Ward Flemying founds Ballet Americana/New York Negro Ballet

Ward Flemying with the financial support of Lucy Thorndike and Theodore Handcock created Ballet Americana. The original members were Thelma Hill, Anthony Base, Charles Neal, Elizabeth (Betty Ann) Thompson and Cleo Quitman. One of their earliest performances was at the Brandon House in 1954, however the company in full gave it’s first official performance at the Seventh Annual Choreographers Night Presented by the New York Ballet Cub, May 19th 1957.

Flyer for New York Negro Ballet

August 1957 the company embarked on tour to England and Scotland, now renamed the New York Negro Ballet, as the presenter wanted to make certain that audiences knew what they were coming to see, they were billed as “America’s most Novel and Exotic Company”. The Company traveled to New Castle Edinburgh, Sheffield, Liverpool, Manchester, Nottingham and Cardiff. They spent 6 days in each city, two performances a day, with matinees on Wednesdays

Repertoire diverse works by Louis Johnson’s Folk Impressions, Graham Johnson’s Raisin’ Cane as well as classical works including BlueBird Pas de Deux, Waltze, Theme and Rhapsody.
The Company was due to travel on to Paris when the Tour was cut short due to the death of Thorndike. Some member chose to remain in Europe and dance there, Ronald Fraser went on to Colone Ballet, Sylvester Campbell eventually joined the royal Netherlands Ballet. Others like Frances (Franca Jimenez) and Gene Segan returned home only end up working in Europe.
Flemying did try to keep the company going however by 1960 the company had drifted apart

Source: By Thomas F. Defrantz, Dancing Many Drums: Excavations In African American Dance

Ward Fleming aboard the SS Flanders w/ New York Negro Ballet August 1957
New York Negro Ballet Memmber aboard the SS Flanders-Frances Jimenez, Cleo Quitman, Dorothey Jimenez, Delores Brown August 1957
New York Negro Ballet- Delores Brown Backstage preparing for the Bluebird Pas de Deux 1957
New York Negro Ballet Michel de Lutry works with Cleo Quitman and Theodore Duncan 1957

Other Happenings in 1957

American History

Jan 18 3 B-52’s set record for around-the-world flight, 45 hr 19 min

Feb 1 1st black pilot (PH Young) on a US scheduled passenger airline

Apr 6 NYC ends trolley car service

May 6 Pulitzer prize awarded to John F. Kennedy

Jun 24 The U.S. Supreme Court rules that obscenity is not protected by the First Amendment in Roth v. United States

World History

Jan 23 Indian nationalist V. K. Krishna Menon begins the longest ever sppeach at the UN on Kashmir- 8 hours over 2 days

Feb 18 Dedan Kimathi, a Kenyan freedom fighter is executed by the British colonial government.

Feb 27 Mao’s famous speech to the Supreme State Conference “On Correct Handling of Contradictions Among People” expounding Maoist ideals

Mar 8 USSR performs atmospheric nuclear test

Mar 13 Bloody battles after anti-Batista demonstration in Havana Cuba

May 4 Anne Frank Foundation forms in Amsterdam

Jun 2 US TV interviews Nikita Khrushchev

Jun 21 Louis St. Laurent resigns as Prime Minister of Canada, ending the longest uninterrupted run at the federal level in Canadian history

Arts & Sciences

Jan 13 “All that Fall”, first radio play by Samuel Beckett, aired on BBC Third Programme

Feb 4 1st electric portable typewriter placed on sale (Syracuse NY)

Feb 28 14th Golden Globes: The King and I, Kirk Douglas, & Ingrid Bergman win

Apr 11 Pablo Neruda arrested in Buenos Aires

Apr 13 “12 Angry Men”, directed by Sidney Lumet, starring Henry Fonda and Lee J. Cobb, is released

Jul 12 US Surgeon General Leroy Burney connects smoking with lung cancer

Jul 16 US Marine Major John Glenn sets transcontinental speed record (03:28:08)

Human and Civil Rights

Feb 14 Georgia Senate unanimously approves Sen Leon Butts’ bill barring blacks from playing baseball with whites

Mar 6 Centenary of Dred Scott slavery court decision marked by rediscovery of Scott’s grave

May 17 School desegregation law, Brown v Board of education

May 22 South Africa’s government approves race separation in universities

Jun 17 Tuskegee boycott begins (Blacks boycotted city stores)


Jan 5 Dodgers’ Jackie Robinson announces his retirement rather than be traded to the NY Giants

Jan 28 45th Women’s Australian Championships: Shirley Fry Irvin beats Althea Gibson (6-3, 6-4)

Feb 11 NHL Players Association forms (NYC), Red Wings’ Ted Lindsay elected president

Mar 25 NBA modifies the free-throw rule

Jul 6 64th Wimbledon Women’s Tennis: Althea Gibson beats Darlene Hard (6-3 6-2)

Jul 21 1st black to win a major US tennis tournament (Althea Gibson)

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