To all dancers, dance enthusiasts and tap dancers, join us in celebrating the Birthday of Dr. Jeni LeGon today 08/14/1916.
A True Tap Master and National Treasure. LeGon’s first formal training was at Mary Bruce’s School of Dance. She frequently skipped school to watch and learn new dance routines from the movies. In 1930, at the young age of thirteen, she auditioned and made it into the Count Basie Orchestra’s chorus line.
In 1931, LeGon became a member of the family oriented Whitman Sisters troupe. With her half sister, Willa Mae Lane, she formed the LeGon and Lane tap duo in 1933. In 1935 Hollywood, Earl Dancer, the former manager of Ethel Waters, discovered LeGon. Dancer helped LeGon to be the first black woman to sign an extended contract from MGM, though it was shortly canceled.
In her first screen role, LeGon danced with Bill Bojangles Robinson the only black woman to do so on screen in Hooray for Love, which also featured Fats Waller.
She has over twenty-four film credits.
The Black Filmmakers Hall of Fame and the National Congress of Black Women have honored LeGon. In 2002, Oklahoma City University conferred upon her a doctorate of performing arts in American Dance.
In 1999, the National Film Board of Canada – Dr. Jeni LeGon was a resident of Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada – released Grant Greshuk’s prize-winning documentary, Jeni LeGon: Living in a Great Big Way.
The clip is from the 1935 film Hooray For Love featuring Jeni LeGon, Bill Bojangles Robinson and Fats Waller.