Harlem’s “Buddy” Bradley, Tap Dancer And The First African-American To Run A British White Company

Buddy Bradley, born in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania in 1908. He staged dances in the great 1920s revues for Ziegfeld, George White, Earl Carroll and Lew Leslie’s legendary black revue Blackbirds. He also staged routines for such stars as Eleanor Powell, Ruby Keeler and trained Fred Astaire‘s sister Adèle Astaire.

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He was mostly self-taught and made his debut as a dancer in 1926 in the Florence Mills Revue in New York. Bradley was a major force in musicals and revue in Britain in the 1930s and 1940s.

In the 1930s he left New York and danced in London in C. B. Cochran’s 1931 Revue. There was a rumour that he was forced to leave New York because the Mafia owner of Harlem’s Cotton Club Herman Stark did not appreciate Bradley teaching his girlfriend to dance.

Bradley went on to work with Jessie Matthews and Jack Buchanan on their major musical shows and films throughout the 1930s. In 1932 he collaborated with Frederick Ashton on a ballet High Yellow. Bradley had to teach the ballerina Alicia Markova how to dance with snake hips. He said that the most difficult thing to teach classical dancers was how to bend their knees.

In 1933 C. B. Cochran invited Bradley to London to work on the Rodgers and Hart musical Evergreen. It was the first time a black dancer had worked on an all white show.

When tap fell out of favour in the 1950s, he concentrated on jazz dance. He became the first African-American to run a British white company when he formed his own group to appear in variety shows and television in the 1950s.

Until 1967 Bradley ran a dance studio in London. He also continued choreographing in England, France, Switzerland, Italy and Spain. His choreography mixed classical and modern dance and he also took movements from ice shows and jazz. When tap fell out of favour in the 1950s, he concentrated on jazz dance. He became the first African-American to run a British white company when he formed his own group to appear in variety shows and television in the 1950s (above).

Photo credit: Brook Bassett saved to Tap Dance Chorus girls practicing tap dancing with choreographer Buddy Bradley – UK – 1 February 1937

. Via source.

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