Happy Birthday, Buster Brown!

May 13, 2013

It’s a little over a week until National Tap Dance Day (May 25), but this Friday marks another cause for celebration in the tap world: It’s the 100th anniversary of Dr. James “Buster” Brown’s birth. One of the great late tap masters of the 20th century, Brown was known for his fast feet and generous spirit. One of the few artists to have been a member of both tap groups the Copasetics and the Hoofers, he became a mentor to many young tappers in his later years, hosting a regular tap jam at club Swing 46 in Manhattan. 


In her teens, tapper Michela Marino Lerman (a DM “25 to Watch”) was one of Brown’s students at the club. “Buster was a grandfather to me, always giving advice and moral support,” Lerman told historian Constance Valis Hill in her anthology, Tap Dancing America. “When he taught you, he grabbed your hand and said, ‘That’s your way, that’s how you do it.’ ”


In conjunction with the American Tap Dance Foundation, Lerman is producing the Dr. James “Buster” Brown Centennial Celebration, May 17–19. It’s a full weekend of master classes, discussions, jams, and performances, with some of the best teaching and tapping.


Lerman, Dianne Walker, Jason Samuels Smith, Kazu Kamagai, Max Pollak, and Mable Lee are scheduled to lead classes and perform at the final performance Sunday evening at Swing 46. Additional guest performers include Michelle Dorrance, Tony Waag, Nicholas Young, Andrew Nemr, among many others. In Lerman’s words, “It’s a full-out extravaganza!”


To read more about “Buster” Brown and for celebration details, visit www.atdf.org/Buster100th.html.