Previously published in Examiner
conclusion of the Ethel Bruneau series
Today we present an outstanding woman who exemplifies the accomplishments of women through the enhancements of their local communities. Ethel Bruneau, is not only the pride of Montreal she is a legend in the world of dance worldwide.
In 2009, the Martin Luther King Award was presented to Montreal’s own Ethel Bruneau by the Black Theater Workshop at it’s Vision Celebration.
Why choose Ethel Bruneau? The answer is just like Martin Luther King Jr., she too had a dream. Furthermore, she fulfilled her dream of teaching tap in Montreal for over 50 years.
What is tap dance continued?
In the early days of vaudeville mock slave dances were incorporated as part of the act. Dancers would paint their faces black for what was known as the blackface comedy. They would dance around imitating black farmhands. They also incorporated sounds into the dance routine. In 1982, the first blackface minstrel show brought tap dancing into the genre of comedy.
Three distinct styles of tap emerged from the Vaudeville area they were: The clicking of noise first made by the shoes of the chorus girls and their swinging styles in their foot work especially when performing the Charleston
The buck and swing style of some minstrel shows
The soft shoe which was named after the sound of a semi soft leather shoe on the floor.
Tap was once at the top of dancing craze in America ,made famous by Hollywood and its era of the famous musicals. We have Gene Kelly, Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers, Eleanor Powell, and Shirley Temple who made tap dancing famous in movies.
Other movies such as “The Cotton Club” showed the Jazz element of the dance. The incorporation of Jazz also brought more complicated moves such as the: the shuffle, ball change, brush, side tap, flap, and cramp roll to the mix. “White Nights” featured the famous dancing of Gregory Hines and Mikhail Baryshnikov.
More recently hip hop and rap music has been incorporated and tap is once again rising to the top of the dancing craze in America. Finally it is still very much alive in Montreal with Ethel Bruneau who is one of only two tap dancing instructors in Canada.