Mighty Life List
Aug 17 2009

Top Ten Best Tap Numbers in Film

I’m sure all of you remember my tap instructor John Kloss?

Yeah, I bet you do.

If you’re in the Bay Area this weekend, you must attend his Bay Area Tap Festival, which features Friday and Saturday night performances by professional tap dancers from Broadway and film.

To celebrate the culmination of a whole lot of work putting the festival together, I asked Mr. Kloss if he’d share his top ten favorite tap performances on film. (Shockingly, mine did not make the list, but I’m climbing the charts with a bullet, you guys.)

Here they are, counting down to his favorite. Take it away, Mr. Kloss…

10. Savion Glover “Time After Time [Cadenza and Finale sections]“

“There is much Savion Glover material on film, and many clips, such as ‘Ribbon in the Sky’ with Stevie Wonder, could easily compete with this one. But I’ve been watching Savion’s performances — from backstage, from in the audience, on my TV, and on the big screen — since around 1995, and to me, this performance best crystallizes his technical wizardry, unquenchable passion, razor-sharp wit, and superb showmanship.”

9. Peg Leg Bates

“Peg Leg Bates could make it on this list for any number of clips of his work — a compilation of some of his work on film appears here.”

8. Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers “Pick Yourself Up” from the film “Swing Time”

“Though Ginger’s taps routinely were later dubbed in by Astaire choreographer/collaborator Hermes Pan, she and Fred both are undeniably “in the pocket” in this righteously tasty morsel of their on-screen work. See 1:20-1:30 and 2:00-2:07 for examples of how Fred and Ginger were ‘serving up the funk’ long before that expression meant what it does today.”

7. Various Dancers, “Lullaby of Broadway” from the film Gold Diggers of 1935

“A huge cast, innovative camera angles, striking lighting effects, reverse motion film, remarkable sets, Broadway presentation, and raw hoofin’ all come together in this tour de force of choreography and cinematography courtesy of Busby Berkeley.”

6. Sammy Davis, Jr., Gregory Hines, et. al. “Challenge” Scene from the film TAP!

“HD footage of some of the greatest in Tap laying it down — opening dialogue provides essential narrative context, but dancing starts at about 1:57.”

5. Bill Robinson Stair Dance from Harlem is Heaven

“An ultimate classic — the stunning simplicity of rhythm tap, incredibly sophisticated compositional quality, and the unmatched clarity and precision of Bill ‘Bojangles’ Robinson.”

4. Gregory Hines with Sammy Davis Jr. from “Sammy Davis Jr. 60th Anniversary Celebration”

“Not quite film, but an absolutely spectacular capture of the essence of Gregory Hines in a touching televised tribute to Sammy shortly after Sammy’s cancer diagnosis.”

3. Gene Kelly Singin’ in the Rain

“Of course, a classic. Close runners up for Gene Kelly entries to the list include the “Alter Ego Dance from Cover Girl (Cinematic Achievement); Live Action Gene Kelly with animated Jerry Mouse in Invitation to the Dance (Cinematic Achievement) (ed note: This video unfortunately also shows a Family Guy version on the right); and also “I Got Rhythm” from An American in Paris, which is pure fun.

2. Jimmy Slyde “On a Clear Day (You Can See Forever)” from the Tap Documentary About Tap

“A quintessential recording of my favorite tap dancer of all time and an inspiration to so many other tap dancers at the top of his game.”

1. Nicholas Brothers “Jumpin’ Jive” from the film Stormy Weather

“Here we are at number one. Fred Astaire called it the greatest tap number on film — I have to agree.”

Well, if that last one didn’t put you in a good mood, you can’t be helped. Again, many thanks, to John Kloss of Stepology. If you want to get in on the action this weekend, tickets for the Bay Area Tap Festival are available here.

Jul 3 2009

Take tap lessons? Check.

My favorite thing about this video is how gobsmacked I look at the end of each section I complete. After the 50-second mark, it’s all celebratory improvisation, so please don’t blame Mr. Kloss for my lack of form.

Ready? Let’s do this thing:

Next time? Sparklers.

Ed note: Intel is making my site more interesting by sponsoring my Mighty Life List over the next few months. Things will be a little hectic over here for a while.

Jul 2 2009

Mighty Life List: Take tap dance lessons.

This is my tap dance teacher, John Kloss. Doesn’t he look hopeful? If you refuse to look hopeful while tap dancing, they pry the taps off your shoes, and point sternly at the studio door. Then they kick you on your way out.

See? Earnest! He’s a professional.

Anyway, Mr. Kloss is the founder of the Bay Area Tap Festival, and he teaches beginner drop-in classes on Wednesday nights at City Dance. I took one — it was the very first time I’d ever put on tap shoes. I quickly realized that I needed an accelerated course, because my plan was to re-launch Mighty Girl with a little tap routine. I had visions of sparklers! And a humorous, sequined tappy outfit!

In retrospect, my vision was overly ambitious (surprise), but Mr. Kloss graciously agreed to meet me on Sunday to teach me a routine. I then spent eleven hours practicing between Sunday and Tuesday. I lost like three pounds, and I’m also so sore I can’t hold the TV remote without whimpering.

Mr. Kloss had a very good sense of humor about my plan, and I did manage to record something on Tuesday. I am not wearing spandex (disappointment!), but I did get all the way through the routine without crying. I’ll post the video tomorrow, so you can enjoy my very stern tap face.

If you need me, I’ll be in an ice bath.

Intel is making my site more interesting by sponsoring my life list over the next few months. So they paid for my tap shoes and studio time. Thanks, Intel!