"I wear dead people's clothing; I do dead dances; I bury the dead."

Photo by Candace diCarlo


Assistant to WXPN's Assistant General Maner for Marketing and Development
Length of service:
1 year
Other stuff:
She models in vintage fashion shows and acts in little-theater productions.

"Danses macabres?" Not. Vintage social dancing best describes the dances that WXPN part-timer Eva Brothers performs. Brothers, 33, performs dances from the Renaissance to the Roaring '20s.

The professional dancer is also a part-time mortician, but grim she's not. She even has a sense of humor. How else to explain her willingness to go along with us on a Halloween piece about a dancing mortician?

Q. How'd you explain the combination of dancing and mortuary science?
My director was saying there is a running theme in everything I do. I do vintage fashion shows, so I wear dead people's clothing; I do dead dances; I bury the dead; and then at WXPN there's the "Grateful Dead Hour," so there's a running theme.

Q. How did you get into all these dead things?
When I was young, I never thought I would be a mortician. but I was very interested in macabre things.I liked to read about Egyptology, specifically, how they mummified. I only liked to go to museums with mummies. I went to the University Museum, because I grew up around here, so it was great.
   I would read about disasters. I would read about the Titanic. I knew all the figures and facts about the Titanic, about the Hindenburg, Pompeii, anything that involved a disaster.
   It wasn't until about eight years ago that I thought the mortuary field held a lot of what I was interested in - how cultures mourn death, how I found I was comfortable in that situation, helping people. I do like to help people. I wanted to work in a health field, but I wasn't interested in hospitals or nursing or anything like that, and this is considered a health field.

Q. Is there any special training involved?
I went to school at San Francisco College of Mortuary Science for a year ...

Q. If someone wants to hire you as a mortician, can they?
I don't work for any one funeral home. Usually the tide of death comes in a large amount or a very small amount. So if [funeral homes] have a need for extra people, that's when they hire additional staff like me just for a job.
   If a family wanted me to do a funeral, I could arrange with a funeral home.

Q. How do you fit in working at WXPN?
I work three days a week. Some weeks I work only two days, some weeks I work four. It gives me the flexibility to do other things

Q. How did you get into the dance thing?
I joined a group three years ago. I'd taken one class with [a woman I know] in ragtime, and she encouraged me to audition for her group. At that time I went to San Francisco and when I came back she again asked me to audition, and taught me how to partner, how to waltz, how to do the fox trot, all the things we do in our dance company.

Q. What are the groups you dance with?.
Mixed Pickles, Mercury and Dance Connection.

Q. What kinds of dances do you do, and where do you perform?
I've done choreography for the Renaissance Faire, from the baroque era, from the Civil War era, Victorian through turn-of-the-century ragtime, Charleston, lindy hop, swing dance, jive, disco.
   A lot of times we perform at theme parks and theme parties. We did a performance, they kind of wanted background, of waltzing and the theme was the gilded age. So we came in costume and tried to create the atmosphere for the party.

Q. So do you make money dancing?
I'm beginning to. Before, what we earned went to the group, to Mercury for example. It went to rehearsal space and to costumes. Our director (at Mercury) has a basement full of costumes. But she also is an antique-dress collector. and she likes to have vintage fashion shows. We usually give them in nursing homes.

Q. How is vintage dance different from other forms?
The tango that I did in Japan [two weeks ago], for instance, the name of the tune is "Jealousy," so I'm flirting with the men in the crowd, and my partner is enraged. I like dancing with a little story. That's why I'm not in competition, [which is] pretty much just dance.

Q. What are you working on now?
My regular partner, Bob Butryn wants to create a variety show. I guess the closest thing to compare it to would be vaudeville. I think it's a stage show, and he wants to travel with that and he wants me to help him work on it. I can't say no. Travel and dance is the best combination for me.

Front page for this issue | Pennsylvania Current home page

Originally published on October 29, 1998