About This Orbit: Jones and Haywood

Click above to explore The Jones-Haywood Orbit in MoBBallet.org’s The Constellation Project

In 1941, Doris Jones and Claire Haywood founded the Jones-Haywood School of Ballet (now known as the Jones-Haywood Dance School), the oldest African American dance school in Washington DC. It is primarily a classical ballet school, but they also offer contemporary and other styles, especially tap. According to Sandra Fortune-Green, a student of Jones and Haywood and now owner of the school, Jones “created the school because there were so few opportunities for African American children to study classical ballet.” 20 years later, they established the Capitol Ballet Company as the performing company of the school, and it was the first professional predominantly Black ballet company in the United States.

The Jones-Haywood Dance School has trained generations of dancers and produced influential figures in the world of performance.

See also:

1941: Jones-Haywood School of Ballet Was Founded in Washington DC, MoBBallet


Doris W. Jones

Doris W. Jones is one of the founders of the Jones-Haywood Dance School, along with Claire Haywood. Born on June 3, 1913 in Malden, Massachusetts, Jones originally wanted to study ballet but wasn’t able to take lessons until she was a teenager because there were so few opportunities for Black children. Until then, she taught herself ballet and also became very adept at tap dancing. She was even given the opportunity to tour with Bill “Bojangles” Robinson but declined because her parents forbade it. Jones died on March 21, 2006 of pneumonia.

Claire H. Haywood

Claire H. Haywood was Jones’ student before the two founded the Jones-Haywood School of Dance. Haywood taught at the school for over 30 years. Born in Atlanta, she studied English at Spelman College and graduated in 1934. She went on to receive an MA from Howard University in 1936 and a PhD from Catholic University in 1938. Haywood died in 1978.

Jones-Haywood Dance School

The two women founded the Jones-Haywood School of Ballet, later renamed as the Jones-Haywood Dance School, in Washington DC in 1941. Now operating under the directorship of Sandra Fortune-Green, the school provides dance training to African American students.

Sandra Fortune-Green

Born in 1951, Sandra Fortune-Green began studying at the Jones-Haywood Dance School as a preteen. After graduating high school in 1968, she studied at School of American Ballet, American Ballet Theatre, and Joffrey Ballet. She then returned to DC to study at Howard University. She became a principal dancer at the Capitol Ballet Company. She has been the owner of the school since 2007, calling herself “the guardian of the school’s legacy.”


Louis Johnson

Louis Johnson, a choreographer, dancer, and director, was also a student of Jones and Haywood. After training at JHDS, he moved to New York and trained under George Balanchine at the School of American Ballet. He danced with Carmen de Lavallade in the 1954 musical House of Flowers, which was choreographed by Balanchine. Johnson received the Legendary Choreographers Award from the International Association of Blacks in Dance in 2012.




Sylvester Campbell

Sylvester Campbell began training seriously at JHSD at age 10. In an interview from Dance Review, Campbell said, “My two’s were spent studying at the Jones-Haywood School of Ballet and that’s how I got into dance training, because they took me up there to see them rehearse one day. I wanted to show the teachers my tap dancing, but they were only interested in my legs and things for ballet.”

After dancing with the Dutch National Ballet and The Royal Winnipeg Ballet, Campbell joined the Baltimore School for the Arts and eventually became the director.


Hinton Battle

Hinton Battle with Dance Theatre of Harlem

A native of Northwest Washingtonian, Hinton Battle is an alumnus of Jones-Haywood, where he was a scholarship student. JHDS gave him the tools he need to be accepted into the School of American Ballet in New York City. Hinton began his career on Broadway at the age of 15, originating the role of the Scarecrow in The Wiz, and went on to be a three-time Tony Award winner.




Chita Rivera

An alumnus of the Jones-Haywood School of Dance, Chita Rivera is a ten-time Tony Award nominee and three-time recipient, who is best known for her roles in Chicago and West Side Story.





Virginia Johnson

Virginia Johnson, the daughter of a naval architect father and a mother who taught physical education at Howard University, decided to “pursue this dream in the basement of a church in Harlem” after studying ballet with Therrell Smith, with Mary Day at the Washington School of Ballet, and at the Jones-Haywood School of Dance. She was then attended the Dance Department at New York University on scholarship




Arthur Mitchell/Dance Theatre of Harlem

In 1965, Arthur Mitchell taught a Ford Foundation scholarship class once every three weeks at the Jones-Haywood School of Ballet, Washington DC.  Tuition was paid by the Ford Foundation, Mitchell’s stipend and expenses by the School of American Ballet.  Private funds came from the Lena Robbins Foundation, Lincoln Kirstein, and Miles Davis.
The Jones-Haywood School has been a boon for Dance Theatre of Harlem over the years, training many of its dancers including Hinton Battle and Dionne Figgins, who began ballet lessons at the Georgia Avenue NW studio when she was six. Figgins says of her early mentor, “Miss Jones is very strict. She definitely pushed us very hard. She never made anything easy, and she let us know this is not an easy profession.” Other JHDS Alum include Damien Johnson and Lauri Fitz-Pegado.

George Balanchine/School of American Ballet 

Dancers at Balanchine’s School of American Ballet in 1936.Credit…Alfred Eisenstaedt/Pix Inc.–Time Life Pictures, via Getty Images

Many of Jones’ students went on to study at George Balanchine’s School of American Ballet. Alumni of both Jones-Haywood Dance School and the School of American Ballet include Chita Rivera, Louis Johnson, and Hinton Battle.






Doris Jones, The History Makers
Doris W. Jones, 92, Ballet Dancer Who Founded School for Black Is Dead, The New York Times
Doris W. Jones, Encyclopedia
Opportunity’s Choreographer Doris Jones Gave Black Students A Toehold in the Dance World, The Washington Post
Arthur Mitchell’s Dance Theatre of Harlem: The Early Years, Columbia University Libraries
Home Away From Home, The Washington Post

April Owens


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