Josephine Baker 1906-1975, Missouri native, known world-wide for her flamboyancy and larger than life personality, famous mainly for her work mainly in Paris
Alvin Ailey 1931-1989 Founded the Alvin Ailey Dance Theatre, New York City, Activist, Choreographer (Photo credit: Evaf-Maze)
Katherine Dunham 1909-2006, American dancer, choreographer, author, educator and social activist. Directed her own dance company for many years.
Janet Collins 1917-2003, Metropolitan Opera Prima Ballerina 1951-54, Choreographer, studied Hebrew music with composer Ernest Bloch, dance student of greats such as Katherine Dunham, Doris Humphrey & Lester Horton
Fayard Nicholas 1914-2006 and Harold Nicholas 1921-2000 Better known as the Nicholas Brothers. Wowed people with their “flash dancing” and highly energetic tap dance productions, said to be the greatest tap dancers of their day, famous for “Jumpin’ Jive (with the Cab Calloway Orchestra) and the film Stormy Weather
Tap, Tip of the Toes or Trailblazer, these artists were extraordinary people on and off stage. Most of them were civil rights activists and teachers as well as dancers and choreographers. Some even starred in major film productions.
This is a tribute to those paving the way in dance back in the day. They opened doors, literally, and broke down barriers to earning a living for African Americans in this form of entertainment so that those like me can benefit from having so many possibilities today. So, here are my top 5/6 greats that have influenced me and that have made dance such a fascinating art form to teach and study. Did any of these make your top 5? Click the gallery pictures to read about these iconic artists and leave a comment to let me know.