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Jackie Danois

Jackie Danois (Jackie Dee)

April 12, 1931 –July 23, 2014

There will be a Special Memorial Service for Jackie Danois on Friday, September 5, 2014, 5:00 PM at the Southern Memorial Funeral Home, 15011 W. Dixie Highway, North Miami, Florida, 33181. Some of those who knew and loved her will give musical Performances. In lieu of flowers, please give a donation to: Harvest Time Fellowship, Inc., POB. 1882, Opa-Locka, Fl. 33055, for the Jacqueline Danois Memorial Fund.

Born in El Barrio into a Puerto Rican family, Jacquelyn Danois grew up surrounded by Latin music. She began dancing as a child at house parties and started frequenting the Park Plaza and Hunts Point Palace as a young teenager where she was offered free admission to warm up the crowd with her uninhibited dancing. Jackie began attending Palladium dances when she was only sixteen and was soon invited to perform in the professional show. Her style was often described as “wild” since she frequently performed barefoot using Afro-Cuban style solo moves. Her trademark steps included sliding across the floor on her knees and then shimmying into a backbend in which her head touched the floor. Jackie performed under the stage name Jackie Dee, although she was also known as Jackie la Negra. When the renowned dancer/anthropologist/choreographer Katherine Dunham came to see the Palladium show, she was so impressed with Jackie’s style that she invited Jackie to teach and study at her school. Jackie studied ballet, jazz, modern, Afro-Caribbean dance, and percussion at the Dunham school for many years, at times performing with the Dunham troupe.

Jackie performed with a number of different partners, including Bunny, Little Georgie, Tommy Diaz, Tandelayo, and Chino Romano. With Chino Romano, she performed in a trio with Maria Costoso. She also filled in to perform with Joe Vega on occasion when his partner Tybee was not available and also performed with Augie Rodríguez. She was a favorite partner of many male dancers and was the only Palladium dancer to dance with two different partners in the same show. Jackie also performed solo on a number of occasions. Jackie appears in the film The Spirit Moves dancing with Tandelayo. She performed on the Mambo USA tour dancing with Chino Romano and also with the Syvilla Fort dancers, who were dancers from Dunham’s school. After loosing two successive partners to premature death (Tandelayo and Chino Romano), Jackie became too discouraged to form another partnership and began auditioning to dance in larger production numbers. The jobs she landed included a tour to South America with the Cab Calloway Orchestra in a show choreographed by Norma Miller. In her mid-twenties, Jackie began studying singing and eventually transitioned into a career as a singer, percussionist, and bandleader.

© Juliet McMains 2012

Film Appearances:

The Spirit Moves: A History of Black Social Dance on Film, 1900-1986. Directed by Mura Dehn. Although released in 1987, this sequence was shot in the early 1950s. Jackie is the woman with short hair and dances in a duet with Tandelayo. The music is not the same as that to which they were dancing when it was filmed.

Sources:

Jackie Danois, interview with Juliet McMains March 2, 2008 in Pembroke Pines, FL.

Jackie Danois, interview with David Carp on August 13, 1997, transcript in Carp Collection at Bronx Historical Society.

The photograph, a publicity shot by Howard Cole, was a gift of Jackie Danois.

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Header photos: Mambo Aces (Aníbal Vázquez and Mike Vázquez) and Jackie Danois Website Design: Wren McMains, Additional Credits