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Three dance greats pass on

Charmaine Patricia Warren | 1/9/2014, 10:44 a.m.
Mama Marie Brooks, founder of Marie Brooks Pan-Caribbean Dance Company, joined the ancestors on Dec. 16, 2013.
Elaine Ellis

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Marie Brooks

Mama Marie Brooks, founder of Marie Brooks Pan-Caribbean Dance Company, joined the ancestors on Dec. 16, 2013. Brooks was known best for her unselfish sharing of dance with children, and the children will always be remembered for their special understanding of the dances they learned and their very colorful and voluminous, twirling skirts.

Brooks trained hundreds of children and has taken many of them around the world. In America, among the many community events, they presented traditional and contemporary dances. The company also performed at Dance Theatre Workshop (now New York Live Arts) and as part of DanceAfrica. The company was in residence for many years at Restoration Dance Theater in Brooklyn.

A “homegoing” celebration for Brooks was held on Dec. 28 at Abyssinian Baptist Church.

At 96, one of the famous Silver Belles dancers, Ada Elaine McNeil Munroe Ellis (Elaine Ellis), has also joined the ancestors. Ellis and the Silver Belles (Bertye Lou Wood, Cleo Hayes, Marion Coles and Fay Ray) were featured in Heather Lyn MacDonald’s documentary “Been Rich All My Life,” which featured the former showgirls, then ages 84-96, performing and sharing stories about their dancing career in such hot spots as the Apollo Theater, the Cotton Club, Small’s Paradise and Connie’s Inn during the 1930s in Harlem. A celebration of the life of Ellis was held on Saturday, Jan. 4 at St. Philip’s Episcopal Church.

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Frank Hatchett III

Performer, master teacher and choreographer Frank Hatchett III died on Dec. 23 at 78 years old. According to the Broadway Dance Center’s website, “[He] died peacefully in hospice care.”

The Virginia native had a long career in television and also in nightclubs alongside Sammy Davis Jr., Eartha Kitt, Harry Befirst school, the Hatchett School of Dance, catered to neighborhood youth in Springfield, Mass. He opened another in Hartford, Conn., and finally, there was the Hines-Hatchett Studio in New York, co-owned with Maurice Hines, now known as the Broadway Dance Center.

His accomplishments and recognitions over the years include being named “The Doctor of Jazz” on ABC’s “Good Morning America” and being featured on CNBC’s documentary “Real Stories,” which later won an Emmy Award. He also appeared on MTV’s “The Real World” and VH1’s “Driven.” Hatchett was a recipient of the Fred Astaire Award in 2002, and he received the 2013 Lifetime Achievement Award from Dance Teacher magazine. In 2000, he co-authored “Frank Hatchett’s Jazz Dance” with Nancy Myers Gitlin.

A memorial service was held on Jan. 3 at Progressive Community Baptist Church in Springfield.