The Fleetest of Feet Faster Than a Speeding-Ball Change, Nationally-Reknowned Hoofers Share Their Art

Article excerpt

Even though Dianne Walker was practically born dancing, she had no inkling she'd someday become a professional. She'll appear in St. Louis this week as a featured performer and instructor at the 4th annual St. Louis Tap Festival.

"I first tap-danced at 2," she says. "I had polio and started lessons as a form of therapy." She studied tap until she was 10, when her family moved from Boston, Mass. to Edwards Air Force Base in California .

Though she played the drums in her high school band and performed as a majorette, Walker didn't take up tap again until the grand old age of 28.

She was established as a clinical social worker in Boston when she met Willie Spencer, an old master of tap-dancing. Spencer was a guest at a family function. "He stood out in that room of people," Walker says. "There were about 500 people there, but for me there was just him. He was just sitting and tapping his feet. I was intrigued by the patter and his style, which was something I hadn't seen in a dance studio."

Spencer arranged for Walker to meet another tap veteran, Leon Collins, who ran a small studio in Boston. Walker went for her first lesson the next day.

"I went to the office and canceled everything. I told everyone I had an appointment. My feet haven't stopped moving since then."

In addition to learning how to dance from a master, Walker got to meet many of Collins' friends. "His cronies were people like Bunny Briggs, Honi Coles and Sandman Sims," says Walker. "It didn't take me very long to get hooked."

It also didn't take very long to shelve her social-work career and embark on the show-business trail. …