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Stage Name

Birth Name

Ida Forsyne Ida Forsyne (Hubbard)
" Topsy "  

    Living over a saloon, Ida's Mother was a maid and her father disappeared when she was two years old. Her mother was not very supportive of her dancing and didn't think she could dance but dancing she did, even if only for pennies in front of a candy store. By the time she turned ten, she was working as a Pick (Pickaninny) at the Chicago Worlds Fair doing the Cakewalk.

    While living over the saloon she would get to sneak in and watch some of the shows, here she met a "sportin' house" pianist named Willie Mason who showed Ida her first real dance steps. Sneaking into many shows around town and watching the rehearsals she was able to learn more dancing and was becoming a experienced hustler.

By the time Ida was fourteen she ran away from home by joining a 'Tab Show' called 'the Black Bostonians' which had her singing a song and doing an eccentric Legomania style Buck Dance routine. The show went broke in Montana and Ida hand to sing in the streets for money for a ticket home.

    In 1898 she was working with the Black  Patti Troubadours  traveling the circuit from New York to the Barbary Coast until 1902. She won many Cakewalk contests along the way. After the Troubadours she worked for many minstrel houses in New York and Coney Island where she learned to become a Blues Shouter. In 1902 she joined the Smart Set production and sang and did some Jazz dancing. By 1904 Ida's career was booming. Her warm personality and her facial expressions always won over the crowd. While returning from a successful tour in London she received man offers she accepted one from the Marinelli Agency that would last for the next nine years. During this time would be her biggest successes. It was her she would receive her greatest training and attention. Playing such places as the Moulin Rouge, Alhambra Theatre and even gave a command performance for the Royal Family.

    Ida was basically as self trained Vernacular dancer who would portray a colored "Topsy" girl character who would sing and dance. She wore a bandana, created dances such as her Sack Dance and even got the chorus lines to Blacken' Up (Blackface) during her performances. She became a real success. However her biggest success would be when she created her Russian Dance  routines complete with Russian costumes made in St. Petersburg, Russia, Boots and had her own music scored for her as well. She did these Russian dances abroad for many years and later the states.

    In America, the Russian dance was usually performed with what they called 'Kazotsky's', where the dancer squats down, crosses their arms across their chest and kicks their legs out alternately. Altho this was an already established Hungarian dance called Czardas and not Russian, most Americans would not know the difference and still today see it as Russian dancing. Ida Forsyne was one of the first American woman to do these 'Kazotsky's' at the end of her performance in her Moscow program. These "Kazotsky's where done long before her but after this one performance, and her improvisations of it, she would be hailed (incorrectly) as the greatest Russian dancer of all time as she traveled the world for nine years without a break. For about 15 years this style Ida started would be done by many dancers in Vaudeville and even on the Broadway Stages from 1911 to 1925 ( Russian dancing was popular before Ida in the States and was a popular style to be done in Vaudeville as early as 1900, but Ida brought it to the forefront.)

    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 of these and other dances were called Eccentric dancing after WWI.

    When Ida returned home from London she found it very hard to get a job as the timing was not right for many of the "Dark Skinned African American" performers even in the South. She found few jobs that would pay her any real money, worked as a maid for awhile, even worked with Bessie Smith as a backup dancer, then back as a maid and again back to a $35 a week gig in a chorus and finally as a hotel elevator operator. Her Russian dances were now just old hat as Tap, Shake dances, Shimmies and more were filling the Stages and a Dark Skinned Black women doing Russian dances was not very popular with the audiences who would actually Boo her on Stage. She couldn't go back to London due to the war and says "it was really hard to go from star status to nothing in a blink of an eye." She finally gave up the Russian acts and just kept trying to get work and worked off and on into her sixties and spent the remainder of her life in a nursing home.

Birth Place

Birth Date



Chicago 1883-?1966? Hubbard? n/a

Dance Types

Dance Partners / Groups

Music Titles

Buck Dance Abie Mitchell Coloured Students Lindy by the Watermelon Vine
The Cakewalk Black Patti Troubadours (18981902) Moana 
Eccentric Dance Tennessee Students, the (1905) My Hannah Lady         
Jazz Dances    
Russian Dances    

Night Clubs



n/a   23rd St. Theatre (1906) 1897 - Black Bostonians
  Palace Theatre (London 1906) 1898 - Black Patti's Troubadours
  Winter Garden Theatre (1903)    1902 - Smart Set
        1904 - Southerners, the
        1951 City Center (Cakewalk)




1930 - Lilly White n/a $1964 - Jazz Dance (Marshall Stearns)
1936 - Green Pastures ... as Mrs. Noah    


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