How High the Moon: Deborah Mitchell’s Archiving of Black Vernacular Dance through the New Jersey Tap Ensemble

Kat Echevarría Richter


Published histories of tap dance have long invisibilized the work of Black women, while professional networks dedicated to advocating for Black concert dance have traditionally ignored tap dance as well. Challenging these dual legacies of exclusion is tap dancer, arts administrator, and choreographer Deborah Mitchell, whose New Jersey Tap Ensemble celebrated its 25th anniversary in 2019, and whose work Moon Suite was hailed as an example of concert tap dance in Constance Valis Hill’s 2010 publication, Tap Dance America. This article combines archival and autoethnographic research into the performance of the work, which includes swing, waltz, and bossa nova sections performed to variations of the jazz standard “How High the Moon” arranged by the Ensemble’s musical director, Leonard Oxley. Such analysis considers choreographic conventions, challenges, and successes in presenting Black vernacular percussive dance on the concert stage.

When Deborah Mitchell parted ways with her college sweetheart shortly after moving from the Midwest to the East Coast, he gave her a pair of tap shoes and the name of a man: Henry LeTang (1915-2007)1 . The celebrated Broadway choreographer and teacher would change the course of Mitchell’s life, leading her away from a career in social work and into an apprenticeship with renowned hoofer Leslie “Bubba” Gaines (1917-1997). She would go on to dance alongside Germaine Goodson as The Rhythm Queens, perform in the groundbreaking production Black and Blue in Paris and on Broadway in the 1980s and early ‘90s, and tour the world with Cab Calloway. Upon returning to the United States, Mitchell decided to start a tap company to pass on the legacy of tap as she had come to understand it. Mitchell founded The New Jersey Tap Ensemble2 (NJTAP) in 1995.

I auditioned for NJTAP when I was 9 years old. I was accepted as a member of the Youth Ensemble and eventually promoted to the First Company, dancing under Mitchell’s direction from 1995-2003. As a light-skinned, white presenting, third generation Puerto Rican, my time with the Ensemble was a transformative experience for me: one that introduced me to Black vernacular dance, to the world of Duke Ellington, to Mitchell’s aesthetic and professional standards, and to the many challenges of running a successful non-profit arts organization3 . As a high school student, I had the honor of dancing in Mitchell’s critically-acclaimed Moon Suite, choreographed to waltz, bossa nova, and swing treatments of the jazz standard How High the Moon, arranged by the Ensemble’s Musical Director and Mitchell’s frequent collaborator, Leonard Oxley (1929-2016).

            Although dance historian Constance Valis Hill praised Moon Suite for its “subtlety and depth” in Tap Dancing America (2010), an encyclopedic cultural history of tap that has drawn both praise and criticism from within the tap community, there is little documentation of the work available. When I asked Mitchell about the history of the piece, she put the premiere date around 1996. My own recollections include that of being a young dancer watching the piece from the wings, then dancing two of the three sections when I was in my teens. I can still feel myself pulling up to execute the requisite one-footed pullbacks for the waltz section, then spotting my way through a series of cramp roll turns and zapateado-like heel drops for the bossa nova. To my eternal dismay, I was never cast in the swing section, but I watched this too from the wings, trying to pick up the weight shifts for a complex time step.

In 2020, NJTAP celebrated its 25th anniversary. I had long since moved on, completing a BA in dance and history and an MA in dance anthropology before moving to Philadelphia and founding my own company, The Lady Hoofers Tap Ensemble. Mitchell invited us to perform at NJTAP’s 25th anniversary concert and as we took our places backstage alongside the other guest artists who had come to pay tribute— including Savion Glover, Mercedes Ellington, Tony Waag, Brenda Bufalino, and Germaine Goodson— I began to fully comprehend Mitchell’s legacy. She created a racially integrated company, always insisting both in rehearsal and performance that tap was an “original American art” form that could belong to everyone (even white girls like me), and she stewarded that company for over two and a half decades, despite tap’s marginalized status in the dance world.

