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H. Wiley Hitchcock

revised by Tim Carter

[‘La Romanina’]

(fl 1582–1620). Italian soprano, lutenist and dancer, wife of Antonio Archilei . Probably a pupil of her husband, whom she married most likely in 1582, she was a protégée of Emilio de' Cavalieri in Rome and was with him in the service of Cardinal Ferdinando de’ Medici before he became Grand Duke of Tuscany in 1587. She participated in the festivities for the wedding of Eleonora de' Medici and Vincenzo Gonzaga in 1584. When Cavalieri was made artistic superintendent at the Medici court in 1588, she went with her husband to Florence, where she became one of the most famous singers of her time. She apparently remained in the service of the Medici until her death.

She had a major part, as soprano soloist and lutenist, in the spectacular ‘intermedii et concerti’ for the comedy La pellegrina during the festivities for the marriage of Ferdinando de' Medici and Christine of Lorraine in ...

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(b Omaha, NE, May 10, 1899; d Beverly Hills, CA, June 22, 1987). American dancer, singer, choreographer, and actor. He began performing at the age of seven with his sister Adele. As a duo they worked in vaudeville from 1906 to 1916 and moved to Broadway in 1917. Starring roles in The Bunch and Judy (1922) and For Goodness Sake (1923) led to Lady, be good! (1924), which marked their arrival as top Broadway stars. During the 1920s several of the Astaires’ successful shows appeared in the West End in London, where the pair enjoyed a cult-like following. After The Band Wagon (1931) Adele retired from the stage to marry an English aristocrat. Astaire appeared in Gay Divorce in New York (1932) and London (1933), before signing a contract with RKO, the smallest major film studio in Hollywood....

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Howard Rye

(b New Orleans, July 31, 1949). American singer and dancer. He majored in theater studies at Xavier University and then studied drama in Europe. On his return to New Orleans he founded the New Experience Theatre and became involved in jazz by conceiving the show One Mo’ Time, which sought to re-create an evening at the city’s Lyric Theater in 1927. The show received its première at the Toulouse Theater, where it eventually ran for six and a half years. In 1979 a One Mo’ Time company opened in New York at the Village Gate Downstairs, where the show ran for 1300 performances. A road company was formed in 1980, and troupes later toured to Britain and Australia. Bagneris himself sang and danced with each of these companies at various times. With choreography by Pepsi Bethel and music by Orange Kellin and the pianist Lars Edegran, the show featured the New Orleans Blue Serenaders, which included Walter Payton on tuba, the drummers John Robichaux and Herlin Riley, and a starring trumpeter, a role played at various times by Jabbo Smith, Bill Dillard, and Franc Williams. Among featured singers were Lillian Boutté, Sandra Reaves Phillips, and Sylvia “Kuumba” Williams. The Village Gate cast with Smith and Williams is heard on the original cast album ...

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(b St. Louis, MO, June 3, 1906; d Paris, France, April 12, 1975). American dancer and singer, naturalized French. She started out dancing on the streets of St. Louis with the Jones Family Band, a vaudeville troupe. After touring the South with the Dixie Steppers, she gained attention in the touring company of Shuffle Along (1921), the most important African American show of the decade. A member of the female dancing chorus, Baker stood out by making faces and embellishing dance moves, mixing comedy with the erotic persona of the black chorus girl. After appearing on Broadway in The Chocolate Dandies (1924) as That Comedy Chorus Girl, Baker travelled to Paris with La revue nègre (1925), a nightclub revue that introduced the new black performance styles of Broadway to French audiences. Her pas de deux “Danse Sauvage,” which she performed with her partner Joe Alex, introduced an explicit eroticism and exuberant physicality which marked Baker’s initial renown. Famously appearing at times with little more than a string of bananas around her waist, she made an impact on French popular culture that was immediate and enduring....

Article

Claude Conyers

[Raymond Wallace]

(b Dorchester, MA, Jan 10, 1904; d Los Angeles, Jan 15, 1987). American dancer and singer in musical theater and films. He claimed to be largely self-taught, although he did attend ballet and tap classes as a young man in Boston. In the early 1920s he began his professional career with a musical comedy repertory group and then spent some years on the vaudeville circuit. At first known as a rubber-legged, “eccentric dancer,” he eventually built a reputation as an elegant tapper, a fine mime, actor, and satirist, and a passable singer. Beginning in 1926, he appeared in more than a dozen Broadway shows. In On Your Toes (1936; music by Richard Rodgers), he danced in the famous number “Slaughter on Tenth Avenue,” choreographed by George Balanchine, and in Where’s Charley? (1948), also staged by Balanchine, he memorably sang and danced to Frank Loesser’s “Once in Love with Amy,” winning a Tony award for his performance. He also appeared in many Hollywood musicals, of which only one took full advantage of his many talents. That was the ...

