire</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/486619">Tape: 11 Story: 5 - George W. Faison remembers 'The Josephine Baker Story'</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/486620">Tape: 11 Story: 6 - George W. Faison recalls writing 'Sing, Mahalia, Sing'</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/486621">Tape: 11 Story: 7 - George W. Faison reflects upon the changes on Broadway</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/486622">Tape: 11 Story: 8 - George W. Faison recalls opening the Faison Firehouse Theater in New York City</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/486623">Tape: 12 Story: 1 - George W. Faison describes his parents' influence on his career</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/486624">Tape: 12 Story: 2 - George W. Faison talks about his admiration of Dorothy Height</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/486625">Tape: 12 Story: 3 - George W. Faison describes his mentors, pt. 1</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/486626">Tape: 12 Story: 4 - George W. Faison talks about Storyville</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/486627">Tape: 12 Story: 5 - George W. Faison describes his mentors, pt. 2</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/486628">Tape: 12 Story: 6 - George W. Faison talks about the novels of Toni Morrison</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/486629">Tape: 12 Story: 7 - George W. Faison talks about black dance</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/486630">Tape: 12 Story: 8 - George W. Faison describes his hopes and concerns for the African American community</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/486631">Tape: 12 Story: 9 - George W. Faison reflects upon his legacy</a>