The New Jersey Tap Ensemble is hardly the only tap company to have emerged on the heels of the so-called “tap renaissance” that began in the 1970s, nor was it the only one led by a woman. Lynn Daly founded the Jazz Tap Ensemble in 1979; Heather Cornell co-founded Manhattan Tap in 1985; Brenda Bufalino co-founded the American Tap Dance Orchestra with Tony Waag and Charles “Honi” Coles in 1986; and Acia Gray founded Tapestry in 1989. NJTAP is unique, however, insofar as Mitchell has served as its Executive Director for nearly 3 decades without the benefits of white privilege afforded to many of her peers. And while other Black-led (and Black woman-led) tap companies do exist, few operate as official 501(3)(c) non-profit organizations. This is not to denigrate the work of women such as Dormeshia (whose leadership positions in the tap community include Divine Rhythm Productions, Tap Family Reunion, and Women in the Shoe)4 , Ayodele Casel (Operation Tap and Diary of a Tap Dancer), Chloe Arnold (Syncopated Ladies), Elka Samuels Smith (Divine Rhythm Productions), Star Dixon (M.A.D.D. Rhythms), Brinae Ali (Tapology)5 , Dianne Walker (TapDancin, Inc.) or Melba Ayco (Northwest Tap Connection), but rather to illustrate that NJTAP is virtually unparalleled in its longevity as a Black woman-led non-profit organization dedicated to rhythm tap.

This is especially noteworthy because Mitchell works without the infrastructure and support traditionally available to historically privileged Western concert dance forms6 . Professional networks dedicated to Black concert dance have at times ignored tap, due in part to the persistence of Eurocentric hierarchies in dance, and to early 20th-century theories of racial uplift that posited tap as less desirable than concert dance forms7 . Whereas Black women such as Katherine Dunham, Joan Myers Brown, and Jawole Willa Jo Zollar have earned critical acclaim for their leadership in the arts, Mitchell’s legacy remains largely unrecognized. Her work, however—both as an artist and as an arts administrator— deserves further analysis.

            In this article, I utilize oral histories, autoethnography, and practice as research methodologies to explore Mitchell’s strategies of resistance to white cultural hegemony through the choreography and staging of Black vernacular dance, specifically rhythm tap. My work draws upon the scholarship of Brenda Dixon Gottschild (1998; 2000), Thomas DeFrantz (2001; 2011), Nadine George-Graves (2000), Cheryl Willis (1997), Kariamu Welsh Asante (1997), Jacqui Malone (1996), Katrina Hazzard-Gordon (1990), Jasmine Johnson (2020), Katrina Dyonne-Thompson (2014), Germaine Ingram (1994), and Robyn Watson (2020), in addition to the models of antiracist pedagogy offered by Takiyah Nur Amin (2018), Nyama McCarthy Brown (2017), and Ayo Walker (2020). I also wish to acknowledge my mentors in tap, because their approach to movement and musicality informs mine, rendering my body an archive not only of Mitchell’s work, but also of her mentors, Henry LeTang and Leslie “Bubba” Gaines. My first tap teacher was a white woman named Lisa Palladino who owned a small studio in Freehold, NJ and recommended that I audition for Mitchell. I also studied under NJTAP’s own Karen Calloway Williams, Parris Mann, and Maurice Chestnut, in addition to tap dancers Jason Samuels Smith, Chloe Arnold, Brenda Bufalino, Heather Cornell, Roxane Butterfly, Ray Hesselink, Junior Laniyan, Margaret Morrison, and Barbara Duffy. Each has contributed to how I dance, and to how I understand my role as a white woman working in a Black art form. I am also especially thankful for the decades of mentorship provided to me by Deborah Mitchell, both during and after my time with the New Jersey Tap Ensemble.

