Black Tap Dance and Its Women Pioneers


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About the Book

While tap dancers Fred Astaire, Gene Kelly, and Eleanor Powell were major Hollywood stars, and the rhythms of Black male performers such as the Nicholas Brothers and Bill “Bojangles” Robinson were appreciated in their time, Black female tap dancers seldom achieved similar recognition. Who were these women? The author sought them out, interviewed them, and documented their stories for this book. Here are the personal stories of many Black women tap dancers who were hailed by their male counterparts, performed on the most prominent American stages, and were pioneers in the field of Black tap.

About the Author(s)

Cheryl M. Willis’s doctoral work in dance focused on African American studies and children’s dance. Selected as National Dance Educator of the Year in 2000, she has toured the U.S. and Canada presenting workshops on creative dance, and has published extensively on tap dance and creative movement. She lives in Vancouver, Washington.

Bibliographic Details

Cheryl M. Willis
Format: softcover (7 x 10)
Pages: 282
Bibliographic Info: 81 photos, appendices, glossary, notes, bibliography, index
Copyright Date: 2023
pISBN: 978-1-4766-9061-2
Imprint: McFarland

Table of Contents

Acknowledgments ix
Introduction 1
1. Rhythm Preserves the Spirit 7
2. From Jim Crow to Master Juba 13
3. White and Black Minstrelsy 22
4. Aida Overton Walker: Queen of the Cakewalk 34
5. Alice Whitman: Queen of Taps 52
6. Tappin’ in Time 62
7. Clubbin’ in Harlem 74
8. Let’s Swing 84
9. “Candi”: Improvised Rhythms 92
10. “Baby Edwards”: A Legend in Her Own Time 102
11. Ludie Jones 119
12. Louise Madison: A Dancer’s Dancer 130
13. Jeni LeGon 138
14. Lois Bright 144
15. “Pepper” 150
16. “Salt”: Little Lady of Taps 161
17. Edwards Sisters 173
18. Juanita Pitts 175
19. Delno Polk Bailey 179
20. Isabelle “Eleanor Byrd” Fambro 184
21. Black Tap: Decline and Resurgence 189
22. And Now 197
23. In Retrospect 203
Glossary of Dance and Music 207
Appendix I: A Few More Women Dancers 217
Appendix II: Performers Who Blazed the Trail 220
Chapter Notes 241
Bibliography 255
Index 263