Bill “Bojangles” Robinson, in my opinion is the best tap dancer the world has ever seen. He was a trailblazer, becoming the most famous African American tap dancer in the 20thcentury known for breaking the boundaries of dance and film being the first African American to perform alongside a white woman onscreen and still has a large impact today. Bill is important to me because he is the reason I wanted to enroll in tap. When I was just six years old, I was watching The Little Colonel a Shirley Temple movie with my sister and I was instantly intrigued by his stair dance with Shirley. I loved how he was able to make music with his feet; it was an amazing sight to see. When I saw Shirley jump in and dance with Bill, I thought to myself if she could keep up with him certainly I can too. I began tap because of him and I’ve been doing it ever since. Bill’s footwork is a sight to watch, somehow, he is able to make multiple sounds at once and make it all look so effortless and easy. He was also an innovator in the sense that he danced more up on the balls of his feet and his toes rather than the previous style of flat-footed shuffling. His style of tap was delicate and perfect.
The Little Colonel (1935)
This article is a biography of Bill’s life and incredible career. He was inducted into the American Tap Dance Foundation’s Hall of Fame in 2002.
This article, from the Smithsonian tells of the three ways Bill changed dance forever not only just tap. The three ways were through performing solo, not using the norm of blackface, and performing alongside of white actors.
Lovely article from npr on how Shirley Temple and Bill had a lifelong friendship. The two were the first interracial couple to appear onscreen in a dance.