The Flo-Bert Awards

The Flo-Bert awards help to perpetuate the memories of Florence Mills and Bert Williams by honoring outstanding figures in  the field of tap dance.   Delilah Jackson , historian and researcher of black entertainers, founded Flo-Bert, Ltd. in 1989, through her Black Patti Foundation, as a nonprofit organization. Flo-Bert  is both the organization's name and its annual award for life achievement in performing, teaching or supporting the art of tap dance. The Tap Extravaganza® show, where the awards are given, is produced by The New York Committee to Celebrate National Tap Dance Day, a Flo-Bert program. Flo-Bert’s fiscal sponsor is the New York Foundation for the Arts.

National Tap Dance Day was designated by an Act of Congress in 1989 to "honor tap dance...an original, unique American art form - a national treasure." It falls on May 25th, the birthday of the great Bill "Bojangles" Robinson (1878 - 1949).

The Flo-Bert Committee

Co-Chairs:
 
Traci Mann,


 and Dewitt Fleming

Committee Members
Helene Berson, Ruth Cohen, Michelle Dorrance, Rod Ferrone, Laraine Goodman, Michela Marino Lerman and Michael Shannon.

Active Advisory  Board:
Al Heyward, Carl Schlesinger and Barbara Shenton

The Honorees

Click on the entry in the table below to see details of the honorees for a particular year (or you can just scroll down till you reach that year). Where possible there is a link to further information about the honorees.

Note: When you get to the start of any yearly segment up to 2001,  clicking on the Year Heading  will take you to the attractive Tap Committee flyer for that year.

2015? 2014? 2013 2012 2011
2010 2009 2008 2007 2006
2005 2004 2003 2002 2001
2000 1999 1998 1997 1996
1995 1994 1993 1992 1991

For details of this year's presentation ceremony click on:
 

[More information will be entered on recent honorees identified below]

2013

Paul Ash
Susan Goldbetter
Jacqui Malone
Karen Callaway Williams
Tuskegee Airmen

2012

Heather Cornell
Dormeshia Sumbry Edwards
Ben Vereen

2011

Johnny Brandon 
Charles Goddertz

2010

American Tap Dance Foundation
Broadway Dance Center
Steps On Broadway
Randy Skinner
David Gilmore

2009

Dr. Prince Spencer, became one of  the Four Step Brothers in 1941 and has had a brilliant career ever since.  The group has its own star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, featured in over forty movies and toured overseas many times. Duke Ellington brought The Four Step Brothers to the famous Cotton Club in Harlem and they were the first black attraction to play at Radio City Music Hall, Chicago's Chez Paree, Miami's Copa Beach, Paris' Lido, and London's Cafe de Paree.

Mercedes Ellington, Choreographer, Dancer, Producer,
gained international attention in 1963 as the first black member of the June Taylor Dancers. She has been a dancer and choreographer in Broadway productions and was featured dancer and choreographer of the hit show Sophisticated Ladies.  It is highly appropriate that the grand-daughter of the man who did most to preserve Florence Mills memory through his composition "Black Beauty" should be the recipient of the award in her name.

2008

Jean Bach:  Best known for her remarkable achievement in getting the fascinating documentary film (now on DVD) Great Day in Harlem made, Jean Bach has been a friend, mentor and confidant of jazz musicians, performers and enthusiasts for over half a century.  She is a charming, wonderful lady who graciously entertained my wife and I at her  delightful New York home on our last visit.  Sadly Jean died, aged 94, in 2013 See obituary

Maurice Hines:  One of the outstanding figures of the tap dancing world, a child star with his brother Gregory ( Year 1998 honoree, sadly recently deceased) since the 1950s, and an outstanding contemporary director/choreographer

Peggy Spina:  Principal of the respected Peggy Spina tap company, she has been a teacher in New York for over forty years.  Her company regularly gets rave reviews for its sophisticated performances 

2007

Bob Audy:  Noted director and choreographer, and teacher of stars, he is also author of several respected books on tap dance including Tap Dance for Beginners , Jazz dancing,  and Tap Dancing: How to Teach Yourself to Tap

