With Charles Goddertz, performer and world-renowned tap dancing teacher we linger a little longer in New York City area, after our interview with Justin Boccitto.
1. Photo by courtesy of Charles Goddertz.
Charles Goddertz, born in Texas, teaches Tap Dancing at Steps on Broadway, He is famous for his roles in musicals, on Broadway and National Tours, like Seesaw, Hello Dolly and On the Town. Charles performed in the Disney movie Enchanted. He is also renowned, internationally, as a guest teacher in Canada, Panama, Mexico, Germany, Switzerland, and Italy.
Hello Charles Goddertz, thank you for the opportunity to take this interview and I am so pleased to meet you one more time after The Moscato Tap Fest in Milan in 2016.
What do tap and jazz dancing mean for you and what do you love about them?
«Tap and jazz dancing for me is the full spectrum of each of those disciplines. From theater tap to rhythm tap and hoofing, theater jazz, classic jazz and lyrical jazz. I began tap dancing at 5 years, added theater jazz at age 8 years and then ballet at about age 10 years. In those days only a few boys from my hometown of Port Arthur, Texas were enrolled in formal dance classes. But at about age 12 years my hometown teacher, Florence Coleman, formed a male only ballet class of 8 and that was quite progressive for the 1950s. In the years since, I have drawn on all the training and knowledge acquired through the years to sustain first a performing and then teaching career.
2. Charles, age 8, photo by courtesy of Charles Goddertz.
After retiring from Broadway, I was subsequently hired to teach tap at StepsNYC by founders, Patrice Soriero and Carol Paumgarten. I have since taught tap dancing for NYU, Broadway Dance Center, Dance Educators of America, Dance Masters of America and around the world in Switzerland, Germany, Canada, Mexico, Panama, El Salvador, including Rome and Milan.
The two things I love about dancing are, the feeling of flying when executing at a certain level of aplomb and the applause of an audience lost in the innate expression of the artist and their performance, perfectly woven and conveyed by body, mind and soul. And in the case of tap dancing, body, mind, soul and sole!».
Which was your favorite show to dance in during your career and why?
«I will have to say I have four, in the order in which I did. In early summer stock I was fortunate to dance in Sweet Charity. Charity was a Bob Fosse Musical with Fosse jazz. Dancers trained in Fosse jazz will understand why this was one of my favorite shows. West Side Story was fantastic choreography by Jerry Robbins and seemingly performance heaven.
3. Charles (left) and his dancing partner, age 10, photo by courtesy of Charles Goddertz.
Then there was Seesaw, the only show I ever tap danced in, for Tommy Tune. During rehearsals I taught a black dancer friend the tap steps & choreography, as he had no formal tap dance training. To my surprise, Tommy honored my friend, Ken Rodgers and me with a tap dance feature, listed in the program as “The Bangle Brothers.” I enjoyed dancing for Tommy Tune, he was a creative marvel! I also loved the musical score by Cy Coleman & Dorothy Fields. And lastly, Hello Dolly with black singing artist Pearl Bailey and the original Dolly Levi, Carol Channing. Gower Champion was director and choreographer for Dolly and the “waiters gallop” is forever classic choreography of the American Broadway Musical Theater!».
4. Photo by courtesy of Charles Goddertz.
Do you have any favorite dancers, performers, and musicals?
«Yes! Musicals are A Chorus Line, Cabaret, Billy Elliot, Pippin, Chicago, and West Side Story. My first show, when I moved to the city in the fall of 1968, was West Side Story with the original Jerry Robbins choreography. It was an extreme joy to sing and dance in this show.
Favorite dancers and performers were the role models that I looked to as a young and upcoming dancer. Jacques d’Amboise, ballet dancer with New York City Ballet under the direction of George Balanchine. If you have not seen Jacques on the big screen, dancing on the beach as dancing Billy in the Musical Carousel, check him out on YouTube. Breathtaking! Fred Astaire was a Balanchine favorite and he also was one of mine. So were Honi Coles, Mikhail Baryshnikov and Gregory Hines. Gregory and Baryshnikov dancing together in the movie White Nights is a real tour de force. Honi Coles and Tommy Tune tap dancing together in the Broadway Show, My One and Only, served up a magical moment in rhythm and soul that was spellbinding.
