To all dancers, dance enthusiasts and tap dancers, join us in celebrating the Birthday of Steve Condos today 10/12/1918 born Steven Kontas in Pittsburgh PA.
The youngest of three brothers Steve grew up in South Philadelphia, a well known hot bed of talent in the 1920s. His father owned a restaurant across the street from The Standard Theatre, the largest black Vaudeville house in the area, and the place where Steve first heard Louis Armstrong play. Steve would continue to credit Armstrong as a musical influence throughout his career.
Steve began dancing on the streets of Philly and later paired with his brother Nick at age 14 continuing the tradition of The Condos Brothers. Nick and Frank, the eldest of the brothers, had started the act some years earlier following Frank’s departure from his first act King and King with partner Mateo Olvera.
The Condos Brothers earned a reputation for complicated footwork – one of Steve’s specialties punctuated with flash Nick’s forte, and a dynamic overall style. A favorite of Hollywood producer Daryl Zanuck’s, The Condos Brothers – Nick and Steve may be seen in a number of feature films including Wake Up and Live – 1937 The clip is from this film, Happy Landing – 1938, In the Navy – 1941, Pin-Up Girl – 1944, The Time, the Place and the Girl – 1946, and She’s Back on Broadway – 1953, among others. The Condos Brothers also played internationally, including a one year run at the London Palladium with the Crazy Gang.
As a soloist Steve performed with the Woody Herman’s Big Band, Duke Ellington, Count Basie, and childhood friend Buddy Rich. On Broadway Steve appeared in Heaven on Earth and Say Darling and created the role of Spats Palazzo in Sugar – 1972, with director and choreographer Gower Champion allowing Steve the rare liberty of improvising his entire solo feature every night.
Steve’s work during the resurgence of tap dance as a teacher, at festivals such as the Colorado Mile High Tap Summit, and proponent of the form, featured in the documentary film About Tap and in a program of jazz tap improvisation at the Smithsonian Institution with Jimmy Slyde, have had an enormous impact.
Steve’s rudimentary approach to the technique of tap dance, his complete and unwavering focus on the musical aspects of the form, and his excitement with regards to the seemingly infinite possibilities of improvisational play are all major influences on today’s rhythm tap dancers.
Not long after a featured role in the 1989 film Tap, Steve performed what would be his last concert at the Lyons International Dance Biennial, in Lyon, France. Following his performance in the third concert of the event – a concert added to meet public demand – Steve suffered a fatal heart attack.
Steve was an honorary member of the original Copasetics, Inc., and a 2002 inductee of the Tap Dance Hall of Fame. His work lives on in every dancer that thinks of a rudiment as a way to freedom.