Happy 80th Birthday Nichelle Nichols! Ms. Nichols was born on December 28, 1932 in Robbins, IL and in this 1961 photo, Ms. Nichols rehearses a dance number with some of the cast from “Kicks and Co.,” a 1961 musical satire about segregation that was directed at one point by Lorraine Hansberry and produced by her husband). Although the show had major financial backing, an “all-star interracial cast” (Burgess Meredith, Lonnie Sattin, Vi Velasco) and success in Chicago, it never made it to Broadway as planned. Photo via The New York Public Library.
Janet Collins, the first Black prima ballerina at The Metropolitan Opera in her dressing room on the night of her debut, November 11, 1951. Ms. Collins, a cousin of Carmen de Lavallade, performed Giuseppe Verdi’s “Aida” that night. She died in 2003 at the age of 86.
Jacquie “Tajah” Murdock is 82 and was a dancer at the Apollo Theater when she was 17-years-old. Today, she is the oldest model in Lanvin’s fall campaign, which features real people. Ms. Murdock told Ari Seth Cohen (who runs a fabulous blog featuring stylish older women called “Advanced Style) “This campaign is a dream come true. I grew up in Harlem always wanting to be a model, but in my day there were very little opportunities for women of color to work in fashion. At 18 I went from agent to agent looking for jobs, even as a hand model. I have finally made it and I will never give up. Hopefully some day I will get to Paris!”
“Jean Idelle was one of the most sort after Exotic Dancers of her time. Ms. Idelle studied dance at the Katherine Dunham School of Dance in New York City. After a brief stint in Dunham’s experiemental troupe, Ms. Idelle was discovered and made a headliner for Minsky’s Burlesque Shows between 1950 to 1964. Ms. Idelle made her mark by performing in White and Black Shows across the U.S. and Canada. Ms. Idelle’s legacy was that she broke the color barrier in many night clubs across the U.S. and Canada. “
Who’s ready to hit the beach? This trio of Katherine Dunham dancers (Jacqueline Walcott, Frances Taylor and Lou Camacho) are dancing on the beach in Copenhagen after a day of rehearsals in 1952. This photo appeared in the August 7, 1952 issue of Jet.
Margot Webb, a Cotton Club dancer (circa 1934) who gained even more notoriety as a ballroom dancer with her partner Harold Norton. They performed as “Norton and Margot” in the 1930s and 1940s. Brenda Dixon Gottschild (Amel Larrieux’s mother) has a wonderful book, Waltzing in the Dark: African American Vaudeville and Race Politics in the Swing Era, with a wealth of information on their career. Photo: Harry Possner via AmericanMemorabilia.com