Talley Beatty: The critic on the Chicago Tribune, Cecil Smith, a very fine critic who wrote many books, gave me a scholarship to study while [Katherine] Dunham was away [in Haiti]. I went to Edna McRae… and… Grace and Kurt Graff.
BR: How long did you study with McRae?
Beatty: Until Dunham came back. Until I couldn’t stand it any more. I wasn’t allowed in the classes themselves. My school began about nine in the morning. I had to go to the ballet school early, because it took forty-five minutes to get from the South Side to the Loop. So I had to get in at the crack of dawn, and that was really quite a hard thing for me.
BR: Why were you going before your high school day? Weren’t there any afternoon ballet classes?
Beatty: I wasn’t allowed to participate in the regular classes because of my color.
BR: You mean there were no Black students allowed?
Beatty: That is correct.
BR: What year was this?
Beatty: In the 1930s. The Graff school was different. They had a marvelous old mansion and they had windows that issued onto the dance floor, so I could see them. I studied modern in the dressing room, in this little shaded area. Someone came up and gave me a class while they were doing it in the studio… I had to use the receptionist’s desk as a barre…
BR: At the time, did it ever occur to you to question that this was wrong?
Beatty: It was part of our lives then in the South Side. There were certain areas we couldn’t even walk in. It was really quite a hard role. We were very aware of it and I think that, perhaps, I was quite a rough character. I was rather frank and I’m sure I must have said something about it. But it was either doing it their way, or not doing it at all.
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35 color photographs 4 black and white photographs