Stéphane Bittoun/Sebastian Weber:
THE LEGEND OF SYD O’NOO
There’s no notation in tap dance, as is the case with many improvised dance forms, as any codification of the dance in a written format would contradict its ideal of spontaneous and authentic creativity that’s always reinventing itself.
Tap heritage is nonetheless cultivated and passed on, mainly by word of mouth, which puts the focus far more on dancers and their impact rather than on choreographers and dance works. This oral tradition often blurs the boundaries between truth and fiction. Legends emerge that can’t be considered as reliable as, say, choreology, but as a source of inspiration and identification they do keep tap heritage alive.
The tap dance tradition is one of encounters rather than documents, which is why the tap dancer and choreographer Sebastian Weber and the author and director Stéphane Bittoun went to the USA to prepare their project. Here, they researched historical tap-dance choreographies in the Gregory Hines Collection at New York City Public Library and conducted interviews with tap-dance greats, such as Rusty Frank, Miriam Nelson, Skip Cunningham und Prince Spencer.
The results of Weber and Bittoun’s research were woven together in a mix of fact and fiction in their performance Die Legende von Syd O’Noo (The Legend of Syd O’Noo), in which the interviews, choreographic re-enactments and reconstructions are embedded in the story of a tap dancer searching for the lost choreographies by tap legend Syd O’Noo, and in doing so bringing a piece of tap-dance history to life in an entertaining way.
Concept/piece/direction – Stéphane Bittoun
Concept/piece/choreography – Sebastian Weber
Live music/composition – Tobias Christl
Performers – Stéphane Bittoun, Susanne Strach and Sebastian Weber
Production management – Josepha Vogel
Lighting/technician – Sebastian Schäkert
Camera – Alexander Düsterberg
Editing – Ilana Goldschmidt
Graphics – Michaela Kessler
Sebastian Weber choreographed the Soft-Shoe Dance for The Legend of Syd O’Noo project with specific reference to repertoire pieces that have been handed down. The choreography picks up on the accomplishments of the tap-dance duo Coles & Bufalino and comments on them from a contemporary perspective.
The choreography was later decoupled into a purely film version in which Janne Eraker, Alexander von Hugo and Sebastian Weber dance to music by Tobias Christl
As a part of their research, Stéphane Bittoun and Sebastian Weber conducted interviews with some fantastic tap dance personalities. These conversations were mostly about how the tap masters got into tap dance themselves, who inspired them, and how they learned.
The videos are Stéphane Bittoun’s and Sebastian Weber’s own production.
#1: MAURICE HINES
Actor, singer, dancer, choreographer, broadway star, and of course tap dancer: Maurice Hines spent almost his entire life on stage. From the beginnings with his brother Gregory and their father Maurice Robert, billed as „Hines, Hines, and Dad“, he learned straight from the legends of jazz tap and became an international star of his own.
#2: SKIP CUNNINGHAM
Broadway, film, TV, and many important stages of the jazz world: Skip Cunningham has 70 successful years of experience in showbiz to reflect on.
#3: BRENDA BUFALINO
Avant-Garde performer, partner of tap legend Honi Coles, choreographer of the American Tap Dance Orchestra, teacher around the world… Brenda Bufalino is one of the most inspiring personalities in tap dance today.
#4: CHAZZ YOUNG
The son of swing dance legend Frankie Manning and a highly successful performer himself remembers the old heroes, his beginnings at Mary Bruce Dancing School and the start of his career with Norma Miller and Count Basie.
#5: MIRIAM NELSON
A life in dance in uncounted films and shows. The amazingly charming Miriam Nelson recollects her way from Broadway to Hollywood.
#6: ROBERT REED
The founder of the St. Louis Tap Festival remembers his apprenticeship with Maceo Anderson of the legendary Four Step Brothers and reflects how tap dance changed his life.
#7: PRINCE SPENCER
At age 93, Prince Spencer — member of the legendary Four Step Brothers — remembers his time in show business.