2 3 Throwback Thursday and Ann Pennington | Ballet Webb

Thursday, August 29, 2019

Throwback Thursday and Ann Pennington

Throwback Thursday and Ann Pennington

Only 4 feet 9 inches tall, Ann Pennington was born into a Quaker family on December 23, 1893 in Wilmington, Delaware. She trained in dance with the Professor Wroe Dance School and her first performances were with the “Wroe’s Buds”.

Her Broadway career began in The Red Widow in 1911, and in 1913 she joined the Ziegfeld Follies. Here she became very popular. Because of her short stature her friends called her “Penny” and she called herself “Tiny”. She was close friends with Fanny Brice and she appeared beside many notables such as Will Rogers and Eddie Cantor, among others. She was also known as an accomplished tap dancer (see today’s Link of the Day below).

Pennington introduced the African American dance Black Bottom to general American audiences, and it soon overtook the Charleston in popularity. Her rehearsal pianist was George Gershwin and he wrote several songs for her. Pennington was a singer as well as a dancer.

According to the New York Times, Pennington was also a practical joker: “Once, when a man she didn't particularly like, telephoned, asking, "Is this Miss Pennington?" she replied, "This ain't me." Her dressing room door bore a sign, "For Men Only." Despite this, she was said to be rather shy offstage, and although linked to several famous men, she never married.

She also worked in silent films, but few examples of her dancing survive. Her dances in Gold Diggers on Broadway (1929) are lost, and her role in The Great Ziegfeld was cut before the film was released. She performed in the movies Believe Me, Hello Baby and Tanned Legs.

At the end of her career she toured in vaudeville, but retired completely in the 1940s. She died of a stroke on November 4, 1971 in New York City. She was occasionally recognized as a faded star as she shuffled down Broadway.

From the Big Blue Book of Ballet Secrets
Dance History Secret #236:
“Ann Pennington was famous for doing the Black Bottom Dance.”

Link of the Day:

Quote of the Day:
“But I do not want to spend all the rest of my life dancing. I want to do some more serious work and I sincerely believe that I can get ahead faster through the medium of the motion pictures than any other way.” 
— Ann Pennington, Ziegfeld star, in 1916.

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