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Elaine danced at Newport

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From another board (AAJ) I became interested again in Elaine Anderson, who is credited to being the dancer in the brown (or black, both colors are mentioned) dress at Newport 1956 during the Ellington Orchestra performance.

Found this obituary. . . sadly she died this April at age 80. (They have the lp cover detail wrong, her picture was one of several on the BACK of the lp, they don't really mention that correctly). Interesting information from

Elaine Anderson, 80; activist, ex-dancer

By Andrea Levene, Globe Correspondent | April 21, 2004

Before Elaine (Zeitz) Anderson became an influential activist in Boston's Back Bay, she made her mark in jazz by dancing near the stage as Duke Ellington's band performed at the Newport Jazz Festival in 1956. A photograph from this event would later become the cover of one of Ellington's most popular albums.

Mrs. Anderson, who died Thursday of pancreatic cancer at age 80, may be best known locally for dedicating 12 years of her life to directing the Neighborhood Association of the Back Bay. But she always remembered her flirtation with jazz fondly.

"It was an experience that opened new doors for her and encouraged her to branch out," Richard Anderson said of his mother.

Born in New Bedford, Mrs. Anderson had a passion for movies, music, and dancing as a child. The daughter of a movie theater owner, she graduated from Newton's Mount Ida College in 1943. A year later she got a small role in the movie "Seven Days Ashore," a musical comedy, without ever auditioning.

Mrs. Anderson had always wanted to become a dancer, studying ballet and modern techniques as a child and idolizing Isadora Duncan. However, instead of pursuing a career in entertainment, Mrs. Anderson met her husband, Lawrence, a clothing retailer, in 1941 and moved to Fall River.

"She never really got a chance to pursue her own interests, especially the dancing that she wanted to do," Richard Anderson said of his mother. "She got caught up in a conventional life." By the time she was 26, Mrs. Anderson was raising three children.

But Mrs. Anderson's life changed when she attended Ellington's performance at the Newport Jazz Festival. She started dancing with someone in the crowd and then she danced in front of the band on her own.

"It was like nothing I had ever seen," said George Avakian, who was a producer at Columbia Records at the time. "Photographers started crowding around her. The energy rose. The band played like they had never played before."

After the concert, Avakain tried to find Mrs. Anderson, but was unsuccessful and did not meet her until the jazz festival the following year after Columbia Records already had used the photographs on the cover of Ellington's album from the concert.

"She found me and wanted to know why we didn't use a better picture of her," he said. "I told her that my lawyers said that she might sue the company. She replied, `Sue? I would have been thrilled.' "

After Mrs. Anderson and her husband divorced in 1963 she moved to Marblehead and remarried several years later.

In 1975, after her third husband passed away, Mrs. Anderson moved back to Boston and began to make her mark in the Back Bay.

"She wanted a new start," said Richard. "She wanted to come back to an area that she was familiar with."

In Boston, Mrs. Anderson was closer to her sons and was able to be a part of the culture. She was a fan of opera and attended shows whenever she could.

In 1992 she started working at the Neighborhood Association of the Back Bay as the head administrator. The nonprofit organization aims to preserve the architecture and community, through fund-raisers and committees.

"She was an important part of the organization. She cooked for the board of directors once a month and she was responsible for the company's website. Even at 69 years old, she introduced a computer and a website to the company," Richard said. "She was a woman who had a lot of talent and always put it toward whatever she was doing."

Mrs. Anderson worked at the neighborhood association until retiring last year.

In addition to her son Richard in New York, Mrs. Anderson leaves another son, Frederick Anderson of South Orange, N.J., and six grandchildren.

A memorial service will be scheduled during the Newport Jazz Festival's 50th Anniversity this August. No date has been set yet.

Also, here is a bit of information she sent herself about herself:

Elaine Anderson writes!


Dance to the Duke

02/2 DEMS 9

In 3 or 4 years on the Duke-Lym list, and having read several biographies of Duke, the girl dancing has been mentioned often re the Newport event, but usually as someone reacting to the music i.e., she was one more sign that the audience became very excited with Diminuendo and Crescendo in Blue. What I've seen in the past couple of days, though, is a metamorphosis of the young lady into almost being the primary reason the performance was performed. I don't buy it. It seems to be somewhat revisionist history, unless all previous commentary is flawed. David Palmquist (27Jun2001)

David Palmquist hit it right when he pointed out that the young lady dancing was not the reason for Gonsalves' solo continuing or for the band's continuing. I was there. The young lady, with her male escort, got up from their aisle seat and began dancing in the aisle. Others also started to do the same thing in other aisles close to the stage. The driving rhythm was so infectious that those couple only represented in motion what everyone was feeling the sheer joy of the moment. The crowd began rising from their seats at about the same time. We were about in the middle, and we stood just to see the band as the music continued. We couldn't dance, but we could grin and sway, which we did. This was not any kind of riot situation. Everyone was smiling, grinning, happy, joyous. It was one hell of an experience.

