Linda Dingwall was born ca. 1953 and grew up in South Philadelphia. She wasn’t introduced to dance until she took a class at her high school and subsequently sought out professional training:
“…she and her mother looked in the phone book for a ballet school and thought the Pennsylvania Ballet sounded pretty good. Barbara Weisberger, PBC founder, said the teenager arrived in the Company office with a small paper bag in her hands. She told the registrar she wanted to study ballet and emptied a dozen quarters from the bag onto the desk. A scholarship was found, and Linda Dingwall began formal training at 15, years later than most dancers.”
While a student at the School of Pennsylvania Ballet, Dingwall performed with the company’s Youth Ensemble and appeared in their annual production of The Nutcracker. She became the first Black woman member of the Pennsylvania Ballet in 1970 and started impressing audiences not long after. At just 18 years old, Dingwall stood out for her solo performance in Bagatelles Opus 33, a modern ballet choreographed by Patrick Frantz. The Barnard Bulletin described the “quality and precision” of her movement, which was also called “a real epic of the fluidity of motion” by Lancaster New Era.
Dingwall expressed that directors frequently pigeonholed her in contemporary pieces and even asked that she lighten her skin for Les Sylphides. She refused and performed the ballet regardless.
Dingwall’s other repertoire included Peter Gennaro’s Vibrations, John Butler’s Villon, George Balanchine’s The Four Temperaments, The Nutcracker (as Spanish dance lead), Deserts, and John Jones’ Eight Movements in Ragged Time.
Dingwall has said that her reason for dancing is that “it’s about the freest thing I know….I can be myself and I’m free to do the best I can.”
Pennsylvania Ballet Company Portrait photos (6) with the ballerinas
Black ballet dancer tells Experiences, The Pittsburgh Courier
Linda Made Big Step in Ballet, The Philadelphia Inquirer
‘Nutcracker’ Is Sheer Magic Of Artistry and Christmas, The Philadelphia Inquirer
Penna. Ballet Displays Maturity Here, Lancaster New Era
Ballet Ranges From Traditional To Modern, Wilkes-Barre Times Leader
The Pennsylvania Ballet Returns, Barnard Bulletin
Pa. Ballet in Stylish Premiere, The Philadelphia Inquirer