StoryCorps Griot: Dancing Feet In this week's StoryCorps Griot, 92-year-old Henry Belcher tells his friend about his tap dancing days in 1930s Pittsburgh.
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StoryCorps Griot: Dancing Feet

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StoryCorps Griot: Dancing Feet

StoryCorps Griot: Dancing Feet

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FARAI CHIDEYA, host:

Time now for StoryCorps Griot. Each Tuesday, we bring you a story from this project that's recording black Americans across the country.

Henry Belcher and Major A. Mason III are two friends who came to StoryCorps to talk about Henry's tap dancing days. He started performing as a teen in Pittsburg in the 1930s.

Mr. HENRY BELCHER (Former Tap Dancer): Well, I had a buddy and he used to dance up and down the docks down there. For, you know, nickels, dimes and pennies and things. And naturally, he taught me the steps he knew. And you go to the shows or go to the movies and you see certain one do different kind of steps and you practice them. That was your teacher.

Mr. MAJOR A. MASSON III (Henry Belcher's friend): Did you guys dance on the streets then?

Mr. BELCHER: Right. Right. We have jam sessions on the corners. You know, they had different dances, you know. The one that was called the sham, boogie, fall off the log. You dance a little. You rap a little, likeā€¦

(Singing) Step back your apple jack. Sham, sham, sham. Now dig it, Zack(ph).

We had a trio. It was called the Six Sensational Sizzle and Shoes. We went to New York in '39 but the more money my partners made the worse they got. They get to drink in and fool around with drugs and what not.

Mr. MASSON: And so you gave it up.

Mr. BELCHER: Yeah. I told them - I said you all go ahead. I'm just going to get me a job and forget it. I got married and settled down, and forgot about dancing.

Mr. MASSON: Well, I know when I first met you were tap dancing again. So how did you get back into tap dancing?

Mr. BELCHER: Gregory Hines and a bunch came here. They said they wanted to know if there was any old-time dancers ever around. So they come and got me, and they say, well, come on down and do a show with us. So after I went down and did the show, one of the boys from - old-timer from Pittsburg here, I told him, I said, well, we might as well get together and form a team here in Pittsburg. And we did. That was a wonderful experience. I didn't make a lot of money, I mean, I have no million dollars but I had a lot million dollars worth of experience and it was a wonderful, wonderful journey doing that, you know.

(Soundbite of song "Sunny Side of the Street")

CHIDEYA: Ninety-two-year-old Henry Belcher with his friend Major A. Mason III. They were both at the StoryCorps booth in Pittsburg. Henry Belcher used to dance to this Dizzy Gillespie tune, "Sunny Side of the Street."

(Soundbite of song "Sunny Side of the Street")

CHIDEYA: The next stop on the StoryCorps Griot tour is Oakland. All the Griots initiative recordings are archived at the Library of Congress. A copy of each interview will also go to the National Museum of African-American History and Culture in Washington, D.C.

To find out how to record your interview, and to hear more from StoryCorps Griot, go to nprnewsandnotes.org.

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