#MusicMonday – November 23, 2020

Two men. Not soldiers. Not heroes. Just dancers willing to risk their lives for freedom…and each other.

Sounds deep, doesn’t it?

It’s actually the tagline for the 1985 movie White Nights, a drama about dancers – one an American defected to the Soviet Union, the other from the Soviet Union and defected to (I think) England – who overcome racial and artistic tension to become friends. It is that bond that sends the duo on a path to escape the Soviet Union.

But of course, they must dance. Because one is a Ballet dancer, the other a Tap dancer.

I’m not going to tell you this is one of my favorite movies plot-wise (I was actually bored and had to re-watch the ending because I fell asleep), but the dancing in this film is incredible. Watching the forces of Gregory Hines’ Tap and Mikhail Baryshnikov’s Ballet is incredible, and if you only watch it for the dance, you will not be disappointed. As for the rest of the movie…I can leave it.

The movie has a happy ending, in case you’re wondering.

The movie, which in my eyes in more notable for its soundtrack than its story. With two Academy Award-nominated songs (“Say You, Say Me” by Lionel Richie and “Separate Lives” by Phil Collins and Marilyn Martin), it is another song buried in the soundtrack that is the subject of today’s Music Monday. For me, this song is notable in its presentation, and that I didn’t know it was from a movie until about a year or so after I first heard it.

“Tap Dance” is a single performed by David Foster, and written by Foster with trumpeter Jerry Hey and Tommy Keane of The Keane Brothers. The single was released as part of the soundtrack for 1985’s White Nights, as well as David Foster’s self-titled 1986 album.

David Foster, at the time of his self-titled album, was already a prolific producer of numerous commercially successful albums. Like Foster’s future album River of Love (released in 1990), his self-titled album featured collaborations with Foster’s friends that had worked with him on his previous solo album, as well as the St. Elmo’s Fire soundtrack.

While “Tap Dance” was not released as a single for either White Nights nor Foster’s album, it is prolific in its sound. Featuring synth and 1980s awesomeness, the song also features tap dancing by the late Gregory Hines, notable not just for his acting, but also for his incredible dancing. A tap dancer from the age of two, Hines was semi-professional by the time he was five years old. He had a long career that spanned film, television, theater, and of course, dancing, before succumbing to liver cancer in 2003.

The song was featured in a scene during White Nights, as Hines’ character, Raymond Greenwood, as he dances it out. The song itself seems to take a backseat to the sounds of tap shoes, in the actual single, the Tap sounds, as well as the music, are in perfect harmony. While I can hear those beautiful taps full force in the song, this song reminds me more of Jazz dance, and gives me an idea of what dance class in the mid-1980s looked like.

Foster received a Grammy nomination in 1986 for “Best Pop Instrumental Performance,” along with a nomination for “Best Engineered Recording” for co-producer Humberto Gatica. The album itself reached #195 on the Billboard Hot 200 in 1986. Not a great place to chart, but Foster’s talents certainly didn’t go unnoticed in the works he collaborated on. They are still noticed and acclaimed to this day.

I love this song – it is powerful and fun. I first heard it on I Heart Radio in 2012, and hunted down the album it was from. I ordered it for my mom that Christmas, knowing she would love it as much as I did. Specifically, I knew she would love this song, since she was a tap dancer as a kid, and she appreciates dance as much as I do, even though my style is Jazz/Hip Hop (and even some Ballet!). I have always liked Tap, or at least, watching it. I took classes when I was in Kindergarten and first grade, but ultimately, it was Jazz that drew my attention (I wanted to try Acrobatics first, but it turned out not to be my thing).

When I went back to dance as an adult (the first time), Hip Hop became my thing, and it was/is how I’ve spent my adult dance life. I still love watching Tap, and while I understand it and probably could do some very basic steps, I’m a classic overthinker, with not an ounce of dancer’s grace. That’s the absolute truth, and it is probably what makes me a natural for Hip Hop.

Like dancers and musicians that know their talent and embrace it, I embrace mine fully.

He certainly did.

Have a great Monday, and enjoy the music!

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