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.

2016 - Roxane “Butterfly” Semadini


Roxane “Butterfly” was born in Toulon, France, as Roxane Semadini, her father French and mother Moroccan. Her earliest influences were the Arabic and Rai music (popular music of Algeria, Tunesia, and Morocco) she had listened to in the ethnically mixed downtown neighborhood of Toulon. She first discovered the great rhythm tap dancer Jimmy Slyde, who had been living in Paris from the early 1970s, at the age of nine at the Summer Festival of Chateau Vallon, and was thus initiated to jazz and bebop music. She also studied film at the University of Aix-en-Provence. In 1991 she moved to New York, where she studied with Savion Glover and Barbara Duffy, and supported herself by dancing in the street with a partner who called herself "Ginger from Paris," and with Herbin Van Cayseele (Tamango). But it was at Jimmy Slyde's jam sessions at La Cave, over a period of three-and-a-half years, that she developed her luscious freestyle rhythm tap, earning the nickname "Butterfly." She said of her development as a tap artist from 1989 to 1992: "It was the time between [the Broadway musicals] Black and Blue and Jelly's Last Jam . . . and I could not be in those shows. I wouldn't fit into the club because I'm European, I'm white, and I'm a woman."


In 1994, Butterfly and Tamango left for Germany, for a booking to do a show with the Philharmonic Orchestra in Cologne. The gig fell through. She found work as a street performer with several African musicians, including the Coulibaly brothers, who she followed to Burkina Faso in west equatorial Africa, where she continued to work as a street performer. "West Africa changed me," said Butterfly. "It changed the way I understood dance as a lifestyle and as a way to communicate.” In 1996 she made her debut as a director at the Theatre de Suresnes in Paris where she first attempted to bridge European tap with America by inviting Savion Glover, Tamango and vaudevillian Rod Ferrone to participate in Suresnes-Cité Danse. That same year, she coached the brilliant tango-dancer Pablo Veron in the Sally Potter film The Tango Lesson.


When she returned to New York City in 1998, after first returning to the states to perform in a Las Vegas hip-hop musical, Manhattan with such dancers as Mr. Wiggles from Rock Steady Crew, Poppin' Pete, Jazzy Jay, and the female b-girl Honey Rockwell, she realized "I wanted to do something with women, and for women. I wanted to know where my creativity would go with female energy." That creative energy found its way to her creation of her first ensemble, the women's collective Beauteez ‘N the Beat, which she directed for seven years. From that collective came the performance of Beauteez ‘N The Beat; subtitled "A Tap'n Hip Hop Rhythm-Tale," the show (opening 27 October 1998) at St. Peter's Church claimed to be the first tap and hip hop show created by women. It featured tappers Liz Homer-Smith, Charon Aldredge, Sarah Savelli, and Tina Pratt; b-girls Deena Snapshot and Colleen Miss Twist; and the poet/actress/playwright Sarah Jones, with drummer Bernice Brooks. The ensemble performed at several venues in New York, including Town Hall, Tribeca Performing Arts Center, Saint Mark's Church, Jacob's Pillow Dance Festival, and Symphony Space. In 1999, Butterfly was the only woman tap dancer to receive a New York Dance and Performance "Bessie" Award for Outstanding Creative Achievement, and in 2006 received a John Simon Guggenheim Foundation Award for the creation of original tap choreography.


Butterly has toured the Western and Eastern hemispheres, from Africa to Asia via the Americas, Europe, and the Middle East, presenting original tap works on the music and dance scenes, and collaborating with artists from various corners of the creative world. She is known as a poet and teacher, and is internationally renowned for her improvisational tap skills. She has made works that embrace women's rights issues, from domestic violence to female genital mutilation and the representation of women in the media. " In 2002 Butterfly was selected as one of the ‘25 Best' by Dance Magazine. Her company's repeated appearances at Symphony Space owed her to be mentioned among the five most innovative dance artists of the 2004 season by Backstage magazine. As a dancer deeply dedicated to using live-music in all her performance, she is the founder and artistic director of Roxane Butterfly's Worldbeats, a touring company of world-music and dance artists that operates in New York and Barcelona.  The Worldbeats 2005 performance of Gelaba Groove was critically acclaimed, as was, that same year, that same year, Hoofologies, created and performed by Butterfly, with musical direction by Graham Haynes and tap dancers Max Pollak, Yoshiko Hida, and Joseph Wiggan.


Butterfly resides in Barcelona, where she founded the Jimmy Slyde Institute; she continues to be celebrated as an international ambassador of rhythm tap.


Constance Valis Hill

[Sources: Constance Valis Hill, Tap Dancing America, A Cultural History (2010); Tap Dance in America: A Twentieth-Century Chronology of Tap Performance on Stage, Film, and Media.

Photo: Jo Kemp

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