Alumni & Friends of The Bernice Johnson Cultural Arts Center

Subtitle

TIMELINE

A timeline of BJ, her studio, and her stars. Gathered from public records, journals and the memories of those who were there.

*a work in progress

December 14, 1910

Albert J. "Budd" Johnson was born.

November 22, 1911

Bernice Johnson was born to Charles and Elizabeth "Lizzie" Williams Milbrey in Portsmouth, Virginia.

1940

Bernice married Earl Hines saxophonist Albert "Budd" Jackson Johnson.

1942

Albert "Budd" Johnson Jr. is born.

1947 or 1948
1st Student

Gladys Bernice Parks knows of BJ from her Cotton Club days and convinces BJ to teach her daughter to dance. Bernadette Parks (Ricks) becomes BJ's first student! They had private lessons in the basement of BJ and Budd's house. And then it seems they moved in BJ's first studio space at 144-17 Shore Avenue in Jamaica, Queens. Bernadette is pictured above at age 3/12. A current photo of Bernadette and her lovely grandchildren is below.

September 1948 to June 1949
Season 1

Because the 1953 journal says it's the "5th recital", this year must have been the first. Does anyone have a journal?

September 1949 to June 1950
Season 2

Does anyone have a journal?

September 1950 to June 1951
Season 3

The school is still located at 144-17 Shore Avenue, Jamaica, NY. 

On June 14, 1951 BJ presented her "Dancing Starlets" in her 3rd recital, held at the Forest Hills Jewish Center. We know from the program that Sonja and Iris Peek performed the first tap on skates. 

The following are listed in the program:

School Pianist: Hilda Shaw

Secretary: Eloise Darrow

Costumers: Cello Cruz, Mrs. Brown, Mrs. Johnson, Mrs. Bradshaw. Mrs. Emerson, Mrs. Lewis, Val Bourdon, Mrs. King, Mrs. Walker, Mrs. Brewer, Mrs Jenkins.

The program also notes that the 4th season of classes are scheduled to begin on Saturday, September 15, 1951.

Here's a complete list of students from the 1951 program:

Sybil Brewer, Candy Brown, Joelyn Brown, Helen Jo Brown (deceased), Tomier Barnett, Rodley Brooks, Beverly Bazil (now Beverly Edge), Gwendolyn Brown, Frances Barcroft (now Frances Barcroft Dalton), Bunny Ballard, Bobbie Ballard, Julie Ann Bradshaw, Gloria Jean Bradshaw, Denese Bryant, Glenn Bazil, Sandra Copeland, Laverne Carter, Barbara Conners, Dolores Carter, Marie Cello Cruz, Jacinta Cello Cruz, Sharron Castillion, Claudia Clarke, Dolores Condi, Eloise Darrow, Alfred Dejan, Gigi Emerson, Joan Estwick, Brenda Edwards, Myrna Fisher, Ruth McFarland, Delores Francis, Daisy Franklin, Gail Hightower, Beth Hightower, Joyce Humphrey, Freeman Hawes, Madeline Haney, Paula Hawkins, Barbara Henson, Elaine Hunt, Joe Ann Isaiah, Albert Bud Johnson (deceased), Brenda Jefferson, Charlotte Jones, Alma Jones, Carole Jones, Sandra Jackson, Jacqueline Johnson, Virginia Jones, Edwina King, Barbara King, Carole Lamb, June Lewis, George Lewis, Raymond Lewis, Stanley Lewis, Clyde Lewis, Cassandra Lockhart, Barbara Matthews, Patricia Morris, Jean Mason, Evelyn Moore, Patricia Nelson, Lenore O'Neal, Sonja Peek, Norma Peek, Iris Peek, Bernadette Park, Claudette Park, Elizabeth Price, Esther Price, Catherine Price, Leotta Pile, Carolyn Palmer, Clarissa Padgett, Consuella Parian, Kenneth Riley, Iris Reeves, Nancy Randolph, Ronnie Roach, Mary Robinson, Constance Sill, Willda Shaw, Janice Small, Brenda Spencer, Doris Smith, Norma Jean Trayler, Joan Thompson, Robert Thompson, Carole Turner, Barbara Vann, Roslyn Warren, Muriel Wiley, Annabelle White, Marsh Willoughby, Vivian Warfield, Cassie Walker, Barbara Winter

September 1951 to June 1952
Season 4

On Tuesday, June 17, 1952, Bernice Johnson presented her 4th recital at the R.K.O. Alden Theatre in Jamaica, Queens. Does anyone have a copy of this program? We only have a copy of the cover.


