Chronicles of Carols in Color
Perfect Bound Softcover
Pursuing a dance career on your own is the very personal story painted in this historical document. From a 2nd Grader's dream to J. P. Turner Middle School, dancing in the big musical 'Dreamland Cafe' to a friend teaching her ballet in the basement. The story begins here, where opportunity and being prepared crossed artistic paths. There was so much catching up to do! She auditioned and made a place in the brand-new performing arts magnet high school to begin serious training. Jaye met her dancing soul mate Leon and together found some local notoriety producing and directing a dance company since turning eighteen. This relationship led to creating a Philadelphia area annual Christmas holiday tradition and was 17 years in the making. It is the author's sincere hope that sharing part of her testimony can encourage youths of all ages through this Do-It-Yourself guide told in storybook form.
Once, there was a Black Dance company named LEJA DANCE THEATRE, founded by Leon Evans and Jaye Allison. They had been in love with each other's dance styles ever since they met in Center City at the Philadelphia High School for the Creative and Performing Arts, Fall of 1978. Leon was the new high school's bona fide Broadway Star who wasted little time showing what it meant! And without hesitation, started to organize after school rehearsals, gathering 14-18 dance classmates to learn choreography and to see how far he could take it. Each dancer came from somewhere in Philadelphia, and those were the places this group, ‘The Company with Class Dancers' performed! From the beginning, they had great teachers who helped them mold their techniques in all forms of dance: Classical Ballet - Cecchetti, Vaganova and American, Modern techniques of Horton, Limon, Duncan and Improvisation, Theater Dance with Broadway Jazz and Tap, Ethnic Studies of Dunham and Liturgical and yes, there were more. This high octane training developed their individual skillsets and permanently molded their signature styles. Yet they always trained with a yearning and desire to learn more and more... 4 years later, one week after graduation, summer of 1982 to be exact. They continued the troupe but needed a new name to keep it going. Leon wanted something unique and classic. He thought of a few ways to fancy up his name, Le Danse, Elle' Danse, Eleone and others but he didn't get great responses from Jaye. So he thought, and thought until he spoke up saying "Lay-Zhah". Asking Jaye what she thought, she said “Oo la la! It sounds French and memorable... umm, but what does it mean, like, what is it?!” He said proudly, “It's our initials!” Jaye hollered loudly and laughed full bellied, replying “that is so clever! It's perfect! It's us!” Leon and Jaye reformed the dance group with 4 members and was ushered into the world of professional concert dance by their high school's Modern Dance teacher. She felt her students were ready to represent a future of the Horton legacy passed down from Philadelphia's Horton Dance Master, Joan Kerr, who passed away in January that year. The Painted Bride Arts Center was the stage where all the dance companies and soloists touched by her life's work gathered to pay public tribute. The group performed 'Oluwa - Many Rains Ago'. It made quite the impression and became the group's Signature work. LEJA quickly doubled in size within its 1st year! Mainly because Jaye entered the Philadelphia College of Performing Arts that September, followed by Leon in January. The wealth of technically sound dancers found in this world famous Dance Department was beyond compare! It was funny to see the faces of people, especially Emcees, mispronounce the company name...Leeha, Layha, LeeJay.... It was several years before people learned the correct pronunciation.The wealth of technically sound dancers found in this world famous Dance Department was beyond compare! It was funny to see the faces of people, especially Emcees, mispronounce the company name...Leeha, Layha, LeeJay.... It was several years before people learned the correct pronunciation. They danced on lots of stages! LEJA was the first dance group Six Flags Great Adventures Amusement Park invited to showcase local dance artists in 1985. They also performed... on television, in night clubs, birthdays and weddings. stage. In plays and at outdoor festivals. Any and every place they could, LEJA DANCE THEATRE did! They even doubled their identity as the Power 99FM Dancers 1983-86. The new black radio station's reputation gained face value with publicity campaigns using Hot Jazz dancers alongside TV ads showcasing a silhouette dancer appearing throughout the Philadelphia metropolitan area: store openings, car washes, 3 yearly PowerHouse dance parties and always in nightclubs as far as Atlantic City!
Jaye Allison, MFA, is a Philadelphia native, daughter, independent dance artist, producer, and educator who has devoted her life to the field of dance arts and legacy building and its future. Founder: New LEJA Dances the co., Philly TAP Challenge Tap Festival, JADA DanceTap Ensemble, continues 30+ years as an independent dance artist. Original musical /choreographic credits include: Leslye Headland's ‘ASSISTANCE', Theresa Rebeck's ‘The Understudy' by The Wilma Theater, LEJA's Holiday offerings ‘I AM' and ‘Carols In Color'. Performing credits include: directorial debut of Stephanie Mills The Gate Called Straight, USA's series Political Animals. Companies: member of the 2nd Generation Silver Belles, Philadelphia Civic Ballet Company (also Program Dir.), TapTeam II & Co., Dancefusion, Marc/Charles Dancers, Power 99FM Dancers. Education: Philadelphia High School for the Creative and Performing Arts (CAPA), UofArts, Arts Management Certificate -University of MA Amhearst via PA Council on the Arts Internship Fellow. Grants: PA Dept. of Community Development, Dance Advance – Pew Center for Arts & Heritage, Leeway Foundation. Earned recognition: Philadelphia City Council Citation of Honor, Phillyist and Rocky Awardee
Thank you for writing a book that so beautifully clarifies your relationship with the incredible Leon Evans. Even I did not really know the real story, and putting it in this context made for easy reading, along with many enjoyable and fascinating photographs and sketches.” It is yet another part of our Philadelphia dance history.”
Joan Meyers Brown
I really enjoyed reading Chronicles of Carols in Color The Storybook. In fact, I couldn't put it down. I loved the way you put the book together with some photos and some drawings. It felt good to read about you and Leon's idea to come up with a fitting Christmas program to relate to our community, so as to reach so many more African Americans as well as children. I know if it weren't for the fact that I was a "dance mom" the Nutcracker would have been the last thing on my mind, but Langston Hughes...The Black Nativity!! Oh yes. That was a brilliant idea, as proven by Carols in Color's sold out shows. I believe the book leaves you yearning for the rest of the story, or at least the next chapters. Can't wait for that to happen. After showing the book to a co-worker, I was told that we need this at our school. We may not be able to afford to put it into our school per say, but I think it would be a good idea to get a few copies on shelves at least at the Schools for the Arts in Philadelphia. That would be a start. Young dancers of color should learn your story and have further proof that a dancer with a vision and hard work can become an accomplished Actor, Dancer, Author, Teacher, Star!
Much more Success Jaye.
Danise & Pertrise
Perfect Bound Softcover