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Claude Conyers

[John William Sublett]

(b Louisville, KY, Feb 19, 1902; d Baldwin Hills, CA, May 18, 1986). American tap dancer and singer. Nicknamed Bubba (“brother”), he was eleven years old when he met ten-year-old Ford Lee Washington, nicknamed Buck. Both boys were musically talented, and by 1915 they were performing on vaudeville stages as Buck and Bubbles, using a variant of John’s nickname. As a song-and-dance comedy act, the duo performed together for almost fifty years. Both sang and told jokes, Buck played stride piano, and Bubbles tapped. Bubbles is also known for his portrayal of Sportin’ Life in the original production of George Gershwin’s Porgy and Bess (1935) and for his appearances in several Hollywood films, including Varsity Show (1937; music by M.K. Jerome), Cabin in the Sky (1943; music by Vernon Duke), and A Song Is Born (1948; music by Benny Goodman and other jazz instrumentalists). Among dance historians, Bubbles is recognized as the father of “rhythm tap,” which introduced percussive heel drops, turns, and syncopations in the traditional eight-bar phrase, allowing more rhythmic freedom than earlier forms of tap, which emphasized clean phrasing and toe taps. His innovations effectively turned tap into a form of jazz dance. In ...

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John-Carlos Perea

(b Big Cove, Qualla Boundary, NC, May 13, 1918; d Big Cove, March 28, 2012). Native American elder, singer, dancer, banjoist, and teacher. A member of the Cherokee tribe, he was introduced to Cherokee music and dance as a child by his uncle Will West Long, an elder in the Big Cove community and co-author of Cherokee Dance and Drama (Berkeley, 1951, 2/1983). He taught and performed Cherokee music and dance and formed the Raven Rock Dancers in the 1980s. Calhoun is the recipient of numerous awards recognizing his work as a teacher and culture bearer including the first Sequoyah Award in 1988, the North Carolina Folk Heritage Award in 1990, and a National Heritage Fellowship from the National Endowment for the Arts in 1992. He may be heard on such albums as Where the Ravens Roost: Cherokee Traditional Songs of Walker Calhoun (Mountain Heritage Center Recording, ...

Article

Mareia Quintero Rivera

(b San Juan, PR, July 10, 1910; d Carolina, PR, July 21, 1996). American Puerto Rican composer, singer, percussionist, dancer, and drum-maker. A master of traditional bomba and plena, he was one the most prominent figures of Afro-Puerto Rican musical folklore in the 20th century. He is also known for his commitment to passing down these traditions to subsequent generations. Together with his wife, Caridad Brenes, a gifted dancer, he raised a family of skilled practitioners and maintained a lifelong practice of teaching in the community of Villa Palmeras, Santurce, the working-class area where they lived.

Cepeda was a key figure in gaining national and international recognition for Afro-Puerto Rican musical genres. In the 1940s he created an ensemble for radio performances, and he later developed a stage version of bomba, which he presented in San Juan’s major hotels. Several of his compositions were popularized by Ismael Rivera and Rafael Cortijo. Cepeda also developed ties with the Instituto de Cultura Puertorriqueña, founded in ...

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Jonas Westover

(b Santurce, PR, March 7, 1950). Puerto Rican singer, dancer, and entertainer. As a girl she honed her skills with ballet and jazz dance lessons. As a young adult she attended the Universidad de Puerto Rico and soon afterwards began to perform as a singer and to make inroads as a model and a dancer. She quickly became a major star in the Latin music world with her first album, Tú no eres hombre (1971). Within a year she was hosting her own television program, “El show de Iris Chacón,” which ran from 1972 until the mid-1980s, when she abruptly quit. As a media personality, Chacón has repeatedly found ways to market herself and keep her image and voice in the spotlight. She has appeared on film (mostly musicals), television, stage, and radio. Her radio shows, including “Iris Chacón Live” and “Caramelo y chocolate,” have run both in the United States and Puerto Rico. Her most famous song is “Spanish Rocket Ship” (...

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Claude Conyers

(b Geneva, IL, June 22, 1921; d New York, Aug 25, 1980). American dancer, singer, choreographer, and musical theater director. When he was twelve years old, he began studying dance with Ernest Belcher in Los Angeles, training in ballet, acrobatics, tap, and Spanish dance. At fifteen he formed a ballroom dance act with Jeanne Tyler, a fellow student at Hollywood High School, and made his professional début. After several years of touring (1935–42) and a stint in the Coast Guard during World War II, Champion formed a new partnership with Belcher’s daughter Marjorie in 1946. The new partners would later marry and win fame as one of the most popular dancing couples of the late 1940s and 1950s.

