Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Happy National Tap Dancing Day!

Today is National Tap Dancing Day, made so in honor of Bill "Bojangles" Robinson's birthday. In The Cabinet's humble opinion the following is the greatest of all tap dancing sequences ever filmed. The Nicholas Brothers and Cab Calloway in five minutes of perfection:

I know I've posted this before, but this might be a close second (and my favorite). Here is the Moses Supposes number from Singin in the Rain. The Intellectual Property Gods have disabled embedding, so you'll have to click though and watch on YouTube. Gene Kelly had so many balletic pretensions, but for my money he was at his best when he just, you know, danced. I love Cyd Charisse, and think she's just lovely, but I'd far rather see Kelly and Fred Astaire dance with a hoofer, you know?

Speaking of which:

Swing Time is the film in which Fred dances his tribute to Bojangles (in the "Bojangles of Harlem" number) in which he sports, if not precisely blackface, something definitely akin to it. Which, I am sure, people have written dissertations on, as with most things, it's complicated. It's meant as a most sincere homage, but changing tastes and perceptions have made it somewhat cringe-worthy.

Dance in the form of tap (or otherwise) has nearly vanished form our screens. But, back in 1981, in Denis Potter's Pennies From Heaven, Christopher Walken danced to Let's Misbehave. This is a movie that had untold influence on me, and in some ways I've been ripping off the work of Denis Potter ever since. His strange and brilliant work for British television is simply unlike anything else. I believe everything you see that's interesting on television owes him something of a debt.

And now, finally, in honor of the man himself, Bill "Bojangles" Robinson's famous stair dance:

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