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No Maps on My Taps

The golden age of tap dancing spanned the first half of the twentieth century and featured extraordinary artists, including Bill “Bojangles” Robinson, John Bubbles, Fred Astaire, Gene Kelly, and Eleanor Powell. But by the 1950s, many fans were staying home to watch television and the nightclubs that supported tap dancers were starting to close.

As the popularity of rock n’ roll grew, audiences moved away from the jazz and Broadway music that tappers relied on. At the same time, young choreographers like Bob Fosse were creating a new form of dance for musical theater — less tap oriented and more related to modern dance. Increasingly, tap was performed by only the old hoofers and was considered nostalgic, even comedic. Fittingly, the last chapter of Marshall and Jean Stearns’ 1968 seminal history Jazz Dance was titled “The Dying Breed.”

Two events re-energized the art form. In 1978, 33-year-old Gregory Hines became an “overnight” sensation with his Tony-nominated performance in the Broadway musical, Eubie! Gregory — along with his brother Maurice — created a brilliant, energetic, and powerful tap style that exuded a new kind of cool.

Then, in 1979 came the release of Nierenberg’s exhilarating landmark film, No Maps on My Taps, featuring music by Lionel Hampton and the dance artistry of Bunny Briggs, Chuck Green, and Harold “Sandman” Sims. Nierenberg’s real love for the dancers and their art made this joyous documentary a hit with audiences and critics.

The thrilling talent and ebullient charisma of the three dancers shines through in every frame. The three veteran tap dancers performed live with the film all over the world (sometimes leading tap dance parades throughout the towns). Tap dancing gained a huge multitude of new fans and inspired thousands of young dancers to put on tap shoes.

Milestone Films restoration from the original camera negative and theatrical release of No Maps on My Taps and About Tap establishes the two seminal documentaries by George T. Nierenberg as the films that have helped revitalize the state of tap dancing!

"When the filmmaker George Nierenberg made his documentary... in the late seventies, a lot of people wondered whether tap was finished... Ironically, “No Maps on My Taps,” whose participants regarded it as an elegy, helped to start a tap revival in the eighties."

Joan Acocella, New Yorker

"Exhilarating, touching, [and] thoroughly absorbing!"

New York Times

"Their story is poignant, their dexterity poetic, their legacy immense!"

Time Magazine

Movie Info

Directed by George T. Nierenberg
58 Minutes

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