2 3 Throwback Thursday and William Henry Lane | Ballet Webb

Thursday, December 28, 2017

Throwback Thursday and William Henry Lane

Throwback Thursday and William Henry Lane

Born around 1825 in Providence, Rhode Island, William Henry Lane is often called the “father of tap dance”. He was the first African American to get top billing over a white performer in a minstrel show.

First hired by P.T. Barnum to  perform at Barnum’s American Museum, Lane soon found work in the dance house of Five Points in New York City. Here he started combining elements of Irish dance with African American dance. He used his body and feet as musical instruments blending syncopated rhythms of different cultures. He also entered dance competitions where he soon earned the title “Master Juba: King of All Dancers”. (Juba and also Jude were names commonly given to slaves that were often adopted by stage performers. Juba is also the name of a supernatural being in African folklore.)

In 1848, Master Juba toured with an all-white minstrel group to England, thus becoming the first African American dancer to perform there. There he became a sensation, so much so that Charles Dickens wrote about him in American Notes.

Master Juba’s innovations influenced dance on both sides of the Atlantic, and he was instrumental in the development of tap dance in the United States.

Sadly, he died young in 1852. He was only in his late 20s.

From the Big Blue Book of Ballet Secrets
Dance History Factoid #194:
“William Henry Lane is called the father of tap dancing.”

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Quote of the Day:
“It had long since come to my attention that people of accomplishment rarely sat back and let things happen to them. They went out and happened to things.”
Leonardo da Vinci

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