Hoofer Awards


The annual Hoofer Award recognizes prominent tap artists as leaders in the community

for their unique contribution to the form and for inspiring future generations.

2013 - Dean Diggins (June 22, 1931, Hampton, Iowa --  )

Dean Diggins, the elegant dancer who combined a fastidious style of rhythm tap with ballet, was born in Hampton, Iowa, the son of a music teacher.  He began dance lessons at an early age, and by his teenaged years was giving dance lessons and operating two dance studios. During a stint in the army, he performed for Special Services. After his discharge, he moved to Chicago to study at the prestigious Stone-Camryn School of Ballet. From Chicago he moved to New York to study with the tap classicist Paul Draper. In 1957, Diggins formed the Mattison Trio with Guy Tanno and Dorothy Matthews, a balletic tap ensemble; over the next ten years, the group performed regularly on television, and in nightclubs and summer theaters.

In the late 1960s, Diggins made a career change, earning a doctorate in Psychology, later teaching at Brooklyn College. Though he retired from teaching to Kittery, Maine, he did not retire from dancing. In 1989 he performed Morton Gould’s Concerto for Tap Dancer and Orchestra at the Houston Symphony’s 75th Anniversary Concert.  He continued to perform, broadening his repertoire by applying balletic tap choreography to classical works by Bach, Handel, Haydn and others. He also wrote a tap dance manual for teachers titled Tap Technique: Graded Exercises from Beginning to Advanced Levels (1988), which ended with exercises taught to him by his mentor, Paul Draper.

In Kittery, Maine, Diggins became an active member of the tap scene, working with Drika Overton on various projects that included Clara’s Dream, a jazz tap version of the Nutcracker ballet. He has participated annually in the Portsmouth Percussive Dance Festival, performing with such dancers as Josh Hilberman, Guy Nardone, and Brenda Bufalino.

In 2005, Diggins received the Tapestry Award for Life Achievement in Tap at the National Heritage Museum in Lexington, Massachusetts. An Inventory of Dean Diggins Pepers, 1956-1995, containing material on Diggins’s career as a dancer and teacher, class notes while studying with Paul Draper, clippings, photographs, programs, scrapbooks, and choreographic notes for tap routines composed to classical music are in Special Collections Division of the Newberry Library in Chicago, Illinois.


American Tap Dance Foundation

American Tap Dance Center

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