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.


2009 - Marshall and Jean Stearns

Marshall Stearns, author of The Story of Jazz, was a founder of the Newport Jazz Festival and the Institute of Jazz Studies. He was also a professor of English at Hunter College in New York, and a Medieval literature scholar. He died while completing this book in 1966. Jean Stearns, an authority on jazz in her own right, assisted her husband in researching and writing Jazz Dance.


By the late 1980s, despite the tremendous interest in and worldwide revival of tap dance, it was no longer possible to find a copy of Jazz Dance. We sent out scouts, squirreled copies from each other, Xeroxed chapters for courses we were teaching, and repeatedly called publishers to plead for the return of Jazz Dance to the book shelves. Finally, miraculously, here it is, reissued by Da Capo Press. It is a testimony to the community of dancers, fans, and scholars: we have made ourselves heard. Artists like Bill Robinson, King Rastus Brown, John Bubbles, Honi Coles and others who speak to us in this book, are our Nijinskys, Daighilevs, Balanchines, and Grahams. We honor them by studying their lives and work. This is a book I have read over and over; I will read and recommend it for as long as I am a tap dancer or a student of American History. There are so many books on ballet and modern dance. There are still so few on tap dance and they are so cavalierly allowed to go out of print even though the interest in them is so deep and sustaining. Studying tap dance through this marvelous book is like studying this country’s history, not through its wars and politics but through the creation of its own indigenous art form. It has been over twenty years since Marshall Stearns interviewed the tap dance for this book on jazz and vernacular dance. His introductory remarks read like an obituary; they ring with the sadness, melancholy, and nostalgia of the blues, mourning the loss of this unique dance form, with few presentiments of how and when it would be revived. Many of the dancers died before the first publication of this book; neither they nor Marshall Stearns lived to see the revival and the renaissance of tap dance. This is truly sad, for Marshall would have seen his book become the Bible for the new generation of tap dancers and a reference manual for the tap masters still living who worked so diligently to pass on the tradition as well as the technique. This book gave those dancers a reference point from which to observe both their contributions to, and the history of, their form, They incorporated this history with a new self-consciousness and respect for both tap dance as an art form and the tap dancer as an artist. A new generation of dancers-turned-producers pulled tap dance kicking and screaming into the 70s, 80s, and 90s—applauded but still misunderstood. Practitioners were required to become evangelists and apologists. This book really helped: it gave us credibility and created vocabulary and context for students, critics, producers, teachers, and archivists. With this reissue we can be assured that universities and libraries will have resource materials for students of black history and dance. A new generation of tap dancers and fans will not enjoy this marvelous work that documents a powerful, magnetic, and thoroughly magical history.

JAZZ DANCE Foreword By Brenda Bufalino

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

© 2010 ATDF