Little Known Black History Fact: Jeni LeGon

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  • Jeni LeGon of Vancouver, Canada is a tap dancing legend and the former dance partner of Bill Robinson, Fred Astaire and Fats Waller.  LeGon was a pioneer in tap dancing and perhaps the first famous black female dancing soloist. Unlike the many ladies of the stage, LeGon wore loose pants and low-heeled shoes as opposed to skirts and dresses. LeGon performed lead in film productions and all over the country, including in Los Angeles, London and New York. She was a beloved performer for the U.S. Army.

    LeGon was born in 1916. She learned to tap dance on the streets of south side Chicago with local bands and musicians. She worked to perfect her style, which included acrobatics and rhythm dancing. By the time she was 16 years old, LeGon was dancing on a chorus line that was accompanied by the Count Basie Orchestra. Shortly after she toured with the Whitman Sisters, which was a company owned and operated by women.

    In 1934, LeGon was a dancer in the critically-acclaimed production of Stormy Weather. In 1935, she landed a role in the MGM musical, Hooray for Love with Bill Robinson. A year later, she performed in the London production of C.B. Cochran’s At Home Abroad.

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