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Interview with Brenda Bufalino, 2018

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Interview with Brenda Bufalino, 2018
Bufalino, Brenda (Interviewee)
Waag, Tony (Interviewer)

Dance Oral History Project

Dates / Origin
Date Created: 2018-04-02
Library locations
Jerome Robbins Dance Division
Shelf locator: *MGZMT 3-3474
Bufalino, Brenda
Coles, Honi, 1911-1992
Summerlin, Ed, 1928-2006
Waag, Tony
Clayton, Jay
Irwin, Bill, 1950-
State University of New York at New Paltz
National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America
American Tap Dance Orchestra
American Tap Dance Foundation
International Tap Association
Tap dancing -- United States
Tap dancing -- Europe
Jazz tap -- United States
Tap dancing -- Study and teaching
Jazz tap -- Europe
Women tap dancers
Dance festivals
Oral histories
Interview with Brenda Bufalino conducted by Tony Waag on April 2, 2018, in New York City (N.Y.), for the Dance Oral History Project of the Jerome Robbins Dance Division, at the New York Public Library for the Performing Arts, at Lincoln Center, New York, N.Y. An earlier Dance Oral History Project interview was conducted with Brenda Bufalino, by Joan Arnold, on April 24 and May 5, 2014. This earlier interview is cataloged in the Library's collection under the title Interview with Brenda Bufalino, April 24 and May 5, 2014; the call number of the transcript of this interview is: *MGZMT 3-3035.
Content: Sound quality is excellent.
Venue: Recorded for for the Dance Oral History Project of the Jerome Robbins Dance Division, New York Public Library for the Performing Arts 2018, April 2 New York (N.Y.).
Funding: The creation and cataloging of this recording was made possible in part by [Schlesinger].
Physical Description
Born digital
Extent: 2 audio files (approximately 2 hr. and 57 min.)
Streaming file 1 (approximately one hour and 27 minutes), April 2, 2018. Brenda Bufalino speaks with Tony Waag about her career beginning with her birth on September 7, 1937; her move from Swampscott (Mass.) to New York City in 1955; her later move to New Paltz (N.Y.) in 1965; dancing in clubs in Boston (Mass.) when she was a teenager; performing with the Bobby Clark Dancers when she first came to New York City; her two years or so as a calypso performer in nightclubs; quitting the nightclub circuit to become a writer; meeting her husband and their eventual move to upstate New York where she raised their children, Jebah [Baum] and Zach [Zachary Baum]; reconnecting with Ed Summerlin when looking for a composer for a play she had written; his composing for the National Council of Churches [National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America]; writing poems that Summerlin set to music for the Council; following her separation from her husband, the launching of her career as a teacher and choreographer at New Paltz college [State University of New York at New Paltz]; her projects at that time for the National Council of Churches including the film Traveling; her forming of her own avant-garde dance company, which eventually became The Dancing Theatre; her continuing to collaborate with Summerlin, on her works for the Theatre including Watch the Bouncing Ball or, the Diary of Samuel and Rosalie; her use of tap dancing set to electronic music in her choreography and how this led to her teaching tap dancing, under the name "hoofing," at New Paltz college; her collaborating with the Copasetics and (Charles) Honi Coles in New Paltz, on productions for the McKenna Theatre; the production history of Singin' Swingin' and Wingin', which she had developed with Honi Coles in New Paltz; other collaborations with Honi Coles that originated in New Paltz including Sounds in Motion; her touring with Coles and others including Bubba [Leslie Gaines], Cookie [Charles Cook], and Buster [James Brown] as well as the Copasetics and Jane Goldberg; the Newport Jazz Festival (around 1980) including an anecdote about the Benny Carter's All-Stars Band; Morton Gould's Tap [Dance] Concerto; why Honi Coles found it challenging; working with the bass player [Charlie] Kniceley to choreograph and set the work on Coles; touring (in the early 1980s) with Honi Coles, the Copasetics and others in England and France, including the festival produced by Avra Petrides in St. Chinian; her dancing in jazz clubs in New York City at this time, in particular the Blue Note; her impressions of Bill Irwin and how she came to appear as a guest on his show The Courtroom; her other dance-related activities at the time including her development of the characters The Racing Pigeon and the Woodpecker; touring as a solo act; forming her first New York company, Bufalino and Company, and touring in the United States; the tap dance festival phenomenon including an anecdote about how Gregory Hines spoke out to get female tap artists onstage; the role the festivals played in the dissemination of tap dancing and its pedagogy; her and Steve Condos' (independently) developing a pedagogical technique for tap dancing; some of the prominent male tap dancers at the festivals; the panel discussions and meetings with fellow dancers such as Lynn Dally, Jane Goldberg, and Dianne Walker at the festivals; [Charles] Cholly Atkin's role as master of ceremonies at the festivals; Marda Kim and the International Tap Association, in particular the value of its newsletters; the creation (in 1989) of Woodpeckers [Woodpeckers Tap Dance Center and Inter-Arts Space]; her extensive international touring, in particular her regular tours in Germany and Israel; how her teaching students from abroad has