            Mitchell was born Deborah Ann Smith in St. Louis, Missouri in 19478 . St. Louis, of course, was also the birthplace of Josephine Baker and Katherine Dunham, but Mitchell was unaware of this until later in life. Her early introduction to dance was cut short when her mother realized that Mitchell’s dance teacher was placing her in the back line because she was darker skinned than her classmates. Mitchell took up cheerleading in high school, where she “broke the color barrier” as the only “brown girl” on the squad9 . She earned a scholarship to Southern Illinois University where she completed a BS in sociology, and to Indiana University where she completed an MA in social work.

            Her first marriage was short-lived but brought Mitchell to the East Coast. She lived in New Jersey and commuted to New York, taking classes from LeTang and Eleanor Harris. It was during this time she attended a performance of The Copasetics, the legendary fraternal organization formed to honor the legacy of the late Bill “Bojangles” Robinson (1878-1949). As Mitchell recalls,

I was a student of tap dancing, and a friend told me about some “old men” performing at the Academy. Having no money to afford a concert, I decided it would be good enough to see them in rehearsal. I drove to Brooklyn, parked outside of the [Brooklyn] Academy [of Music], fell asleep in my car, and waited. At dawn, I slipped into the building through a door left open by men in the process of picking up the building’s garbage. […] I fell asleep. I was awakened by the sound of voices and footsteps on the stage. Startled, I jumped to my feet, tap shoes falling out of my purse making a loud noise, and causing the men on the stage to stop. A tall distinguished looking gentleman came to the edge of the stage and wanted to know, “who was out there?” To which I responded, “just me!” […] I told him I was waiting to see a group of old men dancers, to which he chuckled, and explained I was looking at them! They introduced themselves, and little did I know, I was in the midst of tap dance royalty. Honi Coles, Buster Brown, Fayard Nicholas, Charles Cook, Face Roberts, and Bubba Gaines10 .

Mitchell gravitated towards Gaines, and when he learned of her passion for dance, he decided to teach her everything he could, refusing payment, and even bestowing upon her the jump rope routine that his late dance partner Will Hutchinson had perfected. She would go on to perform the routine in Francis Ford Coppola’s The Cotton Club (1984) and would dance in both the Paris (1985-1986) and Broadway (1989-1991) productions of Black and Blue. Conceived and directed by Claudio Segovia and Hector Orezzoli, the all-Black musical was choreographed by LeTang with additional choreography by Cholly Atkins, Frankie Manning, and Fayard Nicholas of the famed Nicholas Brothers. Leonard Oxley11 served as Musical Director, and the musical featured two dozen tap dancers including veteran hoofers Bunny Briggs and Jimmy Slyde in addition to Rashamalla Cumbo, Tanya Gibson, Germaine Goodson, Angela Hall, Kyme, Valerie Macklin, Deborah Mitchell, Valerie E. Smith, and Dianne Walker.

The documentary No Maps on My Taps (1979) introduced many audiences to the legacy of The Copasetics for the first time, while popular Broadway musicals including 42nd Street (1980) and Anything Goes (1988) presented a different, whitewashed version of tap. Sophisticated Ladies (1981), however, like Black and Blue, starred Black artists and Black musicians, and the influence of these groundbreaking productions would be evident in Mitchell’s choreography for years to come. Her founding of NJTAP in 1995 came on the heels of Jelly’s Last Jam (1993) and just before Savion Glover’s Bring in ‘da Noise, Bring in ‘da Funk (1996), affectionately known as Noise/Funk. NJTAP’s own Maurice Chestnut, who I grew up dancing with, would go on to join the cast of Noise/Funk, while Ensemble veterans Parris Mann and Karen Calloway Williams both performed in Riverdance. Williams also danced in Play On! (1997). The company has always served as an incubator of tap talent; in addition to Chestnut, Mann, and Williams, tap dancers Jason Janas, Mike Minery, Hillary-Marie Michael, Nicholas DiNicolangelo, Evan Ruggiero, and Jeff Foote have all trained under Mitchell. Many remain connected to the company in some capacity, and Mitchell always encourages her dancers to think of NJTAP as their “home,” regardless of where their careers take them.

