Monday, 25 January 2010

The Bojangles Post

The Bill 'Bojangles' Robinson Monument in Richmond, VA

   Bill ‘Bojangles’ Robinson (1878 - 1949) is the perfect representative of a favoured archetype of mine; the energetic, sharply dressed, dynamic hoofer of the early 20th century. Alongside Gene Kelly, The Nicholas Brothers and, of course, Fred Astaire, he is also an ideal exemplar for the freedom, precise lines and pure élan of skilled tailoring. His capacity for generosity, dignity and rising up against all the odds that faced him are also excellent guidelines for living

   As a man of motion, his jackets gave him the freedom to perform his steps whilst looking his best. Look at how the low padded shoulders and the height of the armholes combine to allow him near-unrestricted movement without distorting the garment’s structure. The sweeping belly of his lapels and loosely structured fit add to his energy and agility immensely

   For those who appreciate my use of full cut trousers, this is where it comes from. What gives Bojangles the edge is that he has no need for my kaleidoscopic enthusiasm; his flamboyance lies in the cut, which is simply of its time


   There is any number of reasons as to why his style has not passed on into public legend, but he is as admirable to me as Cary Grant is to everyone else. Ever complimentary of other footwork talents, Astaire’s tribute to him in 1936's Swing Time may be history’s only relatively passable example of blackface, and I say that because I've no real reason to doubt Astaire's sincerity:

   Unexpectedly, his baton was taken up briefly in 2003 and 2004, by, of all people, in the ‘Hey Mama’ video and Usher in ‘Caught Up’, respectively. The choice of garments and silhouettes, along with the fact that both men use the videos to highlight their skill as dancers is indicative of inspiration, if not tribute

Dancing alongside Shirley Temple

   I wouldn’t go as far as to include myself as part of his legacy, although an uncle of mine teasingly referred to me as ‘Bojangles’ after I danced with everyone in sight at a recent wedding reception. I still can’t say that I’m not flattered

   Let's hear it for Mr. Bojangles

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I have a picture of Bill "Bojangles" Robinson snd Shirley temple I wanted to put it up with an auction. How, much do you think its worth?

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