“Her deep humanism informed workshops she crafted to help dancers and non-dancers alike feel more whole, more connected with themselves and each other. As a performer, she was an electric presence and a beautiful mover. As a choreographer she broke through expected norms to find her own unique original form.”
~ Joan Finkelstein, director of Harkness Foundation for Dance
A baby girl was born on October 27, 1944 in Florence, South Carolina to Roscoe and Oralee (née Williams) Cummings. The oldest of what would be their three daughters, the new parents named her “Blondell”. Their life in the South held little promise, as the Cummings parents labored as sharecroppers, picking cotton and tobacco for a living. Desiring more, especially for their new family, they moved to New York City. The Cummings settled in the Harlem community of the Manhattan borough when Blondell was still an infant.
Both Oralee and Roscoe worked to support their family, which soon included Hilda and Gaynell. Oralee worked as a domestic and later as a nurse while Roscoe drove a taxicab. By the time, Blondell was a teenager, the Cummings moved to live in the borough of Queens. A bright and creative girl, Blondell performed well in school. She would ultimately earn a Bachelor of Arts degree in Dance and Education from New York University and a Master of Arts degree in Fine Arts from Lehman College of City University of New York. Additionally, she studied at the dance schools of Alvin Ailey, Martha Graham and José Limón.