Tap Preservation Awards

The annual Tap Preservation Award is given to an outstanding individual or organization in the field,

for the superior advancement of tap dance through presentation and preservation.

2013 - Ernie Smith, (1925, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania -- April 8, 2004, Bolton Landing, New York)

Ernie Smith, noted jazz dance film historian and lindy hop and tap enthusiast, was a lifelong collector of jazz dance, tap and lindy hop on film, turning his West End apartment into a film museum of jazz history. His collection of footage from 1894 to 1979, consisting of 352 reels of 16mm motion picture film, was donated to the Smithsonian Institute in 1993, and titled The Ernie Smith Jazz Film Collection.


 Smith began collecting jazz and jazz dance films during the mid-1950s. An Art Director for a New York advertising agency, he had a long-standing interest in jazz and jazz dance that began during his youth in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Early on, Smith discovered that jazz music was best appreciated while dancing. He became an accomplished Lindy Hopper, frequenting both white and African American ballrooms. His job at the advertising agency supported Smith's two passions - painting and jazz music and dance. He was also a film enthusiast, so in 1954, after taking a jazz class at the New School taught by leading jazz scholar Marshall Stearns, he began collecting examples of jazz and jazz dance on film. In the process of creating his film collection, he became one of the leading authorities on jazz and jazz dance films. He collaborated with Stearns on the 1964 book Jazz Dance, compiling the book's jazz dance film listing. He also wrote the extensive entry on jazz film for the 1988 edition of New Grove Dictionary of Jazz. On May 25, 1989, Smith was awarded received the Black Patti Award from the Black Patti Foundation, an African American cultural organization founded by historian Delilah Jackson.

Smith built his film collection by identifying films of potential interest and acquiring them through trade and purchase. He created lecture reels on specific topics -- the history of jazz, social dance, tap dance, Duke Ellington, Lindy Hop -- and presented lecture/screenings nationally and internationally. He also provided footage for numerous documentaries and maintained active relationships with filmmakers, other film collectors, jazz scholars, the swing dance community, and musicians. After donating his film collection to the Archives Center in 1993, he continued to lecture and participate in swing dance activities, devoting the majority of his time to painting and related artistic pursuits.

Constance Valis Hill

American Tap Dance Foundation

American Tap Dance Center

154 Christopher Street #2B New York, NY 10014

Phone 646-230-9564
Fax 646-230-7777
Email: info@atdf.org

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