The New York Times

A Family Reunion for Tap on its Day

By JACK ANDERSON – Published May 27 1997

It was a tap-dance family reunion. Tap Extravaganza 1997, produced on Sunday night at Town Hall by the New York Committee to Celebrate National Tap Dance Day, brought together many fine tap artists, young and old.

It was the perfect time for such a gathering, for an act of Congress in 1989 designated May 25 as National Tap Dance Day in honor of Bill Robinson, the great American tap dancer known as Bojangles, who was born on that day in 1878.

Flo-Bert Awards (named after Florence Mills and Bert Williams, two entertainers of the 1920’s) were presented to three people for lifetime achievements in championing tap dancing: Donald O’Connor, the Broadway, film and television star; Milt Hinton, a bass player who has collaborated with tap dancers, and Sali Ann Kriegsman, the director of the Jacob’s Pillow Dance Festival and a former director of the National Endowment for the Arts Dance Program.

A marvelous array of tap styles was on view. The Pat Cannon Foot and Fiddle Dance Company offered robust examples of clog dancing, one of tap’s esthetic ancestors. The Teen Tap Champions moved in precise geometrical formations. Dancers from Funk University, a workshop group, evoked the excitement of city streets.

So did Savion Glover, both as a soloist and as the leader of an ensemble. His nervous energy made tapping seem akin to rapping.

Solos proved especially varied. Buster Brown emphasized gradations of tap sounds. Jimmy Slyde was a master of rhythmic shifts. Margaret Morrison juxtaposed sounds with silences. Ayodele Casel was determined, Dein Perry, sassy. Tony Waag danced a tribute to Mr. O’Connor’s playful style. Neil Applebaum tapped deftly to Indian percussion music played by Samir Chatterjee.

Songs by Yvette Glover (the dancer’s mother) and instrumental selections by the Frank Owens Trio and Frank Kimbrough, a pianist, helped make the evening joyous.