Some of my favorites from the present established tap dancers and masters, are Dianne Walker, Brenda Bufalino, Ayodele Casel, Sarah Reich, Melinda Sullivan, Christopher Erk, Anthony Morigerato, DeWitt Fleming, Jared Grimes, Kazunori Kumagai, Dormishia Sumbry Edwards, Omar Edwards, Derick Grant, Jason Samuels Smith, Ted Louis Levy, Marshall Davis Jr. and Savion Glover.
5. (from right) Charles, Ayodele Casel, students from NYU, photo by courtesy of Charles Goddertz.
I also like the tap teams of Joseph & Josette Wiggins, Chloe & Maud Arnold and the Italian tap dancing brother team, Emanuele and Leonardo D’Angelo, who are World Champions and were seen on NBC’s World of Dance. And I had the good fortune and pleasure to tap with their mom and dance teacher, Graziella Di Marco, in my tap dance classes at Steps Studio here in New York City, before the brothers.
There are many more great tap dancers in the world today, too numerous to list here. And to those that say tap dancing is a dying art, I say tap dancing is alive and well and flourishing in America and around the world, which reminds me of a popular lyric from a tune a friend wrote. “Kids of ten or eleven and folks of eighty-seven, are tapping their blues away.” Go see a tap dance performance in concert, on Broadway, Streaming, on YouTube, Facebook and Instagram. You will be entertained and amazed at the level of expertise and creativity of today’s international tap family. And for those of you that don’t tap dance, try putting a little bounce in your step and try tap dancing. It has been said by the Masters, “If you can walk, you can tap dance”».
Charles, I remember our conversation at The Moscato Tap Fest, and, in all the anecdotes about your life as a dancer, we talked about your training with Jack Stanly. How was studying with him?
«Jack Stanly was a true Dance Master and he mentored me and many other dancers who went on to have professional dancing careers on Broadway, in Las Vegas, television and movies. He had a partner, Jack Potteiger, who had been a professional ballet dancer. Together they were a successful and dynamic duo. The prolific choreographer Danny Daniels, known for The Tap Dance Kid on Broadway in which Savion Glover was discovered and the movie Pennies From Heaven, said to me upon our meeting and learning Jack Stanly and Potteiger were my teachers, “we need you here in New York City.” I knew then that my destiny was set and New York City would become my home. I am now a New York City resident, fifty-three years».
6. Charles and Jack Stanly, photo by courtesy of Charles Goddertz.
As a musical performer, you are not only trained in tap dancing but also ballet and jazz and you had the opportunity to study with professionals of the calibre of Luigi and Matt Mattox. How did jazz dance influence your style?
«Yes, I had the opportunity to take class from Matt Mattox at a studio on 14th Street and 6th Avenue. Studio name was Morelli’s. Vincent Morelli was the owner, a former ballet dancer and he rented out studio time to other teachers and this is where I met and studied with Matt Mattox. Within a year of classes with Matt, he pulled up stakes in New York City and left for London and Paris across the pond. For me, this was my time spent learning and dancing in the style of modern classic jazz dance. And if memory serves me correct, the Mattox jazz dance style originated from the Jack Cole contemporary dance style of the 1930s, ’40s and ’50s.
I also had the pleasure of studying with Luigi in the 1960s and 1970s. I first met and took class with Luigi at Showcase Rehearsal Studios while assisting Jack Stanly at summer workshops here in the big apple. At that time Stanly had moved his operation to the Miami, Florida area and Luigi called me “the kid from Florida.” Later when in New York and dancing on Broadway I picked up the Luigi style of jazz and discovered that my hands and arms were actually a detriment to chorus dancing. Too stylish. So I went to work to undo, as Broadway was where my heart lay.
