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5 Tap Dancers Whose Names You Should Know

Chloe Arnold

As Co-founder of the DC Tap Festival, Chloe Arnold began her professional career at age 10 in Savion Glover’s Washington, DC Crew performing at The Dance Place, The Kennedy Center in Savion Glover's All Star Tap Revue (starring Gregory Hines, The Nicholas Brothers, and Jimmy Slyde), and in Frank Hatchet's Broadway Showcase. At 16, she was cast in Debbie Allen’s production of Brother's of the Knight at The Kennedy Center. She has continued to work with Debbie Allen for over a decade as a performer, choreographer, director, and producer. Today, Chloe is known as one of the leading ladies in Tap.

Most recently, Chloe and her company, All-Female Tap Dance Band, won the first Crew Battle on FOX's So You Think You Can Dance with Chloe Arnold's Syncopated Ladies. She also released a Tap Dance Salute to Beyoncé. Upon Beyoncé's post of the video via social media, the video became an instant viral sensation. Some of Chloe's other recent credits include a recurring role on HBO's hit series Boardwalk Empire as one of the Onyx Girl, performing at Madison Square Garden for the opening of the NY Knicks 2013-2014 season, working with Beyoncé on the 2013 Pepsi and H&M campaigns as well as many music videos, guest performing on NBC's America's Got Talent, ABC's Dancing with the Starsand FOX's So You Think You Can Dance, Make Your Move 3D, a highly anticipated dance feature film, a sold-out NY run of her One Woman show My Life. My Diary. My Dance. at La MaMa in New York City, Global Fusion Concert in Dubai with 10 of the world's most accomplished musicians, and performing with Chloé's Syncopated Ladies at the star-studded “One Night Only” Homecoming Gala Concert Cabaret at the Howard Theatre in Washington, DC. Some of her other stage credits are Emmy Award winning Choreographer Jason Samuels Smith’s critically acclaimed Charlie's Angels: A Tribute To Charlie Parker, Co-starred with Tichina Arnold and Robert Torti in Debbie Allen's Alex in Wonderland at the Kennedy Center and Frued Playhouse, and performed in modern Tap musical Imagine Tap. She also choreographed and starred in the 2008 live Television Opening Number of the Jerry Lewis MDA Telethon that raised $65 million for the Muscular Dystrophy Association. Chloe has guest starred and choreographed other Television shows appearances like Nickelodeon’s The Brothers Garcia, Discovery Channel’s Time Warp, and the CW's One on One and The Parkers. Chloe's other film credits include HBO/Universal Pictures Outkast’s feature film Idlewild and Dean Hargrove’s award-winning short film Tap Heat.

As a Tap Dance Soloist, Chloe has performed in over 21 countries and 35 states including the Stockholm Tap Festival, Taipei Tap Festival, Melbourne International Tap Festival, Tap Reloaded – Stuttgart, Tap In Rio, Tap Into A Cure – Edmonton, Alberta, Canada, Brazilian International Tap Festival, Maui Tap Experience, Uberlandia Tap Festival, Tap City– NYC, Chicago Human Rhythm Project, Sole to Soul – Austin, North Carolina Rhythm Tap Festival, Philly Tap Challenge, L.A. Tap Festival, DC Tap Festival. As a member of Jason Samuels Smith's Anybody Can Get It, she has performed at City Center's Fall for Dance, Sadlers Wells In London, Jacob's Pillow, The Getty Museum, Coca, and the Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago.

While admitted to Harvard University, Chloe instead attended Columbia University to study Theater and Film and to Dance in New York City. During her years at Columbia University, she performed professionally in Debbie Allen's Soul Possessed at The Kennedy Center and The Alliance Theater, co-starred in Jason Samuels Smith's T.A.A.P in New York City, and was a featured dancer in the AMC TV series Cool Women. She also taught at The Broadway Dance Center and spent summers teaching dance at P. Diddy’s Summer Camp and The Debbie Allen Dance Institute and Academy in Texas and Los Angeles (respectively).

Graduating from Columbia University with a degree in Film Studies, Chloe's directing education continued by shadowing Television Director Debbie Allen. Chloe directed 2nd Unit on Music Videos for Acclaimed Director Melina: Eve's Tambourine, Kylie Minogue’s Wow, and Lloyd Banks feat. Keri Hilson’s Help. She also directed Cuerpaso, fitness video and pilot, I Love Tap Instructional DVD, and music videos for independent artists Choclatt and Tess.

Savion Glover

Savion Glover, (born November 19, 1973,Newark,New Jersey, U.S.), American dancer and choreographer who became known for his unique pounding style of tap dancing, called “hitting.” He brought renewed interest indance, particularly among youths and minorities.

