1-20 of 23 results  for:

Clear all

Image

Josephine Baker Photograph by Carl Van Vechten, 1949. Courtesy of the Library of Congress (LC-USZ62-93000).

Article

Baker, Josephine (03 June 1906–12 April 1975), dancer, singer, and civil rights activist, was born in St. Louis, Missouri, the daughter of Eddie Carson, a musician, and Carrie Macdonald. Her parents parted when Josephine was still an infant, and her mother married Arthur Martin, which has led to some confusion about her maiden name. Very little is known about her childhood, except that she was a witness to the East St. Louis riot in 1917. This event was often a feature of her talks in the 1950s and 1960s about racism and the fight for equality, which fostered the oft-repeated assertion that the family was resident in East St. Louis. Before the age of eighteen Josephine had been married twice, first to Willie Wells and then to William Baker, to whom she was married in Camden, New Jersey, in September 1921....

Image

Sammy Davis, Jr. Photograph by Carl Van Vechten, 1956. Courtesy of the Library of Congress (LC-USZ62-114446).

Article

Davis, Sammy, Jr. (08 December 1925–16 May 1990), variety performer and entertainer, was born in Harlem, New York, the son of Sammy Davis, Sr., an African-American dancer, and Elvera “Baby” Sanchez, a Puerto Rican chorus girl, both in Will Mastin’s Holiday in Dixieland...

Article

Duport, Pierre Landrin (1762?–11 April 1841), dancing master and composer of dance music, was born in Paris, France, into a family named Landrin. His father, whose first name is unknown, was a dancing master and choreographer who Duport claimed had taught cotillions to the “late royal family.” ...

Article

Groody, Louise (26 March 1897–16 September 1961), musical comedy dancer and singer, was born in Waco, Texas, the daughter of Thomas J. Groody and Irene Ingraham. She spent her early years in Atlantic City, New Jersey, with dancing lessons as her principal education. While still a child Groody began winning contests at the carnivals on the city’s Steel Pier and at the age of fourteen began dancing professionally in vaudeville. Later she joined the chorus of ...

Article

Haley, Jack (10 August 1899–06 June 1979), comedian, singer, and dancer, was born John Haley in Boston, Massachusetts, the son of John Haley, a ship’s navigator, and Ellen Curley. Haley’s desire to be in show business began in childhood, when he appeared in a church entertainment at the age of six. After completing his schooling at Boston English High School, he became an apprentice electrician at his mother’s urging. As soon as he had saved up some of his apprentice earnings, however, he left to make his way on the stage....

Article

See Herman, Michael

Article

Herman, Michael (1911–03 May 1996), and Mary Ann Herman (1912–24 March 1992), folk music and folk dance teachers, were born into urban immigrant communities in Cleveland, Ohio, and New York City, respectively. Little is known about Michael's early life, except that he was of Ukrainian descent. Mary Ann Bodnar, the daughter of Matwey and Anna Bodnar, grew up in a New York City ghetto that reflected a melding of many different cultures. She attended a Ukrainian neighborhood school. After graduating from James Monroe High School, she attended several colleges in the New York area but never received a degree. She became a dancing performer in her neighborhood Ukrainian folk group and launched her folk dance teaching career at the YMCA....

Article

Horst, Louis (12 January 1884–23 January 1964), composer, arranger, dance critic and pedagogue, and publisher, was born in Kansas City, Missouri, the son of German immigrants Conrad Horst, a cornet player, and Corline “Lena” Nickell. Horst’s family traveled to San Francisco, California, in 1893, where Louis studied violin and piano. From about 1900 to 1914 he worked as a pianist in pit orchestras and for silent films. While working at a summer resort he met and subsequently married in 1910 eighteen-year-old Bessie (called Betty) Cunningham. They had no children. In 1911 they went to New York City, where he continued to work as a part-time musician and studied composition and piano, but they returned to San Francisco by 1914....

Article

Jefferson, Eddie (03 August 1918–09 May 1979), jazz singer, lyricist, and tap dancer, was born Edgar Jefferson in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Information about his parents is unknown. It is known that he started dancing around age eight. He also played tuba in a school band and taught himself guitar and drums, experiences that later gave his singing a firm musical foundation. In Pittsburgh he was accompanied by pianist ...