Yvette Glover:  Not merely Savion's (year 2000 honoree) mother, but a talented performer in her own right, whose jazz and gospel singing has gained her high profile international acclaim

Deborah Mitchell: Founder of the New Jersey Tap  Ensemble, who toured for 5 years with Cab Calloway, she is an inspirational mentor for a new generation of tappers 

As usual, the best source for 
comprehensive information on all these honorees is the  excellent report by former honoree Melba Huber

2006

Jerry Ames: co-authored The Book of Tap: Recovering America's Long Lost Dance. In 1980, he was a featured performer in the movie Tap Dancin' by Christian Blackwood. He starred in the legendary original cast of The Hoofers, a show widely credited with starting the Tap dance revival. He has been a featured performer on and off-Broadway, as well as in nightclubs, luxury liners, and on every major television channel in the United States. Mr. Ames was founder and artistic director of Jerry Ames Tap Dance Company, which toured extensively.

Ralph Guild: a high achiever in many fields, the CEO and chairman of Interep,  a Nasdaq-traded radio and Web marketing firm, Ralph Guild has promoted many tap dance initiatives, while being an active dancer himself and encouraging his employees with free lessons at work.

John Bedford & Jo Rowan: A married couple of high academic status who have promoted academic initiatives in the field of tap dance,  including a degree program at Oklahoma City University.

For comprehensive information on all these honorees see an  excellent report by former honoree Melba Huber

2005

Harold Cromer , Stumpy of the famous tap team Stump and Stumpy, interviewed here in 2001 about his long career.

Cobi Narita is a legendary figure of the New York jazz scene, whose compact private theater over Sam Ash's music store on Manhattan has provided an invaluable venue for many jazz musicians and dancers and who has been a staunch promoter of women in jazz.  She has also been an ambassador of multicultural understanding.

LaVaughn Robinson, Philadelphia-born like the Nicholas Brothers, grew up tapping on the streets. In recent years he has played a key educational role in the era of renewed interest in tap dancing [Sadly now deceased]

2004

George Wein, one of the great names in jazz promotion, originator of the Newport Jazz Festival and presenter of the great show Black Broadway, which honored Florence Mills and her peers

Arthur Duncan has performed in concert at both Lincoln Center and Carnegie Hall.. He was a featured personality in the movie "Tap" starring Gregory Hines and Sammy Davis, Jr., and toured in the Broadway show "My One and Only" with Tommy Tune. He is a dedicated mentor and shares his tap spotlight experiences through lecture demonstrations and master tap classes.

Mable Lee, singer-dancer, one of the original Apollo Girls, toured with Cab Calloway's band and was one of "Eubie's Girls" on the Eubie Blake record of that name and played in the 1952 revival of Shuffle Along.

Frankie Manning, the legendary dean of the Lindy Hop and swing dancing, a member in the 1930s of the legendary Whitey's Lindy Hoppers and still an inspirational figure in his 90s today

See them all at Flobert 2004

2003

Tommy Tune, one of Broadway's best known stars, a dancer, singer, choreographer and director who has won nine Tony Awards, and the only person in theatrical history to win in four different categories and to win the same two Tony Awards two years in a row. 

Ernest "Brownie" Brown, another legendary member of the Hoofer's Club, original member of the Copasetics and a Cotton Club performer, still active in his 80s. With longtime partner, Charles "Cookie" Cook, he was half of the celebrated vaudeville duo Cook and Brown

Stanley Donen, outstanding film director, attended dance classes since he was a child and debuted on Broadway at age 17. Outstanding musical films included Singing in the Rain and Seven Brides for Seven Brothers

Dianne Walker, a seasoned  dance performer on television, theater, Broadway, film,  and jazz  venues throughout the world, is also a noted scholar and figure in dance education.

2002

Dancer/producer/ writer/comedienne Jane Goldberg - not only a skilled practitioner who featured in the movie Tap, but also a prolific writer and historian, preserving tap traditions. The link will take you to her website
  

Pianist/arranger/composer Frank Owens has been on the jazz scene since the 1960s, recording with the greatest including Louis Armstrong and Lena Horne. 

