International Tap Dance Hall of Fame

 

The International Tap Dance Hall of Fame is the only tap dance hall of fame exclusively focused on tap dancers. It features founding and innovative 20th and 21st century professional tap dancers.With a collection of photographs, biographies, and videos, the Hall of Fame is becoming a colorful and diverse retrospective of America's seminal tap dance personalities.

 

2002 - Fred Astaire (1899-1987) was the American tap dancer extraordinaire; Frederick Austerlitz was born May 10, 1899 in Omaha, Nebraska. Astaire and his older sister, Adele, were brought to New York as children to receive dance training and perform on vaudeville stages.

They studied with Claude Alvienne and Ned Wayburn, but could not perform in New York because of the Gerry Society restrictions on child performers. They toured on the Keith-Orpheum circuit, then returned to New York as finished specialty dancers to enter Over the Top (1917). They worked together on Broadway in The Passing Show of 1918, For Goodness Sake (1922), the Gershwins’ Lady, Be Good (1925) and Funny Face (1927), Smiles (1930), and The Band Wagon (1931) and many others. The pair was extremely popular in New York, but their London reputations were even greater. Adele retired following the close of The Band Wagon, and Fred performed with Claire Luce in the 1932 film The Gay Divorcee.

For much of his film career, his search for a perfect partner was a frequent publicity theme. The partnership with Ginger Rogers is film and dance history, of course. The work with the great tap dancer Eleanor Powell, is legendary among tap professionals. A stunning choreographer himself, Astaire was also able to perform brilliantly in dances staged by many others. He danced the choreography of Dave Gould, who wont he first dance director Oscar for “the Carioca,” Harry Losse, a concert dancer with Denishawn lineage, Bobby Connolly, Charles Walters, and ballet choreographers Eugene Loring and Michael Kidd.

Astaire’s dance numbers can be divided roughly into four categories – exhibition ballroom romances, tap competitions, solos, and solos with props. The most frequently performed was the first type, danced with each of his female partners; the dances were based on conventional exhibition ballroom styles, in turn based on social dance work. They involved a single format, with the meeting, duet work, breaks apart and pulls together, and a final symmetrical or tandem series of movements. Among Astaire’s examples in this style are the famous love duets with Ginger Rogers, such as “Cheek to Cheek” and “Night and Day,” which are exquisitely beautiful from their openings, in which one touch from Astaire spins her into his arms, to the finales in which they simply sit.

Tap challenge numbers were danced with Rogers, as well as with his other partners. With Rogers and Powell especially, these numbers, based on minstrel formats, presented an alternating series of tap flurries, each dancer trying to best the other. In the “Let Yourself Go” number from Follow the Fleet, the Astaire-Rogers competition is set in a dance hall with “real” inter-couple competitions. The solos occasionally had a “schtik,” such as the “fireworks dance” in Holiday Inn, but more frequently were danced alone before a camera.

The solos with props are among his greatest accomplishments. He could not only dance with anyone, but with anything – the coat tree in Royal Wedding, the wall in that underrated film, or the drum set in Easter Parade.

It would be difficult to overestimate Astaire’s influence. He represents tap, theater, and ballroom dance to much of the world, and perfection in performance to everyone.

 

Unknown Writer & Tony Waag