National Tap Dance Day is May 25th – Shay’s Top 5 Tap Dancers
This Friday, May 25th is National Tap Dance Day and this day has special meaning for me because I was a tap dancer for many years. I wish it had been professionally but I wasn't THAT good. I just loved it and have danced since I was 2 1/2 years old. I took lessons from Patty Harper Dance Studio here in Abilene and even did a little teaching too. I think I've mentioned that I used to want to be a “Solid Gold” dancer; remember them? I also wanted to be a Rockette, now I want to be on Dancing with the Stars. It's fun to dream isn't it?
I have to say I had the chance to meet one of my tap dance idols a few years back. Arthur Duncan, who of course was a staple on The Lawrence Welk Show from the mid-60s to early 80s when I was growing up. When I met him he was here performing at the Civic Center for the West Texas Rehab Telethon, I was there broadcasting live for the radio station. It wasn't lost on me that he was dancing on the very same stage that I had performed on for many years. I was so in awe I didn't say much but I did have him sign a pair of my tap shoes.
One person I would loved to have met was Gregory Hines, one of the greatest dancers ever. I loved to watch him, he was so light on his feet it was like they never touched the ground. Unfortunately, we lost him to cancer in 2003. In the mid 80's Hines teamed up with one of the most brilliant ballet dancers, Mikhail Baryshnikov, for a movie called “White Nights” then in 1989 he starred in a movie called “Tap” with two other of my favorite dancers, Savion Glover and Sammy Davis, Jr. Two great movies that you should see if you haven't already and if you have think about a re-visit.
Known as the best tap dancer in the world Savion Glover had a string of his own movies that were great too, including the hit that earned him his nickname and “Jelly's Last Jam”. Hines was one of Glovers teachers and even commented that Savion was possibly one of the greatest tap dancers ever. That says a lot! Glover is now the teacher with his own school: Savion Glover Productions HooFeRzCLuB School for Tap.
Sammy Davis, Jr.
In addition to being part of the “Rat Pack” Davis was an incredible dancer. He began his career as a vaudeville dancer, joined the Army and became part of an entertainment unit, then resumed show business once leaving the Army. In 1985 he did a documentary along with Mikhail, Gene Kelly, Liza Minnelli and more that covered the gamete of dancers and their history associated with dance. Many may remember him as a singer or actor, I remember him as a wonderful dancer.
Gene Kelly is probably the name that comes to many peoples mind when you ask about great dancers. He was a legend, he was the king of musical productions. “An American in Paris” was good but I think his best work was also his most famous “Singing in the Rain”. I love the main scene of him dancing with the umbrella around a light post in the rain. I did that dance myself when I was in probably junior high. We wore clear raincoats and danced with umbrellas too, it wasn't quite as spectacular as Gene Kelly's version but our parents thought we were a hit!