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Check out our Q&A with Bianca Bonner about her time at the Ruth Williams’ Dance Studio!
Last month, we introduced you to Ella Gordon and Ruth Williams. Now hear from Bianca Bonner who was a student of Ruth Williams from ages 6-17! Bianca is now Charlotte Ballet’s Director of Education and Community Engagement. Enjoy these photos of Bianca’s recitals at Lincoln Center with the Ruth Williams Dance Studio, and read more to hear about Ms. Williams’ legacy and what it was like to take her classes.
At what age did you begin dance?
I began taking dance when I was 6 years old. My first class was a Tap/Jazz combo class at the Ruth Williams Dance Studio. I remember my first night of class on a Friday evening – we were late to class, and they were going over somersaults. And they were the very first thing I was taught. I took classes there until I was 17. My first class was called the Gum Drops until I moved up to the Wonder Workers!
Why did you join Ruth Williams Dance Studio?
I went to this particular studio because my grandmother was a student of Ruth Williams. My grandmother used to teach me Shirley Temple dances and songs, and she wanted me to take classes too. She worked it out with my mother, signed me up, and bought all my dancewear. On the ride home, I didn’t want to take off tap shoes. And I didn’t take them off for the 2 hour commute.
What impact did Ruth Williams have on your dance training?
She taught me a lot of discipline and a love for the art form. She gave me an avenue to watch creativity. Ms. Aziza (one of the instructors) would create these beautiful works, and I was able just to watch. Ms. Williams gave a lot of young artists in the studio the opportunity to teach. I’m grateful that I was able to be around so many great teachers.
The recitals were so grand. They were at Lincoln Center in Avery Fisher Hall [now David Geffen Hall] every year with a live band. Who books a live band for your tap numbers? It was just so classic. Ms. Williams would come out and wave at the end of the recitals, wearing a beautiful gown. That was my mother’s favorite part. Ms. Williams was so regal. When my mother passed away when I was 12, she took me aside and told me to come to her if I needed anything.
How would you describe Ruth Williams’ legacy in the community?
I didn’t know we had a jewel until Harlem Day or the recitals when we were out and about. I didn’t realize that she toured with Porgy & Bess. Until you get older and you realize that she’s a big deal. Everyone, I mean everyone, knew who she was. I just knew that there was a place I called home three days out of the week. You don’t know you’re in greatness when you’re younger – you’re just moving and grooving.
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