Tuesday, May 26, 2009

National Tap Dance Day

Did you know that yesterday (May 25th) was National Tap Dance Day? I didn't until today. I took the kids to the library and had picked out a bag full of books. When I thought I had enough, the title of one more book caught my eye. It was "Rap A Tap Tap Here's Bojangles- Think of That!" by Leo and Diane Dillon. I grabbed it and on thumbing through the pages decided it would be a fun one to take home. I'm so glad I did! I sat down with Clara to read it and loved the short, rhythmic lines of each page, but I also loved the fun artwork.
When I came to the last page I found a biography of the real "Bojangles." I learned his real name was Bill Robinson (1878-1949) and he is known as the greatest tap dancer of all time; it was said "he talked with his feet"; his rhythms were so complex and fast it was impossible for other dancers to mimic some of them; he shared his wealth with less fortunate friends during the Great Depression; he performed on Broadway and several films, including four with Shirley Temple.
At the end of the biography I learned that on May 25, 1989, Congress declared that day (which was his birthday) as National Tap Dance Day in Bill Robinson's honor.

When I realized the special day was only just yesterday, I got to my feet and excitedly told the kids. They didn't find it near as exciting as I did, but I didn't care. I turned on a fun song so I could "tap dance" (in my flip flops) in the kitchen. Both the kids kinda looked at me like I was crazy, but I didn't let it get me down. I am no dancer, but I've always had great aspirations to be one. I know I looked silly but I was having fun. Eventually, however, Clara wanted to join in too. But Noah was still embarrassed to know me. I knew he'd love seeing real tap dancing, so I rummaged through our old videos to find my copy of "Singin' in the Rain". It would have been nice to have it on DVD because it took me forever to fast-forward and rewind my way through the movie to try and find some tap dancing. But, finally I found some really good dancing in "Good Mornin.'" Watching that kind of stuff can't help but make you smile. Noah was finally convinced that tap dancing was fun. He really enjoyed it and wanted to watch other fun dances. He LOVED "Make em' Laugh!" He probably would have loved Gene Kelly in "Singin' in the Rain," but he conked out from a fully day of playing, not out of boredom.

Anyway, it was a really fun, spontaneous moment (possibly more for me than the kids). I'll have to rent one of Bill "Bojangles" Robinson's movies so I can see the master in action. You can honor his special day too, and you could probably have even more fun with it than I did with a little more planning. Go check out this book and show your kids real tap dancing by him or any of the other masters like Gene Kelly or Fred Astaire (I really wanted to show Noah Fred Astaire dancing with firecrackers in "Holiday Inn" but I don't have that one). Then turn on some old music and be silly with your kids by showing off your own tap dancing skills.

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