M ay 25 is International Tap Day.
In the U.S., National Tap Day was declared by the senate in 1989 in recognition of the unique place of tap as an original American dance form and its impact in American culture, notably in Vaudeville, Broadway and film. May 25 was chosen for the date, as it is the birthday of Bill
"Bojangles" Robinson, the recognized grandfather of tap. It didn’t take long for National Tap Day to expand to international levels, and now celebrations can be found worldwide. Pretty impressive.
West Coast Tap Dance Collective, a Vancouverbased organization, was founded in March 2003 – Small beginnings, with a handful of dedicated tap dancers. My dancing daughter was one of the founding members, and it didn’t take her too long to convince me to join the board of directors. After 10 years, I am still on the board. It is a privilege to mix and mingle with professionals and gifted amateurs.
The collective, in just a few short years, has been successful at having tap day officially recognized in New Westminster, North Vancouver, Burnaby, Vancouver and the province of British Columbia. It should be recognized in Surrey, too – don’t you think so, Linda, Judy, Barbara, and Judy? Call me.
One of the goals of West Coast Tap Dance Collective is to get Tap Day nationally recognized in Canada. We are working on it, and the collective’s annual Tap Day celebration is becoming so well known, it is just a matter of finding a government official who sees tap dancing as an important art form.
Currently in Canada, tap dancing is not recognized as an art form, which means funding from the government to the arts is not available for tap dancing. Seriously. Well, moving on.
The 2015 Tap Day Celebration hosted by West Coast Tap Dance Collective is this Sunday, May 24, at Massey Theatre in New Westminster. Every year, the collective honours a Canadian who has made a significant contribution to the art of tap dancing. This year’s honouree is Canadian tapper Ruby Keeler. Are you too young to know who Ruby Keeler is? Or, if you know, did you know she was born in Halifax on Aug. 25, 1910?
At a young age, Keeler moved with her family to New York. She started taking dance lessons at age 10 and learned to tap dance. At 13, she began her show-business career in the chorus line of the George M. Cohan Broadway production of The Rise of Rosie O’Reilly, in 1923. Keeler travelled to Hollywood, made some films and married Al Jolson.
In her 1933 debut, 42nd Street, Keeler played a chorus girl suddenly sent onstage to replace the ailing lead dancer, the director urging her on with the immortal lines, "You’re going out there a youngster, but you’ve got to come back a star!" 42nd Street has hit Vancouver stages many times, and is, for most of us, the iconic tap dancing show.
The collective’s Tap Day show is a mustsee this year, with MC Teryl Rothery and top Canadian tap dancers, including Aaron Tolson. Also, Keeler’s daughters will join us for the celebration. Us. Yes, I did say us. For the first time ever, I will actually be on stage performing with my tap group. So, buy tickets to the show – I want a full house. Tickets can be purchased online at Masseytheatre.com. I will know if you are there or not. I have friends.
. One my tap friends is Margaret Sampson. She is also a member of Westcoast Harmony Chorus. She will be on stage with me, so I wanted to salute her choral group. Westcoast won two gold medals at the recent Sweet Adelines regional competition held here in Surrey. They received their best score ever: 650. They are currently in first place worldwide for midsize choruses – not bad at all. Congrats. The next regional competition is in Saskatoon.
Westcoast, by the way, holds weekly rehearsals in North Surrey, at Parkland Fellowship Baptist Church, 9574 160th St., every Wednesday from 7:15 to 10:15 p.m. For details, email firstname.lastname@example.org.