From the memories of Beverly Bazil (Edge), sometime during this year, BJ's Senior class started appearing on Ralph Cooper's TV Show "Spotlight on Harlem". It is there that they met Lee Lyn "Aca" Thompson who then became a teacher at the school and introduced Interpretive dance to BJ's students. 

September 1952 to June 1953
Season 5

According to BJ's letter in the journal, the studio has just completed 5 seasons of dance classes, and will begin a 6th season in the fall. The studio is now located at 107-13 Sutphin Blvd.in Jamaica, and offers classes in Tap, Ballet, Modern, Toe, Acrobatic, Ballroom Dances, and Interpretive.


On June 16, 1953, Bernice Johnson presented her fifth recital at the R.K.O. Alden Theatre in Jamaica, Queens. "Hey Look Mom! I'm Dancing!".


Some highlights from the journal:


Beth and Gail Hightower and Clyde Lewis appeared on the Horn and Hardart Children's Hour


Students in the journal include Beverly Bazil, Candy Brown, Barbara Jean Justice, Cassell Walker, Laverne Carter, Ryland Gaines, Clyde Lewis, Beth Hightower, Gail Hightower, Eloise Darrow, Raymond Lewis, Budd Johnson Jr., Ronnie Roach, Barbara King, Edwina King. 

The program includes Ave Maria (by request), Heat Wave, Tap on Toe, Tap on Steps!

September 1953 to June 1954
Season 6

According to the journal, the Studio is located at 107-13 Sutphin Boulevard in Jamaica. Classes are offered in Tap, Ballet, Modern, Toe, Acrobatic, Ballroom Dances, and Interpretive.


It looks like the school had grown so much that TWO shows were needed. On June 28th and 29th, 1954, Bernice Johnson presented her sixth recital at the R.K.O. Alden Theatre in Jamaica, Queens - "Dancing Starlets in Rhythm". 


Students in the journal include Celestine Durant, Consuelo Swan, Cheryl Browne, Ronnie Roach, Candy Brown, Martha Ann "Chunkie" Atkins, Sonja & Iris Peek.

September 1954 to June 1955
Season 7

According to the journal, the Studio is located at 107-13 Sutphin Boulevard in Jamaica. 


On Tuesday, June 28th 1955, BJ held her 7th recital - "In Rhythm 'n Blues" at the R.K.O. Alden Theatre.


The journal gives a special shout out to OUR WORLD MAGAZINE for "the wonderful write up they gave us in their March issue, and to ALL AMERICAN NEWSREEL for the moving picture they made of us." Anyone have copies?


Seniors/Student Teachers noted in the journal are: Bunny, Beverly Bazil (Edge), Raymond, Phendalyne, Dee, Helen, Frances Barcroft (Dalton). And Recital Costumes by: Juanita Murph and Mrs. Yerby


Students in the journal include Candy (6 1/2) & Donna (2 1/2) Brown, Cheryl Brooks, Stephanie Linwood, Beverly Bazil (Edge), Phendalyn "Sweetie Pie" Tazewell, the first appearance of Chuckie Vance, Ronnie Roach, Cheryl Browne. The program includes Fire Ritual


The journal announces that Mrs. Elizabeth Williams (BJ's mother) will be managing a second studio at 115-07 Merrick Boulevard in the fall. 

September 1955 to June 1956
Season 8

The two Studios are located at 107-13 Sutphin Boulevard and and 115-07 Merrick Boulevard in Jamaica (BJ thanks her mom in the journal for managing the Merrick Studio).


Student Teachers: Raymond Lewis, Dolores Ellis, Bunny Ballard, Portia Slaughter, Beverly Bazil (Edge), Helen Jo Brown, and Leanora O'Neal.


On June 26, 1956, Bernice Johnson presented her 8th recital at Loew's Hillside Theatre on Sutphin Boulevrd in Jamaica - "Show of Shows". 


Students in the journal include Ronnie Roach, Martha Ann "Chunkie" Atkins, Antionette Washington (Toni Walrund), Chuckie Vance, Marilyn Atkinson (5 1/2 years), Barbara Jean Justice, Frances (Fatima), Charles & Charlotte, Cheryl Browne, Wendy Felder (Cutting), Deborah Smiley Smith, Stephanie Linwood. The program includes Jazz on Toe and Dumboola (the snake dance).


The journal announces that Charm School will be added to the curriculum in the fall. 

