TBT: Alfonso Ribeiro, Hinton Battle, and Alan Weeks Star in The Tap Dance Kid

April 11, 2024

In the April 1984 issue of Dance Magazine, associate editor Joan Pikula spoke with Alfonso Ribeiro, Hinton Battle, and Alan Weeks, the trio of dancers leading The Tap Dance Kid on Broadway.

The then-12-year-old Ribeiro, who starred as Willie Sheridan, the titular tap dance kid, told us: “I’m able to get something inside of me out in tap dancing, just really take it all and put it out into the open. Let my feet do the stuff, you know?” Ribeiro shot to stardom in the wake of the role, though today he is better known as Carlton, from “The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air,” and as a recent winner and then host of “Dancing with the Stars.”

Battle (who passed away this year at the end of January)­ was already a bona fide star when he took the showstopping role of Dipsy Bates, Sheridan’s uncle and tap teacher: He’d been the original Scarecrow in The Wiz at age 16, danced with Arthur Mitchell’s Dance Theatre of Harlem,­ and learned to tap and won a Tony for Sophisticated Ladies. “To make yourself part of the particular style is the biggest challenge in working with different choreographers,” Battle said. “I like to dig into what I’m doing, see what the choreographer sees in the step, what gives it that specialness. I think that’s why I was able to pick up tap; it is steps, and there’s a technique, but that’s only half of it. The essence of it is more important.­ I could go out and do steps all night, but it wouldn’t mean anything. It’s that other thing that I always think of as the key. And I really think that’s helped me understand not only tap but other kinds of dancing as well.”

And Weeks, The Tap Dance Kid’s Daddy Bates, was only in his mid-30s but could boast a 27-year career working with the likes of Jerome Robbins, Gower Champion, Michael Bennett, Michael Kidd, and Matt Mattox. “Show business is my life—I just love the business, all facets of it. But Broadway—dancing—is my first love,” he said. “My only goal is to be working. The dreams change, the work is ever present. And if you can stay healthy enough just to work, I think success and all those dreams that people fathom up will automatically come.”