2001

Flo-Bert's originator Delilah Jackson finally got to be an honoree herself. Congratulations, Delilah! a well deserved recognition for years of dedicated work.  Sadly Delilah passed away in 2013 but she leaves a huge legacy of research and service to performers

Dancer
Jeni LeGon   started out with the great Whitman Sisters and went on to be a pioneering black woman dancer in Hollywood movies, the only one to partner Bojangles in a tap routine (in Hooray for Love, RKO 1935).  Sadly also another who passed on in 2013 - See obituary 

2000

Twenties star tapper, Leonard Reed, inventor of the famous Shim Sham Shimmy, was a multi-talented performer whose career ran the gamut in show business: dancer, producer, comedian, songwriter, arranger, master of ceremonies, choreographer, band leader, and director. Starting in 1922, his special gift of limitless talent and evergy took him on an odyssey from medicine shows to carnivals and circuses, from burlesque and vaudeville to Broadway's Palace Theatre, all the way to London's Palladium and beyond. He died at the grand old age of 97 in 2004.

Contemporary tap legend,
Savion Glover, star of "Bring in da Noise, Bring in da Funk". Both in and outside the world of dance, he has been called The Genius. He's been nicknamed "The Sponge" by older tap-legend greats because he sucks up every step and every move they show him. Dance great Gregory Hines said he believes the 26-year-old dancer is "probably the best tap dancer on the planet."

1999

Bunny Briggs, began his career in the '20s in New York. Known as "Duke's Dancer," his tapping can be heard on the recording of Duke Ellington's "Concert of Sacred Music."

Contemporary legend,
Brenda Bufalino appears as a guest soloist for live productions, television, film and festivals. A master teacher of rhythm tap, Ms. Bufalino teaches technique, composition, musical arrangement, and choreography for Festivals, University Residencies, and Private Studios.  She is the creator and choreographer for the highly acclaimed American and International Tap Dance Orchestra's.

 

1998

  Gregory Hines, familiar to many for his role in "The Cotton Club", appeared first on tour with his older brother Maurice and later joined by their Dad. Gregory Hines was dancing, joking, singing, and performing in front of audiences for most of his life. He received three straight Tony nominations for Best Actor in a Musical for Eubie! (1978–79), Comin' Uptown (1979–80). and Sophisticated Ladies (1981–82). He made many movies with a tap theme. His recent very sad death took him away while he still had a great amount to contribute. He will be greatly missed.

 
Dr. Barry Harris  is an Internationally renowned Jazz Pianist, Composer and Teacher. Dr. Harris is the recipient of an Honorary Doctorate from Northwestern University. He has received the Living Jazz Legacy award from the Mid-Atlantic Arts Association, and an American Jazz Masters Fellowship from the National Endowment for the Arts. In addition, Dr. Harris received the Manhattan Borough President Award for Excellence. This award was given for recognition of his devoted public service and in honor of excellence in the field of music. He received the 1999 Mentor award for his work with youngsters at the Manhattan Country School in NYC.

 

1997

Donald O'Connor, dancer and comedian familiar to all from MGM movies, especially "Singing in the Rain" - who can forget the "Make em laugh' - sequence, has been in show business since he was three, sitting on his mother´s lap as she played the piano.   

Jazz Bassist
Milt Hinton, one of the all time greats of jazz, and one of its most popular practitioners.  Known as 'The Judge' for his ability to lay down the time, he started out with Cab Calloway's band in the Thirties and went on to play with all the great names including including Louis Armstrong, Dizzy Gillespie and  Count Basie.  He was also a talented and dedicated photographer whose work has been published.  His enthusiasm for photography, still and moving, contributed greatly to the charm of Jean Bach's wonderful documentary Great Day in Harlem, about the making of Art Kane's extraordinary photograph of the same name.

