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Dancing with Dixie: Vaudeville Star Still Shines

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Dixie Roberts

Broadway and vaudeville performer, specialty tap dancer, musical comedienne, and self described “health nut,” Dixie Roberts, danced her way to vibrant wellness through most of the 20th Century.

Born on April 5, 1919, her first professional dancing job was with the Tommy Dorsey Band in 1935, when she was 16. Billed as the dancer who “taps with a Southern accent,” she was featured in ads for 7-Up and Clairol. Today, Dixie enjoys her retirement in Florida, as a wife, mother, grandmother, and great-grandmother.

In the Ziegfeld Follies number, "Come Up and Have a Cup of Coffee."

In 1943, Dixie was a specialty tap dancer in the Ziegfeld Follies, where she sometimes partnered with Milton Berle, and then shot pool with him after the shows. Renowned columnist, Walter Winchell, singled her out on a number of occasions, as “one of the lookers in the Ziegfeld Follies.”

Dixie Roberts

Dixie danced her way across the U.S. in a host of clubs and houses of entertainment from New York City’s Copacabana to Chicago’s Chez Paree to San Francisco’s Orpheum. She often made a memorable entrance, sliding onto the stage in an athletic burst of panache to appreciative applause! She opened shows for, and shared the stage with some of the biggest stars of the day, including Danny Thomas, Henny Youngman, Pearl Bailey, Jimmy Durante, and Benny Goodman.

Dixie Roberts

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After a performance at the La Martinique dinner theatre in 1946, a fan made his way backstage to tell her what an exceptional dancer she was. They dined at New York’s Armondo’s afterwards, and he tried to convince her to go to Hollywood. But she stayed on the East Coast, turning down both Hollywood—and Gene Kelly!

Gene Kelly and Dixie Roberts

During one USO hospital tour, Dixie tap-danced with Peg Leg Bates, the renowned, black, one-legged tap dancer. She recalls that he was a very cheerful fellow, and “danced far better with one leg than almost anyone else with two!”

Dancing in "Dream with Music", 1943.

Dixie was also a specialty performer in the Broadway show, “Dream with Music” (1943), in which she was the featured dancer in several numbers, and also danced with legendary choreographer, George Balanchine’s wife, Vera Zorina.

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Dixie Roberts, Swim Champion

The picture of health, Dixie was also a prizewinning athlete: A.A.U. Swimming Champ, expert riflewoman, and New York State Cue Champion. As a teen she was invited to train for the U.S. Olympic swim team. When her father refused to let her participate in such scandalous activity, she "showed" him—she went into “show biz”, instead!

Dixie Roberts, trophy winner.

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Meryl Ann Butler is an artist, author, educator and OpedNews Managing Editor who has been actively engaged in utilizing the arts as stepping-stones toward joy-filled wellbeing since she was a hippie. She began writing for OpEdNews in Feb, 2004. She became a Senior Editor in August 2012 and Managing Editor in January, (more...)

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Some folks prefer to email me privately with their... by Meryl Ann Butler on Sunday, Apr 5, 2009 at 8:40:14 AM
And a playful spirit is something you both share I... by Theresa Paulfranz on Sunday, Apr 5, 2009 at 11:40:11 AM
When I was a little girl I always wanted to be lik... by Meryl Ann Butler on Sunday, Apr 5, 2009 at 11:50:40 AM
Your inspiring articles always bring a smile to my... by Gail Davis on Sunday, Apr 5, 2009 at 1:09:56 PM
Yep, she has lotsa stories! I bet when she shot... by Meryl Ann Butler on Sunday, Apr 5, 2009 at 1:24:29 PM
What a life!  Meryl Ann, your tribute was lov... by Jan Baumgartner on Sunday, Apr 5, 2009 at 9:48:49 PM
I called Dixie today to wish her a happy birthday!... by Meryl Ann Butler on Sunday, Apr 5, 2009 at 10:15:23 PM