Even a plot twist-crazy soap opera writer couldn't have dreamed up this one: teen-ager Chester Whitmore, while pedaling his bike home from dance class (which he didn't like much) stops to help a man stranded by the side of the road. The grateful stranger, who just happens to be Fayard Nicholas of the world-famous tap team the Nicholas Brothers, spots the tap shoes dangling from the bike's handlebars and offers to give the young man a few tapping lessons. Now critics call Whitmore the best young hoofer of his generation.
Whitmore dazzles audiences around the world with his speed and finesse, but he's much more than a happy hoofer. As artistic director and star of the Black Ballet Jazz Troupe, he is most concerned with preserving the many dances of black America.
"Kids think they were the first ones to come up with moonwalking and poplocking," Whitmore said. "They don't know that those dances came from people with names like Rubber Legs, Snakey and Bubbles, and go all the way back to slave days."
Whitmore's group shows usually take the audience through a foot-blurring history of black dance, from the dances of New Orleans' Congo Square to the Cotton Club-era dances of the late '20s and the fad dances of the '40s, to the street dances of the '70s and '80s. ("We do 24 numbers in two hours," Whitmore says.)