July 19TH 2006
Rusty's dream come true... dancing on Broadway's 42nd Street, NYC!
"Hear the beat
of dancing feet
On the avenue I'm takin' you to
"42nd Street" - Harry Warren & Al Dubin
NEW YORK, NEW YORK, IT'S A WONDERFUL TOWN!
FIRST, A WORD OF THANKS
First and foremost, I want to thank everyone who held Lindy By The Sea and The Rhythm Club together in my absence. I am so impressed how our family of volunteers kept that club going with our first major glitch in 9 years -- no band, oops (Thanks to: Robert "The Professor" Vangor, Nathan & Crystal "The Sweethearts of Swing', Catheryn "Captain Fun", Jamie, Sharlene, and Jessica). Thanks loads, kids! You are the greatest!!
AND NOW... ABOUT MY TRIP
(Click HERE for complete scrapbook of my New York trip)
New York truly is a wonderful town. Having travelled to many places far and wide, I can honestly say there is no place like it. My mind is still rolling with images from this trip, the canyons of stone and steel, the endless parade of humanity, the beautiful and diverse Central Park, the countless cultural activities from which to partake, Broadway, and the remarkable "Tap City" event.
I arrived late Wednesday evening, July 5th, and stayed with two old San Francisco friends, Peter Mintun (pianist extraordinaire) and Eric Bernhoft (piano roll collector and producer extaordinaire and more). They live in a historic neighborhood in Washington Heights, only blocks away from Harlem Renaissance's famous Sugar Hill, where people like the Nicholas Brothers and Joe Louis lived. Peter and Eric live in a five-story Brownstone that they continue to restore. Going to their home is like going back in time.
The first day I was in New York, the weather was surprisingly cool, so I cajoled Peter into a jaunt out to Coney Island, which I had always wanted to see, and which, surprisingly, he had never seen, despite living there for years. We took the subway from 162nd Street up in Harlem, changing trains at 125th Street (THE famous street for back in the day... The Savoy, Apollo Theatre neighborhood) and continuing out to Coney.
We walked on the Boardwalk and saw the old Parachute Jump (sadly no longer operational), then enjoyed a ride on the Wonder Wheel which gave us a truly bird's eye view of Coney Island.
The next day we took a lovely walk through parts of Central Park. We saw the lake and walked through "The Ramble", one our country's greatest bird sanctuaries!
Friday nite, Peter and Eric hosted a little party for me at their home with some New York friends I had met through them over the years. Everyone dressed up and it was a lovely relaxing time.
Saturday I moved into the New Yorker Hotel, a 1930 historic building, on 34th and 8th Avenue. My room had a terrific view of both the Chrysler & Empire State buildings! Happy happy happy. The New Yorker used to have an ice show and Big Bands playing -- including Benny Goodman (ah, for the time machine!).
In the afternoon, I met another buddy from my San Francisco days, Jeff Barnett. Jeff and I had appeared in a production of "42nd Street" years ago. His partner, Gary Beach), is currently starring as "Roger Di Bris" in Broadway's hit "The Producers." Yes, Gary won the Tony for his role! Jeff and I had a quick "chin wag" and then went to our great seats to watch the show. I must admit, there is just nothing like a Broadway show! There is something about sitting in those historic theaters, and just hearing the overture. My goodness, it's exciting. Gary was outstanding... he had me laughing so hard, I nearly fell out of my seat.
In between his matinee and evening show, Gary participated in a real New York event, "Broadway Barks." This was founded by Bernadette Peters and Mary Tyler Moore, and the idea is to get people to adopt homeless dogs from shelters. All the Broadway stars come out for this event that is held in the famous "Shubert Alley." They come out on stage one-by-one presenting a cute little pup. The crowd was enormous. It was very exciting, and I felt I got something quite special about New York there. A real sense of community.
Sunday, I changed gears from friends and siteseeing to "Tap City." For me, this was a week-long event that included teaching classes, receiving the "Tap Preservation Award," and performing on Broadway's 42nd Street for the very first time.
I set up a merchandise table in the Tap City registration room, and this became my hangout in between classes. This worked out perfectly for me as peopled continually flowed in and out of this room stopping by my table to chat. By the week's end, I may have met all four hundred students and most of the 44 instructors. It was a nice easy way for me to meet everyone.
I also began to get a really clear picture the impact my book and instructional tap dvds (of masters' historic routines) have meant in the tap community. Throughout the week, a steady parade of people complimented my work; teachers explained how they use the materials in their classes, and grateful fans gushed on. What a boost!
My first set of classes was called "The Youth Residency." I had eleven kids, ages 11-14. I have to admit, most of them could tap circles around me. It took awhile to loosen them up (what a serious bunch of kids!), but eventually they appeared to be having a great time. I only had four classes to teach them a three chorus routine, stage it, and then have them perform it Wednesday nite! The kids did GREAT. I couldn't have been prouder.
The second set of classes was with adults, and I was billed as teaching "Classic Hollywood Choreography." I taught a Miriam Nelson number (who was there with me to perform her routine in Sunday's show) and a Louis DaPron number (my childhood teacher and mentor). The adults really enjoyed the material, despite the fact that I was their fourth class of the day (!), and the temperature in New York had now risen to 100 with high humidity... melt.
Part of my program included showing archival tap clips, and everyone enjoyed this.