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

Choreographer and dancer 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

Maker Category
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

Bio Photo
Speakers Bureau Region State

New York

Interview Description
Birth Date

3/6/1931

Birth Place Term
Speakers Bureau Region City

New York

Country

USA

Favorite Food

Berries, Fish

Short Description

Choreographer 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

Timing Pairs
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DAStories

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/351904">Tape: 1 Story: 1 - Slating of Carmen De Lavallade's interview</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/351905">Tape: 1 Story: 2 - Carmen De Lavallade lists her favorites</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/351906">Tape: 1 Story: 3 - Carmen De Lavallade describes her mother's family background, pt. 1</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/351907">Tape: 1 Story: 4 - Carmen De Lavallade describes her mother's family background, pt. 2</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/351908">Tape: 1 Story: 5 - Carmen De Lavallade recalls the impact of her mother's illness</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/351909">Tape: 1 Story: 6 - Carmen De Lavallade describes her father's family background</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/351910">Tape: 1 Story: 7 - Carmen De Lavallade recalls her paternal family's move to Los Angeles, California</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/351911">Tape: 1 Story: 8 - Carmen De Lavallade recalls being raised by her father in Los Angeles, California</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/351912">Tape: 1 Story: 9 - Carmen De Lavallade remembers St. Martha's Church in Vernon, California</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/351913">Tape: 1 Story: 10 - Carmen De Lavallade remembers her childhood holidays</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/351914">Tape: 1 Story: 11 - Carmen De Lavallade describes her cousin, ballerina Janet Collins</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/351915">Tape: 1 Story: 12 - Carmen De Lavallade recalls Janet Collins' early ballet career</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/352165">Tape: 2 Story: 1 - Carmen De Lavallade remembers Janet Collins' duet with Talley Beatty</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/352166">Tape: 2 Story: 2 - Carmen De Lavallade talks about her cousin, Alma Collins</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/352167">Tape: 2 Story: 3 - Carmen De Lavallade recalls Vernon City Elementary School in Vernon, California</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/352168">Tape: 2 Story: 4 - Carmen De Lavallade recalls her activities at Vernon City Elementary School</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/352169">Tape: 2 Story: 5 - Carmen De Lavallade describes the demographics of Vernon City Elementary School</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/352170">Tape: 2 Story: 6 - Carmen De Lavallade remembers her early interest in dancing</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/352171">Tape: 2 Story: 7 - Carmen De Lavallade recalls her dance training with Melissa Blake</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/352172">Tape: 2 Story: 8 - Carmen De Lavallade recalls her time at Los Angeles' Thomas Jefferson High School</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/352173">Tape: 2 Story: 9 - Carmen De Lavallade remembers her high school classmate, O.C. Smith</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/352174">Tape: 2 Story: 10 - Carmen De Lavallade recalls performing 'Scheherazade' at Thomas Jefferson High School</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/352175">Tape: 2 Story: 11 - Carmen De Lavallade remembers her dance training with Lester Horton</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/352176">Tape: 2 Story: 12 - Carmen De Lavallade recalls when Bella Lewitsky left the Lester Horton Dance Theater</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/352177">Tape: 3 Story: 1 - Carmen De Lavallade describes Rudy Gernreich's choreography</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/352178">Tape: 3 Story: 2 - Carmen De Lavallade talks about the Lester Horton Technique</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/352179">Tape: 3 Story: 3 - Carmen De Lavallade recalls performing in Lester Horton's 'Salome'</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/352180">Tape: 3 Story: 4 - Carmen De Lavallade recalls her ballet training with Carmelita Maracci</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/352181">Tape: 3 Story: 5 - Carmen De Lavallade reflects upon the business side of dance</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/352182">Tape: 3 Story: 6 - Carmen De Lavallade remembers Lester Horton's death</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/352183">Tape: 3 Story: 7 - Carmen De Lavallade recalls moving from Los Angeles to New York City</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/352184">Tape: 3 Story: 8 - Carmen De Lavallade recalls being hired as a dancer in 'Carmen Jones'</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/352185">Tape: 3 Story: 9 - Carmen De Lavallade describes the cast and crew of 'Carmen Jones'</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/352186">Tape: 3 Story: 10 - Carmen De Lavallade recalls joining the dance company of 'House of Flowers'</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/352187">Tape: 3 Story: 11 - Carmen De Lavallade recalls performing in 'Yerma'</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/352188">Tape: 3 Story: 12 - Carmen De Lavallade recalls her career path after Lester Horton's death</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/352189">Tape: 4 Story: 1 - Carmen De Lavallade recalls the makeup for Jack Cole's choreography in 'Lydia Bailey'</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/352190">Tape: 4 Story: 2 - Carmen De Lavallade remembers working with choreographer Jack Cole</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/352191">Tape: 4 Story: 3 - Carmen De Lavallade describes Geoffrey Holder's generosity as a husband</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/352192">Tape: 4 Story: 4 - Carmen De Lavallade recalls performing 'A Drum Is a Woman' on live television</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/352193">Tape: 4 Story: 5 - Carmen De Lavallade recalls touring with Alvin Ailey's company in Southeast Asia</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/352194">Tape: 4 Story: 6 - Carmen De Lavallade describes her role in 'Odds Against Tomorrow'</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/352195">Tape: 4 Story: 7 - Carmen De Lavallade recalls her experiences on 'The Ed Sullivan Show'</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/352196">Tape: 4 Story: 8 - Carmen De Lavallade recalls memorable performers from the 1960s</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/352197">Tape: 4 Story: 9 - Carmen De Lavallade remembers learning pointe from Carmelita Maracci</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/352198">Tape: 4 Story: 10 - Carmen De Lavallade describes her transition to acting</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/352199">Tape: 4 Story: 11 - Carmen De Lavallade recalls teaching at New Haven's Yale School of Drama</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/351951">Tape: 5 Story: 1 - Carmen De Lavallade talks about Ballet Tap USA</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/351952">Tape: 5 Story: 2 - Carmen De Lavallade remembers 'The Four Marys'</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/351953">Tape: 5 Story: 3 - Carmen De Lavallade recalls teaching at New Haven's Yale School of Drama</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/351954">Tape: 5 Story: 4 - Carmen De Lavallade describes differences between dancing and acting</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/351955">Tape: 5 Story: 5 - Carmen De Lavallade describes her teaching style</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/351956">Tape: 5 Story: 6 - Carmen De Lavallade recalls understudying as Googie Gomez in 'The Ritz'</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/351957">Tape: 5 Story: 7 - Carmen De Lavallade recalls acting with Christopher Lloyd in 'A Midsummer Night's Dream'</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/351958">Tape: 5 Story: 8 - Carmen De Lavallade talks about playwright Adrienne Kennedy</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/351959">Tape: 5 Story: 9 - Carmen De Lavallade describes her idea for a play</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/351960">Tape: 5 Story: 10 - Carmen De Lavallade remembers her portrayal of Emilia in 'Othello'</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/351961">Tape: 5 Story: 11 - Carmen De Lavallade recalls appearing on 'The Cosby Show'</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/351962">Tape: 5 Story: 12 - Carmen De Lavallade reflects upon aging as a performer</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/351963">Tape: 5 Story: 13 - Carmen De Lavallade recalls choreographing 'Lucia di Lammermoor'</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/351964">Tape: 5 Story: 14 - Carmen De Levallade recalls performing with Benny Goodman and Bill Evans</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/351965">Tape: 5 Story: 15 - Carmen De Lavallade reflects upon teaching at the Yale School of Drama</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/351966">Tape: 6 Story: 1 - Carmen De Lavallade talks about her work with Gus Solomons jr</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/351967">Tape: 6 Story: 2 - Carmen De Lavallade describes her monologue, 'Willie's Lady Sings the Blues'</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/351968">Tape: 6 Story: 3 - Carmen De Lavallade talks about her dramatic monologues</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/351969">Tape: 6 Story: 4 - Carmen De Lavallade talks about learning from one's past</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/351970">Tape: 6 Story: 5 - Carmen De Lavallade reflects upon the world of dance</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/351971">Tape: 6 Story: 6 - Carmen De Lavallade talks about the importance of originality</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/351972">Tape: 6 Story: 7 - Carmen De Lavallade describes how she would like to be remembered</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/351973">Tape: 6 Story: 8 - Carmen De Lavallade reflects upon her life</a>

DASession

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DATape

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DAStory

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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.