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R.I.P. Anne Mills (1922-2018)

March 1, 2018

anne zorigian2R.I.P Anne Mills, Original Bal dancer.

Anne was one of the strongest follower voices and favorite dance partners of the original Balboa dancers. Anne was born Anna Zorigian in 1922 to an Armenian family in Massachusetts that had come from Turkey in 1913. By 1930 the family had moved to California where her father opened a shoe-repair shop.

As a teenager in the late 30s and early 40s, she was known as “one of the five bal gals,” a group of friends who were renowned for dancing (Pure) Balboa at any tempo. (Though she also did “Swing,” — roughly what we’d call Bal-Swing today — and Lindy Hop.)

For the modern generation, she was known for her knowledge of the dances and clear memory of the times, giving a great amount to our understanding of Southern California  swing dancing — She not only had much to say on the philosophies and mechanics of following and the importance of expressing oneself as a follower (see interviews below for a taste), she also had an unrivaled understanding of the leaders of the day (sometimes understanding them better than they did themselves).

International Balboa and Lindy Hop instructor Nick Williams says she could show him how all the different basics of the great leaders she danced with felt.

She thought it was important for every follower to have a voice, and every dancer to have individuality.

Above all of this she was a strong, supportive, and independent woman, especially considering the time and place she grew up in. At age 18, she already had a job as a stenographer, and later in life worked at USC where she was an active board member of the school of music.

She will be missed.

On a personal note, I danced with Anne when I was a young’n, in  2003 and 2006. I remember very clearly that no matter how I moved, or what move I lead, she moved the way she wanted to (which was much smoother and more laid back behind the beat than I was leading at the time.)

I had the feeling that no matter what I tried to do, she would not allow me to make her look inelegant.

Realizing that, and its importance, makes that one of my favorite dance memories.

Here is a collection of some of her dancing, with her husband John Mills, as well as greats Willie Desatoff, Maxie Dorf, and Dean Collins. Below that is a collection of YouTube clips of an in-depth interview of her conducted at the Balboa Follower Festival in 2007 run by Joel Plys and Alison Scola. (As you watch the interviews, please remember she is a person of a very specific time and background, and as such some of her opinions were actually very ahead of the time, whereas others will seem antiquated to a person in the modern scene with an evolved understanding of the dance and its scene.)  Huge thanks to Joel and San Deigo Swing for publishing those interviews on YouTube.

Huge Thanks to Lewis Orchard for his in-depth research (and finding of her year book picture), and Tise Chao and Hilary Alexander for their help in further information.

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