Saturday Dance: Bill "Bojangles" Robinson

 

Though master tap dancer Bill “Bojangles” Robinson spent most of his career on the stage, he made a strong impression in the movies, both as a performer and influence. His most famous roles were as the dancing butlers he played opposite Shirley Temple in movies such as The Little Colonel (1935) and the lead role in his last movie (at age 65!), Stormy Weather (1943). Fred Astaire and Eleanor Powell (who was particularly influenced by Robinson) even performed routines in tribute to Robinson.

The top video is of Robinson’s most famous routine: the stair dance (which Powell recreates in her tribute). This performance demonstrates the best of his talents: his feather light tap, easy pace and above all, his total control of every movement. Check out those Astaire and Powell links to appreciate just how easy he made tapping look, even the two best tap dancers in Hollywood could not quite emulate his relaxed, but precise style.

The video below is a great clip from Hooray For Love (1935) where Robinson dances on his own, does a tap duet with lovely Jeni Le Gon, and sings with Fats Waller:

 

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