Audrey Ross / June 2011



This year, The American Tap Dance Foundation and Tony Waag's Tap City will pay tribute to the legendary Copasetics, a group created in 1949 by 21 men in show business.


Formed on the death of international tap star Bill "Bogangles" Robinson, the group took its name from Robinson's familiar observation that "everything is copasetic." The original Copasetics Club was a fraternity of vividly individual tap dancers, each with his own casually authoritative style and specialty. The ensemble's shows throbbed with the street-corner improvisation at the heart of American tap dance and hinted at the revues and film musicals through which tap and the dancers would gain new audiences.

From the outset, the Copasetics were a vital force in Harlem and contributed to many charitable and community activities. The club's annual Copasetics Dance and Copasetics Boat Ride were two of the most popular events in town. There was nothing quite like the Copasetic shows. Often presented in small, funky theater spaces, they featured a diverse range of tap stylists who would saunter, skid and explode across the stage in fusillade of articulated footwork and rhythms. The group not only brought new acclaim to the old-time tap stars, but also featured young dancers whom they mentored, following one of tap's long traditions. That relationship and the tap boom years are reflected in Gregory Hines's 1989 film "Tap," a loving homage to veteran and new tappers alike. They were celebrated as well in the 1989 Broadway review "Black and Blue."

The Club's original twenty-one members were Cholly Atkins, Peg Leg Bates, Paul Black, Roy Branker, Ernest "Brownie" Brown, Charles "Honi" Coles, Chink Collins, Charles "Cookie" Cook, Emory Evans, Francis Goldberg, Frank Goldberg, Milton Larkin, LeRoy Myers, Pete Nugent, Luther Preston, Phace Roberts, Billy Strayhorn (the first President of the Organization), John E. Thomas, James Walker, Elmer Waters and Eddie West.

Subsequent membership included Billy Eckstine, Lewis Brown, Curley Hamner, Timmie Rogers, Charlie Shavers Leslie "Bubba" Gaines, Dizzy Gillespie, Buster Brown, Louie Simms Carpenter, Albert Gibson, James Cross and Jimmy Wright.

Honorary members included Willie Bryant, Lionel Hampton, Sammy Davis Jr., The Nicholas Brothers, Chuck Green, Joe Williams, and Dick Gregory.

In its 11th Annual event, Tap City will present an all-star line-up in its Salute to the Copasetics, with performances by major tappers of today, including Brenda Bufalino, Jason Samuels Smith, Michelle Dorrance, Barbara Duffy, Dormeshia Sumbry Edwards, Chloe Arnold, Reggio McLaughlin, Deborah Mitchell, Cartier Williams, Tony Waag, founder/director of American Tap Dance Foundation, and more.