As a young child, Glover displayed an affinity for rhythms, and at age four he began taking drumming lessons. Deemed too advanced for the class, however, he then enrolled at the Newark Community School of the Arts and soon became the youngest person in the school’s history to receive a full scholarship. At age seven he began taking tap lessons and quickly developed a passion for rhythm tap, a form that uses all parts of the foot to create sound. His talent attracted the attention of a choreographer for the Broadway musical The Tap Dance Kid, and Glover served as an understudy before taking the lead role in 1984. He returned to Broadway in 1989, performing in the musical revue Black and Blue, and was nominated for a Tony Award. A role in the motion picture Tap (1989) followed. Glover, who had long made a point of learning as much as he could from old tap masters, soon began teaching tap classes. He also developed his own tap style, which he christened “free-form hard core,” while working with dancers such as Gregory Hines, Henry Le Tang, and Sammy Davis, Jr.

In 1990 Glover created his first choreography, for a festival at New York City’s Apollo Theater. Two years later he became the youngest-ever recipient of a National Endowment for the Arts grant. He portrayed a young Jelly Roll Morton in the musical Jelly’s Last Jam, which debuted in Los Angeles in 1991 before opening on Broadway the following year and touring in 1994. In 1995 Bring in ’Da Noise, Bring in ’Da Funk opened Off-Broadway. Glover choreographed and starred in the musical, which featured a series of vignettes that chronicled African American history. A huge success, the show soon moved to Broadway, and in 1996 it won four Tony Awards, including a best choreographer award for Glover.

His numerous other appearances included a regular role (1990–95) on the children’s television showSesame Street. In 2000 Glover appeared in directorSpike Lee’s filmBamboozledand in 2001 made an appearance inBojangles, a television biopic of tap dancerBill (“Bojangles”) Robinsonstarring Hines. He premiered “Classical Savion,” a production that featured him tapping to classicalmusic, in New York City in 2005; the show later toured theUnited States. In 2006 Glover choreographed the tap dances performed by the penguin Mumble in the computer-animatedHappy Feet. That year he also formed his own production company, which oversaw his HooFeRzCLuB School for Tap and produced later shows, including “Sole Power” (2010).

After a 10-year absence, Glover returned to Broadway in 2016, choreographingShuffle Along, Or, The Making of the Musical Sensation of 1921 and All That Followed. He earned a Tony nomination for his work.

Eleanor Powell

Eleanor Torrey Powell (November 21, 1912 – February 11, 1982) was an American dancer and actress. Best remembered for her tap dance numbers in musical films in the 1930s and 1940s, Powell began studying ballet when she was six and was dancing at nightclubs in Atlantic City before she was a teenager. At the age of sixteen, she began studying tap and started appearing in musical revues on Broadway. She made her Hollywood debut as a featured dancer in the movie George White's Scandals (1935).

She was known as one of Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer's top dancing stars during the Golden Age of Hollywood, appearing in a series of musical vehicles tailored especially for her talents, including Born to Dance (1936), Broadway Melody of 1938 (1937) and Rosalie (1937). In 1965, she was named the World’s Greatest Tap Dancer by the Dance Masters of America.

Bill "Bojangles" Robinson

Bill "Bojangles" Robinson (May 25, 1878 – November 25, 1949) was an American tap dancer, actor, and singer, the best known and the most highly paid black American entertainer in America during the first half of the twentieth century.[1][2] His long career mirrored changes in American entertainment tastes and technology. His began in the age of minstrel shows and moved to vaudeville, Broadway theatre, the recording industry, Hollywood films, radio and television. According to dance critic Marshall Stearns, "Robinson's contribution to tap dance is exact and specific. He brought it up on its toes, dancing upright and swinging", giving tap dancing a "hitherto-unknown lightness and presence."[3]:pp. 186–187 His signature routine was the Stair Dance, in which he would tap up and down a set of stairs in a rhythmically complex sequence of steps, a routine that he unsuccessfully attempted to patent. He is also credited with having coined the word copacetic in popular culture via his repeated use of it in vaudeville and radio appearances.

Robinson was a popular figure in both the black and white entertainment worlds of his era. He is best known today for his dancing with Shirley Temple in a series of films during the 1930s, and for starring in the musical Stormy Weather (1943), loosely based on his own life and selected for preservation in the National Film Registry. He used his popularity to challenge and overcome numerous racial barriers, including becoming:

  • one of the first minstrel and vaudeville performers to appear without the use of blackfacemakeup

  • one of the earliest black performers to go solo, overcoming vaudeville's two-colored rule[4]

  • a headliner in Broadway shows

  • the first black performer to appear in a Hollywood film in an interracial dance team (with Shirley Temple in The Little Colonel, 1935)

  • the first black performer to headline a mixed-race Broadway production

Robinson came under heavy criticism for his tacit acceptance of racial stereotypes of the era, with critics calling him an Uncle Tom. He resented such criticism, and his biographers suggested that critics were at best incomplete in making such a characterization, especially given his efforts to overcome racial prejudice. In his public life, Robinson led efforts to:

  • persuade the Dallas Police Department to hire its first black policeman

  • lobby President Franklin Delano Roosevelt during World War II for more equitable treatment of black soldiers

  • stage the first integrated public event in Miami, a fundraiser which was attended by both black and white city residents

Despite being the highest-paid black performer of the time, Robinson died penniless in 1949, and his funeral was paid for by longtime friend Ed Sullivan. Robinson is remembered for the support that he gave to fellow performers, including Fred Astaire, Lena Horne, Jesse Owens and the Nicholas Brothers.

