David Bruce: The Funniest People in Families, Volume 3 — Dance

Dance

• Because of a mishap, Edward Villella began to take ballet lessons. While growing up in Queens, he was very athletic and played many games. One day, while playing Running Bases, he was hit in the head with a ball and knocked unconscious. The children he was playing with picked him up, carried him to his home, put him down, rang the doorbell, and ran. He woke up healthy, but his mother felt bad because she had not been at home when the children rang her doorbell; instead, she had been with Edward’s sister, who was taking a dance lesson. Therefore, the next time his sister had a dance lesson, his mother took him along, too. The dance teacher felt that Edward’s presence would be distracting to her students unless he was also taking dance lessons, so he began to take lessons. Later, his sister auditioned for and was awarded a partial scholarship with the School of American Ballet. When SAB administrator Natalie Molostwoff found out that the new partial-scholarship dancer had a brother who was taking dance, she was very interested: “He’s a boy? Can he walk? Bring him!” (Male dancers are much more rare than female dancers, and thus are in demand.) Young Edward auditioned for the SAB and was awarded a full scholarship, and of course he became a star dancer for the New York City Ballet.

• Eve Gentry, nee Henrietta Greenhood, took dance seriously. Each Saturday, she traveled from San Bernardino to Los Angeles for her dance lesson, taking a streetcar, a train, and two buses to get there, no matter what the weather. Sometimes, she would arrive for her 9 a.m. dance lesson just as a parent called the receptionist to say that a child would not show up for the dance lesson because of rainy weather. The receptionist would reply, “Well, Henrietta’s here.” After a while, Henrietta started taking every class offered on Saturday. A little while longer, she stayed with one of her cousins so she could take a dance class on Monday. And a little while longer, she stopped going home to San Bernardino at all so she could take dance classes each day they were offered. Unfortunately, she neglected to tell her parents what she was doing. Her parents worried, and a truant officer even paid a visit. However, her parents eventually allowed her to stay in Los Angeles with relatives so she could take dance lessons whenever she wanted. She could be firm minded in other ways as well. When she discovered modern dance, she gave up ballet — and set her toe shoes and tutus on fire!

• On opening night of The Hot Mikado, starring the great dancer Bill Robinson, aka Mr. Bojangles, several uniformed police showed up. One of them told the hatcheck girl, “We don’t expect any trouble. We couldn’t get seats, so if nobody minds, we’ll just stand around. It wouldn’t be fair to Robinson not to have his real pals at an opening.” Mr. Bojangles was a true friend to the police. Whenever a police officer or firefighter died in action, Mr. Bojangles would get entertainers to perform at a benefit, then he turned over all the money raised to the widow.

• When he was a child, New York City Ballet dancer Nikolaj Hübbe wanted to study ballet. His parents knew that it was a big commitment, but they knew that he wanted to do it, so they let him. Of course, sometimes at 6:30 on a dark and cold morning in Copenhagen, Denmark, he would not want to go to class, so he would tell his parents, “Oh, I think I’m sick today.” Knowing that he wasn’t sick, they would tell him, “Really? Well, you know, you started this, you wanted this, so now you get your butt out of bed and do it!”

• At 14 years of age, modern dance pioneer May O’Donnell started taking dance lessons — and she made sure that her friends were practicing their lessons, too. When she started taking dance lessons, all the other young dance students had to practice their high kicks with her — or she wouldn’t let them be her friends.

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Copyright by Bruce D. Bruce; All Rights Reserved

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