7. Photo by courtesy of Charles Goddertz.
I also trained at the Martha Graham school in the Graham technique and the Katherine Dunham technique of Haitian Primitive. Ms. Dunham and her dancers can be seen dancing in the classic and timeless movie Stormy Weather with tap dancing stars of that era. Bill “Bojangles” Robinson, so honored by National Tap Day on his birthday, May 25th, and the sensational Nicholas Brothers!».
Talking with you is like exploring a musical theatre and tap dancing encyclopedia because you were part of very important shows like On the Town with Bernadette Peters or Hello Dolly with Carol Channing and Pearl Bailey. Do you have memories about these shows or any others you would like to share with us?
«Well thank you Roberto and yes I do have a memory or two I can share here. In performance with Pearl Bailey as Dolly Levi, I had the lines, She’s Here, and I would gesture to the top of a staircase for her entrance to the Harmonia Gardens Restaurant in the show-stopping number Hello Dolly. She would magically appear at the top of a staircase to thunderous applause, start down the staircase singing hello Rudolph, hello Stanley, that was me, hahaha!
One night she didn’t appear! I ran up the stairs looking for her and had to adlib a line or two as the drama and apprehension of her whereabouts built on stage and in the audience. I ran back down the stairs and then offstage and back onstage looking for her and to kill time and then, to my relief as I had exhausted my adlibs, she appeared at the top of the stairs. Ms. Bailey then dropped character and explained to us all that the elevator from her dressing room to the stage had suddenly stopped working and caused her to be late for her entrance. The audience laughed and we carried on and again stopped the show with the great Jerry Herman tune, Hello Dolly and Gower Champion tony award winning choreography.
8. Charles and Pearl Bailey in Hello Dolly, photo by courtesy of Charles Goddertz.
After the performance and bows, Ms. Bailey would also sing a couple of tunes, ala her nightclub act and was sometimes joined by husband, drummer and bandleader, Louie Bellson. Louie would play and knock out a rhythmic break or two with drums from the orchestra, passed up from the pit to onstage.
And for those that don’t know, the fabulous tap dancer Bill Bailey, who did the first moonwalk in 1910 at the Famous Apollo Theatre in Harlem and in the movie Cabin In The Sky, was the brother of Pearl Bailey and can also be seen moonwalking on YouTube. Michael Jackson recycled the moonwalk and made it famous in his video, Billie Jean in 1983. Gregory Hines once said, jokingly and onstage in a performance, “Tap Dancers just steal each other’s steps.” Hahaha! True, but each tap dancer adds their own special sauce to the steps. And tap dance and dance
movements and steps can’t be copyrighted.
I also performed Hello Dolly with the original Dolly Levi, Carol Channing and unknowingly upstaged Ms. Channing and lived to tell about it. Some others didn’t! Whew! We even became friends and dancing partners, when out dancing together,
in those days, disco cheek to cheek!».
9. Charles at the Marquis Broadway Theatre , photo by courtesy of Charles Goddertz.
Professionally speaking, you were there during the Tap Renaissance and the spreading tap interest in the Eighties and Nineties so you have seen, and also was a part of, this tap resurgence. Which or who, in your opinion, were the prominent elements that led tap to a new life?
«I would say the musicals No No Nanette with Ruby Keeler, Eubie with Gregory and Maurice Hines, Seesaw with Tommy Tune, My One and Only with Tommy Tune, and Honi Coles, for which Honi won a Tony Award, Sophisticated Ladies with Gregory Hines and Hinton Battle, who won a Tony for his featured role and Black and Blue were certainly the beginning and continuing Tap Renaissance in the 1970s and 1980s. In this period, Gregory Hines reintroduced the Old black tap dance masters of the 1930s, ’40s and ’50s and in 1992 starred in the hit Broadway Musical Jelly’s Last Jam the story of musical legend Jelly Roll Morton.
