Tappers keep in step with tradition

The Baltimore Sun

What killed tap," Ed Terry told a bunch of hoofer enthusiasts last Sunday, "was the invention of television."

Tomorrow night, Terry will do his best to revive tap. But that statement's not completely true. Tap never really died, thanks to people like Terry.

Terry teaches tap dancing at the Flair Dance and Modeling Studio, a 40-year-old business run by Willia Bland and her daughter, Andrea Bland Travis. Last Sunday, on National Tap Dance Day, Terry gave a brief history of tap, along with some fundamentals of the dance form, at the School 33 Arts Center on Light Street. Exactly one week later, eight dancers Terry teaches at Flair will appear in A Night at the Cotton Club, a show celebrating the 100th birthday of Cab Calloway.

Terry's the dance director for the show, which is sponsored by the Black-Jewish Forum of Baltimore, better known as BLEWS. (Hey, it was either BLEWS or JACKS, and my money's betting that the people who formed the organization back in 1978 went with the better name.)

The main attraction for A Night at the Cotton Club will be the Cab Calloway Orchestra, now led by Mr. Hi De Ho's grandson, C. Calloway Brooks. According to a flier posted on the BLEWS Web site, there will be a special appearance by a group called Klezzazz, which will perform "Yiddish blues with a Mobtown twist."

But the real treat will be those tappers from Flair, who gave a brief demonstration of what they can do at the School 33 Arts Center earlier this week. Seven of the dancers are teens who attend schools in the Baltimore area. In keeping with my new policy of giving props to achieving students, their names are: Brion Armstrong, Devante Barnes, Herbert Jenkins, his sister Christine Jenkins, Brittany Ballentine, Morgan Thomas and Christine Wyatt. Christine Jenkins recently won an NAACP ACT-SO award for ballet.

The eighth dancer? She's not a teen. She's 23-year-old Mari Andrea Travis. Yes, she is the daughter of Andrea Bland Travis and the granddaughter of Willia Bland. Mari Travis is a 2007 graduate of Morgan State University and will attend grad school at American University this fall.

A Night at the Cotton Club will be performed at the Baltimore Hebrew Congregation in the 7400 block of Park Heights Ave. (Those of you tempted to make the joke "the shortest distance between Israel and Africa is Park Heights Avenue" please contain yourselves.) The show starts at 7 p.m., and tickets go for $100 if you're a VIP and 45 bucks if you're a regular Joe. (I guess I don't have to tell you what ticket Greg the Cheapskate bought.)

It should be a fun evening for people who love tap, jazz and big-band music. I like all three, so those of you who plan to attend might see me there. I'll be the guy not wearing a "gangsta grillz" T-shirt with a baby's pacifier crammed into my mouth.

I actually saw a character - a man who looked to be, at the very least, in his 40s - like that at the Kmart on Wabash Avenue on Wednesday. I kid you not. I tell you, I couldn't make this stuff up.

Collision course

Something else I could never make up: the following stats from the folks at the District Court of Maryland.

Number of people charged with driving while suspended in 2005: 38,781. For 2006, this figure leaped to 41,568. The number last year grew to 45,921. There was an increase of almost 8,000 for the number of people arrested for driving with no license from 2005 to 2007, and more than 15,000 for those driving with a suspended registration during the same time period.

I asked Darrell Pressley, the media rep at the District Court, for these figures to satisfy my curiosity. On May 8, some nitwit ran a stop sign at the corner of Denmore Avenue and West Garrison Avenue. I couldn't avoid the collision, but since I was doing the speed limit (those of you who want to install warp engines in your cars should heed this) the damage was limited to minor fender bending on my beloved Greggiemobile.

The damage to the other car? I have no idea. The guy just took off while I was inspecting the damage on my car and looking for the records to exchange insurance information.

Think of the latter part of this column as my "Rule of Law, Part II" rant. Now here I was thinking that this guy and I would exchange insurance info after this minor fender-bender simply because Maryland law says you must have insurance to drive a car.

My heavens, what was I thinking?

The numbers of those arrested for driving without insurance weren't as alarming as in the other three categories: the numbers dipped slightly from 2005 to 2006 and then rose slightly again in 2007. But the numbers for driving while suspended, driving with no license and driving with a suspended registration raise an important question:

If these characters are driving without licenses or registration, what's their incentive to drive like they have some sense?



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