Legendary Tap dancers Gregory Hines, Jimmy Slyde, Bunny Briggs, Sandman Simms performs during the 1989 PBS special Gregory Hines’ Tap Dance in America. Shot during rehearsal and performance at what used to be Billy Rose’s Diamond Horseshoe in New York, the special reunites cast members of previous Hines vehicles, including “Sophisticated Ladies” (the musical) and “Tap” (the movie). Continue reading
Bunny Briggs says he was born dancing: “When I finally faced the world my legs were kickin’. They let me loose, and I just started dancin’ . Just started right out dancin’. And been dancing ever since.” He was born on Lenox Avenue and 138th Street in Harlem, New York. At the age of three his mother took him to the Lincoln Theatre to see his aunt Gladys, who was a chorus girl. After seeing the dapper Bill Robinson perform at the Lincoln he rushed home to say, “Mamma, I want to be a tap dancer”.
Bunny Briggs with Benny Carter Orchestra
After appearing at the Monterey Jazz Festival in 1960 with the Duke Ellington band, Briggs became known as Duke’s Dancer. Briggs became the chosen soloist in Ellington’s Concert of Sacred Dance, in David Danced Before the Lord, which premiered at Grace Cathedral in San Francisco (September 16, 1965). Dubbed by Ellington as “the most superleviathonic, rhythmaturgically-syncopated tapsthamaticianisamist”.
Bunny Briggs Performs Come Sunday from Duke Ellington’s Sacred Concert of Music
Briggs was nominated for a Tony Award in 1989 for his work in the Broadway show Black and Blue, he also appeared in the Gregory Hines film Tap in 1989. In 2002, Briggs received an honorary Doctorate of Performing Arts in American Dance by Oklahoma City University in 2002, honoring him as one of the nine doctorates of Tap Dance.
Dr. Bunny Briggs in Black and Blue
Black and Blue is a musical revue celebrating the black culture of dance and music in Paris between World War I and World War II. Choreographed by Henry LeTang, Cholly Atkins, Frankie Manning, and Fayard Nicholas the cast of forty-one singers, dancers, and musicians included Ruth Brown, Linda Hopkins, Carrie Smith, Savion Glover, Claude Williams, Roland Hanna, Grady Tate, Jimmy Slyde, Bill Easley, Jimmy “Preacher” Robins, Lon Chaney (the jazz tap dancer, not the actor) Bunny Briggs and Dianne Walker. The Broadway production opened on January 26, 1989. Continue reading
Samuel George “Sammy” Davis, Jr. was born on December 8, 1925. He was an African- American entertainer who broke many barriers and paved the way for entertainers in all disciplines. Davis was primarily a dancer and singer, but he also received acclaim as an actor of stage and screen, musician, and impressionist. Davis died at age 64 in 1990, after spending 61 years in the profession he loved. Continue reading