So in my opinion Gregory Hines, who starred in the movies White Nights and Tap was the pre-eminent and prominent force of the Tap Renaissance. It was because of him that we got to know the history of tap and the black tap dancing stars of the earlier 20th century and before. He was a wonderful man to whom I was introduced, by his friend, historian and tap teacher, Melba Huber. I then later met up with him again in Redding, Pennsylvania. I taught tap and Joe Lanteri, who is now the Artistic Director and co-owner of Steps, taught jazz, in a workshop for young people. Gregory came down from the city and did a show that evening. He was gracious, charming and accepting of the kids, parents and anyone in a pair of tap shoes. Upon first meeting he had a standard line, “Hello, I’m Gregory Hines
and I’m a Tap Dancer. The epitome of class!!!».
10. (from right) Charles, Gregory Hines and Joe Lanteri, photo by courtesy of Charles Goddertz.
What do you think about the new generation of tap dancers, from Savion Glover to Jason Samuels Smith and, more recently, the Syncopated Ladies? How is tap dancing becoming more and more important and recognized as an Art form?
«I have always loved Savion Glover and he has been very prolific on his tap dance journey. Gregory and others have called him the greatest tap dancer of the tap renaissance era. And I agree! I also like the tap teams of Jason Samuels Smith, Derick Grant and Dormishia of Tap Family Reunion and Chloe and Maud Arnold, Syncopated Ladies. I have known these dancers as youngsters and they certainly are at the forefront of carrying on the tap dance history and tradition.
I want to also acknowledge here, Jimmy Slyde who hosted the La Cave Tap Jam in the early 1990s, Buster Brown and his Swing 46 Tap Jam in late 1990s, Delilah Jackson, the creator of the Flo-Bert Award for Tap Dancers, for which I received at the 2011 Tap Extravaganza, hosted by fabulous tap dancer, Andrew Nemr. And now tap dancer Laraine Goodman has recently taken the helm of the Flo-Bert Tap Extravaganza Awards Show and is carrying on in the tradition of the founders.
11. Charles with Flo-Bert Award 2011, photo by courtesy of Charles Goddertz.
I like Brenda Bufalino and Tony Waag, the founders and directors of American Tap Dance Orchestra, American Tap Dance Foundation and the Tap City Festival here in New York City. And lastly, the great tap dancers Maurice and Gregory Hines, Honi Coles and Tommy Tune. These are some of the tap dancers that have contributed to the history and performance tradition of the black indigenous American Art Form, Tap Dancing.
The tap dancers you mentioned above Roberto are molded by and in the tradition of the old timers, some no longer with us. But as Jimmy Slyde would also say “I am not leaving you, I am leaving something with you.” And so the beat goes on.».
Let’s talk about teaching. What are the most important qualities a teacher should have to help their students in developing their full potential?
«For me, it was love, desire, truth, commitment, and patience. I love dancing and the theatrical arts. But as a young guy, I had stopped dancing and enrolled in college to become an accountant. I went to see my sister Gloria dancing in a show and during that performance suddenly, as if someone shot an arrow through my heart, I knew I had to dance (Love). Jack Stanly had offered me a partial work scholarship to come to Florida and train as a dancer under his tutelage. I went right home and wrote him a letter of inquiry as to his offer. And as fate would have it, he had an opening and accepted me. I quit college and off I went to train for a career in dance (Desire).
12. Student Darrin Contessa and Charles at the Ziegfeld Girls Ball, photo by courtesy of Charles Goddertz.
While there with Stanly, I began assisting and teaching. He told me “teach others what you have learned and you will become a better dancer. Chuck (as he called me) you are a small guy and when choreographers hire a small male dancer, they only hire one. You need to be performance level at auditions.” Years later I auditioned for Joyce Trisler, artistic director of Trisler Dance and a prodigy of Alvin Ailey. I got the job and fatefully Ms. Trisler told me in rehearsal I was hired because my audition was performance level (Truth).
