LaDeva Davis, The Renowned Dancer
In the heart of South Philadelphia, a legendary figure emerged, leaving an indelible mark on the world of arts and education.
LaDeva Davis, a passionate educator with 44 years of dedication to Philadelphia Public Schools, has woven a tapestry of inspiration and creativity throughout her illustrious career.
Early Beginnings At Bartlett Junior High School
- LaDeva’s journey commenced at Bartlett Junior High School, where she taught music from 1965 to 1978.
- With a Bachelor of Music Education Degree from The Philadelphia Musical Academy, now known as the University of the Arts, she embarked on a mission to ignite artistic passion in inner-city children.
- Breaking barriers, LaDeva introduced vocal, instrumental music, and dance to students who had yet to discover their artistic potential.
- Her innovative approach transformed Bartlett Junior High School into a hub of creativity, laying the foundation for what would later become the Philadelphia High School for Creative and Performing Arts.
From The Streets To Renowned Stages
LaDeva’s influence extended far beyond the classroom.
Serving on the Steering Committee for Dance & Theater Certification for Teachers and the PA Arts Education Council, she became a beacon of inspiration for aspiring artists.
Her role as the Modern, Jazz, and Hip-Hop Instructor at the Chester Fine Arts Center further solidified her impact.
National High School Dance Festival Triumph
In 1988, the CAPA Dance Company, under LaDeva’s guidance, performed “Living the Dream” in Atlanta, Georgia, earning a special invitation from Coretta Scott King.
From Philadelphia to Florida to California, CAPA dancers consistently garnered scholarships and secured positions in esteemed dance companies, Broadway productions, and even major sports teams.
Early Beginnings And Dedication to CAPA
LeDeva Davis played a pivotal role in shaping the artistic landscape of Philadelphia. As a founding faculty member of CAPA, she dedicated 57 years of her life to nurturing young talents.
Since the school’s inception in 1978, Davis passionately taught dance, leaving an enduring impact on countless students.
Her commitment to CAPA was unwavering, and she had no plans of retiring, considering the school her home and family.
Legacy Of Love And Tough Love
Known for her tough yet loving approach, Davis was a pillar of strength for her students.
Joanne Beaver, the Principal at CAPA, reflects on Davis’s legacy, stating, “To have that legacy of 57 years, there is no way to describe the impact that she has had or how legendary she was as a human being.”
Davis’s mantra of making a difference and loving what she did every day resonated with everyone she encountered.
LaDeva Davis: Her Professional Life
In the heart of Philadelphia, amidst the billiard halls owned by her larger-than-life father, Edward (Chick) Davis, LaDeva Davis’s tap-dance journey began, etched with the richness and serendipity of myth.
Chick, a pool-playing legend, once learned soft-shoe moves from none other than Bill (Bojangles) Robinson, the vaudeville maestro who brought tap dancing into the limelight.
The twist? Robinson passed on his wisdom to LaDeva when she was a mere three or four years old. Imagine, being taught to tap dance by the legendary Bojangles himself.
A Life Devoted To Dance And Education
Ms. Davis’ journey began as a founding educator at the prestigious Philadelphia High School for Creative and Performing Arts (CAPA), where she dedicated an impressive 57 years to nurturing young talent.
Her influence extended beyond the dance studio; she was a mentor, advocate, and a driving force behind the success of her students.
Early Steps Into The World Of Dance
- Recognizing LaDeva’s natural talent, her mother, also named LaDeva, made a pivotal decision to enroll her in dance school at the tender age of four.
- Soon, she graced the stage with her tap-dancing skills on “The Parisian Taylor Kiddie Hour Radio Show,” setting the foundation for a remarkable career.
- Her journey later led her to become an instructor of tap dancing at the prestigious Swarthmore College.
- Beyond the rhythmic world of tap dance, LaDeva proved herself as a true renaissance spirit. While she inherited a strong pool game from her father, her prowess extended far beyond the billiard table.
- A black belt in kung fu, an adept pianist and ukulele player, a skilled singer, and a natural at deep-sea fishing, LaDeva was a force to be reckoned with.
The Dance Of Fame
LaDeva’s dance career soared as she shared the stage with luminaries like Gregory Hines, Billy Dee Williams, Josephine Baker, and Natalie Cole.
Not only did she captivate audiences with her performances, but she also imparted her knowledge to hundreds of students, some of whom went on to dance with renowned companies like Alvin Ailey Dance Theatre and American Ballet Theatre.
Her choreography even graced the prestigious Mummers Parade in Philadelphia.
