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.

2019 - Hank Smith is an interdisciplinary performance artist, dancer, director, and tap historian who emerged in the tap renaissance of the 1970s. Trained as a dancer, mime, clown, and actor, the backbone of his work is rhythm, manifested in the percussive use of the voice, body, and improvisational rhythm tap dancing, all of which are used to carry out the African American tradition of “stomping the blues.” In the late 1970s, Smith began the study of tap dance with veteran master Charles “Cookie” Cook at New York's Clark Center for the Performing Arts. He was subsequently introduced to such master veterans of jazz tap as James “Buster” Brown, Marion Coles, and all the surviving members of the Copasetics, that fraternity of largely African-American tap dancers founded in 1949 in the memory of Bill “Bojangles” Robinson. Though he studied mime and clowning, performing in Mexico at the El Encuentro Nacional y Internacional de la Nueva Pantomima (1984) and Kyogen Theater in Japan (1984), Smith remained loyal to the art of tap dance. In 1998 Smith hosted six evenings of performance conversations with master tap dancers called The Story of Tap, commissioned by Dixon Place; consisting of interviews and performances with tap dancers that took shape as an informal talkathon with live tap-dancing and film footage. In 1997 Smith directed and choreographed Stormy, a new musical based on the 1942 film musical Stormy Weather, at New Jersey's Bloomfield College. His work has also been presented at The Gowanus Arts Exchange, The Kitchen, New York Public Library for the Performing Arts and Movement Research. Smith has over thirty years of experience in television production, having worked at WPIX-TV, ABC, NBC, PBS and on independent productions. For twenty years he was with Sesame Street, where he functioned as stage manager, associate director, choreographer and performer. He is a recipient of a 1999 New Jersey Council on the Arts Fellowship Award in Interdisciplinary Performance and a 2001 BAXten Arts and Artists in Progress Award. In the mid-1990s, Smith founded the Copasetics Connection with Megan Haungs, Michela Marino-Lerman, June Maruta, and Toes Tiranoff. In 1999, Smith created a solo multimedia performance, Smitty, Me, and NYC, combining 16mm film footage of New York City and Harlem shot by his late father, Henry J. Smith, and mixing images with text, tap dance, and improvisation to develop a work about a father and son's relationship to each other and to New York.

By Constance Valis Hill