Article

Lewis, Ted (06 June 1890–25 August 1971), entertainer, musician, and bandleader, was born Theodore Leopold Friedman in rural Circleville, Ohio, the son of an owner of a dry goods store whose name cannot be ascertained. Young Theodore began his show business career performing in a nickelodeon in his hometown and learned to play the clarinet in his school band. As a beginning clarinetist, Lewis was something of a prodigy. Although he was never regarded seriously as a musician, he played easily and improvised naturally. Having no desire to go into the dry goods business and still in his teens, he went to Columbus, Ohio, where for a time he demonstrated instruments in a music store. His freewheeling improvisations amused customers but eventually caused him to lose the job....

Article

Luahine, Iolani (31 January 1915–10 December 1978), kuma hula (hula master teacher), dancer, and chanter, kuma hula (hula master teacher), dancer, and chanter, was born Harriet Lanihau Makekau at Napoopoo near Kealakekua Bay on Hawaii (meaning the Big Island), the daughter of Manasseh Makekau and Koolani (maiden name unknown). In the traditional belief that the exchange of children strengthened ...

Article

Mills, Florence (25 January 1895–01 November 1927), entertainer, was born Florence Winfree in Washington, D.C., the daughter of John Winfree, a carpenter, and Nellie Simons, who did laundry. Educated locally, by age five Mills was winning contests in cakewalking and buck dancing. Her first professional engagement came as Baby Florence Mills in the second company (1902) of the Williams-Walker ...

Article

Miranda, Carmen (09 February 1909–05 August 1955), star of stage, screen, and recordings, was born Maria do Carmo Miranda da Cunha in Marco de Canaveses, a small town in Portugal, the daughter of Jose Maria Pinto da Cunha, a barber, and Maria Emilia Miranda. Her father immigrated to Brazil in 1909, and the family followed when Miranda was three. “Carmen,” as she was always called, grew up in Rio’s Lapa waterfront district, a haven for sailors and prostitutes. At a convent school Miranda became interested in singing. She later told interviewers, “From a very early age, I knew I felt the need to be in show business.” When Olinda, the eldest daughter, died in 1923, Miranda quit school to work as a window decorator and as a salesclerk in a hat shop. She learned broken English from watching American movies, especially westerns. She modeled hats and began making them for society clients....

Article

Nikolais, Alwin (25 November 1910–08 May 1993), choreographer, designer, and composer, was born in Southington, Connecticut, the son of John Nikolais and Martha Heinrich. From an early age he studied music. During his high school years he was an organ accompanist for silent films at the Westport Movie House. In 1929 he graduated from Lewis High School in Southington....

Article

Parker, H. T. (29 April 1867–30 March 1934), dance, music, and theater critic, was born Henry Taylor Parker in Boston, the son of William Fisk Parker and Susan Sophia Taylor Parker, whose occupations are unknown. He entered Harvard University in 1886 but apparently left in 1889 without graduating. He was immediately attracted to the writing of criticism and acquired the dual position of New York correspondent of the ...

Article

Rooney, Pat (04 July 1880–09 September 1962), vaudeville, musical theater, and nightclub performer, was born Patrick James Rooney, Jr., in New York City, the son of Patrick James Rooney, Sr., and Josie Granger, entertainers. His mother had danced in the chorus of The Black Crook...

Article

Stratton, Eugene (08 May 1861–15 September 1918), music hall artiste, was born Eugene Augustus Ruhlmann in Buffalo, New York, the son of George Ruhlmann, an Alsatian saloonkeeper, and his wife Mary (maiden name unknown). Stratton’s American career was typical of its era. In later life he recalled attending the Christian Brothers school and working as a telegraph messenger, practicing acrobatics and dancing “five or six hours daily” (quoted in Barker). At age ten he teamed up with “a great big fellow” named Lesley, who would toss him around during their burnt-cork act, “The Big and the Little of It,” at Dan Shelby’s Saloon. Stratton next soloed as Master Jean, dancer and tumbler, and by age thirteen reckoned he had become “something of a champion in a small way.” Before he was fifteen he had played in a ...

Article

See Williams, Bert