REMEMBERING DANCE ARTIST RUBY JEANNE MILLSAP (1938-2021)
Ruby worked as a Registered Nurse in New York City but she had a passion for dance. She took dance classes as often as possible from such notable artists as Pearl Primus, Katherine Dunham, Martha Graham, Gus Solomon Jr., Donald McKayle, Merce Cunningham and Talley Beatty. After moving to Los Angeles Ruby joined Saida Gerard’s Theatre Dance Company, received the Ely Elias Award in fine arts from the University of Judaism, and was encouraged to enroll in the University of California, Los Angeles’s Dance Department by Ms. Gerard.
Ruby went on to major in dance at UCLA in 1967. Afterwards presented her graduate concert focusing on African American folk themes, Ruby earned her master’s degree in Dance. Once graduating, Ruby chose to follow UCLA professor C. Bernard Jackson who was the creator and director of Inner City Cultural Center (ICCC) which offered acting and music classes with the intent of producing new plays to revitalize the Los Angeles community after the upheaval of the Watts riots.
Ruby became a part of ICCC, teaching, creating and acting for Mr. Jackson as he created new plays. Donald McKayle was brought in to teach modern dance and to form a company to showcase his ballets. Ruby was asked to join the dance company just as it took off with the Los Angeles premier of Mr. McKayle’s celebrated works “Games”, “District Storyville” and “Rainbow ‘Round My Shoulder”. As history shows, Donald McKayle and Company was well received and scheduled for additional performances, another season in Los Angeles and touring. Ruby appeared in several ballets with the company including “Migrations”, “Nocturne”, “Sojourn” and Talley Beatty’s “Caravan Serai”.
Her most challenging and satisfying work, however, was with ICCC and Donald McKayle’s Company that led her to many projects choreographing her own work and teaching in various universities where she was loved by her students.
The dance community has lost a wonderful artist and Ruby Millsap will be greatly missed by her family, friends and colleagues.