Mitchell’s aesthetic is largely defined by that of the class act—an elegant, sophisticated mode of presentation that can be traced back to vaudeville, to the nightclubs of the Harlem Renaissance, to Broadway, and to Hollywood, especially during tap’s so-called heyday in the 1930s and 1940s. A comparison between Mitchell and the Whitman Sisters provides a lens through which to better understand her work as both an artist and administrator. The Whitman Sisters included Mabel (1880-1942), Essie (1882-1963), Alberta (1887-1964), and Alice (1900-1969). They were the highest paid entertainers on the Theatre Owners Booking Association (TOBA) circuit (a vaudeville circuit), and their collective performance career began in 1899 and lasted through the mid-1930s. Theirs would become one of the longest surviving touring companies. Like Mitchell, the Whitman family came from the Midwest, and the sisters’ father was both a bishop for the AME church and the dean of Morris Brown College in Atlanta. As Nadine George-Graves argues, this distinction and the sisters’ longstanding connection to the Black church would help them cultivate a reputation of respectability that endeared the so-called “royalty of Negro vaudeville” to Black and white audiences alike12 .

Mitchell was also one of four girls, and although she was the only of the sisters to pursue a career in dance, she toured as a member of The Rhythm Queens alongside Black and Blue co-stars Cumbo and Goodson, complete with an official trademark for their name and business cards. As the eldest of The Rhythm Queens, Mitchell was often the one to negotiate their contracts and to advocate for their needs on the road13 . Like the Whitman Sisters, Mitchell also created a safe environment for children to hone their skills. And, like the Whitman Sisters, she always ensured that her dancers were dressed to the nines. My first costume as a member of the Youth Ensemble in the mid-1990s consisted of a white leotard with voluminous satin sleeves, tailored tap shorts, white ankle socks, and black high heeled tap shoes. In Moon Suite, I wore an ivory satin jumpsuit trimmed with fur and paired with large costume jewelry for the waltz section. The male dancers in the Ensemble almost always wore tuxedos and I can’t recall a single time when Mitchell allowed any of us to wear jeans.

            Mitchell’s interest as a choreographer and as an arts administrator has always been to present tap as an ensemble form. In some ways, this is antithetical to the early history of tap, in which cutting contests comprised of improvisatory solos were the norm. In other ways, however, Mitchell’s aesthetic allows her to stage Black vernacular dance as a concert dance form, while still preserving the traditions of improvisation, call and response, polyrhythms, and the tap dancer’s practice of trading 8s. Moon Suite—with its ever-changing rhythms and multiple time signatures— is just one of many examples.

            Due to its associations with blackface minstrelsy and popular entertainment, tap has often been deemed incapable of serious expression. Indeed, Thomas DeFrantz argues, “Consistent with American social constructions that have historically displaced and invisibilized their African wellsprings, tap has been trivialized or infantilized as a vernacular form accessible to all but without the patina of profundity allowed art14 .” And yet tap is inherently political as it renders the body a site of resistance to white supremacy.

Published histories of tap are replete with inaccuracies, many of which offer a nostalgic “melting pot” narrative in which enslaved Africans and their descendants, Irish indentured servants, and immigrants from the British Isles contributed to the form in equal measure. This is simply untrue: tap is a Black vernacular dance, and while white artists have certainly brought their own innovations, these should not be overemphasized15 . Nor should we ignore the forces of white supremacy and systemic racism, and how these have colluded to privilege women such as Brenda Bufalino or even Michelle Dorrance. Furthermore, the concept of intersectionality16 helps to explain why Mitchell’s work is less visible that that of their peers, including both white women and Black men.

