Tapping Into Dance History

William Henry Lane, "Master Juba"

By Irish Echo Staff

The Great Famine Voices 2021 series continues this Sunday May 9.

This is a series of standalone short films and online discussions beginning with Black Abolitionists in Ireland and continuing with caregivers during Ireland’s darkest years.

This Sunday's topic, a short film (23 minutes) and live online discussion, features William Henry Lane “Master Juba.” He is widely recognized as the father of tap dance who visited Ireland in 1849, when the country was still reeling from the devastating effects of the Great Hunger.

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“In popular memory, Master Juba is the man who invented tap dance,” says co-host Professor Christine Kinealy. “Juba used his remarkable artistry to challenge stereotypes while also creating a new form of entertainment.”

William Henry Lane was born in Rhode Island in 1825, and orphaned at a young age. He turns up in the very poorest part of New York, the Five Points, in the 1840s where he is admired by all including writer and social critic Charles Dickens.

“Tap dance has two parents, Irish and African,” says special guest Lenwood 'Leni' Sloan of the African American Irish Diaspora Network.

“Tapdance is that child of African and Irish dancing coming together in the Americas. It is unique to the evolving sound that would become jazz. Master Juba invented the form.”

There will be live post-show discussion on Zoom with Emmy-award winning Professor Kinealy who heads Ireland’s Great Hunger Institute at Quinnipiac University. Also taking part will be with special guest Lenwood Sloan.

The online event is set for Sunday, May 9 at 2 p.m. eastern, 7 p.m. in Ireland.

Details at http://greatfaminevoices.ie/famine-heroes/