Sali Ann Kriegsman
served as Executive Director of Jacob’s Pillow Dance Festival and School (1995-97), and is now writing and consulting. She was Director of the Dance Program at the National Endowment for the Arts (1986-95), Dance Consultant to The Smithsonian Institute (1979-83), and Executive Editor at the American Film Institute (1969-73). She is the author of Modern Dance in America: The Bennington Years.

 

1996

  Melba Huber, a native of east Texas town, Beaumont, now lives in McAllen, south Texas, near the Mexican border . She currently writes a monthly column "Tappin' in" for the publication "Dancer".  She was the first to receive the "Preservation of Our Heritage, American Dance" award, Oklahoma City University 1999,  and "Woman of Distinction" Award for the Detroit Tap Festival, 2000. Currently operates a large school of Dancing and Gymnastics in McAllen. In 1995, Oklahoma City University presented her an award for over 50 years of contribution to the arts as a dance teacher. She was the first person outside of New York City to be presented the New York Flo-Bert Award in 1996. The Texas Senate recognized Melba in 1997 for contributions to dance by presenting her the Texas state flag. In 1998, she was presented the Savion Glover Award in St. Louis, Mo. 

Jazz pianist
Bross Townsend was considered "an accompanist beyond compare" by Dinah Washington. He began study of classical piano at age seven, and, at eleven started playing for his hometown Baptist church in Princeton, KY. Later, he studied arranging and composition at the Cleveland Institute of Music. He is known for his work with Woody Herman, Erskine Hawkins, Gene Ammons, Milt Jackson, John Coltrane, and many others. He has been the preferred accompanist of vocalists over the years, including Dinah Washington, Little Jimmy Scott, Carrie Smith, Jimmy Reed, Jackie Wilson, Winnone Harris, Big Maybelle, Diana Ross, Dakota Staton and Gloria Lynn. He jammed with tap dancers for 40 years at venues like the Apollo Theatre and was highly respected for his ability to work with them. Bross Townsend died, aged 70, in 2003.  

 
Radio City Rockettes debuted at Radio City Music Hall in 1932. They are all accomplished tap dancers and were chosen for the precision of their dance, which requires extreme discipline. The Rockettes have inspired a lot of young dancers, and many go on to open their own schools.  Today, The Radio City Rockettes play an integral role in many Radio City theatrical productions, special events and television productions. They star annually in The Radio City Christmas Spectacular in New York and around the country. They've tapped their way through the dreams of thousands of young girls, many of whom hope to add their own legs to that world-famous kick line.

 
Phil Black  His first job was as a lead dancer and singer at the famous Town and Country Club where he performed with such luminaries as Judy Garland, Harry Belafonte, Jerry Lewis and Tony Bennett. He had great success in Sugar starring Robert Morse (later touring with Mickey Rooney), West Side Story, Oklahoma and CarouselThroughout his performing career he maintained a full teaching schedule in his own studio, located at 50th and Broadway in NYC. At one point, he would teach all day and then dash down Broadway to perform. His studio pulled in more than 50 students per class, including dancers such as Arthur Mitchell, Chita Rivera, Teri Garr and Joey Heatherton. 

 
Ruth Williams: Founder of the Ruth Williams Dance Studio in Harlem and an outstanding teacher of dance. 

 

1995

   Lionel Hampton Internationally acclaimed giant of the jazz world, and the undisputed "King of the Vibraphone" for well over half a century.  In 1936, Benny Goodman asked Lionel to join his small group, featuring Goodman, Teddy Wilson on piano and Gene Krupa on drums. They immediately became the legendary Benny Goodman Quartet.  Hampton formed his own band in the early 1940's. "Sunny Side of the Street," "Central Avenue Breakdown," his signature tune, "Flying Home," and "Hamp's Boogie-Woogie" all became top-of-the-chart best-sellers upon release and the name Lionel Hampton became world famous overnight. The Hampton band was always a favorite for dancers at venues like Harlem's Savoy Ballroom