September 1956 to June 1957
Season 9
Charm School begins

The two studios are still in operation at  107-13 Sutphin Boulevard and and 115-07 Merrick Boulevard in Jamaica, Queens. Does anyone know if the Charm School ever opened?


Does anyone have this journal?

September 1957 to June 1958
Season 10
Last year of Merrick Studio

The two studios are still in operation at  107-13 Sutphin Boulevard and and 115-07 Merrick Boulevard in Jamaica, Queens. Does anyone know if the Charm School ever opened?


On Monday, June 23, 1958, Bernice Johnson presented her 10th recital at the Hillside Theatre on Sutphin Boulevard in Jamaica, Queens - "Dance Fantasy". 


The journal announces that applications are being accepted for professional classes. "Applicants must have had a minimum of two years training with the Bernice Johnson Dance Studio."


The journal also announces the closing of the "Merrick Studio". All fall classes will take place at the "Sutphin Studio".

  • Journal Cover
    Journal Cover
  • BJ's letter
    BJ's letter
  • Intermediate Pro with Candy Brown, Cheryl Brooks (Godineaux), Julie Bradshaw, Rosemarie Stevenson
    Intermediate Pro with Candy Brown, Cheryl Brooks (Godineaux), Julie Bradshaw, Rosemarie Stevenson
  • Baby Pro with Jackie Lemelle, Laurie Thornhill, Martha Ann "Chunkie" Atkins, Celestine Durante, Wendy Felder (Cutting), Michele Simmmons, Raymond Thomas, Renee Woodruff, Cheryl Browne
    Baby Pro with Jackie Lemelle, Laurie Thornhill, Martha Ann "Chunkie" Atkins, Celestine Durante, Wendy Felder (Cutting), Michele Simmmons, Raymond Thomas, Renee Woodruff, Cheryl Browne
  • Deidre Brooks. Daughter of Barbara Brooks. Mother of Christopher Juan Brooks. Niece of Cheryl Brooks Godineaux. Aunt of Edgar Godneaux.
    Deidre Brooks. Daughter of Barbara Brooks. Mother of Christopher Juan Brooks. Niece of Cheryl Brooks Godineaux. Aunt of Edgar Godneaux.
  • Beverly Geddes
    Beverly Geddes
  • Dwight Lemelle. Brother of Jackie Lemelle. Uncle of LaVonne and Dwayne Murdock.
    Dwight Lemelle. Brother of Jackie Lemelle. Uncle of LaVonne and Dwayne Murdock.
  • Charlotte, Charles and Fatima Johnson. Fatima is of course BJ's daughter in lawy and Tchaka's mom.
    Charlotte, Charles and Fatima Johnson. Fatima is of course BJ's daughter in lawy and Tchaka's mom.
  • Roberta Stanford
    Roberta Stanford
  • Karen Burke (Geneva Vivino)
    Karen Burke (Geneva Vivino)
  • Rosemarie "Llanchie" Stevenson (Amina L. Ahmaad)
    Rosemarie "Llanchie" Stevenson (Amina L. Ahmaad)
  • Billy Meyers. Father of Alexandria Meyers
    Billy Meyers. Father of Alexandria Meyers
Journal Cover
Journal Cover

September 1958 to June 1959
Season 11

Studio is located at 107-13 Sutphin Boulevard, Jamaica, Queens.

Baby Pro includes Laurie Thornhill (Burrs) and Deidre Brooks.

Junior Pro includes Wendy Felder, Cheryl Browne, Jackie Lemelle, Raymond Thomas, Celestine Durant.

Senior Pro includes Rosemarie Stevenson, Julie Bradshaw and Cheryl Brooks. 

June 29, 1959 - Bernice Johnson presents her 11th recital at the Hillside Theatre at 90-29 Sutphin Boulevard in Jamaica, Queens. "Revue". Students in the journal include Joan Hogan, Marguerite DeLain, Terry Ingram, Debra Chello, Karen Burke (Geneva Vivino),

September 1959 to June 1960
Season 12

Does anyone have this journal?

September 1960 to June 1961
Season 13

Baby Pro includes Karen Burke (Geneva Vivino) Laurie Thornhill (Burrs) and Deidre Brooks.

1st Beginner Pro

Junior Pro includes Jackie Lemelle, Wendy Felder, Earline Lemelle, Michele Simmons, Martha Ann Atkins

Senior Pro includes Rosemarie Stevenson, Cheryl Brooks (Godineaux) Julie Bradshaw, Audrey Holmes (Callahan).

