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Johnson (Elle) papers
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Eleanor ("Elle") Johnson (1922-2006) was a Los Angeles based dancer, choreographer, and teacher known for combining motifs of Afro-Cuban dance with modern dance. The collection is comprised of her personal papers ranging in date from 1949 to 2006, consisting primarily of photographic materials, newspaper clippings, publications, programs, flyers, and dance company administration records.
Eleanor ("Elle") Johnson (1922-2006) was a Los Angeles based dancer, choreographer, and teacher known for combining motifs of Afro-Cuban dance with modern dance. She was born in Buffalo, New York, and raised in Columbus, Ohio. She attended Ohio State University where she received a BA in Fine Arts. After graduating in 1942, Johnson moved to New York City to pursue a career in commercial arts. Awestruck by a Katherine Dunham concert she attended, she decided to change her trajectory and pursue dancing. Dunham was a choreographer, dancer, teacher, and social activist best known as one of the founders of the anthropological dance movement and creator of the Dunham Technique, which combines traditional African and Caribbean dances with classical movement. Johnson received a scholarship to study under Dunham. She performed many times with Dunham's company and became involved with their costume design. She also took classes taught by José Limón. After three years with Dunham, Johnson moved to Los Angeles (late 1940s) and joined the Lester Horton Dance Group. She performed in Horton's choreographic works, including Another Touch of Klee (1951) and designed costumes for 7 Scenes With Ballabilli (1952). Johnson spent six years with Horton's company before forming her own dance troupe (early 1950s), the Elle Johnson Trio with Bruce Bain and David Hebel. They mostly performed in nightclubs, which Johnson came to dislike. She found more satisfaction in teaching dance and as such, taught private lessons on the side. Her students included actors Ty Hardin, Neile Adams, Portland Mason, Sue Ann Langdon, Helen O'Connell, and Irish McCalla. During this time, Johnson was assistant choreographer for such films as, The Robe (1953), The Silver Chalice (1954), Désirée (1954), The Egyptian (1954), and Untamed (1955). She also worked with Ward Ellis on the television film, The Pied Piper of Hamelin (1957). In 1966 Johnson founded her own company, the Elle Johnson Dance Company, which she created "with the objective of providing performing outlets for California dancers as well as a chance for choreographers to experiment (Glass, 1971)." Many of the works Johnson created included motifs of Afro-Cuban dance, as seen in Swadeski. Other original works like Soleus were more abstract and usually set to jazz music. Johnson's group performed throughout Los Angeles, from high schools to small theaters. Johnson became part of the teaching staff of the Music Center Dance Academy in 1970. All levels of dance practice were welcomed and Johnson taught modern dance classes. In 1999, Johnson was awarded the Lester Horton Dance Award for her teaching contributions. She retired shortly after. Johnson died of natural causes on March 10, 2006. She was survived by her husband Rollie Lawson and three children.
0.8 Linear Feet (2 boxes)
Property rights to the physical objects belong to the UCLA Library Special Collections. All other rights, including copyright, are retained by the creators and their heirs. It is the responsibility of the researcher to determine who holds the copyright and pursue the copyright owner or his or her heir for permission to publish where The UC Regents do not hold the copyright.
This collection is resticted. Please contact Special Collections reference (spec-coll@library.ucla.edu) for more information.