Henry LeTang  is Gregory Hines' teacher, and choreographer of the movies "Tap" and "The Cotton Club". He choreographed the Broadway hits "Eubie" and "Sophisticated Ladies", and he won a Tony for "Black and Blue". (Sadly, Henry died in April 2007: Obituary)

1994

  Ann Miller, the star of forty motion pictures and Broadway shows, national tours and innumerable television appearances,  has been tap dancing since her earliest childhood days. She began her Hollywood career at age eleven, and with her vibrant personality, great legs and her tap dancing, won a seven year contract with R.K.O. at the age of thirteen (claiming to be eighteen). She was so remarkable that by age fourteen, she played Ginger Roger's dancing partner in "Stage Door", which started a Motion Picture Career that spanned 20 years. During that period, Ann appeared in more than 40 films, including "Easter Parade" which featured her dancing with Fred Astaire, "On The Town" with Gene Kelly and, considered her finest film for MGM, "Kiss Me Kate".

 
Maceo Anderson , an original member of THE FOUR STEP BROTHERS was one of the early innovators of the acrobatic tap style. It was said "The four step brothers are to dance what Duke Elllngton, Louis Armstrong and Cab Calloway are to music."   The Four Step Brothers were recognized for their contribution to the art of tap dancing with a Life Achievement Award in 1985 and by receiving their star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame in 1988.  They were the most imitated tap dance act in show business and starred in film greats such as "Here Come the Girls" with Bob Hope, "Johnny Comes Marching Home" with Donald O'Connor, "The Patsy" with Jerry Lewis and many, many more.

 
Gene Kelly: That "Singin' in the Rain" man needs no introduction. "The Irishman", as Fred Astaire used to call him, is an international icon. For those who need more try also these sites: IMDB  entry and Biography 

 

1993

 Cholly Atkins was the partner of Charles "Honi" Coles. The pair were known as the classiest act of all time. He was also the famed Motown choreographer for such groups as Diana Ross and the Supremes, The Temptations, Smoky Robinson and The Miracles, The Cadillacs, to name a few.

 
Paul Draper, famed for combining classical music and tap dance. "In places like NY's Carnegie Hall, Draper gave solo concerts in tap dance or teamed up with partner Larry Adler, who played classical music on the harmonica. Their act was tremendously successful, and for nearly a decade they grossed over $100,000 per year, an unheard of sum for nearly any show biz act, much less a concert act.  "Paul Draper wove together classical music and tap dance.  And in this he brought a new understanding - and respect - to tap." (Rusty Frank)

1992

Cab Calloway One of the all-time great band leaders, whose name was synonymous with the Cotton Club and with tap and jazz dance in all its forms. Hi de Hi!

The Nicholas Brothers
: What can one say?  Anyone who hasn't seen their extraordinary sequence in Stormy Weather hasn't lived. They didn't see Florence Mills perform but they knew her well by repute and their summation to me was "She could do anything!"

 
The Silver Belles  Recognition for the courage and style of a group of former dancers  who resumed their careers successfully in their 80s to 90s . They began dancing in the '30s as part of the famous Apollo Theatre and The Cotton Club, and made a stunning comeback

 
The Cotton Club Girls  This Swingstreet link needs more information about these wonderful women, who included Tondelayo Levy, Hy Curtis, and the Moses sisters--Ethel, Lucia, and Julia - veterans of the heyday of the Cotton Club and also in several cases fellow performers and friends of Florence Mills (Hyacinth Curtis was in Blackbirds of 1926 in London)
See Juanita Boisseau obituary

 

1991
 
(The first Flo-Bert awards)

Clayton "Peg Leg" Bates: Not only a legendary dancer who turned his handicap to advantage but also an outstanding human being who gave heroic social service to black society in the bad old days.   He came to fame in Blackbirds of 1928.  I was fortunate enough to talk to him a few years before  his death and found him a charming generous man. May his legend endure!

 
The Original Hoofers:
(Lon Chaney, Chuck Green, George Hillman, Bernard Manners and Jimmy Slyde ) a group that played a vital role in keeping the art of tap dancing alive, following in the footsteps of the Copasetics. See on YouTube

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