Segments in this Video

Introduction: Tap Dance History: From Vaudeville to Film (00:31)


This film contains rare recordings from the 1930s and 1940s. The recordings provide information about the performers and the history of tap dance.

"Harlem is Heaven" (1932) (04:10)

Bill "Bojangles" Robinson was one of the early black entertainers to appear without the use of blackface makeup. He helped young dancers get their start.

"The Musical Beauty Shop" (03:06)

The dancer in this clip showcases the stereotypical image of the black-faced vaudeville tap dancer.

"She's My Lilly" (1934) (03:17)

Will Mahoney was the highest paid variety star at the peak of his career. His dance style has been called, "tapping with the force of a pile driver."

"The Notorious Elinor Lee" (1940) (01:56)

In this clip, "Rubberneck" Holmes combines tap, acrobatics, vernacular jazz dance, and his own eccentric style of dancing.

"It Happened in Harlem" (02:26)

This clip reflects Juanita Pitt's nonconforming fashion style and the rhythmically complicated floor work associated with great male dancers of the era.

"By an Old Southern River" (1942) (03:37)

"Soundies" (the music videos of the 1940s) were seen on coin operated jukeboxes called panorams. This clip features Bill "Bojangles" Robinson.

"It Happened in Harlem" (1945) (03:08)

Early tap dancers were said to have used bottle caps on their bare feet to create sound. In this clip, Slick and Slack play spoons.

"We've Got Swing For Sale" (02:24)

The vaudeville singing and dancing duo, Stump and Stumpy, became regulars at the Apollo Theatre. Martin and Lewis were accused of stealing their act.

Stump and Stumpy (02:01)

The comedic duo performs a tap routine.

"Boarding House Blues" (1948) (04:59)

Known for their acrobatic style, the Berry Brothers began their career in the 1920s and later became one of the three flash acts at the "Cotton Club."

Ten Minutes to Live" (1932) (02:02)

The chorus line "elevated unison dance as a creative statement." See a clip from a short film by Oscar Micheaux.

"The Musical Beauty Shop:" Chorus Line (02:31)

Chorus lines were just as renowned as the top talent acts at the famous theaters where they performed. See André Charlot's "Charlot Girls."

"Harlem is Heaven" (1932) (01:59)

The best chorus lines added character work to their repertoire. In this clip Bill Robinson dances in unison while maintaining his signature style.

"The Musical Beauty Shop:" Roller Skating pt. 1 (03:13)

Roller skating acts became popular in the early 1900s. Dancers perform lifts and spins.

"The Musical Beauty Shop:" Roller Skating pt. 2 (02:39)

Roller skating acts became popular in the early 1900s. The male skater spins his partner by a rope around his neck.

Credits: Tap Dance History: From Vaudeville to Film (01:05)

Credits: Tap Dance History: From Vaudeville to Film

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Tap Dance History: From Vaudeville to Film

3-Year Streaming Price: $169.95



This program presents a collection of rarely seen original film footage from Soundies and short films of the 1930s and 1940s. The films come from the private collection of Mark Cantor’s Celluloid Improvisations Music Film Archive, a collection of 4000 preserved jazz-musicals , and from the Ernie Smith Jazz Film Collection, of the National Museum of American History, Smithsonian Institution. Every selection has been carefully researched by Andrew J. Nemr of the The Tap Legacy™ Foundation and was selected to educate and enlighten dance professionals and aficionados. The narration adds background information on the legendary performers in this program, such as Bill “Bojangles” Robinson, Bill Mahoney, the Berry Brothers, Slick and Slack, Juanita Pitts, and Stump and Stumpy.

Length: 46 minutes

Item#: BVL60404

Copyright date: ©2014

Closed Captioned

Performance Rights

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Not available to Home Video customers.