Tapology Concert Performance

7:00 pm Sunday October 27th at The Whiting

  • Mercedes Ellington, Broadway and television tap dancer, choreographer, director, and producer who has preserved and extended the musical legacy of her grandfather, Duke Ellington, and who has been hailed as "one of the brightest dancing stars this universe has ever known," was born to Ruth Silas and musician and bandleader
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  • JOSETTE WIGGAN started dancing at the age of 12 at Paul and Arlene Kennedy’s Universal Dance Designs in Los Angeles. Under their tutelage, she discovered her passion for stage and theater. Josette then moved on to dance as a member of Lynn Dally's Jazz Tap Ensemble in both the Caravan
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  • A talented Educator, Director and Choreographer, Ms. Reyes has a body of work that is diverse and all encompassing, ranging from youth productions to reviving dormant cultural traditions. Reyes believes the arts offer healing, transformation and wholeness that enable us to find deeper meaning and richness in our existence. M.F.A.
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  • Trained with the off-broadway musical STOMP at the Orpheum Theatre in New York, Urban Bush Women and Miami Heat dancers. Page worked at The School at Steps New York, Motor City Dance Factory and multiple Michigan studios. Directs Tapology's Outreach program, providing tap classes year round to after-school programs, introducing
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  • Kandee Thacker-Mann Flint native. She is an advocate for tap dance in Dayton and organizes annual workshops featuring and collaborating with the legendary Dianne Walker. She continues to spread her love of dance through teaching, choreography, and collaboration. She has instructed at the Ohio Dance Festival, as adjunct at Wright
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  • Dianne Walker, jazz tap dancer known for her elegant and fluid style of dancing that is delicate yet rhythmically complex, was born in Boston, Massachusetts. Walker received the Dance Magazine Award in 2012 for lifetime achievement in dance. Principal dancer in the Paris production of Black and Blue, as well
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  •   Co-starred in Dean Hargrove's "Tap Heat", a short film available on DVD. featured dancer in HBO/Universal Pictures's motion picture "Idlewild" starring Outkast. Debbie Allen has featured his talents in several productions including the AMC television series "Cool Women", Sammy (a tribute to the life of Sammy Davis jr.), and
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  •   Joseph performed in the American tour of Riverdance, tap dance musical Imagine Tap! choreographed by Derick K. Grant, and toured France and abroad in Jerome Savary's musical comedy À la Recherche de Joséphine. As a teacher he has shared his artistry with students in Sweden, Japan, Russia, and Peru
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  •   Featured Tap soloist for international touring company Illstyle & Peace Productions, was cast in Noah Racey's Pulse: The Beat of Song and Dance; and trained with Savion Glover. Performs and teaches in New York and St. Maarten, teaching underserved youth. Bradley also presented her art as part of a
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  •   An International performer, Bradley danced Broadway's "Shuffle Along", "STOMP", George Faison's Bubblin’ Brown Sugar starring Diahnn Carroll and was named as one of Dance Magazine's "25 To Watch". A recorded vocalist as well as producer for the Tapology Festival, Ali is known as a demanding choreographer and lead trainer
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  •   Joined Deborah Mitchell's New Jersey Tap Ensemble at age 9. Quickly recognized as a rising young star, he was featured on the Sally Jesse Raphael Show's "My Kid's A Star"; toured nationally with "Bring In ‘Da Noise, Bring In ‘Da Funk" and as special guest with jazz artists Christian
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  •   “The McFadden Brothers” are world-class entertainers whose career spans across many countries and venues. Their unique style and abilities have earned them the label as being a “triple threat,” in that they are both accomplished singers, tap dancers and musicians.  Their show encompasses their own unique style of entertainment
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  • Martin "Tre'" Dumas III has taught and performed extensively throughout the continental U.S., Canada and Germany as well as other parts of Europe, and South America.Mr. Dumas was a featured soloist portraying a fiery tap dancing preacher in David Danced in director/choreographer Derick Grant's tap musical extravaganza, Imagine Tap. Most
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  • Mikaela Miki Evans is an actress, vocalist, and dancer. She is a Detroit native and a second generation Flintstone Hoofer. Mikaela has gone on to teach and perform with youth in many different cultural settings from America, Europe, and Asia. She's gained skill in production with Virginia Stage Company, Harlem's
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  • Cherisse Bradley is a dancer and vocalist - one of the Original Flintstone Hoofers. Cherisse is currently working as a vocalist and dance teacher in New York, continuing to use her skills to reach out to other youth. Cherisse has appeared in Debbie Allen's "Chocolate Nutcracker". She danced and trained with
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  • C. Daniel Dawson is a scholar and lecturer of African Diaspora and its impact on American culture. A multi-talented artist, Professor Dawson has worked as a photographer, filmmaker, curator, and arts administrator.  He has served as Curator of Photography, Film and Video at the Studio Museum in Harlem (NYC), Director
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2019 Melba Ayco

Ms. Melba Ayco, founder and Artistic Director of Northwest Tap Connection, is a Gullah-Geechee and Creole Storyteller, Tap Dance Historian, and Choreographer. Born in a small town on the north shores of New Orleans, she describes her life as a three-part harmony: born into segregation, survived integration, and enlightenment through cultural diversity. 

