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Your favorite tap artists celebrate National Tap Dance Day

Derick K. Grant, Dormeshia Sumbry-Edwards and Jason Samuels Smith in Samuels Smith's 'Going the Miles' at Harlem Stage. Photo by Marc Millman, courtesy of Divine Rhythm Productions.
Derick K. Grant, Dormeshia Sumbry-Edwards and Jason Samuels Smith in Samuels Smith's 'Going the Miles' at Harlem Stage. Photo by Marc Millman, courtesy of Divine Rhythm Productions.

National Tap Dance Day is May 25, when the country celebrates the art form of tap dancing. The annual holiday was first proposed to the U.S. Congress on February 7, 1989, and it was signed into American law by President George W. Bush on November 8, 2004. The date of May 25 was selected as National Tap Dance Day because it marks the birthday of legendary tap dancer Bill “Bojangles” Robinson.

Surrounding National Tap Dance Day, studios and dance companies across the country host special events. This year, Dance Informa decided to ask some of your favorite tap artists what it is they love about tap dancing and who they consider their favorite tap dancers throughout history.

Why do you love tap?

Jared Grimes

“Tap = pure joy; pure joy = tap. Tap and this equation are contagious to people even if they don’t tap!”

Jason Samuels Smith. Photo by Matthew Murphy, courtesy of Divine Rhythm Productions.

Jason Samuels Smith. Photo by Matthew Murphy, courtesy of Divine Rhythm Productions.

Jason Samuels Smith

“I love tap dance because of the freedom – it allows me to express myself completely without any filter. I also love the elders and masters, people like Dr. Jimmy Slyde, Dr. Buster Brown, Mable Lee, Dr. Bunny Briggs, Gregory Hines and Dianne Walker, for inspiring me and encouraging me to take part. I also love tap dance because it connects me with generations of my ancestors and all of their life experiences, and it also gives me strength and pride in my culture.”

Devin Ruth

“I love dancing! I feel the happiest when I am doing so. It allows me to forget about everything else in the world for a little while. Tap dancing has always been my favorite. I love the fact that I am not only dancing but am making music. There is an infinite amount of rhythms I can create, and there is always room to improve, which keeps me working hard. I took my first tap class at age eight and haven’t stopped since. I now teach tap dancing, and I really enjoy being able to share my passion with other people.”

Ray Hesselink

I love tap because it combines two of my passions: music and dance. I have the best job in the world. I get to bring joy to people.”

Ray Hesselink teaching at Steps on Broadway. Photo by Gen Nishino.

Ray Hesselink teaching at Steps on Broadway. Photo by Gen Nishino.

Germaine Goodson

“I love tap dancing! It is my life and my passion. Tap dancing is something I have continued to learn, teach, perform and choreograph for a very long time. It gives me, mental, spiritual and physical blessings and inspiration that keeps me healthy, peaceful and sane. I can honestly say that my consistency of applying it to my daily life has allowed me to become a better tap dancer, teacher and choreographer. I am from the ‘old school’! I still take classes, and I still work on articulating and producing clear sounds. It is an honor to be a tap dancer, and I am happy to be a part of the tap community.”

Who are some of your favorite tap dancers throughout history, and why?

Grimes

“Sammy Davis, Jr. and Fred Astaire are my favorite tap dancers of all. They were because, to me, they used tap in a variety of ways to capture people’s hearts even when they were not tap dancing. Tap was at the spirit of everything they did, and they were some of the most versatile performers off all time.”

Devin Ruth. Photo by Karsten Staiger.

Devin Ruth. Photo by Karsten Staiger.

Ruth

“From the time I started tap dancing, I was always very inspired by Gregory Hines. He starred in two of my favorite dance movies, Tap and White Nights. Whenever I watch videos of him dancing, I am amazed by how clean his sounds are and his ability to effortlessly create rhythms. Last year, I had the honor to perform with Gregory Hines’ brother, Maurice, in the off-broadway show Tappin’ Thru Life. It was incredible to be in a show with someone who is such a legend in the dance community. He is such a great performer, and I learned so much from watching him. Gregory and Maurice will always be people I look up to. I love the connection that they shared when they danced together because I also have a sibling who I really enjoy dancing with!”

Hesselink

Hands down, Eleanor Powell. Aside from fast feet, Eleanor danced with such ease and grace. She’s the dancer that I emulate the most.”

Goodson

Jared Grimes. Photo by Kat Hennessy.

Jared Grimes. Photo by Kat Hennessy.

“I loved Eleanor Powell because she was exciting to watch. Her performances always incorporated elegance, pizazz, clarity, beautiful rhythms, leg extensions, acrobatics and coolness. She danced using her entire body, arms included. Sammy Davis, Jr. started to tap dancing at a very young age. He was fast, intricately brilliant and fun to watch. He captured my heart because he was a triple threat, a showman, and he enjoyed sharing his unique abilities. There are only words of honor and praise for the legendary Nicholas Brothers. They are and still are the very best! I love them and feel so blessed to have been in productions that they were a part of. There are others who have also inspired and motivated me to stay focused and remain dedicated to this awesome and powerful art form of dance.”

Samuels Smith

“I admire these dancers to the utmost: John Bubbles, Baby Laurence, Baby Edwards, Chuck Green, Teddy Hale, Peg Leg Bates, the Nicholas Brothers, Lon Chaney, Bill ‘Bojangles’ Robinson, Tip Tap and Toe, Jeni LeGon, The Four Step brothers, The Condos Brothers to name a few.”

Here are some fun tap dance scenes to get you in the spirit for National Tap Dance Day:

By Laura Di Orio of Dance Informa.

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