The Tap Renaissance became a very different opportunity for audiences to get deeper into our rhythms and forms. Tap stopped being seen as just entertainment but as a real art-form — which it always was.
Sifting through books and digital searches, I came across numerous images and fact about Brenda Bufalino and her career as a tap dancer. But reaching deep into the pages, her early dance career grabs my attention. She started training at a young age and performed with her mom and aunt in their specialty act. Brenda was educated in numerous styles including, jazz, modern, and Afro-Cuban, which was her specialty. It wasn’t until the age of 36 when she turned her major focus to tap. Though she had met and trained with her mentor and partner, Charles “Honi” Coles of The Copasetics at the age of 17, it wasn’t until 14 years later when they reconnected and started working together. As a leader in the Tap Renaissance, Brenda had established her company, The American Tap Dance Orchestra and really focused on the idea of tap dance as composition. With a career that has spanned decades, Brenda has worked with, trained, educated, and enlightened many major players in the world of tap dance. Her work varies from experimental to traditional and has taken her to stages and studios all over the world. She is an award winning dancer, choreographer, author and someone you should know.
Jenai Cutcher honoring Brenda Bufalino
I have long admired Brenda Bufalino for staying true to herself in her artistry and for honoring her own histories in the work she makes. When I watch her dance, I can trace a direct path from her curiosity and openness to her acute awareness and deep listening that allows her to express ideas, emotions, and stories so fully in her movement and her rhythms. Brenda leaves no stone unturned and welcomes you to join in her discoveries. She is wholly present as an improviser and thoroughly virtuosic as a choreographer and composer. Brenda, along with several other women, forged new paths in tap dance choreography and presentation and pioneered new ways of working within the form by simultaneously preserving its history even as they continued to innovate. She is an intelligent, intrepid, and fiercely independent artist who questions everything, takes risks, and regards her craft seriously while also maintaining a refreshing sense of humor. “Listen down the center of yourself; equilibrate the vibrations; hurry up and wait; not too loose, not too tight.” Her lessons on how to tap dance are also lessons on how to live. Through her generous, prolific, and masterful teaching, Brenda has passed the form along to countless tap dancers worldwide. Her impact on the dance, its future, and my own life is immeasurable and for that, I honor her.
-Dancer, Writer, Teacher, Executive & Artistic Director of the Chicago Dance History Project