MARION D. CUYJET AND HER JUDIMAR SCHOOL OF DANCE: Training Ballerinas in Black Philadelphia 1948-1971

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This publication documents the work of pioneering ballet pedagogue Marion D. Cuyjet and presents a historical and descriptive study of her teaching career and school within its sociocultural context.


“Through the pages of this enjoyable and well-researched book, [the author] allowed me to look back and consider all that I have learned from pioneers like Marion Cuyjet—lessons about the determination one needs to pursue a passion through difficulty and adversity and the manner in which one person can make a difference in the life of a community. “-Prof. Lynnette Young Overby, University of Delaware

“…support publication of this important work of dance (and urban studies) scholarship. Your extensive research and clear writing have resulted in an enormous contribution to dance history…”-Prof. Barbara Cohen-Stratyner, Curator of Exhibitions, New York Public Library for the Performing Arts

“Dance personalities and dance institutions from Philadelphia such as Judith Jamison, Delores Brown Ableson, John Jones, Arthur Hall, Joan Myers Brown, and others who were influenced by or allied with Ms. Cuyjet are also discussed. This work represents an important source for future writers interested in continuing the story of African American participation in concert and theater dance from the city of Philadelphia. Their stories need to be told.”-Prof. Beverly A. Barber, Florida A&M University

Table of Contents

Lynette Young Overby



1. Beginnings and Inspiration to Dance
Early Life
Essie Marie Dorsey
Student to Teacher

2. Teaching Approach
Developmental Experience
Teacher Preparation
Teaching Activity
Pedagogical Foundation
Fundamental Teaching Approach
Documentation and Analysis of a Ballet Class: Structure and Delivery

3. Judimar Era (1948–1971)
State of Black Philadelphia: Economics, Education, Politics, Social and Cultural Life, and Race Relations
Black Philadelphia’s Cultural Arts Organizations and Institutions:
Philadelphia Concert Orchestra and the Dra Mu Opera Company, Heritage House, Freedom Theatre, Ile Ife Black Humanitarian Center, and Philadanco
State of Dance Education
Early Dance Educators
Second Generation Leaders: Sydney Gibson King and John Hines
Third Generation Leaders: Joan Myers Brown, Arthur Hall, Ione Nash, and Eazell Stephens

4. Judimar School of Dance (1948–1971)
Historical Background
Organizational Structure
Strategies for Survival
Performance Outlets
Former Students; Ramification of the Legacy Delores Browne Abelson, Donna Lowe Warren, Judith Jamison, and Elmer “Skeets” Ball

5. Conclusion and Postscript

Appendix A: Definitions of Terms and Glossary of Ballet Terms

Appendix B: Listing of Selected Former Judimar Students

Appendix C: Marion D. Cuyjet’s Résumé (1970)
Example of Judimar Summer Day School Announcement

References Cited


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