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.

2011 - Max Pollak, is a 2011 Bessie Award nominee , 2010 Individual Artist Grantee of the Northern Manhattan Arts Alliance and 2008 fellow in Choreography from the New York Foundation of the Arts. One of the most prestigious names on the international tap scene today, he is recognized worldwide for his superior musicianship and his highly individual style as the first person to merge authentic Afro-Cuban music and dance with American rhythm tap and body music to create RumbaTap


Born and raised in Austria, he has been tapping since the age of eleven, and playing drums and percussion since the age of fourteen. From the beginning, he focused on studying each discipline in depth in order to improve his understanding of the other.


At age seventeen he was first exposed to the African American style of rhythm tap in Vienna, when seventy-one-year-old Carnell Lyons became his first mentor. Lyons, a Kansas City-born childhood friend of Charlie Parker, had toured the world successfully as a member of the vaudeville acrobatic tap act "Jesse, James and Carnell". Settling in West Berlin in the 1960s, Lyons became the pioneer of rhythm tap pedagogy in Europe.


After completing his theater degree in Vienna and working in several large musical theater productions in Germany and Austria, including one under the direction of Broadway choreographer Michael Shawn, he moved to New York City, following an invitation from Heather Cornell, artistic director of Manhattan Tap. His tenure with the company lasted until 1997 and culminated in a collaboration at Lincoln Center with jazz bass legend Ray Brown. Pollak contributed significant portions of the choreography to the twenty-five-minute tap suite Brown composed, danced a solo feature and played the conga drums in performance with the Ray Brown trio.

During the early 1990s, the most important breeding ground for emerging tap talent was the weekly tap jam session hosted by tap legends Dr. Jimmy Slyde, Dr. Buster Brown, Chuck Green, and Lon Chaney at the New York City jazz club La Cave. Pollak was a regular, taken under the wing of the masters.  For three years, he also co-hosted a weekly tap jam session at the East Village club Deanna's, together with his close friends Tamango of Urban Tap, Roxane Butterfly of Worldbeats, and saxophonist/composer Paul Carlon.

Latin percussion master Bobby Sanabria introduced Pollak to the earth shattering power and spiritual depth of Afro-Cuban music.  This experience turned out to be the defining influence in shaping Pollak's career. 


Inspired by playing percussion in Sanabria's Afro-Cuban big band and by New York City's vibrant Latino music community, Pollak soon began incorporating elements of Afro-Cuban jazz and folkloric music in his performances, developing the concept he calls "RumbaTap", a melding of Afro-Cuban music and dance, American jazz, body percussion, and tap dance.  For four years, he studied Afro-Cuban percussion at the Harbor Conservatory in New York with some of the best drummers in Latin Music.  Pollak soon distinguished himself on the international tap scene as an innovative soloist and educator.


In 1999 legendary Cuban trombonist/producer Juan Pablo Torres chose Pollak as a soloist for the show “Super Son Cubano”, which featured some of Cuba's most important Salsa musicians. The concert was filmed and turned into the critically acclaimed documentary “Como Se Forma Una Rumba” in 2001.


Teaching tap in Cuba frequently since 1998, Pollak has been embraced by the leading Cuban folkloric group of its day, the legendary Los Munequitos de Matanzas. He has frequently appeared with them as a featured performer and has taught tap to their lead dancer Barbaro Ramos and the other dancers. For more than a decade, Los Munequitos have been featuring the "RumbaTap" style in all of their worldwide performances.


Originator of Cuba's first tap festival, Max Pollak has been teaching and performing there since 1998, and has shared the stage with Chucho Valdés, Lila Downs and jazz legends Phil Woods, Paquito D'Rivera, Cadido Camero, Bobby Sanabria, Slide Hampton, and Danilo Perez.


He is also recognized for making European and South American classical music more accessible by playing with classical ensembles in prestigious venues like Vienna's Konzerthaus, Musikverein, Havana's Teatro Nacional and Teatro Amadeo Roldan. He has performed with members of the Vienna Philharmonic, the New York Philharmonic, Chamber Orchestra of St. Luke's as well as the Duluth Superior and Plano Symphony Orchestras, with the latter two as soloist in the Morton Gould Tap Dance Concerto. On faculty at Sarah Lawrence College, he travels the world with his group RumbaTap and is about to release his first CD recording.

American Tap Dance Foundation

American Tap Dance Center

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