As his star rose in the '80s, this consistently innovative and remarkably humane actor-dancer (now 43) became a symbol of the Tap Revival, one of the decade's happiest cultural reclamation projects. Hines' style of tap, however, was disarmingly earthy, streetwise, personal and distinctly of the moment--without the painted smiles, oily audience courting and facile virtuosity that had placed tap specialists on the Endangered Species list.
Indeed, in the audition scene of "Tap" (the movie), Hines made a federal case out of not smiling, just as in the jailhouse solo early in the film--and the climactic "murder" solo in "The Cotton Club"--he unleashed a brooding, improvisational, ultimately cathartic style.
Yes, he could look almost conventionally elegant and nonchalant when required: in the Broadway revue "Sophisticated Ladies," early in the decade, for instance, or in a supersuave duet with Tommy Tune on a PBS "Dance in America" episode just this year. But those achievements were in homage to the past while his rebellious, rock-era approach to tap in the movie "White Nights" arguably reached out to a whole new audience.
He had two daring solos--one emotionally explosive, the other spatially extravagant--that gave his character a dimension missing in the screenplay and confirmed that he had become one of the great dancers of our time.
The Taste Makers project was edited by David Fox, assistant Sunday Calendar editor.