Each year, the Flo-Bert Awards celebrate lifetime achievement of two outstanding members of the tap community on or near National Tap Dance Day (Bill “Bojangles” Robinson’s birthday), at the Tap Extravaganza event. This year, on May 29 at Haft Auditorium in New York City, the awards are going to two men who made their marks on Broadway—Johnny Brandon and Charles Goddertz.
Brandon is probably best known as a composer (with more than 600 songwriting credits). He was nominated for a Tony in 1979 for best original score for Eubie!, choreographed by Henry LeTang and starring Gregory and Maurice Hines. Buddy Bradley, who ran a dance studio in London in the 1930s, instilled in Brandon, now 86, a love of jazz, the poetry of Langston Hughes and the writings of The Chicago Defender and Ebony magazine. Brandon says, growing up, he was probably one of the few English kids who knew about these things. As a singer, he became a teen heartthrob in 1950s England with hits “Tomorrow” and “Don’t Worry,” after performing in British vaudeville. From there, he hit the London stage as an actor and tap choreographer, then went on to Broadway.
As a 14-year-old from Port Arthur, Texas, Charles Goddertz earned a scholarship to train with Jack Stanly in New York City. In his early career, Goddertz danced on Broadway in On the Town with Bernadette Peters, Lovely Ladies, Kind Gentleman and Hello Dolly with Carol Channing and Pearl Bailey, to name just a few. He was later introduced to jazz tap by Melba Huber and became a regular at Jimmy Slyde’s tap jams at La Cave in Manhattan.
Goddertz stepped away from dance (1982–84) to become a partner in a retail business. According to Traci Mann, co-chair of the Flo-Bert committee, his retail partner became intrigued with show business and asked Charles to help him produce a musical, and he agreed. “It lit the fire under his feet to get back to tap dance,” she says. In 1986, Carol Paumgarten asked him to join her teaching staff at Steps On Broadway, where he’s been ever since. In 1987, he joined Collaborative Artists at NYU, helping develop its tap dance program, and he taught there until 2000.
Of the Flo-Bert award, Goddertz says: “I never did expect it, to be considered for my contribution to tap dancing with all the people who came before me—Jimmy Slyde and Buster Brown. I’m just taken aback. I’ve had a great time. I took a lot of students who had potential and trained them, and they became dancers on Broadway.”
The Flo-Bert committee has joined with The Tap Legacy Foundation to present the awards this year. Tap Legacy co-founder Andrew Nemr says: “Johnny Brandon and Charles Goddertz have each contributed to the artform’s canon in their own unique way, taking the body of work imparted on them by their mentors, making it their own and continually sharing it with others.”
Broadway dancer Rogelio Douglas, Jr., (In the Heights, The Little Mermaid) hosts this year’s Tap Extravaganza. For more: http://thetapcenter.org DT
Photo: Johnny Brandon (center) with tappers L.D. Jackson (top) and Carnell Lyons (courtesy of The Tap Legacy Foundation)