DT Notes: This Year’s Big Apple Tap Festival Honored Professor Robert L. Reed

Savion Glover and Dianne Walker
reminisce about Reed at The Big Apple Tap Fest.

When Professor Robert L. Reed, founder of the St. Louis Tap Festival, passed away last July at age 58, he left many friends and students behind. In November they remembered him at The Big Apple Tap Festival in Manhattan.

On the festival’s second day, the faculty spoke about Reed, and by the end of the talk, many were crying. Tap historian and dancer Rusty Frank said Reed’s legacy began after a 1989 performance, when he said, “I just want to know what I can do to keep tap alive.” At that time, fellow performer Brenda Bufalino told him: “Do something! Perform. Produce. Start giving back.” Reed started St. Louis Tap Festival shortly after, which went on to attract dancers from around the globe.

Jimmy Tate highlighted Reed’s tap lineage. “Robert’s mentor was Maceo Anderson,” Tate said, “one of The Four Step Brothers, who were instrumental in breaking the color line. Maceo was Robert’s adopted grandfather.”

Maud and Chloé Arnold spoke about Reed’s belief in them as they were creating L.A. Tap Festival. “Growing up, we never got to go to tap festivals,” Maud said. “He was African-American. To be able to see him create a successful tap fest was huge for us.”

“Robert was one of the first people to support us,” Chloé added. “He gave up his time…financially. And he was instrumental in preserving the legendary tap dancers. Like militantly so. He made sure, too, there was inclusion in passing it on. Socioeconomically and multiculturally.”

Reed was known for performing incredible acrobatics.

Logan Miller, who’d studied with Reed in St. Louis from the age of 10, said: “I was minutes away from quitting. I was the only boy. My studio director didn’t think I was good enough to take his class. Robert said, ‘I’m not going to turn away anyone who wants to take class.’ I owe everything in my life to him.”

Dianne Walker gave the most personal reflection on Reed. “He was like a brother to me,” she said. “We argued and fought furiously. I miss my brother. I’m sorry his life was cut that short. I think about him, and I think about something Jimmy Slyde said: ‘They didn’t leave you; they left something for you.’”

“He just grabbed us, basically, and took us into the same family, like we were big shots,” said Ofer Ben, co-director of the festival. “He made us feel amazing. We lost somebody who gave so much. To us personally.”

On the festival’s final day, co-director Avi Miller presented a video retrospective to a packed studio. In the clips, Reed performed incredible acrobatics, walking on his hands, doing flips and splits and combining tap with break dancing. An earlier clip of The Four Step Brothers doing back flips and landing splits on “The Dean Martin & Jerry Lewis Show” showed their obvious influence.

At the end of the presentation, Miller said: “You are all ambassadors of the artform. We didn’t invent anything. Remember your ambassadors. And as Robert used to say: ‘May the tap gods be with you.’” DT

Photos courtesy of The Big Apple Tap Festival

Don't miss a single issue of Dance Teacher.

Dance Teachers Trending
Photo by Jerome Capasso, courtesy of Man in Motion

Finding a male dance instructor who isn't booked solid can be a challenge, which is why a New York City dance educator was inspired to start a network of male dance professionals in 2012. Since then, he's tripled his roster of teachers and is actively hiring.

Keep reading... Show less
Studio Owners
Getty Images

You've got the teaching talent, the years of experience, the space and the passion—now all you need are some students!

Here are six ideas for getting the word out about your fabulous, up-and-coming program! We simply can't wait to see all the talent you produce with it!

Keep reading... Show less
Dance Teachers Trending
Photo by Todd Rosenberg, courtesy of HSDC

This fall Hubbard Street Dance Chicago initiates an innovative choreographic-study project to pair local Chicago teens with company member Rena Butler, who in 2018 was named the Hubbard Street Choreographic Fellow. The Dance Lab Choreographic Fellowship is the vision of Kathryn Humphreys, director of HSDC's education, youth and community programs. "I am really excited to see young people realize possibilities, and realize what they are capable of," she says. "I think that high school is such an interesting, transformative time. They are right on the edge of figuring themselves out."

