Yesterday, radio station WBAI 99.5 FM in NY aired my interview with tap-dancing legend, Maurice Hines. Together with his brother Gregory, he re-invented tap dance for modern audiences.
Maurice guested on The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson over 35 times and had a featured role in Francis Ford Coppola’s The Cotton Club. The star of several shows on Broadway, he just opened Off-Broadway in a new autobiographical song and dancer called Tappin’ Thru Life.
In the show, 72 year old Maurice sings, dances and dishes about the greats he’s worked with, including Ella Fitzgerald, Judy Garland, Frank Sinatra, Nat King Cole and on and on. I had the pleasure of talking with him in his dressing room a few hours before his Wednesday evening performance.
Click on the grey triangle to hear the warm giving voice of Maurice Hines talking about his life and times.
When tap dancing legend Maurice Hines was asked in an interview for the name of the greatest tap dancer he had ever seen, he replied Sammy Davis, Jr. That answer surprised me, because though my generation knew Sammy Davis as a singer and dancer and Rat Pack member, I didn’t know that he was also a child tap-dancing prodigy. Above is an extraordinary clip from a short called “Rufus Jones for President” (1933) starring the 7-year old Sammy Davis, Jr. Click on the video above for an amazing few minutes of sheer joy.
You can see the whole movie, starring Ethel Waters, on YouTube. In it, mother Ethel Waters dreams about her son becoming the first Black President while singing “Am I Blue?” and “Underneath A Harlem Moon.”
I’ll let the Smithsonian Folklife website describe this extraordinary five-minute performance:
“The mysterious art of bian lian or face-changing originated in Sichuan Opera, and has long been a closely guarded secret of Chinese performers. Hu Dongxiao of the Zhejiang Wu Opera Troupe performed the most complex style of face-changing at the 2014 Smithsonian Folklife Festival, switching between colored masks that represent different emotions in a dramatic story.”
Western magicians will smile at the breakaway fan used in the middle of the performance. As for the how of the instantaneous face-changing? No clue.
Click on the video to play; this one is best at full screen, which you can access by clicking on the lower right hand corner of the video.
John Travolta and Karen Lynn Gorney–uhh, make that Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers –compete for the title of Best Dancers, quite a few decades before Saturday Night Fever and So You Think You Can Dance.