Janet Collins was born on March 2, 1917 in New Orleans, Louisiana. She grew up in Los Angeles, California. She auditioned for the Ballet Russe de Monte Carlo when she was only 15. She was very talented, but she was not accepted because she was black.
They told her she would have to dance in a white face. She said no thanks. She went to New York City in 1948. She had a chance to dance at the 92nd Street YMHA in February 1948. Many other black dancers got their big chance there.In 1951 she became the first African American prima ballerina at the Metropolitan Opera in NY, NY.
She made a lot of African American little girls want to be ballerinas. Janet taught at the School of American Ballet in New York City. She moved to California and continued to teach dance. In the 1960s, Janet taught dance at Manhattanville College in Purchase, NY. (very close to Pocantico Hills School.) Janet Collins opened the door for other African American girls and women who want to be ballet dancers.
In an interview in 200 Ms. Collins recounted how she was not allowed to tour with the company during the off-season because black and white dancers were not allowed to dance on the same stage in the South. Janet Collins died on May 28, 2003 at the age of 86.