I had a nice diversity of students in my class, from casual tappers, to teachers, to choreographers. A highlight for me was having choreographer Randy Skinner in my class. He choreographed the recent stage version of "White Christmas" that was at the Pantages Theatre last December. I have to admit, I was glad I didn't know it was him the first day of class, I would have turned into a blithering idiot. It was only after class that we were introduced. We became fast friends, as we have the same feeling about this classic era of dance. (You can read about him here)
I had a fairly light teaching schedule (for a change!), and so this allowed me some more time for visiting and shows. I saw a total of three Broadway shows, in two of which I had friends starring: "The Producers" Gary Beach, "Spamalot" (Harry Groener), and "Bridge and Tunnel", all three shows Tony winners and utterly fantastic. And, it's nice to know people in high places; when I went to see "Spamalot" it was completely sold out, so I ran to the stage door and asked to see Harry, who promptly, through theater magic, managed to secure me a perfect aisle seat close up (It is good to be king, and I ain't kidding, he plays King Arthur).
I also got to meet my pal, 86-year young Miriam Nelson, along with Harry Groener & his wife, actress Dawn Didawick, and Miriam's friend Billy Goldenberg at Sardi's. I'm happy to report that we got "The Actor's Menu" with great affordable prices. I love going to Sardi's, it's such a piece of Broadway history.
Throughout the week, each evening, there was a Tap City performance at The Duke Theatre, on 42nd Street. This is a new theater, seating about 200, right in the heart of Broadway. My kids performed on Wednesday, and on Friday nite I watched the International Show. I have to say that this was most impressive, and I don't imagine that I can get near doing it justice. Performers were from Finland, Germany, Spain, Brazil, Israel, and Canada (I'm probably leaving someone out), and they each seemed to infuse a bit of their culture/music/dance into the program. I thoroughly enjoyed this show.
One of the highlights of the entire week for me was meeting these international tappers. Many of them I had been corresponding with for years, having never met. It was great to finally have a face and personality to put with the email address. The festival was a superb opportunity for all of us to meet.
Saturday nite was the nite I had been waiting for with deep emotion, as this was when I was to receive my preservation award. I got to sit in the packed house with three of my dear friends, Miriam Nelson, Peter Mintun, and Katherine Hopkins Nicholas (Fayard Nicholas' widow, and my first tap teacher). It was a very emotional evening for me. And, I got to live it twice, as there were two shows. Yes, I actually accepted my award, gave it back, and received it again. I couldn't help but note at the second show, "There are those special events in our lives that seem to go by in a flash, and we wish we could live them again. Well, tonight I get to!"
Sunday was a full day. This was the program in which Miriam and I would be appearing. So it started out with a run-through at the Duke Theatre. We then went to our dressing rooms, and nervously anticipated our performance of Miriam's choreography to the Erroll Garner tune "Play Piano Play." It went great, and the second show even better; at the second performance, after we were introduced, I made a short speech: "I am so excited to be here now, as it has always been a dream of mine to dance on Broadway, and now my dream is about to come true [happy applause]. And, many of you now know that my good friend here, Miriam Nelson, has been a highly sought after choreographer in movies and television, but you may not know that she started her career here on Broadway, where she appeared in SIX Broadway shows, the last one being in 1941!!!" The audience cheered wildly, and at that point, we could do no wrong, and consequently had a great time. We joined all the performers on stage at the show's conclusion for the tap Shim Sham -- what a thrill! (So I guess I better add this to my bio... at last.)
A gang of us celebrated after the show at "Madeline's" and the feeling was high as a kite. There is something special when all these artists, young and old, get to meet up and spend time together.
The last nite in my hotel room, I watched the moon rise over the Chrysler Building and move slowly across the sky to the Empire State building and felt very sad to be leaving New York. It really had been a perfect trip.
THANKS TO GIO AND RON FOR HOLDING DOWN THE "FORT"
Thanks to Rhythm Pals, Gio & Ron, everything ran ultra smoothly in my absence. These guys are terrific. I'd also like to thank all the boys for coming back to classes on Tuesday nite!
STAY TUNED FOR OUR SUMMER SCHEDULE TO BE ANNOUNCED SOON
"THE MASTER TRACK -- IT'S ALL ABOUT YOU!"
NEXT 8-WEEK SERIES WITH RUSTY AND RON STARTS IN SEPTEMBER
RESERVE YOUR SPOT NOW
If you would like to reserve your spot, email us asap: firstname.lastname@example.org. For the next Master Track series. Contact us soon!
Rusty and Ron now have a series for those who want to take their dancing to the next level. The course, entitled "The Master Track - It's All About You" is limited to twelve students. The June-July series is fully booked, but we are already taking reservations for September-October.
The eight-week course focuses on your own dancing. Each week, Rusty and Ron will be working with each of the students individually and as a group in a series of exercises and challenges. The students will be video taped each week, the tapes will be studied as a group (in Lindy By The Sea's traditional upbeat, encouraging, and friendly environment) to examine individual areas of goals and progress. At the end of the eight week course, each student is presented with a dvd of their own dancing to track improvement and continue with on-going skills.
This course will start up every eight weeks. The total cost for all eight classes, and the dvd is $100/per student, and includes a personal dvd of your work throughout the course. What a value!
l-r: Eric, Annie, Jamie, Tammie, Shannon, Clara, David, Akiko, Scott, Jerry. (Missing: Eric & Liz, boo hoo)
This Week's Celebrations
If it's your birthday this week, just let us know at the Rhythm Club so you can get your birthday dance!
THE SWING SHIFT RHYTHM CLUB (SSRC), founded in 2000 by Rusty Frank's swing dance students.
The SSRC has two missions:
1. Having fun! (Fun)
2. Doing good deeds! (Philanthropy)
"Making a difference through swing dancing"