Tap Travels in the US

Syd-O-Noo-York

Back from an exciting research and film trip: three weeks between New York City and Los Angeles, looking for the legend of Syd O’Noo. (And spending a third of the time on airplanes and behind steering wheels…) The aim of our trip was to meet great tap dance artists, interview them on their mentors and inspirations, research tap legends and shoot film for our stage production.

Maurice

Starting off with a star: we meet Maurice Hines in a Manhattan hotel. An enthusiastic, charismatic conversationalist who has met anything and anybody in his long career and knows how to tell the story! Next out to the countryside: the interviews with Brenda Bufalino were probably the most profound of the entire trip. Here is a lady, who looks for the most honest answer to every question, who takes time, reflects. The magnitude of her experience is spectacular, but even more impressive is her inquisitive, intelligent, creative look ahead. This artist is not done with broadening the horizons of tap yet.

brenda

Then a whole different direction: off to Kansas, where Sebastian started to dance as an exchange student. First dance teacher, host family, old friends, all set before the endless horizons of the midwest. And almost accidentally, as a chance opportunity along the way, we meet Robert Reed. What an inspiration! The most humble, generous, knowledgeable man. A person who pays respect in his every word to this tradition of tap that changed his life and through his dedication he inspires like no other. None of us could know that he was to pass away a few weeks later.

robert reed

Then, things get rough: Dallas airport – where we are supposed to change planes – is closed due to severe weather. Unfortunately we are already in the air.  That planes fly through a thunderstorm like that is something we had only seen in movies so far. As we finally get there, after an extra stop to refuel in the middle of nowhere, there is nothing left but a corner of the terminal to spend the night at. One of many without sleep.

In L.A. we have great interviews with Rusty Frank, Miriam Nelson, and Skip Cunningham. We take pictures of the Nicholas Brothers star on the walk of fame (among others) and drive to Las Vegas. The sun rises as we get there. Chazz Young meets us in his studio. And another unplanned highlight: we meet Prince Spencer of the Four Step Brothers. Prince is fragile and for a moment we are hesitant to bother him with our questions. It seems, even remembering is tiresome to him. When we realize how much he enjoys being asked, the most magical moments happen. Also, while many interview partners danced for us, in this case things unfold differently and in the end, Sebastian dances for Prince, whose body will not do it anymore.

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In New Orleans, we experience the spirit of tap and jazz at a second line parade, far away from the Bourbon Streets and tourist hot spots, before we head back to the big apple, flying through another storm, stuck at another airport…

Back in NYC, the schedule requires several film scenes which are create with no budget but the invaluable help of friends and colleagues. Max Pollak and his wife Mary star in an important scene, Tamango films with us on the beach, the crowd on a busy street in Brooklyn steps in our way, taking a fictional theft scene for real. Still more interviews, a tap session, New York footage — and bang, we are aboard another plane. Back to Berlin.

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