Dance Archives - StoryCorps

Through Music, Father And Son DJs “Sow Love” And “Get Love Back”

Jo Vill first started DJing back in the 70s, eventually passing his passion on to his son, Chad. 

Chad, at around 2 years old, reaching for his dad’s turntable. Photo courtesy of Chad Vill.

But they never imagined that their shared love for music would bring their Brooklyn, New York neighborhood together, as the COVID-19 pandemic was ripping families apart.

During lockdown, many New Yorkers, including Jo’s wife, Gail, would join in a daily ritual of cheering for first responders. Jo and Chad were then inspired to put some speakers in the street and start playing songs for their neighbors. This quickly morphed into a daily block party, with hundreds of people flocking to their Clinton Hill street, St. James Place, to dance and connect with others during a time of isolation. They named the parties St. James Joy.

Neighbors dancing at a Saint James Joy block party in August of 2020. Photo by Niikai Wells.

Jo and Chad came to StoryCorps in May of 2021 — more than a year after they first started St. James Joy — to remember how it all began.

Top Photo: Jo Vill and Chad Vill in Brooklyn, NY, in June of 2021. By Nathan West.

Originally aired June 18, 2021, on NPR’s Morning Edition.

“My Mother the Performer”: The Life and Legacy of Dorothy Toy

In the late 1930s, Dorothy Toy and her dance partner Paul Wing made their Broadway debut after years touring on the Vaudeville circuit. In one of their earliest Broadway appearances, the duo, billed as Toy & Wing, performed in a musical review. That night, as Toy & Wing took their bows, the applause was thunderous. Dorothy later told her daughter that the audience got on their feet and applauded so vigorously the bandleader was forced to bring them out repeatedly – stalling the next act. Dorothy would say, she lost track of how many bows they took that night, but that they became a fixture on Broadway from then on.

Dorothy, Paul and a young Dorlie Fong dancing the cha cha during an encore performance. Courtesy of Dorlie Fong.
Dorothy Toy and dance partner Paul Wing (Toy & Wing) posing at the Forbidden City Nightclub in 1950’s San Francisco. Courtesy of Dorlie Fong.

Decades later, after founding her own dance company and touring the world, Dorothy Toy planned to visit StoryCorps with her daughter, to look back on a lifetime of performance. But she passed before that was possible. Dorothy was 102 years old when she died. She had suffered multiple broken hips and lived with dementia, but she considered herself a dancer well into her final years.

In March of 2021, her daughter Dorlie Fong came to StoryCorps to honor her mother. In that session she committed to tape many of Dorothy’s stories from a bygone era of Vaudeville, Hollywood, and Broadway. But beyond that, Dorlie described what it was like growing up backstage and finding connection with her mother the star.

Top Photo: (L) Dorothy Toy and her young daughter Dorlie Fong backstage in the 1950’s. (R) Dorlie with her mother on her 101st birthday. Courtesy of Dorlie Fong.
Bottom Photo: Dorothy Toy performing in her home dance studio in front of a CBS news crew. Courtesy of Dorlie Fong.

Originally aired April 2, on NPR’s Morning Edition.