Legendary Hollywood tap dancer to speak at Wendy Michener Symposium


Jeni LeGon (below, right), legendary Hollywood tap dancer, star of stage and screen, partner of Bill “Bojangles” Robinson and Fats Waller, and since 1969, dance teacher in Vancouver, is the keynote speaker at the free, 2003 Wendy Michener Symposium taking place at York’s Keele campus this week. Le Gon, the subject of a 1999 National Film Board production, Living in a Great Big Way, also appeared on the Amos ‘n Andy show on television.

The symposium, which began Nov. 10 and held sessions on Nov. 11, continues Nov. 13 and 17 with presentations on “Exploring Canada’s African Dance Heritage” by leading dance artists, educators and historians.

LeGon will deliver an illustrated talk on Monday, Nov. 17. Her presentation will be enhanced by the appearance of Frank Clavin, a seasoned jazz drummer and singer of ballads and blues. In March 2003, he performed with The Smithsonian Jazz Master Works Orchestra Quartet at the Smithsonian Natural Museum of American History, as part of a retrospective of Dr. Jeni LeGon’s historic career.

The symposium is presented by York’s Department of Dance & Graduate Program in Dance in association with the Faculty of Fine Arts York University and the AfriCan Dance Conference. For the symposium program, visit www.yorku.ca/finearts/dance/events.

Here is more information about symposium speakers:

Well-known dancer and teacher, Alberta-born Leonard W. Gibson, wrote and choreographed Bamboula, the first musical produced for the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC) in Vancouver. This 1954 production also marked the first time an inter-racial cast appeared on Canadian television. Gibson taught and choreographed in Toronto for many years before moving to Vancouver. In his stimulating, interactive session, Gibson will share moves from many dance styles with symposium visitors.

Sally R. Sommer, professor of dance at Florida State University, focuses her research on stage and vernacular dance influenced by African American and Hispanic American cultures. In her new documentary, Check Your Body at the Door, Sommer turns the spotlight on some remarkable club dancers and dancing in New York City. Appearing with her will be the film’s griot, the renowned club dancer Archie Burnett. Her second lecture focuses on “Tracing African Dance Influences in the Americas”.

Other distinguished presenters include York alumna Zelma Badu-Younge (MFA ’92), professor of Dance at the University of Ohio and co-director of Azaguno, a newly-formed African Drumming and Dance Company based at West Virginia University; Toronto-based dancer and writer P. Afua Marcus, coordinator of the AfriCan Dance Conference, which takes place in Toronto Nov. 14-16; and José C. Curto, professor in York’s Department of History, who will introduce the Harriet Tubman Resource Centre with a talk on “Documenting African Diasporic Cultures with New Technology.”