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Tue, 07.02.1872

Dora Dean, Vaudeville Dancer born

Dora Dean

*The birth of Dora Dean is celebrated on this date in c 1872. She was a Black dancer and entertainer.

She was born Dora Babbige in Cloverport, Kentucky. She worked as a nursemaid in Cincinnati, Ohio, before becoming an entertainer. Dean debuted as a dancer with a Creole traveling show. In vaudeville, she was "The Black Venus."

She was best known for popularizing the cakewalk dance internationally, with her husband and dance partner, Charles E. Johnson, as part of the act Dean and Johnson. Early as a team, Johnson and Dean avoided Uncle Tom-style blackface humor. Instead, they went for a higher level of performance. As they were able, they bought costumes and jewelry to enhance the actor's look. They were the first black couple to perform on Broadway, the first to use strobe lighting, and the first to use steel taps on their shoes.

The couple moved to Europe in 1903 and began performing most of the time there, with occasional trips to Australia and the United States for performances. In 1902, they performed in London's Palace Theatre for King Edward VII. She was part of one of the most popular vaudeville acts of the pre-World War I period. Johnson and Dean ended their act in 1914 to pursue individual careers. She appeared in the film Georgia Rose (1930). After 20 years, they reunited.

Dean's beauty inspired several songs, including "Dora Dean the Sweetest Gal You Ever Seen" (1896) by performer and composer Bert Williams. Johnson and Dean reunited (professionally and personally) in 1934 and retired by 1942. They lived in Minneapolis in their later years. Dean died in Minneapolis on December 13, 1949.

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