Friday, October 28, 2016

Women and Tap

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Marshall Davis, Jr., Mable Lee, Savion Glover
Last Sunday evening I was at an event called, “Turn Up for Tap” that celebrated the great, still going strong at 95 years of age, Mable Lee. It was organized by Marshall Davis, Jr. and Savion Glover as one of a series of “Turn Up” parties acknowledging the greats in tap dance, the first one of which was two years ago for the late Steve Condos. The evening was fun and ended a seven day period where some women in tap figured prominently in the public arena. On the previous Tuesday, Brenda Bufalino received a Bessie (named after the dance teacher Bessie Schonberg) award for Lifetime Achievement in Dance, presented by Ayodele Casel who on the night before performed a knockout tap piece ("While I Have The Floor") at a fundraiser for Hillary Clinton in which she honored the black women tap dancers who have influenced her as a woman artist of color. In addition to these three women, I’ve been thinking about the other women in the world of tap whom I have met or known. Here is a synopsis of who they are. I could do a full blog entry on many of them, so look up any of these women to find out more about them.

Mable Hart: The woman who started it all for me, running a dance school in Harlem where I first learned to tap dance in the late 1950s. Even though she could do some tap, it wasn’t her specialty. My tap teacher was a Mr. Dow.
Marion Coles (1915-2009): Wonderful person. Former chorus line dancer and member of the Silver Belles, a group of other former chorus line dancers. A teacher to many of us and someone I had the pleasure of performing with years ago. She knew a lot!
Harriet Browne (1932-1997): Nicknamed “Quicksand” because of the sand dancing she became know for. 
Karen Callaway Williams: A member of the 2nd Generation Silver Belles and a stylish dancer in her own right.
Dianne Walker: Known as “Lady Di” and well revered in the tap community. A student of the great Leon Collins. Has many stories to tell.
Tina Pratt: I first was aware of her with her connection to Barry Harris’ Jazz Cultural Theater in the Chelsea area of Manhattan. She always tapped in high heels and mostly to jazz. She also has performed as a “exotic” dancer.
Jeni LeGon (1915-2012): Danced with Bill “Bojangles” Robinson and was the first African American woman to be offered a long-term Hollywood studio contract. In her later years, she remained active. She once say to me, “Smile when you dance!”
Loretta Abbott (1933-2016): Multitalented dancer/performer, whom I had the honor of performing with once. The last person to partner with Alvin Ailey, she appeared on Broadway and in films. Studied tap with Henry LeTang.
Mickey Davidson: Another dancer of multiple genres. Active in the world of swing dance, having worked with Frankie Manning and the next woman mentioned on this list.
Susan Goldbetter: A really good friend from my days when we were in a mime company. She became a tapper and did a lot with, and for, Charles "Cookie" Cook which began her producing work, which she continues today.
Lynn Cataldo: Another friend from the mime days who also taps. 
Ann Kilkelly: Tap dancer, retired Professor of Women's Studies and good friend.
Norma Miller: Swing dancer, author and variety performer still active at the age of 96. Was part of Whitey’s Lindy Hoppers with Frankie Manning in the late 1930s and early 1940s.
Sarah Petronio: From France and great friend of the late Jimmy Slyde. Was pleased to do a soft shoe dance piece in her honor at a tap festival a few years back. Her daughter also dancers and husband has photographed many tappers.
Heather Cornell: Originally from Canada and someone I met in the tap class of Charles “Cookie” Cook. She was Artistic Director of Manhattan Tap and is now a leading tap teacher happening these days.
Roxane Butterfly (Semadeni): Got her Bessie in 1999 and runs the Jimmy Slyde Institute in Barcelona. A friend from way back, with some of the fastest feet in the business!
Jenny Lane: An expert on Eleanor Powell (she even looks a little like her) who has done dance presentations on Powell’s style of dance. 
Laraine Goodman: A community oriented artist who has brought tap to the streets and unique locations in NYC. Famous for her Club 124, a free Friday night performance series done during the summer of 1997 on the steps of her apartment building.
Jane Goldberg: Long time member of the tap community. Producer, writer and dancer, once known as the “Tap Goddess of the Lower East Side.”
Wendy Levine: Often came, and danced, at Buster Brown’s tap jam at Swing 46 Jazz and Supper Club in the late 1990s. Was usually accompanied by her young daughter, Hannah, also developed her dancing at the jam.
Megan Haungs: Good friend and colleague who was one of the regulars at Buster Brown’s tap jam at Swing 46. Married to another tap dancer, Toes Tiranoff, and has performed (along with me, too) with the great Harold Cromer in shows we all put together. Also knowledgeable about acupuncture.
Traci Mann: Dancer and teacher who created a group of young male dancers called, “The Young Hoofers”, some of whom as adults have gone onto great acclaim, like DeWitt Fleming, Calvin Booker and Jared Grimes.
Yvette Glover: Known to some as the “Tap Mom.” A wonderful singer and supporter of tap who happens to be the mother of Savion Glover.
Cobi Narita: A major figure in the world of jazz and a big supporter of tap dance via her open mike sessions and performances she has produced.