NWTC imbues dance lessons with broader messages about self-esteem, respect and dissent — lessons that take on new life in the studio’s performances. For example, NWTC instructor Shakiah Danielson choreographed a number in response to police violence against AfricanAmericans set to Janelle Monáe’s Hell You Talmbout. The piece, performed by students, won the Audience Award at the National Film Festival for Talented Youth, the world’s largest youth film festival. 

“It’s a conversation about how police fit into our community,” says Ayco of the performance. Her three decades at Seattle Police Department (she retired as a supervisor for the Records Division in 2017) taught her just how vital such conversations are to our community. 

“My work is to help children define themselves as socially conscious young people, with a vision of building tomorrow,” Ayco says. “We don’t want to raise another generation on senseless acts of violence.” Her life commitment is to define and share the African American experience through the performing arts. 

Ms. Melba is the creator of African American Odyssey, a touring performance inclusive of spoken word, dance, and music that expresses the history and struggles of African Americans from a place of pride. Her new work, Odyssey, explores the common threads of culture, inclusive of dance, music, food, art, and traditions of African Americans and people of African Diaspora. Odyssey is a work-in-progress and the inspiration for creativity in the realms of dance, spoken word and storytelling. Odyssey 1 was presented at Seattle Theater Group’s 2015 production Dance This – the Brazilian Connection. 

Through her dedication to the community and offering opportunities for growth and enlightenment for people of all ages and backgrounds, Ms. Melba has made a lasting, positive imprint on the greater Seattle area. To this end, she has received numerous accolades including the 2009 Mayor’s Art Award, the 2017 African Town Queen Award, and the 2017 Martin Luther King Medal of Community Service Award for District No. 2 of the City of Seattle.

2018 Mercedes Ellington

MercedesEllingtonHeadshot Tapology2018

Mercedes Ellington
, Broadway and television tap dancer, choreographer, director, and producer who has preserved and extended the musical legacy of her grandfather, Duke Ellington, and who has been hailed as "one of the brightest dancing stars this universe has ever known," was born to Ruth Silas and musician and bandleader Mercer Ellington. The United States has had few notable three-generation families in the performing arts, and even fewer still are families are those of color. The Ellington family is one of those unique entities. Mercedes however, chose a different road than her father and grandfather; instead of music, she chose dance. She began her dance training very young and continued with several instructors until she won a scholarship to the Metropolitan Opera School of Ballet, where she made her New York City Opera debut in 1977. Upon completion she enrolled in and graduated from Juilliard, where she studied with the great Antony Tudor and Donald Sadler, with a degree in ballet and modern dance. Even as a student, she was set apart as a beautiful, young dancer whose musicality and technique were dazzling. Her work continued in a steady and rapid flow.

MEllingtonbullhorn Tapology2018In 1952 she broke the color barrier on national television in the sixties by appearing on the Jackie Gleason Show as one of the June Taylor Dancers. She was on the show for seven years, eventually became captain of the troupe and June Taylor became and remained a mentor to Mercedes throughout her career. Shortly after her television tenure, she launched her Broadway career as a featured and chorus dancer in No, No Nanette (1971), Oh Kay! (1991), Happy New Year (1980), The Grand Tour (1979), and Harry Chapin's The Night That Made America Famous (1985). She was also featured in George Wein's Jazz Festival productions Black Broadway and Wild Women Don't Get the Blues. In 1981 she starred with Gregory Hines, Judith Jamison, Hinton Battle and Gregg Burge in Sophisticated Ladies, dancing eight times a week with her father conducting an orchestra playing music by her grandfather. Performing led to choreographic and directorial assignments, nationally and internationally. Her role as choreographer for the Broadway production of Play On! (1997), a takeoff of William Shakespeare's Twelfth Night set in Harlem during the latter part of its first renaissance, and with music by Duke Ellington, won her a Tony nomination.

From 1982 to 1992 Ms. Ellington was the artistic director of Balletap, USA, aka DancEllington. In 2001, for Black Heritage Month, she directed Four Women, a profile of the wives of Louis Armstrong. In 2002 she contributed her services for the same cause with a salute to Langston Hughes called Cotton Club Rhapsody at New York's Club La Mama. She also directed the Broadway Cares/ Equity fights AIDS Tribute to the Spirit of Harlem in 2001; and in 2004 for Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS, Nothin' Like a Dame. Ms. Ellington also choreographed/staged Queen Esther Marrow's Walk Tall Gospel Show which received a five-star rating in Berlin and a European tour. In 2009 Ms. Ellington was honored with a FloBert Lifetime Achievement Award by the New York Committee to Celebrate National Tap Dance Day.

