Bettye Robinson History
BETTYE ROBINSON was the founder of the first Black Ballet Company and school in Columbus, mentor and teacher of Black Dancers in Columbus from 1960-1990. She nurtured Black students who pursued professional dance careers, founded dance schools and companies; two of her students were chosen to study at the School of American Ballet in the 1970s.
She took her advanced students to study at ballet studios in New York City during the 1960s and 70s.
"Aunt Bettye", as she was called, inspired and influenced a generation of young Black women with her passion for art of the dance. In the 1960’s, before the Title IV sports explosion, area girls received ballet, tap and jazz dance lessons from this entrepreneur. She opened her first dance school in 1946 in Philadelphia, PA. She moved to Youngstown, married Attorney Ross B. Robinson and built a dance studio on the back of their home to accommodate her growing business. Her husband’s job promotion in 1960 brought them to Columbus where she opened a a small home studio in their basement that rapidly grew into a building in downtown Columbus. She created "Les Danseurs Noir”, the first Black ballet dance company in Columbus. She always advised motivated and trained students to open their own businesses or perform in the arts.
During her career she served as a choreographer for the Columbus Victory Matrons Cotillion, the Youngstown Junior League Cinderella Ball, Youngstown Playhouse Green Pastures, Warren Kenley Players, 1973 Miss Black Teenage Pageant, DST Jabberwock Fiesta Internationale, and and served as a judge for the Miss Teenage Cupidette Pageant. She set choreography for musicals at her alma mater, Ohio Dominican College.
She was a member of the N.A.A.C.P, The Columbus Civic Ballet Company, National Association of Dance and Affiliated Artists, Abilities in Motion, Elegant Club of Columbus, Dance Educators of America, Professional Dance Teachers Association, Mahoning County Crippled Children Society, Junior Civic League, St. Augustine Episcopal Church in Youngstown, St. Phillip’s Episcopal Church in Columbus and Christ Episcopal Church in Cleveland. She received many awards, including those from the Urban League, Blue Chip, Central Ohio Pioneer of Dance, Special Education Awards from the Hilliard City Schools and the Ohio State University Department of Education.
She has a son Roswell, a daughter Gretchen, grandchildren Tamika, Jerome and Ashley, and great-grandchildren Taylor, Charles, Janae, C’Niyah, Justice and Arree.
- Bettye Brown was born June 13, 1928; her given name was Elizabeth Taylor Jews. She was the only daughter of William and Elizabeth Jews, from Philadelphia PA, where she started dancing at the age of seven.
- Bettye Brown studied dance with Essie Marie Dorsey and Mrs. Linkenfelter, former dancer with the Ballet Russe de Monte Carlo. She also studied with Thomas Cannon, William Sena, George Chaffee and Vladimir Dokoudovsky. She appeared in the Drama Opera Company of Philadelphia’s presentations of the operas Carmen, Faustus and La Traviata.
- She formed her first school in Philadelphia. Future schools would be in Youngstown, Warren, Sharon, PA and finally, Columbus, OH.
- Bettye Robinson was the founder of the first Black ballet company and school in Columbus, and was a mentor and teacher of Black dancers in Columbus.
- Before the Title IV sports explosion, area girls received ballet, tap and jazz dance lessons from this entrepreneur.
- Each year, she and her most promising students would go to Philadelphia and NYC to work with dance masters. Those visits to other cities for instruction were part of the enrichment process which was an important aspect of the Bettye Robinson School of Dance.
- She was invited to George Balanchine’s Dance Conference in NYC.
- She established Les Danseurs Noir Dance Company.
- She retired as a dance instructor in 1990 and as the Work Study Coordinator of Special Education for the Hilliard Schools in 1995.