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. Two of her students were chosen to study at the school of American Ballet by Lincoln Kirsten in the 1970s and she nurtured Black students who pursued professional dance careers, founded dance schools and companies. 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 husbands job promotion in 1960 brought them to Columbus where she opened a small home basement dance studio that rapidly grew into a building in downtown Columbus. She created "Le 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 Kenly Players, 1973 Miss Black Teenage Pageant, DST Jabberwock Fiesta Internationale, and Judge 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 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, grandmother to Tamika, Jerome and Ashley, great grandmother to Taylor, Charles, Janae, C’Niyah, Justice and Arree.

Milestones

1928
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. She started dancing at age seven in Philadelphia, PA.
1930s
Bettye Brown studied dance with Essie Marie Dorsey and Mrs. Linkenfeiter former dancer with the Ballet Russe de Monte Carlo. As well as Thomas Cannon, William Sena, George Chaffee and Vladimir Doakkondovsky. She appeared in the Drama Opera Co. of Philadelphia’s presentations of the operas Carmen, Faustus and La Traviata.
1946
She formed her first school in Philadelphia. Future schools would be in Youngstown, Warren, Sharon Pa and finally Columbus OH.
1960-1990
Bettye Robinson was the founder of the first Black Ballet Company and school in Columbus, mentor and teacher of Black Dancers in Columbus
1960
Before the Title IV sports explosion, area girls received ballet, tap and jazz dance lessons from this entrepreneur.
1960s-1970s
Each year she and her most promising students would go to Philadelphia and NYC to work with masters. Those visits to other cities for instruction are part of the enrichment process which is a part of the Bettye Robinson School of Dance.
1975
She was invited to George Balanchine’s Dance Conference in NYC.
1979
She established Les Danseurs Noir Dance Company.
1990s
She retired from Hilliard High School as the Work Study Coordinator of Special Education in 1995 and 1990 as a dance instructor.
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