Vilma Ebsen, Brother Buddy's Dance Partner, Dies at 96 | Playbill

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Obituaries Vilma Ebsen, Brother Buddy's Dance Partner, Dies at 96 Vilma Ebsen, who, with her more famous brother Buddy, danced through three Broadway shows and one Hollywood musical, died March 12 at the Thousand Oaks Health Care Center in California. She was 96.

Vilma and Buddy, who specialized in an athletic, loose-limbed sort of soft shoe, made their Broadway debut in the musical Whoopee, according to the Hollywood Reporter. They then danced in a 1932 revue called Flying Colors to the songs "A Shine on Your Shoes" and "It Was Never Like This."

They were good enough to warrant an invitation to perform in The Ziegfeld Follies of 1934, in which they introduced the minor classic "I Like the Likes of You" by Vernon Duke.

Following the Follies, the duo was approached by MGM in 1936 for a screen test and given a contract for two years with a two-year option beginning at $1,500 a week each. But the twosome made only one film together, "Broadway Melody of 1936." It included a memorable sequence in which the Ebsens danced on the roof of a tenement to the song "Sing Before Breakfast."

Of the act's appeal, she said, "When dancing, Buddy and I were alter egos, you might say. We danced with that same wonderful relationship we shared as brother and sister I wouldn't say we were such great dancers. The vital thing that we gave out was a relationship. When we danced, we were grateful to the audience and we wanted to do it for them."

Ms. Ebsen made one more Broadway appearance, in the 1937 Howard Dietz-Arthur Schwartz musical Between the Devil. Soon after, she retired from the stage. She married composer Robert Emmett Dolan 1933 and they had one child, Robert. They divorced in 1948. That same year, she married tennis player Stanley Briggs. The couple had a son, Michael. Both sons survive her. Vilma Ebsen devoted the rest of her career to teaching. She and sister Helga started the Ebsen School of Dancing in 1943, focusing on ballet and tap dancing for children. It operated until the mid-1990s.

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