Thursday, February 14, 2013

Not your usual Valentine's Day dance...

I love tap dancing.

I've loved it ever since I began taking dance lessons when I was in the second grade. I took both ballet and tap, and while I enjoyed doing both, tap was a lot more fun for me. I only kept up lessons until I was in fifth grade, at which time I quit because it was a deeply uncool thing to do. Also because I couldn't really progress any farther in ballet, as I've got very high arches and my teacher refused to put me in pointe shoes because, she said, it would have ruined my feet. So, quitting ballet made sense, but I really wish I had continued with tap.

And yes, there is a reason why I mention this today, particularly. In looking around the Internet to see what is going on today, I discovered that February 14 was Gregory Hines' birthday. Hines might be better known to many people as an actor, but he was a tap dancer first, starting to tap at the age of three and beginning to perform at age five. He had an act with his brother, Maurice, and together they were known as "The Hines Kids" and then as "The Hines Brothers". When their father joined the act in 1963, they became known as "Hines, Hines, and Dad".

When Hines began acting, his dance talent found its way into some of his films, including in "White Nights", where he played an American dancer who had defected to the Soviet Union who gets mixed up in the action when the plane carrying a Soviet ballet dancer, played by Mikhail Baryshnikov, crash-lands in Siberia. Although it is primarily an action movie, there is dancing, as well, as here:

And then there is this, in which Hines pays tribute to, and then shares the stage with, Sammy Davis, Jr.:

Gregory Hines left us in 2003, and that is a huge loss. But thanks to film and videotape, performances like these of his will last. And so will the clip I will leave you with today, which is one of the coolest and most amazing things I have ever seen. It is from the 1955 film "It's Always Fair Weather", and if you stick with the clip to about 2 minutes and 19 seconds into it, you'll find Gene Kelly, another great dancer, tap dancing...on roller skates.

I had to pick my jaw up off the floor the first time I saw this. Besides taking tap lessons, I also took roller skating lessons at about the same time as my dance lessons. It would have never occurred to me, however, that anyone would even attempt to tap on skates.

It occurs to me that I should put a "don't try this at home" warning on that last clip. So, you know, don't, unless you have better balance than I do.

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