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Barbara L. Ciccarelli

dancer, choreographer, and dance teacher, was born in Seattle, Washington, the daughter of Mildred Dill. Her mother tried to enroll the four-year-old Syvilla in ballet classes, but teachers refused her entrance because they were afraid they would lose clientele by admitting an African American student. Her mother then recruited a group of black children interested in learning dance and hired the advanced white ballet students to teach them. At nine Syvilla had private teachers and was on her way to becoming an African American pioneer in ballet and modern dance.

Sensitive throughout her life to discrimination, Fort passed on what she learned to other black children. As a high school freshman, she taught ballet, tap, and modern dance to as many as sixteen children under the age of thirteen for fifty cents a lesson. In 1935 Fort received a scholarship and became the first black ...

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Millery Polyné

dancer and choreographer, was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Little is known of her early life, although she claimed that one of her first memories as a dancer was her playful gyrations on top of a box at her Portsmouth, Virginia, home. A self-proclaimed “born performer” Williams regularly entertained her family, particularly her grandmother, a janitor for a local dance school (Williams Collection). Faced with the realities of a segregated southern community during the 1920s Williams entered through the back door of a dance school to take private ballet lessons at the end of the day from a Russian instructor.

As a young African American ballet dancer in the white ballet world of the 1930s Williams quickly learned that she would be denied access to the premier dance companies in the U S Being brought up in America Williams recalled you were told you were not supposed to be a ...