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Stage Name

Birth Name

Rufus "Rah-Rah" Greenlee

Rufus Greenlee

Thaddeus 'Ga-Ga' Drayton Thaddeus (Teddy) Drayton

    When one uses the term 'Class Act' in a dance number the names Rufus 'Rah-Rah' Greenlee and Thaddeus 'Ga-Ga' Drayton come to mind ( Drayton was affectionately called 'Ga-Ga' by his family.) These two African-American dancers used canes, wore monocles and dressed in white suits with tails, white socks, white gloves and even a white flower all the while dancing elegantly in unison, identically, step for step. These two would carry an air of distinction while dancing the Virginia Essence which when done before, but usually done in overalls and in the blackface comedy routines such as the straight man and the blackface fool. They were the quintessential class act team.

    Both were born in 1893 and came from well-to-do families. After moving to New York as children and seeing the likes of Williams and

Walker, Coates and Grundy etc., decided they wanted to become dancers and started taking dance lessons at Hallie Anderson's dancing school, starting with the Ballroom dances of the day and then Russian Dances in 1906 but their specialty was the Virginia Essence which later became the Soft-Shoe ( They were one of the first African-Americans to perform the Soft Shoe on the American Stage.)

    Thaddeus explains: When he started dancing in 1906 they all worked on their Russian dancing. The Shuffle and the Sand dance were going out and Tap dance hadn't yet been derived. He and Greenlee saw the Alexander Russian dancers at Coney Island and copied some of their steps. By 1914 they were on their way to the top with an all-Russian finale employing spins, flips and Kazotsky's ( Czardas) which made a fine climax to the routine.

    Russian / Hungarian dancing was popular in the States especially in American Vaudeville as early as 1900, but Ida Forsyne brought it to the forefront, up until Tap dancers started to control the Stages. Ida Forsyne, Greenlee and Drayton, U.S. Thompson, Willie Covan, Dewey Weinglass and others would excel in these quote"Russian Dances," often times calling it Legomania and sometimes a mixture these and other dances were called Eccentric dancing after WWI.

    Greenlee worked with many Minstrel acts and road shows such as Gerite Le Clair, Moore's New Orleans Minstrels, The Georgia Campers and many more. When not working on Stages, Greenlee worked at a Beer Tavern called Greenwald's at Coney Island and at one time dated Alice Whitman of the Whitman Sisters. Greenlee and Drayton partnered up with the Johnson and Dean toured fourteen countries together in 1913. Thaddeus held Johnson in high respect and patterned allot of his dancing after him.

    While touring abroad they met Ida Forsyne who helped them abroad until WWI and had to return to the states. Upon returning to the states they were spotted by Al Jolson who helped get them booked by Hugo Morris and the Murray File agency into the Riviera Theatre and never looked back.

    Their Act consisted of the following: First Act was centered around the Virginia Essence which became their most celebrated dance number. The Second Act was based around a song such as 'The Sheik of Alabam' or 'Big Boy' and the Third Number was a Challenge Dance routine between Drayton and Greenlee with Greenlee doing the fast dancing with acrobatics and Drayton doing Tap and Acrobatics. The Last Number was built around their Russian dances and Legomania.

    Greenlee and Drayton broke up the act around 1930 and remained best friends over the years. Drayton stayed in Paris for a while and Greenlee immediately returned home. Drayton eventually returned home, took root in Harlem. Drayton married an actress and dancer named Ethel Johnson who was then a young thespian and was in the all black adaptation of Macbeth, directed by Orson Wells. They had two children, Thaddeus "Teddy" and Thelma. Drayton continued to work with his wife for another six years upon his return to the states, where they retired.


Birth Place

Birth Date

Spouse

Offspring

(Greenlee) the South 18931963 Yes n/a
(Drayton) the South 18931964 Ethel Johnson (d.1990) Thaddeus & Thelma

Dance Types

Dance Partners

Music Titles

Acrobatic Dance Maude Russell Big Boy
Ballroom Dances   Lovin' Sam from Alabam (in Liza)
Charleston   The Carioca
Eccentric Dances   The Sheik of Alabam
Russian Dances            
Schottische        
Tap Dance        
Two Step        
Virginia Essence        
Waltz            

Ballets/ Minstrels etc.

Theaters

Stage

Georgia Campers, the 14th St. Theatre Liza (1922)
Gertie Le Clair Holburn Theatre  
Josephine Saxon Riviera Theatre      
Moore's New Orleans Minstrels            
Rastus Rufus and Apes            

 

Books, Magazine Articles on the dance...

Title

Author

Date

Publisher

Jazz Dance Marshall and Jean Stearns 1964 Da Capo Press

Films

Television

Publications

n/a n/a $ Jazz Dance (Marshal Stearns)


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