‘No Maps on My Taps': Film Review

George T. Nierenberg’s 1979 opening doc stages a dance-off between 3 daub veterans.

Three aging yet still-limber daub dancers uncover youngsters where it’s during in George T. Nierenberg’s amatory documentary No Maps on My Taps. Released in 1979, when seductiveness in a art form was during a low lessen (Gregory Hines’ Tap and Tap Dance in America were still a decade away, yet his career was already maturing), a film is a latest easy underneath a imprimatur of Milestone Films, a brave boutique distributor that has been generally courteous of late to films about a African-American experience. Taps will play generally good during dance-centric events, of march (its NYC entrance coincides with a Tap City festival), yet it boasts a broader time-capsule interest as well.

Motivated by a doubt both hinted during and lifted categorically via a film — Is daub dead? — Nierenberg motionless to emanate his possess out-of-time showcase: At a storied Harlem, N.Y., jazz bar Smalls Paradise, he organised for a unison in that bandleader Lionel Hampton would play backup for a “challenge show” between Chuck Green, Bunny Briggs and Howard “Sandman” Sims. Less rival than a kind of conflict one competence design today, a dusk offering any male a inexhaustible showcase before bringing all 3 onstage together.

But where many opening films humour from being too trustworthy to their present-tense anchoring event, Nierenberg’s is expansive, vouchsafing a subjects operation openly in interviews conducted in operation bedrooms and on a street. Sandman Sims is generally voluble, holding adult trade to discuss with aged acquaintances about street-dance enlightenment and accosting a male who appears to be a Apollo Theater’s manager: Why, he demands, would Uptown’s many famous opening venue not deliver youngsters to their heritage?

Sims was once mentored by Green, who, in turn, had been helped along by daub hulk John “Bubbles” Sublett. Tracing this bequest gives a film copiousness of event to uncover off aged film clips, including one in that Bill Robinson teaches Shirley Temple to daub her approach adult a staircase — the kind of identifying gimmick Sims would rise later, when he started dancing on tiny platforms lonesome in sand.

Bill Robinson once chose a 6-year-old Bunny Briggs to go on debate as his protege. Briggs’ aunt, a veteran carol girl, assured his mom that was a bad idea, and here Briggs appears to have confirmed a many solid life-performance change of a 3 — yet he’s only as discerning as his peers are to lamentation a necessity of opportunities to work.

These days, a filmmaker would expected have done a most bigger understanding of a mental illness Chuck Green suffered from after his prime: He was institutionalized for many years, and according to press materials, he even went AWOL on a day of a Smalls show, scarcely blank a concert. But Nierenberg keeps his concentration on dance and a amicable stage directly associated to it, relishing a accumulation of rhythmic effects constructed by these 3 really opposite performers.

Production company: GTN
Distributor: Milestone Films
Director-producer: George T. Nierenberg
Screenwriters: George T. Nierenberg, Lynn Rogoff
Directors of photography: Robert Achs, Phil Parmet, Robert Elfstrom, Vic Losic, Ted Churchill, George T. Nierenberg, Paul Goldsmith
Editor: Paul Barnes
Composer: Dick Vance

58 minutes

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