This is a sponsored post. The author – Ms. Sharlotte Jackson was given free admission to the films listed to complete her review.
My daughter is a dancer with the flexibility of a contortionist. She could excel at ballet, modern, jazz, contemporary, or any other number of styles. But she has this thing for tap. So imagine my delight when I had the opportunity to attend a viewing of No Maps on My Taps and the companion documentary About Tap, both directed by George Nierenberg. Both were being shown at the Houston Cinema Arts Film Festival.
Just to make sure this tap thing wasn’t a passing fad, I thought I would bring her along to show her a little of her heritage. To see how she would react. Since I’m not a dancer, I thought I would get in a little history lesson myself.
No Maps on My Taps follows three old school legends of tap nearing the end of their careers as they go on tour. The film discusses how Sandman Sims, Bunny Briggs, and Chuck Green each got their start in the business. All three started at very young ages and learned primarily on the streets and through mentors. The film did a good job of exploring the backstory of tap and how each tapper had their own unique style. They made use of vintage clips from films from the ‘30’s and ‘40’s. One good thing about the film is that while they did touch on some of the struggles Chuck Green faced, they didn’t exploit him or sensationalize mental illness. The film also did a good job of showing how tap was passed from one generation to the next and the importance placed on being able to challenge each other to be better.
About Tap, which was completed a few years after No Maps, approached the genre from a different perspective. Whereas No Maps on My Taps was more about exploring the history of Tap, About Tap is more about exploring the artistry of Tap. Featuring in depth interviews with Gregory Hines, Chuck Green, Steve Condos, and Jimmy Slyde. They discussed the importance of not only learning from others, but also adding individual style. I’m glad I was able to see both films together, because it gave me a greater appreciation of Chuck Green. While he didn’t speak much in No Maps, he seemed to shine in About Tap.
Even though both films were produced and released over 30 years ago and were recently restored, having the greats captured on film for posterity is an asset. It’s like having folklore passed from generation to generation. Tap was on the verge of being lost, but experienced a resurgence following the release of No Maps on My Taps. Not only did this help preserve an important aspect of the African American culture, but it allowed the stars of that generation to continue to be an influence to later generations. Overall, Mr. Nierenberg created two masterful documentaries that have stood the test of time and is must watch viewing for any serious dance student and tap lovers alike.
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