Every member of our community should be rightfully recognized and credited for their contribution, be it small or large, in the areas of production, performance, education, documentation, and preservation.”
In the tap dance world there is an amazing variety of people who have stewarded our craft through the past century. Not only have performers carried, showcased, and contributed to the techniques we enjoy today, but producers, directors, educators, documentarians, and preservationists have all played a role. Each has had a hand in how our craft has been presented, passed on, evolved, and eventually remembered and promoted around the world.
In addition to names like Gregory Hines, Fred Astaire, and Jimmy Slyde, there are the Hermes Pans, Sammy Dyers, and Ernie Smiths of the tap dance world. There are numerous cultural trends that make giving credit where credit is due ever more important. The one with the most impact has to do with the way we, as a community, use social media.
Social media sites like YouTube, Facebook, and Wikipedia, present unique opportunities like the consolidation of global information, the sharing of rare documents, and the connecting of our global community. However, the inability to confirm the accuracy of the information posted is a severe set back. For tap dance specifically, our focus on the performers is warranted, but not a complete picture of all those who have contributed to the lifeblood of the craft.
The resilience of oral traditions rests on the memory of all the witnesses, the accuracy and trustworthiness of the oral record, and the ability of the carriers of the tradition to name names, places, and events.
The history of tap dance is full of hard stories we might rather not retell, maybe even people we’d rather not be part of our story. However, if we want our craft to continue to thrive, we should strive for the fullest retelling of our story. The good, the bad, and the ugly. Retold with honesty. To that end, every credit is worthy of being given. Every member of our community is worthy of the recognition due, for the sake of the craft.