Bill Bojangles Robinson Essay

4384 Words Jan 24th, 2007 18 Pages
Bill "Bojangles" Robinson
Bill "Bojangles" Robinson, who claimed he could run backward faster than most men could go forward, was the most famous of all African American tap dancers in the twentieth century. Dancing upright and swinging, his light and exacting footwork brought tap "up on its toes" from an earlier flat-footed shuffling style, and developed the art of tap dancing to a delicate perfection.
Born Luther Robinson in Richmond, Virginia, his parents, Maria and Maxwell Robinson, died in 1885. Young Bill was reared by his grandmother, Bedilia Robinson, who had been a slave. In Richmond, he got the nickname "Bojangles" from "jangler," meaning contentious, and invented the phrase "Everything's Copasetic," meaning tip-top. He got
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His participation in benefits is legendary and it is estimated that he gave away well over one million dollars in loans and charities. "To his own people, Robinson became a modern John Henry, who instead of driving steel, laid down iron taps," wrote Marshall Stearns. When Robinson died in 1949, newspapers claimed that almost one hundred thousand people turned out to witness the passing of the funeral procession. The founding of the Copasetics Club insured that his excellence would not be forgotten.
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As a child Robinson worked in racing stables, nursing a desire to become a jockey. He danced for fun and for the entertainment of others, first appearing on stage at the age of eight. Three years later he decided that dancing was likely to prove a more lucrative career than horseback riding. He became popular on the black vaudeville circuit and also appeared in white vaudeville as a "pick," from pickaninny, where his dancing skills gave a patina of quality to sometimes second-rate white acts. As his reputation grew, so did his prominence in show business. In 1921 while working at the Palace in New York, he danced up and down the stairs leading from the stage to the orchestra pit and out of this developed his famous "stair dance." Although Robinson was not the first to dance on stairs, he refined the routine until it was

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