4/24/15 O&A Shall We Dance Friday: Bunny Briggs – Duke’s Dancer

Shall We Dance


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

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