led in effect to an international tap dancing network; the formation of the International Tap Dance Orchestra; various tap dance festivals in Europe; the American Tap Dance Orchestra [as of 2001, the American Tap Dance Foundation]: its origins, the original dancers and its first gig, at Battery Park (in New York City) on July 4, 1986; other major productions that followed including her collaboration, The Four Seasons [/Jazz Version], with Louise Tiranoff and Benny Golson (among others); the continuing challenge of obtaining sufficient technical support appropriate for her productions, including an anecdote about Meredith Monk's urging her to stand up for herself. Streaming file 2 (approximately one hour and 30 minutes), April 2, 2018. Brenda Bufalino speaks with Tony Waag about the work Inspired by Gershwin she choreographed [for the American Tap Orchestra] for the Central Park Summer Stage series in 1988, to music from [George] Gershwin's opera Porgy and Bess; her dual role as choreographer and arranger; the concepts underlying her musical and vocal arrangements for the different sections of Inspired by Gershwin; her and Honi Coles' frequent discussions about her musical arrangements; her break-out performance with the Copasetics at the Village Gate; how Honi Cole's relationship with his audiences influenced her relationship with hers; some of the many musical and choreographic elements that she considers when creating a tap dance production; her adaptability, and love of blending disparate elements; the publicity value of performing "Haitian Fight Song" on the PBS [Public Broadcasting Service] program, Gregory Hines's Tap Dance in America; her collaboration with Carman Moore on Touch, Turn, Return, which was first performed at Judson Dance [Theater]; its reprisal at the Joyce [Theater] together with her new work, for Honi Coles, entitled Buff Loves Basie; the tour to Latvia, Estonia, Poland, Turkey, and Cypress, sponsored by USIA (United States Information Agency); the Woodpeckers Tap Dance Center and Inter-Arts Space, including her vision of it as a space for all kinds of art; the many activities conducted there, from art exhibitions to workshops; a period of inauspicious events including the loss of government funding and the closing of Woodpeckers [in 1995]; the Tap Opera, a collaborative work with Jay Clayton; its first iteration in Seattle, Washington; her subsequently writing the libretto, in the form of poems about Gertrude's Nose (a peak in the Shawangunk range); additional workshops and performances including at Dance Theater Workshop; the later use of a poem from the libretto by a group trying to save the mountain from development; her current incarnation of the work as the Mountain Suite [:Ode To The Shawangunks]; her activities in the years after the American Tap Dance Orchestra closed including her European [and other foreign] tours; her use of tails and masks on her dancers to create animal imagery; the "Savion [Glover] period of deep improvisation" and the drying up of tap dance venues and festivals; reasons she was able to keep working during this period; the creation [in 2001] of the New York City Tap Festival; Tap Divas, an all-female evening of female tap dancers (including herself, Lynn Dally, and Sarah Petronio); her professional activities in New York City during these years: participation in Tap City, revivals of earlier works, new shows, and collaborations with Jay Clayton and Joe Fonda; her play The Last Rehearsal Hall, produced by Sound Check [a tap dance concert series organized by Tony Waag] and performed at Dance Theater Workshop; her teaching at the Tap Dance Center, part of the American Tap Dance Foundation [successor in effect to the American Tap Dance Orchestra]; Tony Waag speaks about the role of New York City Tap Festival in revitalizing non-profit world support of tap dance and how class with Bufalino inspired him to pursue tap dancing; Bufalino speaks about the important role colleagues and partners have played in her career, for example, Dorothy Anderson at the Dancing Theatre, Tony Waag, as executive director [at the American Tap Dance Orchestra], and Barbara Duffy as a dance captain; the continuing fight for recognition of tap dance as a legitimate art form; her non-dance projects including her unpublished novella, Song of the Split Elm [since published] and her project to write additional novellas; her ceramics, her poetry, and her short stories; her upcoming trip to Europe.
Type of Resource
Sound recording
RLIN/OCLC: 1190698843
NYPL catalog ID (B-number): b22251838
Universal Unique Identifier (UUID): 096b5c50-c9e2-0138-86d5-00038eea4288
Rights Statement
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Item timeline of events

  • 2018: Created
  • 2020: Digitized
  • 2023: Found by you!
  • 2024

MLA Format

Jerome Robbins Dance Division, The New York Public Library. "Interview with Brenda Bufalino, 2018" The New York Public Library Digital Collections. 2018.

Chicago/Turabian Format

Jerome Robbins Dance Division, The New York Public Library. "Interview with Brenda Bufalino, 2018" New York Public Library Digital Collections. Accessed September 30, 2023.

APA Format

Jerome Robbins Dance Division, The New York Public Library. (2018). Interview with Brenda Bufalino, 2018 Retrieved from

Wikipedia Citation

<ref name=NYPL>{{cite web | url= | title= (sound recording) Interview with Brenda Bufalino, 2018, (2018)|author=Digital Collections, The New York Public Library |accessdate=September 30, 2023 |publisher=The New York Public Library, Astor, Lenox, and Tilden Foundations}}</ref>

Interview with Brenda Bufalino, 2018