When Robert L. Reed tap dances, you can almost see the sparks
The taps on his shoes clatter like the keys on a high-speed
typewriter, and his "shuffles," "wings," "over the tops," and
"slides" are thrilling to watch.
Reed is also an acrobat and springs to land lightly on his
hands, then walks across the stage, and down the steps, still on
his hands, amid cheers from the audience.
Reed, 36, of St. Louis, is a professional dancer. He
demonstrated his tapping abilities at the second annual Saint Louis
Tap Festival Sunday at Rickman Auditorium in Arnold. He also
produced and directed the festival.
The Sunday concert, called "All That Tap," also featured
performances of other tap dancing greats such as Josh Hilberman,
Van Porter, Sarah Petronio and Savion Glover, as well as dancing by
students from several local dance academies. The concert was the
culmination of the festival that included two days of tap-dance
master classes at the Center of Contemporary Arts in University
Reed, who also taught one of the master classes, has been
dancing for just 10 years. But when you learn Reed's background,
his abilities come as no surprise. In fact, it would be more
surprising if he weren't a superb dancer.
Reed comes from a dancing family: His grandfather, Maceo
Anderson, who taught him to tap, was a founding member of a quartet
called the Four Step Brothers. The group made more than 40 movies
with big-name entertainers such as Abbott and Costello ("It Ain't
Hay"), Bob Hope ("Here Come the Girls"), Ann Sheridan ("Shine on
Harvest Moon") and Jerry Lewis ("The Patsy"). The Four Step
Brothers even have a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, Reed said.
"My mother tried early on to get me involved in dancing, but in
the (St. Louis) neighborhood where I grew up, you just didn't dance
ballet or tap," said Reed. But at age 26, he decided it was time to
"I had some distinct advantages - a grandfather who knew all
the inside people to help me get started in the career and who
handed down a God-given talent to his grandson," he said. "Most
people start tap dancing doing the shuffle - I went right into
`wings' and `over the tops.' "
"Wings" are a flash-tap step in which the dancer kicks out with
both feet at once and makes five or six sounds per step, he said.
"Over the tops" involve putting one leg over the other and looking
like you're falling. "That one always gets big applause," Reed
"There are literally dozens of different steps and a million
combinations you can use, according to your knowledge and ability,"
he said. "But a good tap dancer doesn't just do steps. He decides
what his purpose is in dancing, and what style he wants to pursue -
flash, flying tap, acrobatic, funk, rhythm, or `legomania,' a
particularly intricate style of tap. …