Keep reading... Show less
Getty Images

Q: What policies do you put in place to encourage parents of competition dancers to pay their bills in a timely manner?

Keep reading... Show less
Dance Teacher Tips
Photo courtesy of Kim Black

For some children, the first day of dance is a magic time filled with make-believe, music, smiles and movement. For others, all the excitement can be a bit intimidating, resulting in tears and hesitation. This is perfectly natural, and after 32 years of experience, I've got a pretty good system for getting those timid tiny dancers to open up. It usually takes a few classes before some students are completely comfortable. But before you know it, those hesitant students will begin enjoying the magic of creative movement and dance.

Keep reading... Show less
Just for fun
Photo via @igor.pastor on Instagram

Listen up, dance teachers! October 7 is National Frappe Day (the drink), but as dance enthusiasts, we obviously like to celebrate a little differently. We've compiled four fun frappé combinations on Instagram for your perusal!

You're welcome! Now, you can thank us by sharing some of your own frappé favs on social media with the hashtag #nationalfrappeday.

We can't wait to see what you come up with!

Keep reading... Show less
Site Network
Original photos: Getty Images

We've been dying to hear more about "On Pointe," a docuseries following students at the School of American Ballet, since we first got wind of the project this spring. Now—finally!—we know where this can't-miss show is going to live: It was just announced that Disney+, the new streaming service set to launch November 12, has ordered the series.

Keep reading... Show less
Dance Teacher Tips
Photo by Tony Nguyen, courtesy of Jill Randall

Recently I got to reflect on my 22-year-old self and the first modern technique classes I subbed for at Shawl-Anderson Dance Center in Berkeley, California. (Thank you to Dana Lawton for giving me the chance and opportunity to dive in.)

Today I wanted to share 10 ideas to consider as you embark upon subbing and teaching modern technique classes for the first time. These ideas can be helpful with adult classes and youth classes alike.

As I like to say, "Teaching takes teaching." I mean, teaching takes practice, trial and error and more practice. I myself am in my 23rd year of teaching now and am still learning and growing each and every class.

Keep reading... Show less
Dance Teacher Tips
Misti Ridge teaches class at Center Stage Performing Arts Studio. Photo by Arlyn Lawrence , courtesy of Ridge

The dance teachers who work with kids ages 5–7 have earned themselves a special place in dance heaven. They give artists the foundation for their future with impossibly high energy and even higher voices. Enthusiasm is their game, and talent is their aim! Well, that, self-esteem, a love for dance, discipline and so much more!

These days, teachers often go a step beyond giving tiny dancers technical and performative bases and make them strong enough to actually compete at a national level—we're talking double-pirouettes-by-the-time-they're-5-years-old type of competitive.

We caught up with one such teacher, Misti Ridge from Center Stage Performing Arts Studio, The Dance Awards 2019 and 2012 Studio of The Year, to get the inside scoop on how she does it. The main takeaway? Don't underestimate your baby competition dancers—those 5- to 7-year-olds can work magic.

Keep reading... Show less
Site Network
Patrick Randak, Courtesy In The Lights PR

The ability to communicate clearly is something I've been consumed with for as long as I can remember. I was born in the Bronx and always loved city living. But when I was 9, a family crisis forced my mom to send me to Puerto Rico to live with my grandparents. I only knew one Spanish word: "hola." I remember the frustration and loneliness of having so many thoughts and feelings and not being able to express them.

Keep reading... Show less
Studio Success with Just for Kix
Courtesy Just for Kix

As a teacher or studio owner, customer service is a major part of the job. It's easy to dread the difficult sides of it, like being questioned or criticized by an unhappy parent. "In the early years, parent issues could have been the one thing that got me to give up teaching," says Cindy Clough, executive director of Just For Kix and a teacher and studio owner with over 43 years of experience. "Hang in there—it does get easier."

We asked Clough her top tips for dealing with difficult parents:

Keep reading... Show less

mailbox

Get DanceTeacher in your inbox