The Flo-Bert Awards
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 -
The Flo-Bert Committee
and Dewitt Fleming
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
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.
For details of this year's presentation
ceremony click on:
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,
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.
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
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
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
Audy: Noted director and choreographer, and
teacher of stars, he is also author of several respected books on tap dance
Dance for Beginners , Jazz
dancing, and Tap
Dancing: How to Teach Yourself to Tap
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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. See more
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
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.
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 many of her articles
Owens has been on the jazz scene since the 1960s,
recording with the greatest including Louis Armstrong and Lena Horne.
Flo-Bert's originator Delilah
Jackson finally got to be an honoree herself.
Congratulations, Delilah! a well deserved recognition for years of dedicated
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). See also Legon.html
Twenties star tapper,
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,
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."
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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. For more bio info on Melba go to http://nyctapfestival.com
and click 'List of Events' and 'Panel discussions'
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.
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.
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 Carousel.
Throughout 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. See YouTube
Williams: Founder of the Ruth Williams Dance Studio in
Harlem and an outstanding teacher of dance.
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
Hampton band was always a favorite for dancers at venues like Harlem's
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".
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.
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: Nancy
Paulette/gene.htm and Jadegene/
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!
Nicholas Brothers: What can one say? Anyone who
hasn't seen their extraordinary sequence in Cabin in the Sky 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
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)
(The first Flo-Bert awards)
"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.
to Commemorative Items