TBT: Talking Tap With Gregory Hines

December 16, 2021

“I can’t ever remember not tapping,” Gregory Hines told us in the December 1988 issue of Dance Magazine. The lauded tap dancer and film star graced the cover that month to talk about Tap, a then-upcoming feature film starring Hines and Sammy Davis Jr. It brought together tap masters Jimmy Slyde, Harold­ Nicholas, Bunny Briggs, Sandman­ Sims, Steve Condos, Pat Rico and Arthur Duncan alongside a 14-year-old up-and-comer named Savion Glover. (“He is where tap dance is going,” Hines said, with no small amount of prescience.) “As opposed to getting some actors and giving them tap lessons for six months, these guys shaped their own parts,” Hines told us.

Hines’ prolific career began with semiprofessional performances with his brother (under the moniker “The Hines Kids”) at the age of 5 and blossomed to encompass television, films and Broadway, earning him Tony, Emmy and Drama Desk awards. His mainstream popularity, coupled with a dogged commitment to pushing the boundaries of rhythm tap improvisation while honoring the form’s masters and roots in Black dance, made him one of tap’s most visible—and effective—ambassadors. At a tap conference in 1986, he said (as was quoted in our September 1988 issue), “Stop talking about a tap revival! That doesn’t make it live in a contemporary sense. We’re not bringing anything back. Tap is here. Now.” Hines passed away in 2003 at age 57, but his legacy has been carried on by his students and mentees, including Glover and Dianne “Lady Di” Walker.