Essie Marie Dorsey Founds the Essie Marie Dorsey School of Dancing (Philadelphia PA)


Essie Marie Dorsey (1893-1967) She opened her first studio in Philadelphia in her home in 1926.  She moved her school to Broad Street, a major street in Philadelphia some time later.  Dorsey offered classes in ballet, tap, ballroom dance and acrobatics.  She taught ballet, as did Thomas Cannon, a principal dancer with the Littlefield Ballet Company and Philadelphia ballet school operator.  

Originally from Greensboro, North Carolina, Essie Marie Dorsey moved to New York as a child. Dorsey was a fair-skinned Negro who often passed as white or Latina to circumvent racial boundaries. This is how she was able to study dance with the likes of Ruth St. Denis and Ted Shawn at the Billy Pierce Studio. She took private ballet classes with Mikhail Fokine and William Dollar and studied Spanish dance with Angel Cansino. She truly desired a career in ballet, though it was not to be. She eventually performed Mikhail Mordkin’s first American-based company in the mid-1920s, though she was never considered a full company member nor did she perform in the ballet works.

Dorsey decided to teach ballet and Spanish dance because she did not have the opportunities to perform. Besides Sydney King and Marion Cuyjet, Dorsey trained John Hines and Joan Myers Brown, founder and director of the Philadelphia Dance Company (Philadanco). She began a legacy that would contribute tremendously to the African American ballet world.



Mabel Jones Freeman Founds the Studio for Classical Dancing (Washington DC)










Mabel Jones Freeman founded the Studio for Classical Dancing in 1926.


Mabel Jones Freeman (1900-1967) was born in Columbus, Ohio and studied ballet in high school.  Her dance instructor, Maize Rickey, who graduated from the Vestoff-Serova Russian School of Dancing, recommended her to Veronine Vestoff for further training.  Freeman had private lessons and earned a certificate in ballet.  I was unable to discover the reason why Freeman had private lessons.  Freeman went to Europe to study with members of Vestoff’s family.  “While there she was able to cultivate her choreography skills by assisting Veronine’s older brother, Genrich, in developing a ballet about the destruction of the Native American by the white man.”  She returned from Europe and opened a school in Columbus.  She said, “Of course I wanted a career, but at that time there existed no satisfactory opportunities for pursuing it.”  She moved to Washington D. C. because there were more opportunities there as well as students.  She opened her studio of “Classical Dancing” in 1926.  

Mabel Freeman Jones also taught for the recreation department, the District of Columbia public school system and choreographed for the Washington Guild of the National Negro Opera Company.  She instructed many of the District’s future dance teachers and studio owners such as Juanita Jones Goodloe, Adrienne Marshall, Doris Nichols Patterson and Therrell Smith.

(source: Dr. Joselli Audain Deans)



Other Happenings in 1929


  • Feb 9, Teaching theory of evolution was forbidden in Atlanta, Georgia, schools.
  • May 28 US Customs Court created by congress
  • June 20; Mordecai W. Johnson becomes first black president of Howard University
  • Sep 25 Henry Ford announces 8 hour, 5-day work week



  • Mar 6 China asks for a seat in the Security council
  • Mar 15 Belgium’s “black monday”, franc falls
  • June 20; A convention of the Methodist Church votes to allow women to become priests.
    •June 23; The college board administers the first SAT exam in the U.S.A.



Arts and Sciences

  • Jan 26 John Logie Baird gives the first public demonstration of television in his laboratory in London
  • February 8; Disney Brothers Cartoon Studio becomes Walt Disney Studios
  • Mar 16 Robert Goddard launches 1st liquid fuel rocket, goes 184′ (56 meters)
  • April 25; Giacomo Puccini’s opera “Turandot” premieres in Milan
  • June 29; Carter Woodson wins Springarn Medal for research of Black History


Human and Civil Rights

  • Jan 29, Violette Neatley Anderson became the first African-American woman admitted to practice before the U.S. Supreme Court.
  • Feb 7, Negro History Week, originated by Carter G. Woodson, was observed for the first time. The 2nd week in February was declared Negro History Week. Woodson established Negro History week on Feb 19. It later developed into Black History Month. In 1999 the African American Timeline was created for BHM at wanonline.com/blackhistory/1999/tl/html.



  • May 1; Satchel Paige makes pitching debut in Negro Southern League
  • Sep 23 Gene Tunney beats Jack Dempsey in 10 for heavyweight boxing title


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