Bill "Bojangles" Robinson Was Born
May 25, 1878
Tap, tap, shuffle, tap. Have you ever tap
danced or watched others shuffle and tap? Some of those moves
you've seen may have been created by legendary tap dancer Bill "Bojangles"
Robinson. Born on May 25, 1878, in Richmond, Virginia, Robinson
invented a new way to tap, transforming it from a flat-footed
dance to a style that pushed the performer to his toes. Many of
Robinson's steps, including the famous "stair dance," are
commonly used today. Where did Mr. Bojangles get his feet
Orphaned as a baby, Robinson began performing in
local beer gardens at age six. Within two years, this young
"hoofer," or song-and-dance man, was entertaining audiences far
from home. He performed on stage in "vaudeville," shows
featuring numbers by dancers, singers, comedians, and actors. By
the time he was a young adult, he earned top dollar dancing on
the vaudeville circuit and in nightclubs. You may have seen him
in old movies, dancing alongside a little dimpled girl with
golden curls. Can you guess who she was?
pictures and radio took over vaudeville's popularity in the
1930s, Robinson danced right into the scene. He appeared in 14
films, most frequently opposite Shirley Temple. He also appeared
with Lena Horne in Stormy Weather (1943), an African American
production, rare at the time.
Bill Robinson continued to
wow audiences with his moves on stage and in film, even late
into his life. On his 61st birthday, he danced down the street
of Broadway in New York City. Performers and fans of dance still
pay tribute to Bill "Bojangles" Robinson, a man of professional
genius and personal generosity.