THIS week so many people are reflecting on the great #GregoryHines (Gregory Hines Tribute Taplegacy Website) because Feb 14th was his birthday. Among other things, #Optap (Operation Tap) was posting great memories of the man, Jane Goldberg has been sharing fantastic intimate emails she has been making available to the public, and Andrew Nemr was kind enough to send me a personal message asking about my interaction with Mister Hines. This blog is a slight more in depth version of what I shared with Andrew.
THE universe was kind enough to have me meet and interact with Gregory Hines twice. The first time was the summer of 1997. Gregory came to the Union Square Theatre, in NYC, to see “Tap Dogs”. Although I was supposed to perform that night, I had only been in the cast a few weeks by that point and someone played the seniority card, so I had to sit for that show. I was, however, tasked with bringing Mister Hines a handwritten note. At the 5 minute call, I left backstage and walked into the house, down the aisle, and found Gregory in his seat. I introduced myself to one of my favorite dance icons ever, and handed him the note. The note was an invitation to meet with the cast backstage after the show. He was kind, had this amazing energy that radiated a very positive vibe, asked my name, and thanked me.
AFTER the show, Gregory came backstage to chat with that cast. He was very impressed with it. He especially enjoyed the “Triggers” (a set of 6 drum pads that we played with our feet) section of the show and mentioned it reminded him of the scene in the movie “Tap” where his shoes were turned into electric drum sounds. He was totally into the show and was glowing because of how happy he was seeing what Dein Perry (Choreographer of “Tap Dogs”, “Hot Shoe Shuffle”, 2000 Sydney Opening Olympics, “Bootmen”, “Happy Feet 2”) had created and how clean, precise, funny, and energetic the show was. It felt really good to be part of “Tap Dogs”, but it felt even better to have the positive input of someone I held in such high regard. He spoke very highly of what we were doing and what had been achieved by Dein, & the cast, for tap dance, itself.
THE second time I met Gregory Hines was on the street in Manhattan. The first time meeting him was amazing; the second time was life changing. We were both attending “Steel City” at Radio City Music Hall and ran into each other near the stage door. The first thing that blew me away was the fact that he recognized me and remembered my name. We started chatting and continued to do so for about 20-30 minutes. It was about that time a young child recognized Gregory and came up to us. It was a short exchange, but definitely had a beautiful effect on that young man. Then it lead Gregory to say something to me that greatly changed the course of my life. He expressed the fact that we should always teach and share whatever knowledge we have to keep tap alive and well. He said something to the effect of “we don’t just teach tap dance, we teach life through tap dance.” Simple, brilliant, and very wise words. I was always a teacher, but this changed everything for me. I will always remember that. Those words were so special and continue to be relevant to this day.
THIS past year, I produced a show in NYC entitled “Sounds of a #Taplife” It encompasses life, tap dance, and a few monologues. In the opening monologue, I tell a bit of the story of Gregory and me on the street. Most importantly, I mention Gregory and I share that quote with the audience. It is one of the most important things anyone has ever said to me in my life and I am grateful everyday for having had that knowledge bestowed onto me. Thank you Gregory, for being such an inspiration to not only tap dancers, but to humanity.
(In recent news, “Sounds of a #Taplife” will be adding 20 minutes of new material and has just confirmed that it will show again on 11/11/16. This date happens to be the Friday night of the 2016 Big Apple Tap Festival. It will returning to Dixon Place in NYC.)