With the multitude of theatrical and choreographic credits, and her continuing tours with small and large musical celebrations of the music of Duke Ellington which she conceives, directs, and choreographs, Ms Ellington most humbly describes herself as "A Composer of Dances and Situations."

[Sources: Maurice Curry, Introduction to the 2009 FloBert Award Ceremonies, Tap Extravaganza, New York City, June 16, 2009; Constance Valis Hill, Tap Dancing America, A Cultural History (2010)]

2007 Arthur Duncan

arthur-duncan-cutoutDancer, singer, actor, mentor, legend. These are just a few of the titles that can be associated with the 2007 Tapology Tap Dance Festival Honoree. Having traveled the world from Cairo, to London, to Switzerland, even hosting his own variety show in Australia, Arthur Duncan is much more than a song and dance man.

Duncan’s inspirational life achievement epitomizes the purpose of the annual Tapology Tap Dance Festival in mid-Michigan. From his start as a newsboy in California, where he sang for audiences who showed appreciation by throwing coins his way; to a decision to leave college where he was studying to be a pharmacist, Arthur Duncan’s incredible success is proof that passion for what you do and following your dreams does indeed pay off.

In the mid 1960s, Arthur Duncan was the first African American to regularly appear on a long running television series.The series was the Lawrence Welk Show. He has performed in movies, including Tap and Tap Heat, which was screened at the Los Angeles Film Festival and won the Urban World Film Festival in 2004. Other credits include television shows such as Diagnosis Murder, Columbo, The Betty White Show and stages and night clubs across the globe. He has appeared with Red Skelton, Sammy Davis Jr., Gregory Hines, Bob Hope, Jerry Lewis, Dick Van Dyke, Tommy Tune, Lionel Hampton and more.

Tapology joins the 2004 Flo-Bert Award for Lifetime Achievement of Tap Artistry in New York City, and the 2005 Living Treasure in American Dance Award from Oklahoma City University in recognizing Arthur Duncan as a Master Tap Dancer and inspiration with the Tapology Living Legends Award.

Tapology’s Living Legends Award recognizes the contributions and milestones of tap dancers who have made history and continue to live the example of a courageous life for 21st century youth.

2008 Harold Cromer

legend-harold-cromer“As a kid in the late 1920s in Hell’s Kitchen,” Harold Cromer recalls, “my twin sister and I used to go to the Chelsea Theatre on 8th Ave. where I saw the great Bill Robinson tap dancing. As kids, we were all playing hockey out in the street on roller skates. While I was roller skating and playing hockey, flashbacks of Robinson would c me to me, and there I was, trying to emulate him on roller skates—and not falling down, either!”

Cromer’s roller-skating routine became his trademark, bringing him steady exposure in theater, vaudeville and films during the 1930s and 40s. His period of greatest success came during the early 1950s, after he joined forces with another gifted dancer, James Cross, and became a member of the comedy team “Stump and Stumpy”. The pair worked steadily in theaters and nightclubs (often on bills with the likes of Billie Holiday and Frank Sinatra), as well as on television programs such as The Milton Berle Show.

During these years, Stump and Stumpy inspired a generation of young comedians—including Jerry Lewis, who has publicly cited their influence.

They toured the “Black Vaudeville” circuit with the likes of the Nicholas Brothers, Buck and Bubbles, and Duke Ellington. The heart of the Stump and Stumpy routine was tap and comedy, often performed in theater. So good were the pair, that it’s said Mel Brooks, Jerry Lewis and others have “borrowed” the routines to perform in other venues. Harold “Stumpy” Cromer would later say that Mel Brooks stole from the act to create Brooks’ The Producers.

On the radio, Cross and Cromer appeared on The Steve Allen Show; on television they appeared on the Kate Smith Hour, and The Milton Berle Show; on stage they made appearances with the likes of Frank Sinatra. Continuing to experience success, they were featured in the movie This is the Army.

A long list of other appearances for Stump and Stumpy includes leading theaters and night clubs with Count Basie, and tours with Nat Cole, Ella Fitzgerald, Sarah Vaughn, Stan Kenton, and Sophie Tucker.

Described as a dancer “with fleet-footed precision” by David Freeland of the New York Press, and “one of the last old fashioned song and dance men,” Harold Cromer represents more than 70 years of tap performance, tradition and history.

He continues to give back to the community and to youth and will be teaching tap and dance workshops at this year’s Tapology festival.

Having been a true pioneer of Tap dance, vaudeville, radio, stage, television and movies, we are proud to honor Harold “Stumpy” Cromer with the Tapology 2008 Living Legend Award, during the Living Legends Lunch held October 25, 2008 at Sarvis Food Center on the Flint Cultural Center Campus.