From Dance To The Culinary Stage
In a surprising turn of events, LaDeva’s journey took a culinary twist. In 1975, WHYY, the PBS station in Philadelphia, launched a cooking show, and they chose LaDeva to be the host.
“What’s Cooking?” became a sensation, showcasing budget-friendly recipes with LaDeva’s signature flair.
Wearing her hair in a distinctive high bun and donning aprons embroidered with lively declarations, LaDeva brought joy and accessibility to cooking.
Culinary Royalty On Screen
LaDeva’s charisma transcended the dance floor, making her the first Black woman to host a nationally syndicated cooking show on public television.
News About The Recent Death Of LaDEVA DAVIS
Rest in Heaven LaDEVA DAVIS
U ARE OUR QUEEN. ❤❤❤🙏 pic.twitter.com/8qwUA7NwB9
— Pamela Truitt (@truitt_pamela) September 9, 2022
With scripted yet lively episodes, she joked, coaxed, and raved her way through the kitchen, proving that delicious meals need not break the bank.
The show’s success skyrocketed, airing in nearly a hundred PBS markets across the country.
Coping with Loss: A Call To Dance
In the wake of Davis’s passing, the CAPA community finds solace in honoring her wishes.
Beaver shares, “She would not want anybody to be sitting around feeling sorry for ourselves or her. She would not want us crying; she would want kids dancing.”
In tribute to Davis’s spirit, the call is for students to dance on the Parkway on Thanksgiving Day, embodying the joy and passion she instilled in them.
A Life Well-Lived
On Thursday, September 9, 2022, LeDeva Davis passed away after a massive stroke.
Her family, deeply saddened, is in the process of arranging a service to honor her remarkable life.
As we reflect on the loss, let us also celebrate the decades of passion, dedication, and artistic brilliance that Davis shared with the world.
A Legacy Beyond The Stage And Screen
- Beyond the lights and cameras, LaDeva considered herself, above all, a teacher.
- While she reveled in her celebrity status, her true satisfaction lay in imparting knowledge.
- Her niece, Beth Johnson, attests to LaDeva’s impact, recalling a moment when strangers excitedly recognized her as the “cooking lady” at a traffic light.
- In her passing in 2022, LaDeva Davis left behind a legacy as the queen of Philadelphia, a multifaceted talent whose influence extended far beyond the stage and screen.
- Her story, rich with myth and serendipity, continues to inspire, reminding us that greatness can be found in the most unexpected journeys.
LaDeva Davis: Grammy Nomination, Honors, Recognition, Cause Of Death And Legacy
A Force In The Arts
While Ms. Davis excelled in various arenas, her true passion remained dance.
CAPA stands as a testament to her dedication, where she molded aspiring dancers who went on to grace Broadway, form their own companies, and contribute to renowned dance troupes such as Alvin Ailey Dance Theatre and Dance Theatre of Harlem.
“Mama Dee”: An Iconic Mentor
Known affectionately as “Mama Dee,” Ms. Davis was more than an educator—she was an icon, a legend, and a steadfast supporter of her students.
Her friend, Judith Jamison, reminisces about Ms. Davis as not only imparting dance knowledge but life lessons, emphasizing the profound impact she had on the lives of those she touched.
A Lasting Legacy
Ms. Davis’ influence extended beyond the stage, reaching into the hearts of her students.
Joanne Beaver, CAPA’s principal, attests to her unwavering commitment to bringing out the best in every child, emphasizing Ms. Davis’ unique ability to believe in her students when others might not.
The Impact On Future Generations
Shawn-Lamere Williams, artistic director of Eleone Dance Theatre, reflects on Ms. Davis’ enduring support, stating that her influence has shaped his life for over 30 years.
Such testimonials underscore the profound impact Ms. Davis had on the dance community and beyond
Honors And Recognition
Acknowledging her exceptional contributions, Ms. Davis received the Lindback Award for Distinguished Teaching, a fitting tribute to her dedication to education and the arts.
Her influence stretched beyond the classroom, encompassing roles as a choreographer for commercials, local theater companies, and a Mummers fancy brigade
A Dazzling Career Beyond CAPA
Beyond her role at CAPA, LaDeva Davis’s career in dance was nothing short of dazzling.
As a choreographer for the 6abc Dunkin’ Thanksgiving Day parade and with experience on Broadway, Davis’s creative influence extended far beyond the school’s walls.
Her talents were recognized with a Grammy nomination in 2007, solidifying her status as a luminary in the world of dance