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5 Legendary Male Tap Dancers to Honor During Black History Month

Tap Dancing

When it comes to legendary tap dancers, many folks know about Bill “Bojangles” Robinson, Sammy Davis Jr. and Gregory Hines. However, they were not the only talented black men to grace a stage. There were many others that deserve a bit of modern day recognition. In honor of Black History Month, here’s a quick look at a handful of others:

John Bubbles (1902-1986)

If you ask me, no list of legendary hoofers would be complete with a nod to John Bubbles. He was a Kentucky native and is considered by many to be the Father of Rhythm Tap. Over the course of his career, he starred in movies, on Broadway and performed at locations like Radio City Music Hall and the Apollo. I chose to acknowledge him because he and his partner Buck Washington were two of the men that crossed over color barriers during vaudeville’s heyday. In my opinion, it took a lot of guts to do that in those turbulent times.

Peg Leg Bates (1907-1998)

Peg Leg Bates was a talented tap dancer from South Carolina. One of the things that set him apart from the others on this list is that he only had one leg. His disability didn’t stop him though. During the course of his career, he performed on Broadway, on television and in venerable places like the Cotton Club. I chose to highlight him because he also had connections to the Catskills’ hotel industry, which I am well familiar with. He and his wife opened a resort there called the Peg Leg Country Club. In its heyday, the club was the place to go if you wanted to watch tap dancers and listen to phenomenal jazz music. He later sold the establishment and moved to South Carolina. He remained there until his death in 1998.

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Charles “Honi” Coles (1911-1992)

Charles “Honi” Coles is another man that deserves to be recognized for his talents. He was a Pennsylvania native that enjoyed a long and illustrious tap dancing career. Movie, television and Broadway buffs may recognize him from his performances in such productions as “The Cotton Club” and “Gentlemen Prefer Blondes.”

Chuck Green (1919 – 1997)

Chuck Green was a famous tap dancer from Georgia. I chose to acknowledge him because of his great comeback. During one point in his career, he had to be hospitalized for more than a decade. However, once released, he took the center stage back by storm. In my opinion, that took a huge amount of moxie. If you want to learn more about him, I’d suggest picking up a copy of “No Maps On My Taps” (1978). It’s a remarkable documentary that partially highlights Green’s accomplishments.

The Nicholas Brothers

The last legendary hoofers to make my list are The Nicholas Brothers, Harold and Fayard. They were from Pennsylvania and also had incredible, well respected careers. I chose them for that reason. Some of the productions that they are associated with are “Stormy Weather” (1943) and “Down Argentine Way” (1940). You can learn more about the pair on their website or by watching “The Nicholas Brothers: We Sing and We Dance” (1992).

Source: Personal Experience

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