Marge and Gower Champion played supper clubs and hotel ballrooms before moving on to Broadway musicals and television variety shows. By the early 1950s they had established a national reputation as a popular song and dance act, and Gower had gained considerable experience as a choreographer. Their successes on stage and television led them, inevitably, back to Hollywood. After appearing as “guest artists” in ...

Article

Kay Edwards

[Robert Timothy; Oou Kas Mah Qwet (Thunder Bear); Red Cedar Whistle]

(b Los Angeles, CA, 1953). Native American flutist, actor, singer, dancer, and educator of Salt River Pima-Maricopa (enrolled) and Dakota descent. Nicknamed Tree for his six foot ten inch height, he is the adopted son of the actor Iron Eyes Cody. Also well known for his work as a master of ceremonies, arena director, and northern traditional dancer on the powwow circuit, he has performed extensively as a flute soloist, singer, and speaker, and collaborated with other musicians as well as his dance troupe, Native Wisdom. Both a tradition bearer as well as a musical innovator, Cody served as an ambassador for the State Department and the US Information Agency and performed extensively for museums, schools, colleges, and reservations nationally and internationally. In the late 1980s and 90s he regularly performed Native American music at Knott’s Berry Farm. He gained wider attention for his participation in the funeral service of Senator Barry Goldwater in ...

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Vera H. Flaig

(b Kan Kan, Guinea, West Africa, 1958). American singer, dancer, and drummer of Guinean birth. As a child, Conde contracted polio, which left him unable to walk by the age of 14. While living with his grandfather in a nearby village, Conde discovered his gift for music. Despite his physical limitations, he learned to dance for his initiation ceremony. From 1984 until 1986, Conde was a member of Bandes 22 de Kan Kan, the official orchestra of Kan Kan. Conde moved to Conakry in 1986 and founded Message de Espior; a traditional dance ensemble of differently-abled Guineans. Since this time Conde has worked as manager of operations for “L’Association nationale de la République de Guinée pour les handicapés.” From 1986 to 1995 Condé was a member of Ballet Communal. In 1987 he joined Conakry’s premiere ballet, Les Merveilles.

Upon his arrival in New York in 1998, Conde founded the drum and dance ensemble ...

Article

John Koegel

(b Vinaroz, Valencia, Spain, Dec 12, 1890/1892; d Mexico City, Mexico, Sept 4, 1978). Spanish singer and dancer. A star performer in the Mexican entertainment world for eight decades, she was an object of intense media attention in the early 20th century because of the sexual innuendo of the songs she sang and her scandalous private life. She was known as La gatita blanca (“the White Kitty”), after her first appearance in Mexico City in November 1907 in the Spanish zarzuela of the same name, and was celebrated for her abilities as a dancer, comedienne, and singer of light music in Mexican musical revues and Spanish zarzuelas. Conesa was censured for obscenity on stage, including for her performances in La gatita blanca. While in New York, around the period 1907–9, she recorded songs from La gatita blanca as well as other theatrical songs. She appeared in Mexican theaters in Los Angeles in the 1920s and 30s, and on the Spanish-language stage in New York. She also appeared in Mexican films in the 1930s and 40s and on Mexican television. Her recordings of zarzuela songs and theatrical couplets were popular in Latin American communities in the United States....

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Barry Kernfeld

(b Smithville, VA, July 18, 1900; d Nov 1967). American clarinetist, singer, and dancer. In his social security application he gave his place of birth as Smithville (not Smithfield, as it has been published elsewhere). At the age of ten he learned clarinet from his father. When his family moved to Philadelphia he formed a band with his brother Jimmy, who played clarinet and saxophone. During the 1920s and 1930s he enjoyed much success with his own variety act; he appeared at the Sunset Café in Chicago and, around 1928, in the show Blackbirds. His best-known recordings are those he made in 1929 and 1930 as the leader of a group which included Jelly Roll Morton. These and his earlier recordings (1927–8), some of which involved Eddie Lang, display a repetitive but striking improvisatory style on clarinet, characterized by conventional blues formulas (sometimes played with a timbre that resembles that of Bubber Miley’s muted trumpet), extended passages of deliberately paced slap-tonguing, and an extraordinary cackling sound. His playing may be heard in all its variety on ...

