Many young hopefuls have dreamed of donning the dancewear and performing to a live audience on stage or being a star on the silver screen. However, in the early years of television and the movies there were some truly, superb dancing talents and here are five of the top tap dancers who helped shape 20th century dancing through their feet.
Bill “Bojangles” Robinson
Born in Virginia in 1878 Bill Robinson was raised by his grandmother after his parents died while he was a baby. By the age of eight he was dancing for pennies and joined the Vaudville circuit. In 1908 he joined up with Marty Forkins, an acting agent, who helped raise his profile.Robinson soon became famous in the 1930s for his soft-shoe and tap routines in various films and starred alongside Shirley Temple in many movies.On top of this, he was renowned for his dancing ingenuity and many of the steps he created have been copied by others since.
Astaire was born in Omaha, Nebraska, in 1899, and became famous for his dance pairings with Ginger Rogers in many motion movies. Although at an early age he partnered his sister Adele and achieved international fame, before she retired in the 1930s. Following this he featured as a dancer in films and when he and Rogers were partnered in “Flying Down to Rio” they over-shadowed the picture’s stars. From then, the public demand for the pair increased and they worked on several movie projects producing intricate tap or ballroom routines. Astaire also became famous for his popular dancing style, which always appeared effortless and improvised despite hours of hard work and practice.
Was born in Atlanta, Georgia, but soon moved to Boston with his family where he got to see great tap acts like Bill “Bojangles” Robinson as a student at the Stanley Brown Dance studio. This was where he learned his “sliding” interpretation of rhythm tap dancing, and also where he met his dancing partner Jimmy Mitchell with whom he formed the “Slyde Brothers”. He later starred in several movies and continued to perform well into the 1990’s.
The Nicholas Brothers
Fayard and Harold grew up in Philadelphia and were the sons of two musical parents and soon became noticed for their dancing abilities and prowess. The Nicholas Brothers were immediately successful as a pair and astonished audiences in the US and abroad with their tap dancing antics. They soon starred in several Hollywood movies and appeared on the Broadway stage as well. Throughout their careers the duo headlined at shows all over the world and even performed for the American troops in Vietnam in 1965. Their accolades include a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, and honours from the Kennedy Center and Harvard University.
Last but not least was Cholly Atkins a superb dancer with polished precision in his legendary tap act with partner Honi Coles. He also became an extremely famous choreographer. In 1988, after being away from the world of tap for more than 30 years, he came back to help choreograph the Broadway musical revue “Black and Blue” which ended up winning a Tony award. These are just a few of the names that helped the world of performing arts what it is today.