Like many Black dance forms, tap has been criticized, revered, appropriated, and whitewashed. Indeed, as educator Sonja Thomas writes,

The period of tap glory was followed by an era of decline. Because of the association of the black male tap dancer with both the “coon” and “Uncle Tom” characters of vaudeville, tap dance was virtually abandoned by the African American community during the civil rights era […] By the late 1970s […] tap was rediscovered by white/nonblack middle-class women such as Brenda Bufalino, Sarah Petronio, Jane Goldberg, and Roxane “Butterfly” Semadini. Learning from black male tappers, these women wanted to bring the contributions of black male tappers to the forefront. They did so in part with NEA-funded projects. […] This history of tap is thus affectively fraught with gender, class, and racial tensions, feelings of anger, guilt, and resentment over who can own tap, indignation over cultural appropriation, desires for affirmation, and desires for the power to authorize.17

This assessment echoes the earlier work of Philadelphia-based folklorist and tap dancer Germaine Ingram, who trained with the late LaVaughn Robinson and documented a series of oral histories in Plenty of Good Women Dancers: African American Women Hoofers from Philadelphia (1996).

An interview conducted with tap dancers Hortense Allen and Libby Spencer reveals the complexities of tap and its reception:

[A] lot of time, tap dance wasn’t appreciated. People thought it [was] like an Uncle Tom type of thing. Because blacks was going in for just ballet and modern jazz and the heck with tap… this was the sixties… There wasn’t any support at all, because everybody was, they thought that was Uncle Tom dancing in the black dancing schools. They really, wasn’t that happy with it, you know, until someone that taught tap—kids would hear those taps and they would go crazy and that would be their money. But they really didn’t advocate it, so to speak, as anything that—to be proud of.18

Furthermore, as Ingram demonstrates, “The ambition of some latter-day tap disciples to establish tap as ‘serious’ art form has resulted in emphasis on the proscenium stage and concert format as preferred presentation modes; in uninformed distinctions between ‘routines’ and choreography; and in celebration of lengthy pieces […] over the pithy, carefully composed numbers [of the] twenties, thirties, and forties19 .” This assessment reveals the Eurocentrism that still permeates the dance world, and renders Mitchell’s work all the more important: she manages to present tap on a proscenium stage in a way that neither denigrates nor abandons the “routines” that Ingram rightfully identifies as a hallmark of tap.

            As a child, I didn’t think much about being a white person in a Black-led organization. Mitchell was Black, but her husband was white; Oxley was Black, but his assistant and eventual replacement, Nicki Denner, was white. I danced alongside both Black and white children. But as I grew older, I found myself perennially cast in works that utilized my ballet training: I could turn, I could kick, I could dance well in heels. Moreover, I did not like to improvise and while I could fake it well enough, I always felt awkward.

            These insecurities, however, were my own. Mitchell cultivated a racially diverse company and always asserted that tap was an American art form. Indeed, in Hill’s Tap Dancing America, Mitchell is quoted as saying, “They look at my company and […] say, ‘We didn’t know there was a black company in New Jersey.’  And I say, ‘There’s not one. I’ve got Asians, Indians, African Americans, Irish, and Italians. I’ve got every kind of person… if E.T. could tap, he would be in there too20 .” According to Hill, Mitchell “declares from her heart that the tap community has never been divided21 .”

            My initial assumption, upon reading these words, was that Hill herself had conducted the interview with Mitchell in researching her book, but when I checked the citation, a slightly different picture emerged. It was in a conversation with Brenda Bufalino and Acia Gray, two white women, for On Tap! in 2000, that Mitchell went on to say,

Tap is a universal art form, and don’t bring it to me about tap being a black art. I know what African Americans gave to it, but don’t put that in my face that it belongs just to me… I know we had the drums, but what I’m saying is that when I look at the gifts that people brought to tap dance, it has all kinds of colors to it. That’s why it was born in America and not in another country22 .

Given this context, and the ways in which Bufalino and Gray have publicized and successfully commoditized the Black art form in which they work, I now wonder if this assertion wasn’t strategic on Mitchell’s part. Would people have wanted to fund a tap company that reminded them of tap’s true history: the legacies of enslavement and blackface minstrelsy? Maybe Mitchell made a conscious choice to present a “melting pot” version of tap’s history; maybe it was for her own sanity; maybe it was to secure the best for her company. Maybe she wanted to move past the conversations about race and get on with the business of creating art. 

