About the Institute
The Robert L. Reed Tap Heritage Institute Incorporated (RLRTHII), is a not-for profit 501c (3) organization.
Our mission is to educate, enhance public awareness of, promote an interest in, and appreciate tap as a vital indigenous American art form in all its myriad forms, expressions, techniques, ethnicities, and diversities. Our primary goal is to teach the general public, in particular youth (with special interest in the disadvantaged and underserved), through master workshops, lectures, panel discussions, and professional concerts. Tap has a rich history and significance for American culture. Tap is not only an art, but a tool to educate, teach, promote, and preserve a historical institution. Tap dance has influenced and transformed every aspect of the performing arts and popular culture as well as theater and film.
In pursuit of our mission, we host a world-class tap dance festival each summer in St. Louis, Missouri. This project titled “The St. Louis Tap Festival” (SLTF) runs each year for one week late in July and/or early in August. Returning to the Sheraton St. Louis City Center again this year, the festival provides Master Classes, “Tap Jam”, panel discussion, a Participants’ showcase, and the finale, our “All That Tap” Master Tap Concert. In its twenty-three year history, the SLTF has been able to touch a large cross-section of the St. Louis area, United States, as well as the world. It has been able to address and meet the needs of its primary constituency, the dance community; its secondary constituency, the community at large; with tertiary consideration given to the African-American Community. The Organization has been able to develop a racially diverse volunteer board for the event and the organization as well as for the festival participants and the audience. We also develop partnerships with local, national, and international dance companies and studios in order to allow them to invest time and resources in the production.
The festival consists of three components: Education, Exhibition, and the Awards Ceremony.
Education through master classes helps further the art form and panel discussions show how to work in this chosen field. Exhibition through performances help develop an appreciation for this indigenous American art form and its traditional and cultural contributions to the world. The Tap Jam helps aspiring artists hone their improvisational skills by watching masters, artists, and peers improvise. They are often challenged to join in. The masters, at this time, offer their expert advice and experience. The awards ceremony is a means of preserving and documenting excellence in the field of tap.
Our annual Master Tap Concert - “All That Tap” - attracts teaching masters and performing professionals from around the world to St. Louis for a unique demonstration of tap skills. This year we will host this event at the beautiful Edison Theater at Washington University. Conveniently accessible to the Metro Link line, the venue assures access to those who may not otherwise be able to attend
The SLTF is extremely popular due to the participation of world renowned stars of yesterday, today, and the next generation. Rave reviews in newspapers and magazines as well as increased attendance each year are confirmation that the festival brings in the finest talent. The St. Louis Tap Festival is considered the best of its kind in the world and is renowned for bringing in the best, most famous, well established, and hottest hoofers of stage, screen and television known internationally as brilliant choreographers and performers.
Past faculty has included: Dr. Jimmy Slyde, a recipient of Oklahoma City University’s Doctor of Performing Arts in American dance, Maceo Anderson, founder of the Four Step Brothers, one of the most celebrated and enduring tap acts around the world, received a start on the Hollywood Walk of Fame in 1988 with Dr. Prince Spencer, famous member of the Four Step Brothers, Dr. James “Buster” Brown of the Copasetics and the Hoofers, Cholly Atkins, famed Motown choreographer, Tony Award winner for Black and Blue choreography who originated vocal choreography, the internationally renowned Nicholas Brothers, touted as being the best dance team ever. Fred Astaire called their performance in Stormy Weather the best dance ever filmed. Ernest “Brownie” Brown, who was half of the Vaudeville duo, Cook and Brown appeared in the 1984 film “The Cotton Club” and now performs the trademark “Chair Dance” with his protégé, Dormeshia Sumbry-Edwards, featured in the Broadway musical “Black & Blue”, was the first woman to perform in Savion Glover’s Bring in ‘Da Noise, Bring in ‘Da Funk, Avi Miller & Ofer Ben are tap dancers, performers, teachers, and lecturers who studied hoofing with many tap teachers and mentors and their tap dancing experience spans over 35 years and includes countries such as: Australia, Canada, China, Finland, Holland, Israel, Japan, Thailand and the USA, Donald O’Connor, best known for Make Em Laugh and Singing in the Rain, Fred Kelly, three time Tony Award winner and brother to Gene Kelly, Dr. Jeni LeGon, dancer, singer, actress and choreographer known as the Sepia Cinderella who’s claim to fame was being the first woman to dance with Bill Bojangles Robinson in the film Hooray for Love, The Silver Belles, legendary chorus girls from the 30’s performing at the Cotton Club and the Apollo Theater, Dr. Henry LeTang, Tony Award winner for Black and Blue, American theater, film and television choreographer, dance instructor, mentor to Greg and Maurice Hines, was known as the ”Show Doctor” for devising dance routines for Broadway musicals, Robert L. Reed, founder, artistic director, and producer of the St. Louis Tap Festival, host of his own variety show in Japan “Robert Hall”, Professor and Artist in Residence at Oklahoma City University, former choreographer and dance captain of the show, "Riverdance", Mr. Reed’s daughter, Robin Reed, has performed around the world and most recently served as the only assistant to the late great Dr. Leonard Reed’s teaching the Shim Sham Shimmy and the Bambalina, his son, Robert Reed III, toured with Savion Glover in the 2003 international tour of Bring in ‘Da Noise, Bring in Da Funk, has performed and taught around the world, Jason Samuels Smith (performer, choreographer, director) has emerged as a multi-talented leader in the Art form of Tap and his accolades include a Dance Magazine Award, an Emmy, an American Choreography Award for “Outstanding Choreography, and the Gregory Hines Humanitarian Award; Hoofers Award.
The SLTF also brings in business to the different venues including the Sheraton St. Louis City Center, as well as restaurant, souvenir stores, the Gateway Arch, Union Station, the St. Louis Zoo, the Historic Soulard district etc. Many of our participants tour the great city that birthed the "St. Louis Blues" and "Ragtime", especially overseas guests. The Tap Heritage Institute has put St. Louis on the map for tap!The civic community appreciates the value and significance of the festival's presence in St. Louis. In 1998, St. Louis Mayor, Clarence Harmon, proclaimed August 3 as Robert L. Reed Tap Heritage Institute Day.