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Monday, April 21, 2008

Fly Girl of the Week: Janet Collins (March 7, 1917 - May 28, 2003)

A girl who doesn’t compromise her morals and her beliefs makes them truly a fly girl. Janet Collins is billed as the first African American prima ballerina. Born in New Orleans in 1917, Collins studied toe dancing since the age of 10.

“You would make a wonderful character,” said the choreographer of the Ballet Russa de Monte Carlo, to the ambitious teenager. “The only trouble is,” the choreographer continued, “in order for you to belong to the company, I would have to paint you white. You wouldn’t like that, would you?”

“No, I wouldn’t want that,” was Collins response to her Monsieur choreographer. Collins was so talented and skilled that others would want the very fair-skinned Collins, in her natural beautiful color. Trained in modern dance and ballet, Collins gained popularity as a theater and concert performer, in the 1940s she appeared in the Hall Johnson’s Run, Little Chillun and studied under Katherine (Queen Mother of Black Dance) Dunham.

In 1951, she became the first Black artist to perform on the stage of the Metropolitan Opera House. Starring in the production of Cole Porter's Out of This World, Collins won the Donaldson Award, signifying the best dancer on Broadway. She remained with the Met until 1954, dancing in Carmen, Aida, La Gioconda and Samson and Delilah, after which she toured the United States and Canada in solo dance concerts. She retired and resided in Seattle, Ms. Janet Collins died in June 2003 in Forth Worth, Texas.


“Seldom indeed is anyone able to convey meaning and mood as does Miss Collins," said the Los Angeles Daily News, "for not only is her pantomime telling, her grace matchless, but she has the rare talent, even in her almost stylized numbers, of reaching out to her audience and making them share emotions that her characters are portraying.”

1 comment:

4realwomenfilm said...

I just wanted to make readers of this blog aware of a documentary film being made on Miss Collins. If you care to find out more, you can either search Janet Collins documentary on youtube. Or visit the site I've developed for the film, www.todancefilm.com. Thank you! MJ