Delores Browne: I finished high school in 1953. The Mothers Club in Philadelphia collected some money that they gave me and paid for my first year’s tuition at the School of American Ballet. I auditioned and got into C level, but I went home after a year. I was very unhappy. Everything overwhelmed me.
BR: Were you uncomfortable at SAB at that time?
Browne: No, I felt fine. I was treated very, very well by the teachers… When I auditioned with Muriel Stuart there were five students that day and there was a girl who was very friendly with me in the dressing room. When we came out she asked, “What class were you assigned to?” Well, I was told up front, “If you don’t go into C you’re not coming into the school. You’re 17 and too old.” So I got into C. I was walking on the ceiling and I told her and that was the last time she ever spoke to me…
BR: What happened after your return
Browne: The turning point came after I was out…and did not take class. I went to a Bill Dollar class. He was teaching at Ballet Theatre. Melissa Hayden and Violette Verdy were there. Bill always used to put me center down front. I went off to the side where Violette was standing to wait for the second group. She turned to me and said, “Who are you with?” I said, “I’m not with anybody.” And she said, “Oh.” It sounds like a very little thing, but I left the room that day and thought…I can’t come here any more. I can’t have anybody ask me that anymore. I left, gave away my practice clothes, threw away my shoes, and went to work… I’m sure…she doesn’t remember me or that question… It wasn’t sharp, it wasn’t right there at you, but it was painful…
BR: You were the first of the 55 black ballet dancers interviewed for what culminated in the Classic Black exhibit…at the Dance Collection of the New York Public Library for the Performing Arts. Would you like to add [in 2019] to what you said then?
Browne: Nothing has really changed much. I would like to see the two major ballet companies in the United States, New York City Ballet and American Ballet Theatre, look like New York and America.