Mercedes Ellington Receives Lifetime Achievement in Dance Award & Surprise film from Columbus State University! 

Columbus State University ‘s College of the Arts recently presented renowned dancer/choreographer/actress Mercedes Ellington with its 2017 “Lifetime Achievement Award in Dance” at CSU’s annual BROADWAY BALL on Friday, December 1 in Columbus, GA. The announcement was made by Karyn Tomczak, the Viki Jiles Flanagan Distinguished Chair in Dance in CSU’s Department of Theatre.

“We are proud to announce the 2017 recipient of the award is Mercedes Ellington,” Ms. Tomczak said. “Ms. Ellington hails from an esteemed three-generation family in the performing arts, including her grandfather, the famous jazz musician and composer Duke Ellington, and her father, the popular bandleader, Mercer Ellington.



The evening’s festivities culminated with a ‘surprise screening’ of a fascinating documentary short, filmed and edited by TheaterPizzazz’s own Michael Stever, and produced by Tomczak herself and revered producer and PR executive Les Schecter. The short film featured many of Mercedes’ friends, colleagues and comrades including Andre De Shields, The Hon. David N. Dinkins, Lee Roy Reams, Antoinette Montague, Pamela Hunt, Melanie LaPatin, Ty Stephens, Eli Yamin, Michael Dinwiddie, Tony Waag, Les Schecter, Karyn Tomczak and Sandi Durell.

“Mercedes is a graduate of the Julliard School with a degree in ballet and modern dance and broke the color barrier in the sixties on national television as one of The June Taylor Dancers on The Jackie Gleason Show. She performed in the show for the next seven years and then launched her professional Broadway dance career in such shows as Sophisticated Ladies, No No Nanette, and The Grand Tour.

“Her choreography for the Broadway show Play On won her a Tony nomination. For 10 years she served as the Artistic Director of BalleTap, USA, aka DancEllington. Ms. Ellington continues to tour and choreograph and direct both small and large music celebrations of the music of her grandfather and is the President of the Duke Ellington Center for the Arts which she founded in 2004.”

According to Ms. Tomczak, “Each year the Ball gives the coveted CSU Lifetime Achievement Award in Dance to an individual who has attained a distinguished level of accomplishments on the Broadway stage as an dancer, actress and choreographer. Our 2016 honoree was Tony Award winner, Ann Reinking, the honorary chairperson of our program.”