Buried in Lincoln.
On International Dance Day, we remember Billy Pierce [1890-1933], dancer, choreographer, and dance studio owner. Born Purcellville, VA, Pierce grew up farming with his parents, Dennis and Nellie Shorter Pierce. He attended a Quaker School in Lincoln and went to Storer College and Howard University. Interested in journalism, he worked for DC based papers before moving to Chicago to write for leading independent African American newspaper, The Chicago Defender. After serving in WWI, he took to the stage, performing as a dancer, banjo, and trombone player in shows on the Theater Owners Benevolent Association vaudeville circuit. In 1923, he moved to New York City opening a dance studio with business partner Leonard Harper [1889-1943], who dropped out when business proved slow. To keep the studio going, Peirce worked as an elevator operator and wrote columns about black theatrical and musical events for The Chicago Defender. The Billy Pierce Dance Studio eventually prospered, becoming a hub for dancers, choreographers, and Broadway performers. By 1929, The Afro-American noted Pierce’s studio was the “largest of its kind.” Where choreographers developed dances, many incorporating tap, and devised routines for white performers who popularized them on Broadway. The studio was most well-known for a dance called “Black Bottom” that became an international sensation, supplanting the “Charleston” in popularity on dance floors around the world. Interested in learning more? Billy Pierce: Dance Master, Son of Purcellville, a biography by Lemoine D. Peirce offers more detail about Pierce’s life and career. Curious about how to dance the Black Bottom? Check out this tutorial with Esie Mensah and David Forteau developed by CBC for their jazz age series Frankie Drake Mysteries http://ow.ly/f4dZ50zsbS1