Tap Extravaganza 2000

Article excerpt

MAY 28, 2000

Tap Extravaganza 2000 showed that rhythm tap dancing, at least for one night, was well on the road to gender equality. Once considered the domain of black men in its heyday (the 1930s) through the '80s, this art of talking feet was saying a lot and evening up the score on a warm night out.

The New York Committee to Celebrate National Tap Dance Day selected its favorite son, the already-legendary Savion Glover, and its oldest and brightest, Leonard Reed at 93, creator of tap's anthem, the shim sham, to receive this year's Flo-Bert awards. Ted Levy was the convivial emcee who took his dance turn and paid homage to two of his idols, Dianne Walker and tap elder Buster Brown.

The ladies of this night, however, arrived in force to make the world of tap an equal opportunity employer. Levy made a point of announcing the ages of The Silver Belles, octogenarian veterans of the Apollo and Cotton Club chorus lines. Bertye Lou Wood, at 95, kiddingly challenged the audience and her "younger" colleagues Cleo Hayes, Fay Rae and Marion Coles to get her to hop around. It was thrilling to see these women pace themselves and yet swing hard; they were an inspiration for those who believe dancing is for the young at heart, but not necessarily of body.

Mabel Lee, too, a foxy, good-looking vet herself, was killing the audience not-very-softly, singing her trademark songs "You Are So Beautiful" and "Them There Eyes." She shed her long skirt in the course of her act to reveal still-gorgeous legs as she slinked around a la Snake Hips Tucker. …