BORN: June 3, 1913 - DIED March 21, 2006
A native of Malden, Massachusetts, Ms. Jones loved to dance from an early age. She was a talented tap dancer and became very intent on becoming a ballet dancer even though she had never seen nor met a black ballerina. During this time there were no ballet schools that would accept her and repeatedly refused her entry. However, because some would allow her to stay and watch classes, she taught herself by observing, listening and reading books about ballet. Eventually Ms. Jones was able to persuade one dance school that had rejected her to let her teach tap there, in exchange for ballet lessons. After which she began to teach students herself in her parents' home.
In 1933, she founded her own school in Boston and it was directed by Elma Lewis, an influential teacher of black dancers. Then in 1940 a former student, Claire Haywood, persuaded her to move to Washington, D.C. and she founded the Doris W. Jones School of Dance at the YMCA in 1941. After several temporary locations she settled on a permanent location in 1950 and renamed her business the Jones-Haywood School of Ballet with the mission of enabling black students to train in classical dance. In 1961 the dynamic duo founded the racially integrated Capitol Ballet Company which provided graduates with the chance for professional careers in ballet. In addition, in 1980 she founded the Jones-Haywood Youth Dancers to give younger students opportunities to perform.
While growing up not being able to be accepted in ballet schools to owning your own school and dance company was an achievement most blacks could only dream of. But through racial division, perseverance, determination and hope for black ballet dancers to be inclusive, she found her voice and her way. Later, as a result, the students of her school would read like a who's who of 20th century dancers: the Broadway dancers Chita Rivera & Hinton Battle; the ballet choreographer Louis Johnson; the ballet dancers Sylvester Campbell and Sandra Fortune, and the modern dancers Elizabeth Walton (who performed with Paul Taylor), Hope Clark (with Donald McKayle) and Renee Robinson (with Alvin Ailey). Ms. Fortune, who became the lead dancer with the Capitol Ballet, is believed to have been the first black ballerina to compete in an international ballet competition in Varna, Bulgaria. Some of her guest teachers were Arthur Mitchell, founder of Dance Theater of Harlem, and George Balanchine, co-founder of New York City Ballet.
Ms. Jones also directed the D.C. Public Schools Dance Program and choreographed for the Washington Opera Society and the Washington Civic Opera. Her legacy of influential dancers continue to live on worldwide but especially in D.C. Her entire life became a visionary of dance and leadership in order to fulfill her passion to give black students the chance to express themselves thru dance art that wasn't afforded to her. She "never wanted that door shut again in the face of any black youngster". Ms. Jones played a central role in breaking down race barriers in the world of ballet. We are so proud & grateful for her dedication and contribution for ballerinas of color everywhere.
Please watch the video outlining: Jones-Haywood; A Legacy of Excellence!