            I can still remember the advice she gave us backstage when I was child: to take nothing for granted, and to dance as if we might never again have the chance, but to not give everything away— to keep something for ourselves. Perhaps, given the history of white cultural appropriation of Black vernacular dance forms, it is just as well that my knowledge of the Moon Suite remains incomplete. Mitchell’s goal was always, after all, to create an ensemble.

1. Deborah Mitchell shared this in an oral history interview conducted by Constance Valis Hill for the New York Public Library in 2020. back to text

2. The company’s original name was New Jersey Tap Ensemble, but Mitchell’s Board of Directors eventually convinced her to add “dance” to the name for the sake of clarity. As such, the company’s official name is now New Jersey Tap Dance Ensemble, but Mitchell and others continue to refer to it as New Jersey Tap Ensemble or simply NJTAP. I do the same throughout this chapter. back to text

3. My decision to write Black (with a capital “B”) and white (with a lower case “w”) in this chapter is informed by the writing of Ta-Nahisi Coates, particularly his analysis of whiteness in Between the World and Me (2015). back to text

4. Dormeshia is the preferred name of tap dancer Dormeshia Sumbry Edwards. back to text

5. Ali also goes by Alexandria Bradley; her father Bruce Bradley is Tapology’s Founder and Executive Director back to text

6. Takiyah Nur Amin introduces and provides the rationale for the term “historically privileged Western concert dance form” in Nyama McCarthy-Brown’s (2017, 2) Dance Pedagogy for a Diverse World: Culturally Relevant Teaching in Theory, Research and Practice. back to text

7. For more on this, see the work of Germaine Ingram and Sonja Thomas. back to text

8. Constance Valis Hill, Tap Dancing America (2010, 352) back to text

9. Mitchell, Oral History Interview conducted by Constance Valis Hill for the New York Public Library, 2020. back to text

10. Mitchell, "Me and Mr. Gaines." back to text

11. The Julliard-trained, Broadway veteran Leonard Oxley also served as NJTAP’s Musical Director for 22 years (1994-2016). He introduced us to the jazz standards that remain among my favorite pieces of music to this day: “Take the A Train,” “Satin Doll,” “It Don’t Mean a Thing,” “Stompin’ at the Savoy,” “Jumpin’ at the Woodside,” “I’ve Got Rhythm,” and of course, “How High the Moon.” back to text

12. George-Graves, The Royalty of Negro Vaudeville: The Whitman Sisters and the Negotiation of Race, Gender, and Class in African American Theatre, 1900-1940. back to text

13. Although Cumbo eventually left the act, Mitchell still performs with Goodson and her longtime relationships with Goodson, Oxley, and dancer Mercedes Ellington (granddaughter of Duke Ellington) have had a strong influence on her work and on the Ensemble. back to text

14. DeFrantz, “Being Savion Glover: Black Masculinity, Translocation, and Tap Dance.” back to text

15. Willis, “Tap Dance: Manifestation of the African Aesthetic.” back to text

16. The term intersectionality was coined by legal scholar and activist Kimberlé Crenshaw. It helps to explain how the convergence of racism and sexism disproportionately affects Black women. Crenshaw, “Demarginalizing the Intersection of Race and Sex: A Black Feminist Critique of Antidiscrimination Doctrine, Feminist Theory and Antiracist Politics.” back to text

17. Thomas, “Educated Feet: Tap Dancing and Embodied Feminist Pedagogies at a Small Liberal Arts College.” back to text

18. Ingram and Kodish, Plenty of Good Dancers: African American Woman Hoofers from Philadelphia, 3 back to text

19. Ingram and Kodish, 3. back to text

20. Hill, Tap Dancing America, 352; likely from Brenda Bufalino “Brenda Bufalino Talks with Acia Gray and Debbie Mitchell” On Tap! II, 4 (November-December 2000): 13 back to text

21. Hill, Tap Dancing America, 352. back to text

22. Hill, Tap Dancing America, 352. back to text

Works Cited

Amin, Takiyah Nur. 2018. “African-American Dance Revisited: Undoing Master Narratives in the Studying and Teaching of Dance History.” In Rethinking Dance History, Issues and Methodologies, edited by Geraldine Morris and Larraine Nicholas. New York: Routledge.

