Negro Dance Theater is founded

Negro Dance Theater (NDT) was founded by an Englishman from Cheltenham, Aubrey Hitchins (1906-1969), in New York City in 1954. This all-male group performed ballet, modern, and what Hitchins called “primitive dance.”

The dancers of the Negro Dance Theater had different levels of training but were said to be all very athletic. The company was well received at Jacob’s Pillow for two summers. The first summer, the company performed Italian Concerto with music by Johann Sebastian Bach and choreography by Hitchins, and the second year they performed four ballets: Italian Concerto, Ode (also choreographed by Hitchens), Outlook For Three (Dania Krupska), and Gotham Suite (Tony Charmoli). Standout dancers included Bernard Johnson (New York Negro Ballet), Charles Moore (Katherine Dunham Dance Company, Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater, Charles Moore Dance Theatre), Anthony Basse (New York Negro Ballet, Les Ballets Trockadero de Monte Carlo), and Nat Horne (Broadway and jazz dancer). Other members were Normon DeJoie, Frank Glass, Charles Martin, Jimmy McMillan, Carson Moore, Charles Queenan, Albert Rivera, James Smith, and Edward Walrond. 


Dr. Joselli Audain Deans
Program from the Ninth Week of the 1955 Jacob’s Pillow Dance Festival, Jacob’s Pillow Dance Archives
Program from the Eighth Week of the 1954 Jacob’s Pillow Dance Festival, Jacob’s Pillow Dance Archives

Delores Browne, John Jones, and Billy Wilson perform in Antony Tudor’s Offenbach in the Underworld

Antony Tudor’s Offenbach in the Underworld was first performed at the Philadelphia Convention Hall on May 8, 1954.

Jacques Offenbach’s original operetta premiered in 1858. While Offenbach’s piece was based on Greek mythology, Antony Tudor’s ballet is a “humorous story about the flirtatious interactions among celebrities at a 1870s French cafe, [and] is filled with colorful characters and costumes. It culminates with a sultry and exhilarating chorus line of high kicking known as the ‘can-can.’” The ballet has been performed by American Ballet Theatre, Joffrey Ballet, Ballet West, and National Ballet of Canada.

Both John Jones and Billy Wilson were members of Offenbach in the Underworld’s original 1954 cast. Delores Browne also performed in the ballet in 1954.


Orpheus in the Underworld, Antony Tudor
Orpheus in the Underworld, Wikipedia

Other Happenings in 1954

Ballet/Dance History

Dec 30: House of Flowers premieres on Broadway. The cast includes Carmen de Lavallade, Geoffrey Holder, Louis Johnson, Arthur Mitchell, Glory Van Scott, Alvin Ailey, Donald McKayle, and Walter Nicks.

American History

Feb 2: President Eisenhower reports detonation of first H-bomb (completed in 1952).
Feb 23: First mass inoculation against polio with Salk vaccine (Pittsburgh).
Feb 18: The first Church of Scientology is established in Los Angeles, California.
Mar 15: CBS Morning Show premieres with Walter Cronkite & Jack Paar.
Apr 1: US Air Force Academy is established.
Apr 25: Bell labs announces the first solar battery made from silicon.
Jun 17: Televised McCarthy hearings end.
Jul 12: President Eisenhower puts forward a plan for an interstate highway system.
Aug 24: US President Eisenhower signs Communist Control Act, outlawing the Communist Party, at height of McCarthyism.
Dec 23: The first human kidney transplant is performed by Dr. Joseph E. Murray at Peter Bent Brigham Hospital in Boston, Massachusetts.

World History

May 24: German airline Lufthansa forms.
Jul 12: ANC President Albert Luthuli banned by South African Minister of Justice from attending public gatherings and confined to the magisterial district of Lower Tugela, Natal.
Aug 1: In South Africa, the Natives Resettlement Act empowers the government to remove Africans from any area within and next to the magisterial district of Johannesburg; less than a year after the Act is passed, Sophiatown residents are forcefully removed to Meadowlands in Soweto.
Oct 1: British colony of Nigeria becomes a federation.
Dec 10: Albert Schweitzer receives Nobel Peace Prize.

Art & Sciences

Jan 17: Jacques Cousteau’s first network telecast airs on Omnibus (CBS).
Feb 1: Scapino Ballet Studio in Amsterdam is destroyed by fire.
Apr 5: Elvis Presley records his debut single “That’s All Right.”
Mar 25: 26th Academy Awards—From Here to Eternity wins best film, William Holden & Audrey Hepburn win best actor/actress.
May 13: Pajama Game opens at St James Theater NYC for 1063 performances.
Jul 28: On the Waterfront, directed by Elia Kazan and starring Marlon Brando and Eva Marie Saint, is released (wins Best Picture 1955).
Sept 17: The Lord of the Flies by William Golding is published by Faber & Faber in London.
Sept 27: Steve Allen’s Tonight Show premieres.
Sept 29: A Star is Born, starring Judy Garland & James Mason, premieres.
Oct 28: Nobel Prize for Literature is awarded to Ernest Hemingway.
Dec 30: House of Flowers opens at Alvin Theater NYC for 165 performances.

Human & Civil Rights

Jan 20: The National Negro Network is established with 40 charter member radio stations.
May 17: US Supreme Court unanimously rules on Brown v. Topeka Board of Education, reversing the 1896 “separate but equal” Plessy v. Ferguson decision.
Aug 18: James E. Wilkins is the first Black person to attend a US cabinet meeting.
Aug 19: Ralph J. Bunche named undersecretary of UN.
Sept 7: Integration begins in Washington DC & Baltimore, MD public schools.


Apr 13: Milwaukee Braves’ Hank Aaron’s first game.
Mar 19: The first televised boxing prize fight in color airs.
Sept 14: Giants’ Willie Mays gets 82nd extra-base hit, breaks Mel Ott’s record.

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