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Olive Baldwin and Thelma Wilson

(?bap. Dorking, March 6, 1682; d London, April 4, 1737). English singer, actress and dancer. Miss Cross was ‘the girl’ in Purcell’s theatre company in the last few months of his life, when he wrote several songs for her, including ‘I attempt from love’s sickness’ (in The Indian Queen), ‘Man is for the woman made’ (The Mock Marriage) and ‘From rosy bowers’ (The Comical History of Don Quixote, part iii). Daniel Purcell and Jeremiah Clarke later wrote for her. A pert and lively personality is indicated by the prologues and epilogues she delivered and her acting roles such as Hoyden in John Vanbrugh’s The Relapse. In 1698 she apparently received 500 guineas for sexual services to Peter the Great during his London visit, and later went to France with ‘a certain baronet’. She returned to sing in the first English opera in the Italian style, ...

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Olive Baldwin and Thelma Wilson

[Moll]

(b c1650; d London, bur. Feb 24, 1708). English soprano, dancer and actress. From her first appearance on the stage as a girl in the early 1660s Mary Davis was particularly praised, by Pepys and others, for her dancing. Late in 1667 her singing of ‘My lodging it is on the cold ground’ so attracted Charles II that it ‘Rais’d her from her Bed on the Cold Ground, to a Bed Royal’. As his mistress she sang and danced at court, appearing in John Crowne’s masque Calisto in 1675 and singing Venus in Blow’s Venus and Adonis, in which her daughter by the king, Lady Mary Tudor, was Cupid. In 1686 she married the French-born composer and woodwind player James Paisible.

BDA DNB (J. Knight) LS J. Downes: Roscius Anglicanus (London, 1708); ed. J. Milhous and R.D. Hume (London, 1987) J.H. Wilson: All the King’s Ladies...

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John Behling

(b New York, NY, Dec 8, 1925; d Beverly Hills, CA, May 16, 1990). American singer, dancer, and actor. Widely regarded as one of the greatest entertainers of his time, he sang, danced, acted, played several instruments, performed comic impersonations, and excelled at the variety entertainment format popular in American vaudeville, nightclubs, and television. His parents were vaudeville dancers frequently on tour, so Davis spent his earliest years with his grandmother. In 1928 his father took Davis on the road, where he made his debut with Will Mastin’s vaudeville review as Silent Sam, the Dancing Midget. Although he began as a dancer, as his talent and reputation grew he incorporated songs and comic impersonations into his act. His final public performance was in 1989 on a television special, The 60th Anniversary Salute to Sammy Davis, Jr. Throughout his long career Davis performed many styles of music, but he is best known for his jazz-influenced performances of Broadway show tunes. He was a member of the Rat Pack, which included Frank Sinatra and Dean Martin, and together they set the standard for nightclub-style performance before the dominance of rock and roll....

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Olive Baldwin and Thelma Wilson

(b Vienna, Jan 17, 1775; d Addleston, Surrey, Sept 3, 1838). English actress, singer, and dancer . Her father, an orchestral flute player, brought his family to London and she danced on stage as a child, gradually taking juvenile acting and singing parts. From 1790 she built up a repertory of roles in musical pieces, an early success being Macheath in a travesty Beggar’s opera. Hard-working, intelligent and lively, she had parts in many operas by Storace and Kelly. C. H. Wilson wrote, ‘she sings so well, acts so well, dances so well, and looks so well, that she is deservedly a great favourite of the town’. After marrying Charles Kemble in 1806 she generally acted with him but made few appearances after 1813.

BDA DNB (J. Knight) LS ‘Miss De Camp’, Thespian Magazine, 3 (1794),79–80 C. H. Wilson: The Myrtle and Vine (London, 1802) R. Fiske...

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James R. Anthony

(b 1718; d Paris, after 1775). French composer, dancer, ?singer and harpsichordist. In his contemporary manuscript, Notices sur les oeuvres de théâtre, the Marquis d'Argenson commented that Duval, ‘une jeune fille de l'Opéra’, was 18 in 1736 when she composed Les Génies, ou Les caractères de l'Amour. Fétis gave 1769 as her death date; Choron identified her as a ‘singer at the Paris Opéra’ and claimed that she was ‘still living in 1770’; the Anecdotes dramatiques for 1775 referred to her as a ‘former actress at the Opéra’ and included a ‘Mlle Duval’ as a supernumerary among the dancers.

Duval was best known as the composer of Les Génies, ou Les caractères de l'Amour (libretto by Fleury [de Lyon]), a ballet-héröique in a prologue and four entrées (printed in Paris about 1736). The dedication page reveals that the Prince of Carignan was her ‘Protecteur’. Les Génies...