Eventually, they moved to his home state of Texas and settled in University Park to raise their two young daughters. When the neighborhood mothers found out Denise had been a dancer they convinced her to teach their daughters. She began classes in a bedroom in their home on Purdue and within one year opened her first ballet school on Lovers Lane. Denise Brown School of Ballet performed their first recital in May of 1950.
She and James had two more children and her ballet school continued to grow. Denise was a founder of Dallas Civic Ballet in 1957 and was their company manager for many years. She choreographed ballets for the company that were adjudicated and performed at the Galas for the Southwest Regional Ballet Festivals. In 1995 she was awarded the Mary McLarry Bywaters Dance Award for her lifetime contribution to dance. She also served on the board of the Dallas Dance Council, now the Dance Council of North Texas, for years.
Over the course of her lifetime, Denise choreographed numerous ballets, but the one that always stood out was “WAR”, a ballet about the Holocaust that she dedicated to the memory of her father, her first fiancé, and her other eight-two friends and family members who lost their lives. Denise continued to teach until 2008 and passed away in 2011. The last performance Denise attended was the City Ballet recital of 2010 called “Denise’s Journey”, Evelyn’s tribute to her mother’s story, which included a re-staging of “War”.
In 1992, Evelyn founded City Ballet Theatre and choreographed ballets for various dance events and festivals in the Dallas area to rave reviews. She choreographed for the ABC movie, “Face of Rage”, as well as Austin Contemporary Ballet and LakeCities Ballet where she met her husband, John, who was a dancer with Ballet Dallas. They have two daughters.
Evelyn Brown Johnson became the Director of City Ballet in 2001 and continues her mother’s legacy to the present. In 2019, City Ballet will celebrate our 69th annual ballet performance!
Denise Levi-Lattes Brown, City Ballet’s founder, was born in Paris, France. She began her ballet training at the age of eight and progressed quickly. By the age of sixteen she was performing with the junior company of the famed Ballet Russe in Nice, France. At the age of 17, when the Nazis arrested Denise’s father for his work in the French Resistance, she joined the Resistance herself. Her father was in the first deportation from Paris to Auschwitz. Throughout the remainder of WWII she continued to attend classes as often as she safely could. In the fall of 1945, the Chief of the French Resistance awarded Denise the Croix de Lorraine for her service to France. When the war ended and the Americans occupied Paris, she worked as a translator for the American Army. It was in this capacity that she met her husband, James Brown.