Barbara Shenton: Dancer and tap support. Often responsible for graphic designs of material related to the art form.
Kathleen Ciroli: New Jersey dancer who has taught for many years in her dance school and has a boat named “The Shim Sham.”
Acia Gray: Co-Founder/Producing Artistic Director of Tapestry Dance Company and head of The Soul to Sole Tap Festival, both based in Austin, TX. Tapestry may be one of the few full time tap dance companies around.
Debbie Dee: A protege of the late Henry LeTang, she has been one of those teachers going at it for awhile. 
Beverly Moore: Dancer who has worked with Mable Lee and others. An important presence on the tap scene.
Jackie Shue: A dancer I met in the downtown contact improvisational world. Originally from Boston, she also tapped and was the first person to tell me about Leon Collins. 
Margaret Morrison: Dancer and writer with particular interest in the politics of race and gender.
Peggy Spina: A resident of the SOHO neighborhood since its beginnings. Her tap company often performed tributes to dancers like Buster Brown. I often would “bump into” her at the NYU Coles Center pool!
Katherine Kramer: No longer based in NYC, but years ago had a loft in Manhattan where I saw some performances of her and other tappers.
Lynn Jassem: A performer who, in addition to tap, has done mime and it’s in that world that I crossed paths with her a long time ago in MY mime days! Currently she tours with her solo show “From Como to Homo” which traces her life growing up performing.
Deborah Mitchell: Head of the NJ Tap Ensemble. Learned to tap and skip rope, at the same time, from the late Leslie “Bubba” Gaines.
Germaine Ingram: Performed for years with LaVaughn Robinson and now works on challenging dance/movement pieces, when not traveling around the globe.
Germaine Salsburg: New York based dancer and teacher who has a group, Les Femmes Plus. Was often the host of the talent showcase as part of Avi Miller and Ofer Ben’s Tradition In Tap festival.
Michela Marino Lerman: Close friend (“adopted” goddaughter) and mentee of the late great Buster Brown. Teaches and performs around the world and brings tap regularly to Club Dizzy at Jazz at Lincoln Center.
Terry Lerman: Tap lover/supporter and Michela’s mom.
Lynn Schwab: Dancer, teacher, choreographer who has a way of dancing that I’ve always liked.
Barbara Duffy: Back in the late 90s did a weekly tap brunch at the old Reno Sweeney's on 13th St. A teacher of many, many!
Susan Hebach: Teacher for many years of young tap dancers.
Dormeshia Sumbry-Edwards: The only woman to be in the show "Bring In Da Noise and Bring in Da Funk." A great stylist in her dancing and heads the Sophisticated Ladies chorus line at The Cotton Club on 125th St in Harlem. Mother of two talented youngsters and married to tap dancer Omar Edwards.
Chloe & Maude Arnold: Sisters in tap who are responsible for the DC Tap Festival and the Syncopated Ladies, a group of women tappers who have world wide acclaim. Each sister has done outstanding individual work of note.
Michelle Dorrance: MacArthur “Genius” Grant awardee and head of her company, Dorrance Dance. A great spirit and novice banjo player.
Hillary Marie: Dancer and teacher who at the age of 19 started the NJ Tap Festival, which happens every August and will have its 8th occurrence in 2017.
Frances Bradley: A really nice dancer who also is an accomplished visual artist.
Alexandria Brinae Ali Bradley: Not only a tap dancer, but a good singer. She and her sister Frances inherited their “tap” gene from their dad, Alfred Bruce Bradley, a dancer and teacher.
Lisa La Touche: A friend and one of the up and coming dancers lucky enough to be in the too short Broadway run of “Shuffle Along, Or the Making of the Musical Sensation of 1921”. She’s got a good spirit. 
Claudia Rahardjanoto: A dancer with an honest sensibility. 
Sali Ann Kriegsman: Writer and long time advocate for tap dancing. She brought it to the Smithsonian in DC years ago!
Jacqui Malone: Good friend and writer. A former dancer with modern dancer Eleo Pomare, I first met her in Cookie’s tap class. She’s written on black dance and worked with Cholly Arkins on his biography.
Sally Sommers: Writer and teacher, whom I remember teaching a tap history class at the School of Visual Arts. when I was also teaching a performance history class there.
Constance Valis Hill: A writer on tap and yet another person  I remember from Cookie’s class years ago. 

And there are those women whom I don’t know but have seen on screen or in person who have impacted me like; Juanita Pitts, Lois of the Miller Brothers & Lois, Eleanor Powell, Gail Conrad, and Andrea Levine.

I feel like dancing!!!!!!


3 comments:

  1. Love this review and your views Hank....see you at the big apple fest

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  2. Sometime soon Id love for you to attend Post Modern Jukebox concert and experience it with Sarah Reich harolding tap ...its a show not to miss

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  3. Thanks Hank for this insightful, delightful, full picture of women in Tap, women who have and have had a large part in preserving, supporting and expanding the of scope of tap-dance. I would also include Barbara Duffy and Susan Hebach both great dancers and teachers who have influenced and taught so many, young and old alike around the world. Much appreciation to you for your blog and wisdom

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Thanks for your contribution.