3:00 pm | $12/$10 members/$6 children | 2 hours
What a treasure! Brenda Bufalino, America’s legendary tap dancer, choreographer, teacher, and recent recipient of the Bessie Award for Lifetime Achievement, will present Great Feats of Feet: A Portrait of the Jazz and Tap Dancer, the 1977 documentary film that she directed and produced, on Sunday, December 11 at 3:00 pm at Rosendale Theatre. An extraordinary record of classic American jazz and tap routines from the 1930s and 40s–performance traditions which had been lovingly preserved by the Copasetics Club—you’ll be even more delighted when you hear what happened next as told by Ms. Bufalino! Running time is approximately 120 minutes.
In 1975, Brenda Bufalino, a 38-year old instructor on the faculty of SUNY New Paltz and the operator of an independent studio that specialized in tap dance in the sleepy university town, 90 minutes drive north of New York City on I-87, arranged for the Copasetics Club to spend a week teaching and performing in an artist residency. Ms. Bufalino had access to some early portable video equipment and with the help of friends and colleagues, she patiently documented this amazing gathering. Then she spent another six months editing it. Maybe she had a sense that she had captured a singular moment in time but did she know the magnitude of the next wave? The Copasetics who considered themselves retired were suddenly returned to the current of American entertainment and Brenda Bufalino was about to turn tap dance into a concert art form.
“Copasetic,” was a word invented by Bill “Bojangles” Robinson, the legendary tap dance artist (b. 1878 – d. 1949). It was his standard answer when anyone asked him, “How are you?” In spite of the legalized racism of his era, Bill Robinson’s ebullient personality and tap dancing wizardry bewitched American audiences in the era of vaudeville and the early days of the talking movies. Revered by Caucasian peers like Fanny Brice and Will Rogers, among African-American professional tap dance artists, Bojangles represented their highest aspirations as an artist and as a human being. By the 1960s entertainment tastes in America had shifted and appreciation for tap dance had fallen into decline, hitting its nadir in the early 1970s. Through-out this period, to keep the tradition alive and as nourishment for their souls, a group of retired African-American hoofers, men only, met weekly to practice old routines, trade gossip, and reminisce. They called themselves “The Copasetic Club,” so named as to honor their ideal. They were: James “Buster” Brown, Ernest “Brownie” Brown, Charles “Honi” Coles, Charles “Cookie” Cook, Leslie “Bubba” Gaines, James “Stump” Cross, and Albert “Gip” Gibson. It was this group of old-timers that Ms. Bufalino captured in her documentary film—just before they went on to capture America’s heart.
Dance Film Sundays, a series which started in June 2010 under the auspices of the Rosendale Theatre Collective, are held on the 2nd Sunday of every month at Rosendale Theatre, Rosendale, NY