Sandra Fortune-Green remembers rushing over for class after school let out, setting every hair in place and pulling on pink tights and a black leotard to submit to the vigilant eyes of her teachers, Doris Jones and Claire Haywood. They demanded not only unparalleled technique, but also discipline, manners and impeccable grooming.
The renowned ballet school celebrates its 70th anniversary this year with a series of events culminating in a May 15 gala. At its inception, the school was among a few in the country instructing primarily African-American young ladies in classical technique. George Balanchine was known to visit or send scouts to recruit for his School of American Ballet. And, in 1961, Jones and Haywood founded the first African-American ballet company, the Capitol Ballet, seven years before Arthur Mitchell created Dance Theatre of Harlem.

 

Fortune-Green has led Jones Haywood School of Dance as artistic director since 2006, following Jones’ death (Haywood died in 1978). Recalling the women who trained her for the 1973 Second International Ballet Competition in Moscow, where she was the first African American competing, she says: “When you walked through the door, it was about standards. You couldn’t be late. You could not come here without any part of your dance attire.” That still holds today.

 

Besides Fortune-Green, who performed guest stints with the Royal Winnipeg and Santo Domingo ballets and made a career with Mary Day’s Washington Ballet, other alums include Broadway dancer/choreographer Hinton Battle; former Royal Netherlands Ballet principal Sylvester Campbell; former DTH principal and now director Virginia Johnson; and former Philadanco dancer Kim Bears-Bailey. But Jones-Haywood didn’t just produce fine dancers. The roster boasts professionals of all stripes.

 

“Miss Jones, who was a wonderful ballet dancer from Boston, couldn’t perform professionally because she was black. And we knew that,” says one-time student and Capitol Ballet dancer Lauri Fitz-Pegado, now a partner at a government relations and public affairs firm. “She had a real compassion and passion that came through. Miss Haywood was the hard-driving, tough one. She used a cane and sometimes it flew across the room.”

 

A retired university administrator and a student from 1944 to 1952, Adrienne Price remembers one of the best dancers at the school: “There was the A student and then there was Conchita. She was above and beyond.” That would be Chita Rivera, who went on to the School of American Ballet before taking over Broadway.

 

By the time Miss Jones died at 92 in 2006, the studio had lost some of its gloss, according to Fortune-Green, then a longtime teacher in DC’s public arts academy, Duke Ellington School for the Arts. She was determined to return the school to its legacy of excellence.

 

“To me, more is not necessarily better,” she says. “I work very hard to track kids according to ability, to have a quality product.” She presently oversees about 80 students in an expanded curriculum that includes modern, tap and jazz.

 

Renee Robinson, an alum who has danced with Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater since 1981, says, “When I work with young people now, the two most important things I do—instilling discipline, whether they become dancers or not, and confidence—I learned at Jones Haywood.” DT


 

Lisa Traiger writes on dance from the Washington, DC, area.

 

Photo: Sandra Fortune-Green corrects a student (by Roy Volkman, courtesy of Jones Haywood School of Dance)

Show Comments ()
Photo by Collette Mruk, courtesy of Goodwin

One of the most beautiful and challenging aspects of the art of dance is its constant evolution. Dancers push their bodies relentlessly to master their craft, and with this increase in output, the risks to their bodies are higher than ever before. Dancers are athletes. Period. Yet while other sports have scientifically tested standards of training, a gap of governance in dance has resulted in twice as many injuries from the knee down as football.

Keep reading... Show less

Looking for your next audition shoe? Shot at and in collaboration with Broadway Dance Center, Só Dança has launched a new collection of shoes working with some pretty famous faces of the musical theater world! Offered in two different styles and either 2.5" or 3" heels, top industry professionals are loving how versatile and supportive these shoes are! Pro tip: The heel is centered under the body so you can feel confident and stable!

Dance Teacher Tips
Business major Nick Silverio found his dance community in Arts House Dance Company, UPenn's student-run company. Photo by Kevin Wang, courtesy of Silverio

When Nick Silverio was a senior in high school, he struggled to choose between dance and more academic pursuits. "I was torn," he says. On one hand, he wanted to perform professionally—but on the other, he was interested in business and entrepreneurship. After winning acceptances to both top-tier BFA programs and academic schools, he had a choice to make. "The deciding factor was that I didn't need a formal major to be able to dance," he says.

Keep reading... Show less

Schedules, routines, parents, music and so much more—there's plenty on your plate already. Why mess with the headache of collecting orders and cash if you don't have to? MoveU can take that off of your hands entirely with their Online Stores. Create beautiful one-of-a-kind designs with their designers and watch your store come to life! How much does the set-up cost? Nothing! In fact, you earn 10% back on all orders your dancers make in that store.

How do you start? MoveU has three handy steps to help you begin!

Keep reading... Show less
Dance Teachers Trending

Oh, dance teachers, you are a talented, organized and slightly insane bunch, and we ABSOLUTELY love you for it! Here are 12 things only dance teachers will relate to. Check 'em out!

Keep reading... Show less
Showstopper's National Finals Opening Number Performance

Showstopper has been making its impact on the dance world since 1978. Before then, dancers didn't have a stage to perform on, the opportunity to learn from peers, or a competitive outlet like most sports. Debbie Roberts recognized this missing piece in the dance community and that is how America's first and longest running dance competition, Showstopper, was born. Debbie taught dance for over 26 years and owned and operated her own dance studio for 20 years. She is now the owner and National Director of Showstopper, along side her husband, Dave Roberts. Dancer, teacher, business owner, author, and mother, Debbie has made dance her life's career.

Keep reading... Show less
Dance Teacher Tips

Everyone in my dance class can get to at least 90 degrees in their développé with the correct placement, and a few of them can get to 120 degrees with the correct placement. I can only get my legs to about 45 degrees to the front and side before my teachers tell me that my placement is incorrect. How do I get my développés to consistently be at least 90 degrees and keep my placement correct?

Keep reading... Show less
Dance Teacher Tips

Dancing with your hair down is a unique skill that doesn't come naturally to all dancers. For some, hair in the face can throw everything off. It can feel like a wild animal has landed on your head, impairs your vision and occasionally smacks your face and ends up in your mouth. But despite looking to be a spontaneous choice, dancing sans hair security needs to be practiced to look natural.

Keep reading... Show less

Sponsored

Videos

Sponsored

mailbox

Get DanceTeacher in your inbox

Win It!

Sponsored