Years ago when I was just a kid in a dinner theater production of Oliver, I met Andrew Nemr. We’ve been good friends ever since, and I have had the privilege to watch his career develop. Mentored by Gregory Hines, Andrew is an outstanding tap dancer with a deep passion for the dance and its history. He runs his own tap company, Cats Paying Dues (CPD), which will be presenting his show, Echoes in Time, on March 4th at Symphony Space in NYC. I caught up with him in preparation for the show to chat a bit about some of his mentors, the connection between tap and lindy, and the upcoming performance.
Craig: Welcome, Andrew, to All the Cats Join In.
Andrew: Thanks, glad to be here.
C: So, I remember attending your college graduation party a few years back (or more), and meeting tap legends Buster Brown and Brownie Brown. Can you tell me a little bit about those guys?
A: Oh wow. You know, I didn’t know they were going to be there. Buster and Brownie were members of the Copasetics, a fraternity of mostly entertainers, that included Billy Strayhorn (Ellington’s writing partner), Honi Coles, Cholly Atkins, and LeRoy Myers. All of the members came up at a time when tap dance was part of the popular culture of America, so we’re talking the 1920s until the late 40s, early 50s.
Buster and Brownie, specifically, were two of my personal examples of the joy that one can have being a tap dancer and sharing the dance with others.
C: Yeah, I certainly got to see that in them that day. The reason I mention them is that I distinctly remember them having some serious swing moves on the dance floor that day. I’m guessing they were in their 80s, but they could still man-handle a woman across the dance floor!
A: Yes sir. If my recollection serves me, Brownie danced with every girl at the party. Like I said, pure joy! And yes, Buster was 88 or 89 in 2001 and Brownie was around the same age.
C: Was it common for tap dancers to social dance as well? Continue reading