|Short HIstory of The Copasetics|
The original Copasetics Club was a fraternity of vividly individual tap dancers, each with his own casually authoritative style and specialty. Its shows throbbed with the street-corner improvisation at the heart of American tap dance and hinted at the revues and film musicals through which tap and the dancers had gained new audiences.
Formed on the death of Bill Bojangles Robinson, the international tap star, the group was formed in 1949 by 21 men in show business. They took their name from Robinson’s familiar observation that “everything is copasetic,” or perfect.
The group was formed in part as a survival mechanism for its dancers and for the art of tap, regrouping often as the years (and “tap revivals”) went by. The groups played a crucial role in the tap boom of the 1970s and ’80s.
The first Copasetics group included the composer and arranger Billy Strayhorn and the choreographer Cholly Atkins. But its focus was dancers. Its founding members also included stars like Honi Coles and Charles Cookie Cook.
The Copasetic shows not only brought new acclaim to the old-time tap stars but also featured young dancers to whom those stars were mentors, following one of tap’s long traditions. That relationship and the tap boom years are reflected in Gregory Hines’s 1989 film “Tap,” a loving homage to veteran and new tappers. They were celebrated, too, in the Broadway revue “Black and Blue,” also in 1989.
But there was nothing quite like the Copasetic shows. Presented often in small, funky theater spaces, they featured a diverse range of tap stylists who would saunter, skid and explode in fusillades of articulated footwork and rhythms across a stage. There was the dreaming lope of Chuck Green, for instance, or the skimming flight of Jimmy Slyde and the flinty rhythmic exercises of Howard Sandman Sims.
The original Copasetics members were: Cholly Atkins, Peg Leg Bates, Paul Black, Roy Branker, Ernest Brown, Honi Coles, Chink Collins, Charles Cook, Emory Evans, Francis Goldberg, Frank Goldberg, Milton Larkin, LeRoy Myers, Pete Nugent, Lutherr Preston, Phace Roberts, Billy Strayhorn, John E. Thomas, James Walker, Elmer Waters, and Eddie West.
Subsequent members included Billy Eckstine, Lewis Brown, Curley Hamner, Timmie Rogers, Charlie Shavers, Bubba Gaines, Dizzy Gillespie, Buster Brown, Louie Simms Carpenter, Albert Gibson, James Cross, Jimmy Wright, and honorary members Willie Bryant, Lionel Hampton, Sammy Davis, Jr., The Nicholas Brothers, Chuck Green, Joe Williams, and Dick Gregory. Billy Strayhorn served as president of the club from the early 1950s until his death in 1967. The club abolished the presidency in his honor.
More information about the Copasetics can be found at this website.
Here's a photo taken with a Copasetic cake in the shape of a tap shoe, with Andy in between Cookie and Buster, with Bubba, Brownie and others at the celebration. (New Paltz, New York in the 1970's.)