Recital Costumes by Juanita Murph, Cly-Vie Fashions, Margaret Yearby, Mrs. Carter, Mrs. Young

June 25, 1961 - Bernice Johnson presents her 13th recital at the Brooklyn Academy of Music Opera House at 30 Lafayette Avenue in Brooklyn. "A Trip to Oz". Students in the journal include Cynthia White

September 1961 to June 1962
Season 14

Does anyone have this journal?

September 1962 to June 1963
Season 15

Junior Senior Pro includes Jackie Lemelle, Earline Lemelle, Martha Ann Atkins, Cheryl Browne, Wendy Felder, Michele Simmons.

Senior Pro includes George Henderson, Julie Bradshaw, Cheryl Brooks (Godineaux), Jerry Grimes, Audrey Holmes (Callahan), and Ben Vereen

Recital Costumes by: Ethel Alloway, Louisa Copper, Anna Lorena Elliott, Luncinda Fountain, Virginia LaMar, Lee Lynn, Rosalie Mackie, Cassell Woolfolk.

June 16, 1963 - Bernice Johnson presents her  15th recital at the Brooklyn Academy of Music at 30 Lafayette Avenue in Brooklyn. "The Mikado Swing". The program was a telling of the Mikado with the below cast:

Nanki Poo: Harold Murray
Ko Ko: Vincent Levy
Pooh Bah: Jerry Grimes
Pish Tush: Arthur Thomas
Yum Yum, Pitti Sing and Peep Bo: Rosemarie Stevenson, Cheryl Brooks, Audrey Holmes
Katisha: Cassell Smith
Mikado: George Henderson

Students in the journal include Terri Bryson, Lynn Staton, Karen Dubose, Linda "Sally" Johnson, Yvonne Alloway, Fabienne DeChallus, Sharon, Terrin & Robin Miles, Ellen Fenty, Denessa Tobin, Prudence Darby, Audrey & Roxanne Lawrence and Denise DuMaine.

September 1963 to June 1964
Season 16

 

September 1964 to June 1965
Season 17

 

September 1965 to June 1966
Season 18

 

September 1966 to June 1967
Season 19

 

September 1967 to June 1968
Season 20

 

September 1968 to June 1969
Season 21

 

September 1969 to June 1970
Season 22

 

September 1970 to June 1971
Season 23

 

September 1971 to June 1972
Season 24

 

1972

Ben Vereen is nominated for a Tony Award for Best Featured Actor in a Musical for his role in the Broadway production of "Jesus Christ Superstar".

September 1972 to June 1973
Season 25

 

1973

Ben Vereen wins the Tony Award for Best Actor in a Musical for his role in the Broadway production of "Pippin".

1973

Ben Vereen wins the Drama Desk Award for Outstanding Performance for his role in the Broadway production of "Pippin".

September 1973 to June 1974
Season 26

 

November 2, 1974

Albert "Tchaka" Johnson (aka "Prodigy) is born.

September 1974 to June 1975
Season 27

 

September 1975 to June 1976
Season 28

 

1976

Ben Vereen's role in "Funny Lady" earns him a Golden Globe nomination for Best Acting Debut in a Motion Picture (Male).

September 1976 to June 1977
Season 29

 

January 1977

Ben Vereen appears in the premiere of the mini series "Roots" playing the unforgettable role of "Chicken George".

September 1977 to June 1978
Season 30

 

September 1978 to June 1979
Season 31

 

September 1979 to June 1980
Season 32

September 1980 to June 1981
Season 33

September 1981 to June 1982
Season 34

June 6, 1982

Michael Peters wins a Tony Award for Best Choreography for "Dreamgirls". Ironically, the award is presented to him by his BJ classmate Ben Vereen.

September 1982 to June 1983
Season 35

July 21, 1983

Michael Peters was the choreographer for the epic Diana Ross concert in Central Park. BJ's drummers and Jr Pro class performed in the opening number.

December 2, 1983

The 13 minute music video for "Thriller", choreographed by Michael Jackson and Michael Peters, premieres on MTV. It is perhaps the most influential pop music video of all time. In 2009, the video was inducted into the National Film Registry by the Library of Congress, the first music video ever to receive the honor.

September 1983 to June 1984
Season 36

October 20, 1984

Albert "Budd" Johnson joins the ancestors at the age of 73.

September 1984 to June 1985
Season 37

1985

Ben Vereen's role in "Ellis Island" earns him a Golden Globe nomination for Best Performance by an Actor in a Supporting Role in a Series, Miniseries or Motion Picture for Television.

