Tanya B. Johnson, a dance instructor, died on Saturday, Dec. 14, 2019. She was 76.
She was born on March 17, 1943, to the late Dorothy Reese and Albert L. Graham in Philadelphia.
“Tan,” one of her many nicknames affectionately used by family and friends, was educated in the Philadelphia public school system and graduated from West Philadelphia High School in 1961.
Her love for dance started at age 5 when she began taking lessons at the Sydney School of Dance. While she enjoyed tap and interpretative dance classes, ballet quickly emerged as her favorite genre. Her passion and expertise in ballet resulted in her being chosen to represent West Philadelphia High School in the All-City Dance Concert.
As a member of the Jerome Gaymon Trio, she performed in numerous showcases with her close friend, Lola Falana. Johnson was also a principal dancer in the Philadelphia Cotillion for several years. She began teaching at the Sydney School of Dance at 14 and remained in that position for over 50 years.
“Ms. Tanya,” as her students called her, treasured the opportunity to share her love for dance with scores of young people, said her family. “She was poetry in motion and to all of us little Brown girls, she was ballet in human form. In every graceful arm and pointed toe, she will live forever,” said Tiffany Morgan, a former student.
On Dec. 23, 1961, she married Marvin H. Johnson Sr. From this union came two children. She shared her love of dance with her daughter, who attended the Sydney School of Dance until she graduated from high school. Over the years Johnson also taught ballet to several of her nieces and cousins. Each June, these lessons culminated into a dance recital at the Academy of Music, which her husband, son and mother rarely missed. She was an equally passionate supporter of her son’s interests, including Boy Scouts, which meant driving him to countless Scout meetings and camping trips.
For over 20 years, she worked as an instructional assistant in the School District of Philadelphia. The majority of that time was spent supporting student growth and achievement at the in Mount Airy. She volunteered and taught an extra-curricular dance class and helped organize the school’s annual book fair.
When her husband was initiated into the Kappa Alpha Psi Fraternity, she joined the Philadelphia Kappa Silhouettes. As a member of that organization, she was actively engaged in community outreach and enjoyed collaborating with women she considered her dear friends. She became the president for several terms.
She was a lifelong member of the African Episcopal Church of St. Thomas. She participated in numerous church activities and was on several committees including the Order of the Daughters of the King. She served as its vice president, chaired the Special Projects Committee and organized the distribution of meals to families in West Philadelphia.
Following the death of her husband, “Granny,” as her grandsons affectionately called her, loved spending time with “her boys,” while going on cruises, traveling to Disney World, and taking annual trips to Hilton Head, South Carolina.
In the closing months of her life, her great-granddaughter was born.
“No matter how ill she may have been, if she saw her great-granddaughter Nora Peyton Johnson, Tanya would instantly smile with joy,” said her family in a tribute. “Whenever we told our mother that we loved her, she would warmly smile and quickly reply, “I love you more.”
In addition to her great-granddaughter, she is survived by: her children, Marvin Jr. and Monica; daughter-in-law, Angela; grandsons, Marvin III and Tyler; granddaughter-in-law, Abigail; brothers-in-law, Dennis and Eric; two sisters-in-law, Eloise and Gwen; and other family and friends.
Services were held on Dec. 23 at the African Episcopal Church of St. Thomas, 6361 Lancaster Ave. Viewing was at 9 a.m. Services followed at 11 a.m. Interment was at Chelten Hills cemetery.
Wood Funeral Home handled the arrangements.