In 1989, I attended the opening night screening of the movie TAP at Union Station Movie Theaters in Washington, D.C. Watching the film that night changed my life forever. Within a year I would meet Gregory Hines and Savion Glover, and would eventually be mentored by both of them for a time.
So why would a 9 year old fall in love with a movie about African American tap dancers? This is why:
The above clips come from the famous Challenge Scene in the film, and it alone warrants adding the film to your personal collection. One by one, Arthur Duncan, Bunny Briggs, Jimmy Slyde, Steve Condos, Harold Nicholas, Sandman Sims, and Sammy Davis, Jr., all take turns showing Gregory Hines what’s what, before he joins in! This, however, is not your typical challenge. It’s not competitive in the way that there are winners and losers. Rather, there is an undercurrent of love and life as each dancer shares a large part of who they are in a circle of encouraging contemporaries.
I would spend the next years of my life pursuing the techniques, vocabulary, artistry, and characters, of the people I saw in that film. After years of that pursuit I’ve landed somewhere completely different. Instead of creating more steps, pursuing more techniques, or building choreographed pieces, as were some of the goals of Cats Paying Dues, I’ve been called to focus on the space in which the stuff happens.
Wherever you might be on your pursuit, I cannot recommend this film more. It has been at the heart of many of my choices as an artist, and the DVD version adds a number of additional features including interviews with dancers who are no longer with us. Hear the stories from the people who were there. Get it, and get inspired.