September 1985 to June 1986
Season 38

August 1986

Nasha Thomas joins the Alvin Ailey company.

September 1986 to June 1987
Season 39

1987

Michael Peters wins an Emmy Award for Outstanding Choreography for "Liberty Weekend".

September 13, 1987

The Alumni of BJCAC held their first reunion with a Homecoming held at Roy Wilkins Park in Saint Albans, Queens.

September 1987 to June 1988
Season 40

September 1988 to June 1989
Season 41

September 1989 to June 1990
Season 42

Valarie Pettiford originates the role of "Sheila Price" on the ABC soap "One Life to Live". She plays the role on and off for four years.

September 1990 to June 1991
Season 43

September 1991 to June 1992
Season 44

September 1992 to June 1993
Season 45

1993

Michael Peters wins an Emmy Award for Outstanding Choreography for "The Jacksons: An American Dream".

1993

Albert "Budd" Johnson was inducted into the Big Band and Jazz Hall of Fame.

September 1993 to June 1994
Season 46

August 29, 1994

Michael Peters joined the ancestors.

September 1994 to June 1995
Season 47

September 1995 to June 1996
Season 48

Strangely, the concert was billed as BJ's 50th Anniversary. It was not. This was season 48.

September 1996 to June 1997
Season 49

September 1997 to June 1998
Season 50

September 1998 to June 1999
Season 51

Valarie Pettiford is nominated for a Tony Award as Outstanding Featured Actress in a Musical for her role in the Broadway production of  "Fosse".

September 1999 to June 2000
Season 52

Along the way, the mistake about dates and seasons was resolved, and this concert was correctly billed as the 52nd Season. Sadly,  this marked the final year and final performance of the Bernice Johnson Cultural Arts Center. 

September 23, 2002

Valarie Pettiford debuts as "Big Dee Dee" in the UPN sitcom "Half and Half". The show airs for four seasons, and is currently replaying on BounceTV.

October 13, 2002

The Alumni of the BJCAC hold their 2nd reunion at Martin DePorres High School. Master Classes are taught by Lee Lynn "Aca" Thompson (African), Omar Edwards (Tap), and Charles Epps (Modern). A performance was put on by Alumni and students of the legacy studios Devore Dance Center, ESOTA (Edge School of the Arts), and Five Star Dance Center.

November 22, 2004

The Alumni of BJCAC hold their 3rd Reunion at Bishop Ford High School in Brooklyn. Alumni and students from legacy dance studios performed "An Intimate Evening of Works Choreographed by Michael Peters".

October 7, 2005

BJ joined the ancestors. She was 94 years young and still tapping.

November 11, 2005

A star-studded Memorial Service was held for BJ at LaGuardia High School of Music & Art and the Performing Arts.

August 21, 2010

The Alumni of BJCAC hold their 4th Reunion at the Ailey School, New York, NY. Workshops were conducted by Chuck Davis (African), Brice D. Vick (Jazz), and Obediah Wright (Modern). Alumni and students from legacy dance studios performed "An Intimate Evening of Works Choreographed by Kevin Austin Hunt".

May 6, 2011

Valarie Pettiford stars alongside Angela Bassett and Loretta Devine in the feature film "Jumping the Broom".

August 24, 2013

The Alumni of BJCAC hold their 5th Reunion at JCAL/JPAC in Jamaica, Queens. Workshops were conducted by Frank Hatchett (Jazz), Lee Lyn Aca Thompson (African), and Kevin Iega Jeff (Modern). Alumni and students from legacy dance studios performed an evening of memorable BJ pieces, and recipients of our first Legacy Awards were Beverly Bazil Edge (Legacy Dance Mom), David Copper Sr. (Legacy Musician), Lee Lyn Aca Thompson (Legacy Teacher), Carolyn Devore and the Devore Dance Center (Legacy Studio).

August 27, 2016

The Alumni of BJCAC will hold their 6th Reunion at JCAL/JPAC in Jamaica, Queens. Workshops will be conducted by Shirley Black Brown Coward (Jazz), Amina Heckstall/ Alexandria MeyersDamon Foster (African), and Roger C. Jeffrey (Modern).

Members Area

Recent Videos

803 views - 0 comments
872 views - 0 comments
865 views - 3 comments
762 views - 0 comments

Featured Products

No featured products

Newest Members

Recent Forum Posts

No recent posts

Recent Photos

Oops! This site has expired.

If you are the site owner, please renew your premium subscription or contact support.