By Almeda Girod
Eleanor Pernia was born in Baltimore and grew up in Washington D.C. with one older sister.
Her Oklahoman father was training for the Olympics when he contracted polio. He later sold insurance, taught at American University, and helped develop the Business school at the University of Maryland. Her mother had a Ph.D. and was a teacher.
She began dance lessons at age 8 and describes herself as “addicted” to dance from an early age. As a child, Eleanor appeared on Channel 5 with a new TV personality, Willard Scott. She appeared in Tony Grant’s Children’s Theater on Steel Pier in Atlantic City with Teresa Brewer and Frankie Avalon. During summer vacations while in high school, she traveled with the Roxy Theater, performing at state fairs throughout the Midwest. She was a majorette in the Washington parade welcoming General McArthur home from Asia.
During the Korean War, Eleanor entertained Air Force servicemen with Military Air Transport (MATS) both nationally and internationally. Eleanor danced with the Vivanettes, performing in local hotels in Washington, Baltimore, and Richmond, entertaining such celebrities as Richard Nixon and Hubert Humphrey. She performed at the Casino Royale Night Club with Bobby Darin.
Eleanor married her high school sweetheart and had three children. She continued to perform during her marriage, and in 1967 opened the Eleanor Pernia Studio of Dance in Beltsville, MD. She became a lifetime member of the Dance Masters of America. She taught many young girls to become accomplished dancers. She sold her studio in 2005.
After retirement, Eleanor performed in the Civil War dance ensemble in Gettysburg, PA.
When Eleanor moved to Riderwood a year ago, she joined the Performing Arts Council. In addition to her life as a dancer, Eleanor loves to garden and has created a beautiful space outside her Park View apartment. She is also currently the representative for the McKinley high school graduating class of 1954.
Eleanor developed gypsy feet early in life and has traveled to all seven continents.
She sums up her life as “absolutely awesome” and “very rewarding.”