Alfred Bruce Bradley might find it fitting that the art of tap is performed using legs and feet.
The founder of Tapology draws direct correlations between the movements of dancers and the paths symbolically walked by artists, musicians and the ancestors who have contributed to the legacy he is devoted to preserving in Flint.
“We’ve been working at developing the culture of dance in this community,” he says of the organization.
Tapology will hold its annual dance celebration Oct. 25-28, featuring informative lectures, workshop presentations, guest artists and an award ceremony. Tickets are available for the weekend’s finale, the “Embrace the Legacy” concert, which will be held at 7 p.m. Sunday, Oct. 28 at The Whiting Auditorium.
The series is a showcase of Tapology’s year-round programs and participation by youth, families, educators and professional artists who have specialized in the craft, which is often associated with jazz.
This year’s festival will include contributions by dance instructors from throughout the country and as far away as Israel, Bradley says.
“We bring in the best tap dancers and performers to instruct class, and we also bring in students.”
About 800 youth from Flint and surrounding school districts will travel to the cultural center Oct. 25 and Oct. 26 to launch the festival. The students will learn about tap dancing’s history and culture at locations like Flint Institute of Music and the Flint Public Library, which is a Tapology partner. Lecturer Dianne Walker will give a presentation and youth will take part in a “mini-tap class,” Bradley says.
The overall goal, he adds, is to enlighten students about “the impact of the African American legacy on our dance and our music.”
Featured presenters and guest artists showcased in the program also interact with the student and guests who attend.
“They perform, as well as the other dancers, and talk about jazz music and how it’s impacted their lives, and the options (the youth) might have to pursue similar careers,” says Bradley.
Bradley is an accomplished performer in the art, having appeared in productions like A Raisin in the Sun, the stage show created by playwright Lorraine Hansberry. He formed Tapology after a career in choreography and entertainment that brought him back to his hometown Flint.
As part of the organization’s cultural mission, Tapology introduces students and their families to the arts, providing dance scholarships and sponsoring instruction at locations throughout the community. Berston Field House, Agape Church, Sylvester Broome Empowerment Village, and local schools are a few sites where Tapology classes have been held.
“We run outreach programs throughout the year,” Bradley says.
This summer alone Tapology taught about 250 youth.
But with competition from other art forms that aren’t as old or well-established, yet more visible in popular culture – such as hip hop dance – keepers of the tap legacy are sometimes challenged in attracting children.
“Tap dance is difficult,” Bradley adds. “A lot of times kids don’t want to work that hard, but it builds self-confidence, discipline and cultural pride.”
Among older ages, Tapology is receiving a positive response, with its adult class as the fastest-growing. Some of the program’s adult students will also participate with youth in the dance festival.
The Oct. 27 awards dinner, which Bradley says honors an African American who has contributed to the arts, will salute Mercedes Ellington, granddaughter of legendary musician Duke Ellington.
All of the festival’s scheduled events help highlight Tapology’s work promoting dance, music and the bonds that result from their appeal to the broader community, says Bradley.
“The culture of jazz is a very afrocentric culture of innovation,” he adds.
“You’ve got to invest in that, to get a sense of community. We get kids who have and who have not, and we bring them together and they build relationships, often life-time relationships, and we get their parents together. So we’re building a diverse community and using an indigenous dance form.”