Sammy Davis Jr. and Ann Miller credited him as a teacher and mentor, Miller saying that he "changed the course of my life." Gregory Hinesproduced and starred in a biographical movie about Robinson for which he won the NAACP Best actor Award. In 1989, Congress designated Robinson's birthday of May 25 as National Tap Dance Day.

Gregory Hines

Gregory Oliver Hines (February 14, 1946 – August 9, 2003) was an American dancer, actor, choreographer and singer. He is considered one of the most celebrated tap dancers of all time.

Hines starred in more than 40 films and also made his mark on Broadway during his lifetime. He was the recipient of many accolades, including a Daytime Emmy Award, a Drama Desk Award and a Tony Award, as well as nominations for a Screen Actors Guild Award and four Primetime Emmy Awards.

Hines performed as the lead singer and musician in a rock band called Severance based in Venice, California during the years 1975 and 1976. Severance was one of the house bands at an original music club called Honky Hoagies Handy Hangout, otherwise known as the 4H Club, which released their debut album on Largo Records (a subsidiary of GNP Crescendo) in 1976.

Hines made his Broadway debut with his brother in The Girl in Pink Tights in 1954. He earned Tony Award nominations for Eubie! (1979), Comin' Uptown (1980), and Sophisticated Ladies (1981), and won the Tony Award and Drama Desk Award for Jelly's Last Jam (1992) and the Theatre World Award for Eubie!.

In 1989, he created and hosted a PBS special called "Gregory Hines' Tap Dance in America," which featured various tap dancers such as Savion Glover and Bunny Briggs. He also co-hosted the Tony Awards ceremony in 1995 and 2002.[3][4] In 1986, he sang a duet with Luther Vandross called "There's Nothing Better Than Love," which reached the No. 1 position on the Billboard R&B charts.

Hines made his movie debut in Mel Brooks's History of the World, Part I (1981), replacing Richard Pryor, who had originally been cast in the role but suffered severe burns in a house fire just days before he was due to begin shooting.[6][7] Madeline Kahn, also starring in the film, suggested to director Mel Brooks that he look into Hines for the role after they learned of Pryor's hospitalization.

Critics took note of Hines's comedic charm, and he later appeared in movies such as Wolfen, The Cotton Club, White Nights, Running Scaredwith Billy Crystal, Tap, and Waiting to Exhale. On television, he starred in his own series in 1997 called The Gregory Hines Show on CBS, as well as in the recurring role of Ben Doucette on Will & Grace. He would return to voice Big Bill in Nick Jr.'s television show, Little Bill, in the end of 1999. He starred in The Tic Code in 2000.

In an interview in 1987, Hines said that he often looked for roles written for white actors, "preferring their greater scope and dynamics." His Will & Grace role, for example, never made reference to race.

In 1990, Hines visited his idol Sammy Davis Jr., who was dying of throat cancer and was unable to speak. After Davis died, an emotional Hines spoke at Davis's funeral of how Sammy had made a gesture to him, "as if passing a basketball … and I caught it." Hines spoke of the honor that Sammy thought that Hines could carry on from where he left off.

Hines was an avid improviser who did a lot of improvisation of tap steps, tap sounds, and tap rhythms alike. His improvisation was like that of a drummer, doing a solo and coming up with all sorts of rhythms. He also improvised the phrasing of a number of tap steps that he would come up with, mainly based on sound produced. A laid back dancer, he usually wore loose fitting pants and a tighter shirt.

Although he inherited the roots and tradition of the black rhythmic tap, he also influenced the new black rhythmic tap, as a proponent. "He purposely obliterated the tempos," wrote tap historian Sally Sommer, "throwing down a cascade of taps like pebbles tossed across the floor. In that moment, he aligned tap with the latest free form experiments in jazz and new music and postmodern dance."

Throughout his career, Hines wanted and continued to be an advocate for tap in America. In 1988, he successfully petitioned the creation of National Tap Dance Day, which is now celebrated in 40 cities in the United States, as well as eight other nations. He was on the board of directors of Manhattan Tap, a member of the Jazz Tap Ensemble, and a member of the American Tap Dance Foundation, which was formerly called the American Tap Dance Orchestra.

Through his teaching, he influenced tap dancers such as Savion Glover, Dianne Walker, Ted Levy, and Jane Goldberg.

In an interview with The New York Times in 1988, Hines said that everything he did was influenced by his dancing: "my singing, my acting, my lovemaking, my being a parent."

Thank you to Wikipedia and Encyclopaedia Britannica.

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