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Celebrating Tap Dancing America at April 5 Book Party

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Hampshire College and the Five College dance department held a a tap performance, reading, and book signing for Tap Dancing America: A Cultural History by Professor Constance Valis Hill on Monday, April 5, 2010, at 5 p.m. in the recital hall of the Hampshire’s music and dance building.

Tap Dancing America

The Oxford University Press-published book was celebrated with special guest Broadway tap dancer and choreographer Dianne Walker, star of the Broadway musical Black and Blue, who wrote the foreword to Tap Dancing America—and with live jazz music and tap dancing.

Tap Dancing America presents the first comprehensive history of a uniquely American art form, exploring all aspects of the intricate musical and social exchange that evolved from Afro-Irish percussive step dances like the jig, gioube, buck-and-wing, and juba. It begins with a dramatic account of a buck dance challenge between Bill  “Bojangles” Robinson and Harry Swinton at Brooklyn’s Bijou Theatre, on March 30, 1900, and proceeds decade by decade through the 20th century to the present day.

Tap was long considered  “a man’s game” and Professor Hill’s is the first history to highlight such outstanding female dancers as Ada Overton Walker, Kitty O’Neill, and Alice Whitman, at the turn of the 20th century, as well as the pioneering women composers of the tap renaissance in the ‘70s and ‘80s, and the hard-hitting rhythm-tapping women of the millennium.

Written with all the verve and grace of tap itself, drawing on eyewitness accounts of early performances as well as interviews with today’s greatest tappers, and richly illustrated with over 100 images, Tap Dancing America fills a major gap in American dance history and places tap firmly center stage.

About the author:
Five College Professor of Dance based at Hampshire College, Constance Valis Hill is a jazz tap dancer, choreographer, and highly-respected scholar of performance studies whose writings have appeared in Dance Magazine, Village Voice, Dance Research Journal, Studies in Dance History, and Discourses in Dance. She studied tap with Charles  “Cookie” Cook and various members of the Copasetics, performed as one member of the tap-dancing Doilie Sisters, and directed Sole Sisters for the Changing Times Tap Company. Her earlier book, Brotherhood in Rhythm: The Jazz Tap Dancing of the Nicholas Brothers, received the ASCAP Deems Taylor Award.

Dianne Walker:
Dianne Walker is one of the few internationally recognized women in the field of tap dance. For over 30 years, as a pioneer in the resurgence of tap, Walker’s career has taken her to Broadway, television, theater, universities, and jazz performance venues throughout the world. She was a featured dancer in the movie Tap with Gregory Hines and in the original Paris production of Black and Blue. She has had the honor of being the only female dancer in the prestigious  “Hoofers Line “ with Lon Chaney, Jimmy Slyde, Chuck Green, and Bunny Briggs.

Walker represented the United States as an adjudicator for the world Tap Dance Championships in Dresden, Germany, in 1996. In 1998, she became the youngest dancer and first woman to receive the Living Treasure in American Dance Award from Oklahoma City University. In 2000, she received the Savion Glover Award for  “Keeping the Beat Alive.” In 2003, she received the Flo-Bert Award for Lifetime Achievement, presented by the New York Committee to Celebrate National Tap Dance Day.

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