In Dancing for Joy, Regina Woody’s 1959 memoir, she remembers her adored English teacher Miss Clara Bentley’s commenting on her plans to be a great writer like Hans Christian Anderson and a great dancer like Anna Pavlova. “I recommend that you do one thing at a time, Regina. One thing at a time,” she suggested. Regina decided to become a dancer first and a writer later because you could write when you were old. At that time she thought twenty-five was old! Regina attended Dana Hall for only one year, her sophomore year 1910-1911. Shortly after the academic year ended in June 1911, she and her mother travelled to London, and later to Paris so Regina could study dance. After many adventures, recounted in Dancing for Joy, Regina successfully auditioned to dance at the Folies Bergère. Mademoiselle Reuche brought her Dana girls to see Regina dance in Paris. Regina recounted: “I could see them sitting in the … third row of the orchestra in starched white blouses with high collars… I suspect this was the only time the Folies Bergère was included in Mademoiselle’s itinerary.” However, Regina’s performance gained Mademoiselle’s approval. She told Regina’s mother “It certainly can’t hurt my girls to see little Regina dance, for in truth, she does dance very nicely.” Later Regina, whose stage name was now Nila Devi, choreographed and danced in the Opera at the Alhambra in Algiers, performed in Budapest at the Winter Garden, and finally at the Jardin de Danse on Broadway in New York City. While waiting for her ankle to heal after a skating accident, Regina studied first aid and auto mechanics, and planned to return to her beloved Paris to drive an ambulance and give first aid during World War I. She never went abroad to drive an ambulance though. Instead she fell in love and in 1918 married her first aid instructor, Dr. McIver Woody. The birth of their first child ended her career as a performing artist, but Regina, with the encouragement of her husband, embarked on a new career in writing. By taking courses in the English novel at the Bread Loaf School of English in Middlebury, Vermont and many writing courses at New York University and Columbia University, Regina learned how to write professionally. Regina wrote articles for many periodicals, and fifteen books, including Dancing for Joy, Dance to a Lonely Tune, A Time to Dance, The Stars Come Down, and Boarding School, a fictionalized account of her time at Dana Hall. Many of her books are in the Alumnae Authors display cabinet in the Helen Temple Cooke Library or in the non-circulating Archives Group Study Room collection.
Note: The Elizabeth [NJ] Public Library has two scrapbooks of Regina Woody’s covering her years as a dancer and her family life. The collection also contains research and galleys for Ms. Woody’s book. Select the link to access the finding aid on the Regina Jones Woody Collection at the Elizabeth Public Library.