Frankly, the jazz rating of the solo was of no concern, at least to me, at the time. The primary thing was the swinging rhythm, just the right tempo, and Gonsalves rode it beautifully. It was joy through music, which is one of the great gifts of jazz. Jack Heaney

I have some more information concerning Jack Heaney's posting re: "Gonsalves' Solo at Newport," in the form of a reply to some questions I put to Mrs. Elaine Anderson, the lady who danced while Paul played. I will intersperse my own comments as appropriate, with reference to what Jack and I observed as well as Elaine:

Dear George [Avakian]:

. . . . . to answer your questions and to let the internet group of Ellington collectors and scholars know the truth and the facts of that momentous evening, let me recall to the best of my ability (after all it was a long time ago) what really happened: HERE GOES:

My husband, Larry Anderson (Anderson, Little Co.), Ted LeSavoy and Ed Capuano (Newport Finishing Co.) bought the box for the entire festival as we always had from the inception of the very first festival in the Newport Casino. After the Chico Hamilton group finished playing, the Ellington band took the stage at which time it was getting quite late and a lot of the audience was leaving and they played "The Newport Jazz Festival Suite" not too inspiring at this juncture.

G. A. interrupts: Elaine is right. As Duke had anticipated, the band would disappoint him and themselves because of lack of preparation. He told them just before they went on-stage, "I know we haven't had time to prepare the Suite properly, but don't worry if it doesn't come off well, because I've asked George to reserve the studio Monday Strayhorn will mark the score as we play, and he and George and I will check the tape against it Monday morning, and I'll call you at the hotel to come in the afternoon and we'll fix anything that needs fixing. So after the Suite, let's relax and have a good time let's play Diminuendo and Crescendo in Blue . ."

E. A. resumes: Ellington then called for Diminuendo and Crescendo in Blue the audience was very cold and at about the fourth or fifth chorus Jo Jones, who had played drums that night with Teddy Wilson and who was sitting on the steps at the edge of the platform, started thumping a rolled up newspaper in the palm of his hands and called out "Let's get this thing going " at which point Teddy LeSavoy got up and pulled me from my seat and pushed me in front of the bandstand and said, "Go Elaine" (I was infamous for my dancing) then Paul Gonsalves started his solo and the more he wailed, the more I danced ALONE. No one danced with me and I was never aware of any other dancers in the crowd.

G. A. again: I am sure what Jack Heaney saw was Teddy getting Elaine started. I was on the stage at stage left; she was directly in front of the stage, slightly toward my right. The stage was less than four feet high. If she had taken five steps forward and I had taken three, I could have reached down and shaken her hand, but I did not see her begin because I was concentrating on the performance, and of course the moment I saw Paul blow into the wrong mike, eyes screwed tight, and Duke jumped up from his chair to yell at Paul "The other mike! The other mike!" which Paul never heard, of course I had no interest in the commotion taking place just below me. But as I ran down the steps to where our engineers had set up their equipment, I was aware that a platinum blonde was dancing alone, by then. Halfway down I nearly collided with my assistant, Cal Lampley (Irving Townsend did not participate in any of the recording, then or later) who was racing up to ask me "What's going on? We're not getting enough of Paul!" By the time I went back on-stage, other couples had started to emulate Elaine, who of course remained oblivious to everything but the music.

E. A. resumes: Who caused the moment? It's how you look at it the glass was half filled? I did. Or the glass was half empty? Gonsalves did. Take your choice. They tell me I saved the night for the Ellington Band and that I was the cause of an historic event in Jazz history. In later years, I attended a concert in Grace Cathedral at the invitation of Duke Ellington and he admitted that I was the force that put his band back on the Jazz Map at that time. Best regards, Elaine Anderson

Coda by G. A.: Yes, Elaine got a lot of publicity, but never by name. That was the last set of the 1956 Festival, and nobody ever found out who she was until she introduced herself to me the following year. Nothing like going to the primary source! George Avakian

Thank you, Mr. Avakian, for telling us the story of the lady who started the dancing at Duke's 1956 Newport concert. It sure fits in with my memories of that evening. As I said, I was seated near the middle; when she began dancing, it was something I saw, but it was not my main attention. I was watching and listening to Gonsalves. But as the mood swelled like a wave through the crowd, sweeping up from the stage, the crowd began to stand, and we did too to see the stage. It was impossible to see how many were dancing in the aisles, but it was happening. It seemed nothing remarkable, but just another expression of the joy the music created. Jack Heaney

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Thanks for posting that, Lon. I've always been curious about the story behind that person.

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I've been told by a number of folks that were there that there were actually about 3 or 4 women that started to dance, both black and white women. That might explain the confusion about dress etc. Not all of them had their photo taken, as I'm sure we can understand. Who was the first one? Of course, no one can remember. But, these guys, musicians, said the one in the photo is not the one that started the thing, it was a white woman. A little trivia, I guess.

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Which reminds me. I remember reading an article about 10-15 years ago in which someone recalling the incident and the dancing said how it was during 'Sal Salvador's solo' on Diminuendo and Crescendo that the place erupted.

So much for memory and checking the facts.

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I guess you mean "another white woman" as the woman in the photo was a very fair and blonde dancer. . . .

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