I always took to heart the wisdom and advice Jack Stanly so generously shared with me. Later, while dancing in Summer Stock at the Dallas Summer Musicals I decided to migrate to New York City. The choreographer there shared this advice. Don’t come unless you plan to stay at least 10 years. I have shared this advice with students of the same mind and have been reminded by more than a few, their 10 years are up (Commitment). I have to add here, it was seven years from the time I arrived in Florida to train with mentors, Jack and Jack as I called them, before arriving in New York and on Broadway (Patience).
These five attributes have served me well in life, as a student, performer and teacher. And one last point! I am always a student!».
13. Charles and student Nancy Hightower, photo by courtesy of Charles Goddertz.
What do you suggest to students/dancers who want to develop their musicality and sense of rhythm? Any advice for Italian Tap dancers?
«Take up an instrument. Study singing. Study music theory. Learn how to count. Ask your teacher questions, particularly when you don’t understand a direction or what is being taught. Seek clarity on every aspect of musicality and technique. Musicality is enhanced by the level of technical execution or expertise. Again, Stanly used to tell me, “I’ll give you all the talented people in the world and I’ll take all the hard workers and we’ll see who can go how far and do what?”. He never used the word talent and told me when he told students they had talent, they stopped coming to class. He used the word potential, as I still do to this day. So the lesson here is, practice, practice, practice! And if by chance you also have talent, all the better!».
Now it’s time for very important news which I’m flattered to present here on Tutto Mondo. You are going to receive the Hoofers Award for 2020 from Tap City on July 7th, delayed due to Covid. Congratulations Charles, it is quite an achievement! Fully deserved, if I may say. Would you like to say more about this Award to our readers? Is it possible to follow this event online?
«Well thank you for your congratulations Roberto and for announcing my selection for this award here, in your interview with me for Tutto Mondo.
14. The Moscato Tap Festival in Rome, photographer Barbara Gallozzi, photo by courtesy of Charles Goddertz.
I am honored to have been voted on and selected to receive this prestigious award, of which, Gregory Hines was the very first honoree in 2001. (If interested, one can google atdf.org/hoofers awards recipients for a listing and pics of past honorees.) Here it is 20 years later and I am also a recipient. For me this is mind-boggling. Never did I ever think I would be the recipient of two internationally recognized awards, for excellence and service, in the field of tap dancing. I can only say love, desire, perseverance and patience have brought me to this point in my life. I am grateful to teachers, family, friends, students, colleagues and supporters, who encouraged me to stay the course, keep my eye on the prize and not give up. I am also graciously thankful to Tony Waag, Brenda Bufalino and the ATDF committee for this recognition of my work and diligence.
I am celebrating the acceptance of this award in memory of my former Tap City dancing partner, Michele Ribble, who shuffled off to the big tap dance stage in the sky in 2019. A beautiful plaque on the wall of one rehearsal studio on the Upper West Side of Manhattan reads, in essence, the love you receive is measured by the love you give and this is my fond memory of her. She is always with me, in heart, body, and soul and I am sure that one day we will dance together again on that big tap dance stage in the clouds.
15. Charles and his dancing partner, Michele Ribble, photo by courtesy of Charles Goddertz.
Once more, thank you Roberto for the opportunity of this interview and the wonderful questions posed to me, allowing me to reflect and share a bit of my journey with you and your Tutto Mondo followers. For more specific information on the upcoming Award Ceremony and other Tap City Festival events, visit the website, atdf.org».
Last but not least important, What are your plans for the future?
«My future plans are, a website coming shortly,(charlesgoddertztapdance.org), to continue tap dancing and teaching “little feet to tap.” I now leave you with the words of the inimitable tap dancing star, Jimmy Slyde. Thank you for the Time!».
16. Logo for upcoming website, photo by courtesy of Charles Goddertz.
We thank Charles Goddertz for his time. For more information about his work you can visit his Instagram profile and YouTube channel.
Leggi l’intervista in Italiano qui.
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