In 1989, the United States Congress put forth and enacted a bill designating May 25, 1989, as National Tap Dance Day.
So many seemingly separate initiatives had to come together to make this happen. Here’s a short list in no particular order:
- An enthusiastic tap dancer taking a course on government legislation.
- The publication of Bill “Bojangles” Robinson’s Biography
- The recognition of Gregory Hines as a national advocate of tap dance
- The ground swell of popular interest in tap dance that began in the 1970s
- Enough people willing to organize and advocate for the bill
This wasn’t the first time a bill had been put forth, and there were also questions about what date should be chosen. Bill Robinson’s birthday was ultimately chosen. His contributions to the craft, his popular recognition (even 40 years after his passing), and his work in the social sphere, made him the perfect candidate.
So here we are, more than 30 years from the original legislation, and more than 70 years from Bill Robinson passing. Today, events happen all over the world in celebration of tap dance. The community is thriving even as the world experiences major shifts. Bill Robinson is remembered and held in high regard. We may not know what the future of tap dance (or the performing arts in general) will look like, but today we celebrate.
If you’re interested in the whole story around Tap Dance Day, the Tap Legacy™ Foundation has compiled the oral history of how the bill came to pass here.
Check Bill Robinson perform his signature stair dance here.
See a reconstruction by Gregory Hines of the very same stair dance in the film Bojangles.
See me perform a live version of Robinson’s stair dance here.