Ione Nash's career in dancing started in 1950, when she was in her late 20s. She had been discouraged from dancing when she was young and took it up only when she could manage it for herself. She was first drawn to ballet but expanded to modern, jazz, tap, and interpretive dance (as African dance was called at the time). In 1960, when Ms. Nash opened her dance school in the 5800 block of Germantown Avenue, she was the first African American to open a business on that street. She had to go to court to keep the right for her drummers to perform. Times have changed. But nearly 35 years later, Ms. Nash is still dancing and still teaching - and the vitality of the local African dance scene can be partly credited to her early efforts.
Ms. Nash's dance background is broad: she has studied ballet, ethnic, modern and jazz dance, as well as African dance forms. She worked with Haitian dancer John Hines and Ghanaian dancer Saka Acquaye, who founded an African dance troupe in Philadelphia. From 1958 to 1960, she was one of 10 dancers in Acquaye's ensemble. Other important teachers were Marion Cuyjet (with whom she danced on pointe), Savilla Forte (from whom Ms. Nash learned the Dunham technique), Olatunji, Ernie Pahan, Joe Nash, and Olive Bowser. Over the years, Ms. Nash has performed in a variety of settings. In earlier days, she danced with John Hines on the cabaret circuit in Philadelphia's Crystal Ballroom and in various New York venues. From 1960 to 1963, she danced as a partner with Arthur Hall.
She founded her own company, the Ione Nash Dance Ensemble (INDE) in 1960. INDE's repertoire mixes Brazilian, Haitian, and Congolese dance with an American influence and includes such pieces as "Dance of the Witch Doll," "Fire Dance," "Dances of the Sacred Skull," "African Stool Dance," and "Warrior and the Panther." The dancers perform in costumes they create themselves, including traditional Samba skirts, raffia skirts, scarves, and beadwork.
Ms. Nash's many years of contribution to the Philadelphia dance community have been honored by the Stockton Rush Bartol Foundation, at Movement Theatre International's Philly Dance Africa, and by Ekuejo at the University City Arts League, where former students and their children commented that they were amazed and inspired to see her still dancing.
Philly Dance Africa