Choreographer John Hines

Posted: September 13, 1989

Services were to be held at 10 a.m. today for John Hines Jr., a Philadelphia choreographer who taught four generations of young black men the art of dance, an artist whose influence today is felt as far away as Holland and Australia.

Hines, 62, of Logan, died last Wednesday at Temple University Hospital from complications following a decade-long battle with diabetes.

"He was the first Philadelphian to master the Katherine Dunham technique of African and Caribbean dance, and became one of her apostles," said Dr. J. Brooks Dendy, director of the National Creatadrama Laboratory for the Related Arts.

A native South Philadelphian, Hines as a boy was a ballet student at the Essie-Marie Dorsey School of Dance on South Broad Street, the only dance academy in Philadelphia at the time open to blacks.

"His mother, Naomi, was the artistic influence in his life, urging him to follow his dream of a career in dance when it was folly for blacks to consider such a goal, let alone pursue it," added Dendy.

Hines used his GI Bill educational benefits to study with Dunham in New York City, following a hitch with the the Army as part of a USO dance trio formed to entertain soldiers.

Upon his return to Philadelphia, he began to teach with Marion Cuyjet and Sydney King, two influential Philadelphia teachers and dancers. Known primarily for his expertise in ethnic dance, Hines also studied and taught tap, ballet and modern dance techniques.

"I knew him primarily as a dance teacher and dance actor, a man an entire generation of black dancers owe their careers to," said Joan Myers Brown, executive director, Philadelphia Dance Company (Philadanco).

His influence went back to a point in time when many black fathers had problems relating to a son who wanted to pursue a career in dance, explained Brown. Hines helped fathers and sons bridge that gap.

"Back then, most dance teachers were women, but John proved there was nothing effeminate or gay about men who wanted to dance. It wasn't a frivolous pursuit, it wasn't a waste of time," continued Brown.

"He demonstrated to those with the talent, and a love for the art, that it was something a man could do with pride."

Many of Hines' students went on to professional careers themselves with Philadanco, the Harlem Dance Theater, and the Alvin Ailey Dance Company, including Billy Wilson, John Jones and the late Elmer Ball Jr.

Hines had a 30-year association with the Society Hill Playhouse, which ended when he lost toes to his diabetes, forcing him to end his practice of giving tap dance lessons on the playhouse stage.

"John choreographed productions of 'The Blacks,' 'Oh, What a Lovely War' and 'Lock Up Your Daughters,' just to name a few," said Susan Turlish, program director at Society Hill Playhouse.

"He was a joy to behold, a pleasure, a wonderful dancer, teacher and human being. He had a dynamite personality. When John was on stage, John was the total presence," she added.

Hines was described by Dendy as a fastidious housekeeper, maintaining the home in Logan in the same fashion received when he inherited it from his mother. "John loved antiques, china, brocade. The home was more like a museum," Dendy recalled.

Hines' last public performance was in 1987 in West Philadelphia at the Kopia Dinner Theater's production of "Club 51," a dance presentation featuring senior and retired performers.

Hines is survived by three cousins, Lois K. Harris, Eunice Parker and the Rev. John R. Custis Jr; and a friend, Jeffrey Simmons.

Today's service was to be conducted at the Keene & Carney Funeral Home, 1939 W. Diamond St.

Burial was to follow in Merion Memorial Park, 2020 Ridge Ave., Bala Cynwyd.


Services were to be held at 10 a.m. today for Mary Frietsch Keck, a French immigrant who with her late husband, Wendelin, operated the Frietsch Bakery in Northeast Philadelphia.

Keck, who died Sunday at a Media nursing home, was 93 and had lived in Glenolden, Delaware County.

Her family arrived from France when she was 10 years old, and she lived in Philadelphia most of her life, taking a job as a Bell Telephone operator after closing the bakery business.

She is survived by a son, Wendel Frietsch; a daughter, Margaret Ruhl; and six grandchildren.

Mass of Christian Burial was to be celebrated at Our Lady of Fatima Church, 1 Fatima Drive (at South Avenue), Secane, Delaware County, where friends were invited to call after 9:30 a.m.

Burial was to follow in Holy Sepulchre Cemetery, Cheltenham Avenue above Easton Road, Cheltenham Township.


Charles L. Clark, a decorated Navy hero of World War II, died Sunday. He was 72 and lived in Bustleton.

Clark earned three Bronze Stars and saw action in the South Pacific and Asia. He was a member of Catholic War Veterans Post 162.

He was employed as a instrument worker at Frankford Arsenal from 1949 until his retirement in 1977.

Clark is survived by his wife, Margaret Ulicsny Clark; a daughter, Margaret Kelly; and four grandchildren.

Mass of Christian Burial will be celebrated at 10 a.m. tomorrow at Maternity BVM Church, 9220 Bustleton Ave.

Burial will follow in Our Lady of Grace Cemetery, Route 1 Bypass and Old Lincoln Highway, Langhorne, Bucks County.

Friends may call tonight between 7 and 9 at the Galzerano Funeral Home, 9304 Old Bustleton Ave.

A contribution can be made to Abington Memorial Hospice, 1421 Highland Ave., Abington, Pa. 19001.

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