Happy National Tap Day, Pluggers! We're celebrating one of our favorite dance styles by honoring one of the most creative and talented hoofers in history - Bill Bojangles. Time for a little history lesson. He was born Luther Robinson on May 25th, 1878 in Richmond, Virginia (happy birthday, Bill!). His early life is a bit of a mystery, but we do know he began tapping to make a little extra pennies at the tender age of 5. A promoter saw him dance and put him in a local minstrel show (which, at the time, were predominately performed by white performers in blackface paint).
At age 13, he ran away to Washington D.C., where he was eventually picked up for a touring show called The South Before The War. in 1898, he joined the United States Army to fight in the Spanish-American War, where he was accidentally wounded by another soldier cleaning his gun. He eventually made his way to Brooklyn, where he won a gold medal at a dance contest at the Bijou Theater against Harry Swinton, who was considered to be one of the best dancers of the time. That publicity helped him get more work in traveling shows and Vaudeville troupes.
in 1928, Bill starred in Blackbirds of 1928 on Broadway, where it was a huge success. He continued to perform in several other Broadway shows, as well as The Hot Mikado, which was a jazz adaptation of one of Gilbert and Sullivan's operetta. He also performed at the 1939 New York's World Fair, as well as in numerous films; he is particularly famous for his appearances with child sensation Shirley Temple. Bill is known as the highest paid African American performer of his era and left an incredible print on tap dance as a whole.
An icon of this caliber deserves to be recognized, especially on National Tap Day! It's so important to look back at our dance history, so we can be excited about the future of dance. Enter Sarah Reich. She's established herself as one of the new leaders in tap. She was only 15 when she was featured in Dance Spirit Magazine's "20 Hot Tappers Under 20," and was also named "25 to Watch" in Dance Magazine in 2017. She's a pop culture icon, due in part to her video collaborations and live performances with Postmodern Jukebox (you can catch her in A Star Wars-Themed tribute The Tap Awakens, and Thriller featuring Wayne Brady). She's performed at notable venues like The Hollywood Bowl, the Greek Theater and the Kodak/Dolby Theater. She has also developed and taught at the Tap Music Project intensives around the country.
Sarah's new music video, Baked Bean Blues, drops today! It's a bright, catchy and super fun video that shows off her amazing rhythmic skills and fast feet - perfect to get you in the tapping mood! The future of tap has been a conversation weighing on our minds recently (did you catch our article "Why Isn't Tap At the Top"?). We're so glad that people like Sarah are paving the way for tap to get the recognition it deserves!