Constance Valis Hill is author of Brotherhood in Rhythm: the Jazz Tap Dancing of the Nicholas Brothers (2000), Tap Dancing America, A Cultural History (2010), and Tap Dance in America: A Twentieth-Century Chronology of Tap Dance on Stage, Film, and Media (http://memory.loc.gov/diglib/ihas/html/tda/tda-home.html)
Thirty years ago, U.S. Joint Resolution 131, introduced by congressman John Conyers (D-MI) and Senator Alphonse D'Amato (R-NY), and signed into law by President G. W. Bush declared:
"Whereas the multifaceted art form of tap dancing is a manifestation of the cultural heritage of our Nation...
Whereas tap dancing is a joyful and powerful aesthetic force providing a source of enjoyment and an outlet for creativity and self-expression...
Whereas it is in the best interest of the people of our Nation to preserve, promote, and celebrate this uniquely American art form...
Whereas May 25, as the anniversary of the birth of Bill "Bojangles" Robinson is an appropriate day on which to refocus the attention of the Nation on American tap dancing: Now therefore, be it resolved by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America in Congress that May 25, 1989, be designated "National Tap Dance Day."
Afro Flow Yoga is a body-and-soul awakening. Created by dancer-yogini Leslie Salmon Jones and multi-instrumentalist Jeff Jones, the dance form melds yoga with West African diasporic dance.
The majestic entrance into Sky-Mind Hall, an exquisite 3,000-square foot floor-to-ceiling-windowed studio with breathtaking views of the Playa Guiones along the Pacific Ocean, at Blue Spirit Retreat Center in Nosara, Costa Rica, recently introduced me to the practice.
Sarah Reich has turned her tap shoes into instruments. Photo by Christopher Erk
Perhaps the most precious tradition in tap dance is honoring the elders, reflecting a belief that dancers cannot tap a sound without re-sounding the steps of the masters. This show of gratitude is not nostalgic but regenerative: the practice of realizing the future from the past while making one's own inscription on the tradition.
And so it is with Sarah Reich and the release of her debut album, New Change, a mix of original tunes composed of percussive tap rhythms performed by Reich and an ensemble of jazz musicians. The tunes are dedicated to and named after jazz tap masters—from Harold Cromer, the tap dancer/vaudevillian who was Reich's decade-long mentor, to such notables as Ted Louis Levy, Arthur Duncan, Ivery Wheeler, Jason Samuels Smith, Brenda Bufalino and Dianne "Lady Di" Walker.
What is "new" in New Change is the common-sense idea that tap dance is music—and that it can be composed by tap dancers.
Leticia Jay (back left) and dancers at one of her Tap Happenings. Photo courtesy Jane Goldberg's Changing Times Tap archive
Writing in Dance Magazine in 1969 about Tap Happenings, those weekly tap dance jams at the Bert Wheeler Theater in New York City, critic Patrick O'Connor commented on dancers Sandra Gibson and Leticia Jay, the two sole female performers: "Gibson, the first of the red hot 'soul' mamas does a number, as does Leticia Jay, but face it, the evening belongs to the men."