ELAINE ELLIS
Age: 88

They lovingly call Elaine "Calamity Jane" -- if a train stalls, she'll be on it.  At 86, with buoyant good cheer, she spreads her love, and anything else she has to give.  (She's the kind of woman for whom bus drivers, unbidden, will go off-route to drop at the very doorstep.) Elaine dances with a smooth grace, despite an almost debilitating asthma, high blood pressure, and some small strokes.  When she suffered a bout with cancer (one of two), she continued to take the bus (transferring twice) to get to the Silver Belles' rehearsals after her radiation treatments.  

Elaine started her dancing career at the downtown Cotton Club in New York, after responding to an ad for Spanish girls ("I knew I could catch on, and I spoke a little Spanish").  When the Cotton Club closed, she moved on to Café Zanzibar, Club Mimo, the Lenox Lounge and the Apollo Theater. Elaine also performed in Atlantic City at the Paradise Club and Club Harlem, and in Chicago at the Rhum Boogie. After giving up dancing, Elaine raised her two children by bartending and then managing bars for nearly 25 years.

Nov. 30, 1917 -  Dec. 21, 2013.

 

 

As a young woman in the 1930s.

Resume photo from the 1940s

Elaine (far right) as a child, shortly after arriving in
New York from Panama.

Elaine prepares backstage before a Silver Belles performance.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Elaine performing in the chorus line at the Apollo Theatre, early 1940s.