Voices of the Jazz Era Ballroom

Voices of the Jazz Era Ballroom is a grassroots, web-based oral history project devoted to preserving and passing on the memory of dance in the Jazz era through the lives and words of everyday people. This is your story—please contribute by talking with a parent or grandparent, neighbor, or friend and explore the archive to see how others have shared their stories.

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From the Lottie Brady collection

A portrait of Lottie Brady and her husband and favorite dance partner Chester, just after he was drafted into the army in WWII. The photo was hand-colorized by Lottie herself.

From the Lottie Brady collection

Lottie's sister Julie leaving their parents house on her wedding day. It was Polish tradition that the bride be paraded to the church by a band and her relatives. You can just make out the accordion player to the right of the frame. Lottie relates…

From the Lottie Brady collection

Lottie Brady's brother Wally and one of Lottie's friends dancing in the park, possibly on Belle Isle. Lottie relates her experiences dancing in the 1940's in Detroit in her oral history interview. The photo was hand-colorized by Lottie herself.

From the Lottie Brady collection

Lottie Brady's brother Wally and a friend dancing and "horsing around" in a park, possibly on Belle Isle. Lottie relates her experiences dancing in the 1940's in Detroit in her oral history interview. The photo was hand-colorized by Lottie herself.

From the Lottie Brady collection

Lottie Brady swing dancing with a friend in the early 1940's. This was taken near the Dance Pavilion at Warsaw Park, which was a center for the ethnic Polish community in Detroit and Hamtramck where Lottie grew up. Her parents were Polish immigrants,…

From the Lottie Brady collection

Lottie Brady pictured with her late husband and favorite dance partner Chester in the early 1940's on their way out to dance. This was taken when they were dating. Lottie relates her experiences dancing with her husband in her oral history interview.

From the Lottie Brady collection

Lottie Brady pictured with her husband and favorite dance partner Chester in the early 1940's. During high school and immediately afterward, Lottie worked in a portrait studio hand-colorizing prints. This, like any hand-colored photo in the…

From the Donald Russ collection

An ad for the "senior miss" line from a clothing boutique in Grand Rapids taken from Donald Russ' 1926 South High School Yearbook. For the collegiate who is at it "from early morn to charleston by-the-clock" they boast "just the smart, boyish or…

From the Donald Russ collection

A furniture company ad from the back of Donald Russ' 1926 South High School Yearbook. Clearly aimed at parents, the ad suggests that the only way to keep youth away from the dangers of "the silver flask and the jazz orchestra" is to furnish your home…

From the Donald Russ collection

A description of curious junk band, "Boon's Melody Bloodhounds" at the the Marema Dance Pavilion in the "favorite places" section of Donald Russ' 1926 South High School Yearbook. The names of several of the musicians can be paired with students…

From the Donald Russ collection

Several students pose in a chorus line formation outside of South High School, Grand Rapids, MI. Photo taken from the 1926 yearbook of Donald Russ.

From the Donald Russ collection

Two Students Dance the Charleston outside of South High School, Grand Rapids, MI. Photo taken from the 1926 yearbook of Donald Russ.

From the Dorothy Porter collection

One of several photos from a small album shot at a house party in the late 40's or early 50's. A lot of close and informal dancing going on. The owner of the photo, Dorothy Porter, who attended the party was unsure whether this particular moment…

From the Dorothy Porter collection

One of several photos from a small album shot at a house party in the late 40's or early 50's. A lot of close and informal dancing going on. This is a photo of all of the party guests enjoying themselves, along with several drinks, and what appears…

From the Dorothy Porter collection

One of several photos from a small album shot at a house party in the late 40's or early 50's with a lot of close and informal dancing going on. This photo shows dancers/guests imbibing at "the world's shortest bar."

From the Dorothy Porter collection

One of several photos from a small album shot at a house party in the late 40's or early 50's. A lot of close and informal dancing going on. This looks like a party guest kicking up her heels. There is no way to tell if the gentleman to the left is a…

From the Dorothy Porter collection

One of several photos from a small album shot at a house party in the late 40's or early 50's. A lot of close and informal dancing going on. This looks like a party guest kicking up her heels alone.

From the Dorothy Porter collection

One of several photos from a small album shot at a house party in the late 40's or early 50's. A lot of close and informal dancing going on.

From the Dorothy Porter collection

Dorothy Porter as a high school senior in 1937. Dorothy describes her experiences of dancing to major jazz orchestras and skipping school to attend dance marathons in her oral history video. Here is the face to go along with those stories.

From the Dorothy Porter collection

Dorothy Porter in her point shoes (which she eventually learned to tap dance in upon insistence of her dance teacher. Dorothy describes her experiences of Mrs. Mansfield's dance classes, learning ballet and tap in her oral history video. Here she is…

From the Dorothy Porter collection

A young Dorothy Porter in costume before a dance recital. Dorothy describes her experiences of Mrs. Mansfield's dance classes, learning ballet and tap in her oral history video. Here she seems to be outfitted in historical garb and as a clown. She…

From the Dorothy Porter collection

A young Dorothy Porter in costume before a dance recital. Dorothy describes her experiences of Mrs. Mansfield's dance classes, learning ballet and tap in her oral history video. Here she seems to be outfitted as a bellhop and a pirate. She was forced…

From the Dorothy Porter collection

A young Dorothy Porter in costume before a dance recital. Dorothy describes her experiences of Mrs. Mansfield's dance classes, learning ballet and tap in her oral history video. She was forced to give up lessons when the Great Depression hit.