Ann Pennington was the greatest of the solo female stage dancers who came to prominence in the Broadway revues of the 1910s and '20s. She was also the smallest of the dancers, combining the pert cunning of the stage actress Marguerite Clark with the girlish abandon of Mary Pickford. A brilliant tap dancer, she stopped the show in her first Ziegfeld Follies in 1913 and remained a fixture in his shows until George White stole her for his Scandals in 1920.
Fascinated with the antic styles performed by black ragtime dancers, she took lessons from the brilliant Virginian dance teacher, Billy Pierce, and perfected on the stage the "shake and quiver" style of show dance. She popularized the "Black Bottom" and was the only white woman dancer who influenced black Broadway dance styles.
Originally rather stocky, Pennington danced herself into the slender, streamlined body configuration that Ziegfeld championed on the Broadway stage. Public relations blurbs hailed her as the girl with the dimpled knees. But what distinguished her was the joyous fury of her dancing, captured only intermittently in her periodic film outings.
Pennington's Broadway career lasted into the 1930s with "The New Yorkers" and "Everybody's Welcome." She then enjoyed a long life in vaudeville singing as well as dancing as one of the acts who could still draw when the form was dying. She played herself in "The Great Ziegfeld." David S. Shields/ALS