Gregory Hines forever

Dance · Film

The United States Postal Service, a valued part of our Federal government, has honored a great American dancer by issuing its 42nd stamp in the Black Heritage series featuring an image of Gregory Hines (1946–2003).

Hines was a monster-contributor to the dance field. Nominated for Tony Awards in the 1970s for three Broadway musicals — “Eubie!,” “Comin’ Uptown,” and “Sophisticated Ladies” — he won a Tony Award in 1992 for starring in “Jelly’s Last Jam.” He danced with his brother, Maurice, in Francis Ford Coppola’s 1984 film “The Cotton Club” and alongside Mikhail Baryshnikov in the 1985 movie “White Nights.” He appeared in the 1989 movie “Tap,” which highlighted three generations of tap dancers. He also hosted an Emmy-winning Public Broadcasting Service show about tap dancing, recorded a No. 1 R&B duet with Luther Vandross, twice hosted the Tony Awards, and acted in television sitcoms. He was a very good actor.

There is little I can add to further appreciation of this total dancer except to point out that his pairing with a great ballet dancer in WHITE NIGHTS (1985) was so very correct. To watch him dance was watch the vapor of dance history he ported in his tap technique, demeanor, and performance style.

their marvelous body language speaks reams about their training

Hines honored the masters of this indigenous American art form as a kind of last-in-the-lineage. (The same cannot be said of other contemporary tap stars.) In “What the Eye Hears: A History of Tap Dancing,” Hines told author Brian Seibert, “I found myself through them.” That’s why the term “forever” particularly fits.

More from Seibert:

“As the fifties passed into the sixties, the Hines Kids played the contracting circuit. In Las Vegas, they replaced Teddy Hale at the Moulin Rouge … In an opening act, they performed in the Catskills and toured with Count Basie and the Will Mastin Trio Starring Sammy Davis, Jr. Like Davis, whom Gregory idolized, they gradually mixed in more singing and comedy, relegating their tapping to a number or two. In the early sixties, they added their father, Maurice, Sr., on drums, and it was this act — Hines, Hines, and Dad — that you could see on The Tonight Show and Hollywood Palace.”

Art director Derry Noyes designed the Gregory Hines stamp, which features a 1988 photograph by Jack Mitchell.

Gregory Hines Commemorative Forever Stamp | at your local post office or purchase here

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