Asante, Kariamu Welsh. 1997. African Dance: An Artistic, Historical, and Philosophical Inquiry. Trenton: Africa World Press.

Crenshaw, Kimberlé. 1989. “Demarginalizing the Intersection of Race and Sex: A Black Feminist Critique of Antidiscrimination Doctrine, Feminist Theory and Antiracist Politics.” University of Chicago Legal Forum 139.

DeFrantz, Thomas. (n.d.) “Being Savion Glover: Black Masculinity, Translocation, and Tap Dance” MIT Accessed October 3, 2022.

.---. 2011. “Theorizing Connectivities: African American Women in Concert Dance” The Journal of Pan African Studies, vol. 4, no. 6: 56-75.

.---. 2001. Dancing Many Drums: Excavations in African American Dance. Madison: University of Wisconsin Press.

Dixon-Gottchild, Brenda. 2000. Waltzing in the Dark: African American Vaudeville and Race Politics in the Swing Era. New York: St. Martin’s Press.

.---. 1998. Digging the Africanist Presence in American Performance. Westport: Greenwood.

George-Graves, Nadine. 2000. The Royalty of Negro Vaudeville: The Whitman Sisters and the Negotiation of Race, Gender, and Class in African American Theatre, 1900-1940. New York: St. Martin’s Press.

Hazzard-Gordon, Katrina. 1990. Jookin: The Rise of Social Dance Formations in African-American Culture. Philadelphia: Temple University Press.

Hill, Constance Valis. 2020. Tap Dancing America: A Cultural History. New York: Oxford University Press, 2000.

Ingram, Germaine and Debora Kodish. 1996. Plenty of Good Dancers: African American Woman Hoofers from Philadelphia, published, produced, and curated by the Philadelphia Folklore Project, Vol. 3.

Johnson, Jasmine. 2020. “Black Laws of Dance” Conversations Across the Field of Dance Studies: Decolonizing Dance Discourses, Dance Studies Association, Vol. 40: 25.

Malone, Jacqui. 1996.  Steppin’ on the Blues: The Visible Rhythms of African American Dance. Chicago: University of Illinois Press.

McCarthy-Brown, Nyama. 2017. Dance Pedagogy for a Diverse World: Culturally Relevant Teaching in Theory, Research and Practice. Jefferson: McFarland & Company, Inc.

Mitchell, Deborah. (n.d.) “Me and Mr. Gaines.” Accessed October 3, 2022.

.---. 2020. Oral History Interview, conducted by Constance Valis Hill. New York Public Library.

Thomas, Sonja. 2017. “Educated Feet: Tap Dancing and Embodied Feminist Pedagogies at a Small Liberal Arts College” Feminist Teacher, Vol. 27, no. 2-3: 196-210 .

Thomspon, Katrina Dyonne. 2014. Ring Shout, Wheel About: The Racial Politics of Music and Dance in North American Slavery. Chicago: University of Illinois Press.

Watson, Robyn. 2020. “Op-Ed: Why Tap Classes Should Be Required in College Curriculums.”  Dance Teacher Magazine, September 4, 2020.

Walker, Ayo. 2020. “Traditional White Spaces: Why All-Inclusive Representation Matters.” Journal of Dance Education 20: 157-167.

Willis, Cheryl. 1997. “Tap Dance: Manifestation of the African Aesthetic.” In African Dance: An Artistic, Historical and Philosophical Inquiry, edited by Kariamu Welsh Asante, 145-160. Trenton: Africa World Press.