David Lober, Sr, passed away December 25, 2019 at age 96. He was a dancer in the Broadway companies of such shows as Bloomer Girl, Touch and Go, Wonderful Town, Donnybrook, Here's Love, Flower Drum Song, Fiddler on the Roof, and My Fair Lady. One of his early influences in dance was Lester Horton, whose company he joined for several years. Up to his death in San Jose he was a spiritual and dance teacher. He is survived by his wife Nancy Lober, and his children Kyra Lober, Katherine Andrusco, Alexandra Piacenza, David Lober, Jr and Aaron Lober.
I turned to tap at the outset of the European lockdown as a meaningful escape from the anxiety of the pandemic. As a dance historian specialized in dance film, I've seen my fair share of tap on screen, but my own training remains elementary. While sheltering in place, my old hardwood floors beckoned. I wanted to dig deeper in order to better understand tap's origins and how the art form has evolved today. Not so easy to accomplish in France, especially from home.
Enter the L.A. Tap Fest's first online edition.
Alongside 100 other viewers peering out from our respective Zoom windows, I watch a performer tap out rhythms on a board in their living room. Advanced audio settings allow us to hear their feet. In the chat box, valuable resources are being shared and it's common to see questions like, "Can you post the link to that vaudeville book you mentioned?" Greetings and words of gratitude are also exchanged as participants trickle in and out from various times zones across the US and around the world.
Learning and Jamming Digitally<p>My all-access festival pass provided a link to masterclasses and choreography courses in tap at every level, as well as complementary electives like jazz, African and kathak. Alongside Smith, the faculty boasted tap luminaries Derick Grant, Star Dixon, Dormeshia, Tony Merriwether, Chris Scott and Ivery Wheeler, to name a few. Their pre-recorded classes were available at any time throughout the week.</p><p>In the evenings, I joined participants from across the United States and multiple continents for tap events that were adapted for Zoom. An all-ages jam kicked off the first evening, followed by a virtual cutting contest mid-week. Although Zoom didn't allow for the dancers to share a physical space, they were able to emulate tap's traditional face-off through alternating turns. Alicia Niwa won in the junior category, while Olivia Hussey finished first in the older division.</p>
Preserving the Legacy<p>In an interview, Smith recalled how Gregory Hines' enthusiasm about his idea for the first L.A. Tap Fest provided the encouragement Smith needed to make it happen. A cancer diagnosis didn't stop Hines from offering to perform at the inaugural festival for a symbolic five dollars. When the dancer tragically passed away mere days before the festival opened, it fueled Smith's commitment to honoring tap's heritage. He notes that Black tap artists "went through so much. I don't want their legacy and experiences to have been in vain." The festival program reflects this mission through <a href="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ArBeaMJaEiY" target="_blank">"footage night,"</a> an archival screening and numerous invited speakers.</p><p>Aged 86, <a href="http://taplegacy.org/dr-arthur-duncan/" target="_blank">Dr. Arthur Duncan</a> was one such guest, appearing first via a prerecorded conversation with Smith, followed by an interactive Q&A. Best known for his years dancing on "The Lawrence Welk Show" (1964–1982), Duncan regaled us with memories of his ongoing career. Persevering in the face of racism, he underscored the need to have a strong support network. He cited important allies like Betty White, who ignored complaints from racist television viewers and invited the dancer back to her 1954 talk show.</p>
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