Valerie Black

American Negro Ballet
Negro Unit of Ballet Theatre

Playbill for The Hot Mikado.
Playbill for Carmen Jones.

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Valerie Cavell Black, born in 1917 in Colon, Panama, was a member of the American Negro Ballet and performed with the company at their premiere at Lafayette Theatre in 1937. At this performance, critics praised Black, Al Bledger, Lavinia Williams, and their fellow dancers. 

Black was also a member of Negro Unit of Ballet Theatre, performing in the 1940 premiere of Agnes de Mille’s Black Ritual

Black was featured in several Broadway shows; she was in the original casts of The Hot Mikado (1939), Big White Fog (as Caroline, 1940), Carmen Jones (1943), Lysistrata (1946), and Our Lan’ (as Ellen, 1947). Black was cast as the understudy for the title role of Anna Lucasta; a year after the show opened, she took over the role when the original cast member left the production. 

She appeared in the film Beware! in 1946 as well as Aida with the National Negro Opera Company in 1941.

Cavell Black passed away in 2003. 

Valerie Black’s bio in the Playbill for Our Lan’.

Sources:

Pioneers in Negro Concert Dance: 1931 to 1937, Free to Dance
Valerie Black, Playbill
Maher, Erin K. “Ballet, Race, and Agnes de Mille’s Black Ritual.” The Musical Quarterly, vol. 97, no. 3, Fall 2014, pp. 390-428.
Inside the Playbill: Our Lan’, Playbill

See also:

Night’s Dancer: The Life of Janet Collins

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