GREGORY HINES Biography - Famous Poets and dancers


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Gregory Hines (14 February 1946-9 August 2003), jazz tap dancer, singer, actor,                     
musicians, and creator of improvised tap choreography, was born in New York City,                   
the son of Maurice Hines Sr. and Alma Hines. He began dancing at the age of not-quite-three,       
turned professional at age five, and for fifteen years performed with his older                     
brother Maurice as The Hines Kids, making nightclub appearances across the                         
country. While Broadway teacher and choreographer Henry LeTang created the team's                   
first tap dance routines, the brothers' absorption of technique came from                           
watching and working with the great black tap masters whenever and wherever they                   
performed at the same theaters. They practically grew up backstage at the Apollo                   
Theatre, where they were witness to the performances and the advice of such tap                     
dance legends as Charles "Honi" Coles, Howard "Sandman" Sims, the Nicholas                         
Brothers, and Teddy Hale (Gregory's personal source of inspiration). Gregory and                   
Maurice then grew into the Hines Brothers. When Gregory was eighteen, he and                       
Maurice were joined by their father, Maurice Sr., on drums, becoming Hines,                         
Hines and Dad. They toured internationally and appeared frequently on The                           
Tonight Show, but the younger Hines was restless to get away from the non-stop                     
years on the road, so he left the group in his early twenties and "retired" (so                     
he said) to Venice, California. For a time he left dancing behind, exploring                       
alternatives that included his forming a jazz-rock band called Severence. He                       
released an album of original songs in 1973.                                                       
When Hines moved back to New York City in the late 1970s, he immediately landed                     
a role in The Last Minstrel Show. The show closed in Philadelphia, but launched                     
him back into the performing arts, and just a month later came Eubie (1978) a                       
certified Broadway hit, which earned him the first of four Tony nominations.                       
Comin' Uptown (1980), though not a success, led to another nomination and                           
Sophisticated Ladies (1981) to a third. In 1992, Hines received the Tony Award                     
for Best Actor in a Musical for his riveting portrayal of the jazz man Jelly                       
Roll Morton in George C. Wolfe's production of Jelly's Last Jam, sharing a Tony                     
nomination for choreography for that show with Hope Clark and Ted Levy.                             
Hines made his initial transition from dancer/singer to film actor in Mel Brooks'                   
hilarious The History of the World, Part I (1981), playing the role of a Roman                     
Slave, that in one scene sees him sand-dancing in the desert. He followed that                     
in quick succession with Wolfen, an allegorical mystery directed by Michael                         
Wadleigh that is now a cult hit; in it, Hines played the role of a coroner. In                     
1984, he starred in Francis Ford Coppola's film, The Cotton Club (1984). Vincent                   
Canby in The New York Times wrote about Hines' rare screen presence in the film:                   
"He doesn't sneak up on you. He's so laid back, so self assured and so graceful,                   
whether acting as an ambitious hoofer or tap dancing, alone or in tandem with                       
his brother, Maurice, that he forces YOU to sneak up on HIM. The vitality and                       
comic intelligence that have made him a New York favorite in Eubie and                             
Sophisticated Ladies translate easily to the screen." The film was a seamless                       
blend of dance into the framework of the narrative. The fierce virtuosity of                       
Hines' dancing is seen in the White Nights (1985), in which he played an                           
American defector to the Soviet Union opposite Mikhail Baryshnikov, playing                         
Russian defector to the United States. "I haven't had a terribly traumatic                         
experience as a black person in this world, but I've had experiences," Hines                       
told Michael J. Bandler about the film. "My nature is to let them go--I wasn't                     
going to be burdened with a negative attitude. So for White Nights I had to dig,                   
but the pain was there." In 1988, Hines starred in a film that combined his                         
penchant for both dance and drama, Tap. With full-scale production numbers                         
filmed on location in New York City and Hollywood, and with an original                             
soundtrack created especially for the look and style of the film, Tap became the                   
first dance musical to merge tap dancing with contemporary rock and funk musical                   
styles. It also featured a host of tap legends, including Sandman Sims, Bunny                       
Briggs, Steve Condos, Harold Nicholas and Hines' co-star and show business                         
mentor, Sammy Davis, Jr.                                                                           
Hines' extensive and varied film resume includes teaming with Billy Crystal in                     
director Peter Hyam's hit comedy, Running Scared, and the next year with Willem                     
Dafoe, in Southeast Asia, in the military thriller Off Limits. He starred in                       
William Friedkin's dark comedy, Deal of the Century, with Sigourney Weaver and                     
Chevy Chase; Penny Marshall's military comedy, Renaissance Man, co-starring                         
Danny DeVito; The Preacher's Wife with Denzel Washington and Whitney Houston,                       
once again with director Penny Marshall; Waiting to Exhale, with Angela Bassett                     
and Whitney Houston for director Forest Whittaker, and Good Luck, with co-star                     
Vincent D'Onofrio. He also appeared in the offbeat ensemble comedy, Mad Dog Time,                   
with Jeff Goldblum, Ellen Barkin, Gabriel Byrne, and Richard Dreyfuss. In 1994,                     
Hines expanded his talents to include the role of film director. His directorial                   
debut was the independent feature, Bleedings Hearts, shot on location in New                       
York. A contemporary romantic drama, it explored the precarious relationship                       
between a thirty-year-old, white, male radical and a black, female high school                     
Hines work in television is equally diverse. In 1989, he created and hosted                         
Gregory Hines Tap Dance in America, a PBS television special that featured                         
veteran tap dancers, established tap dance companies, and next generation of tap                   
dancers. The film was nominated for an Emmy award, as was his performance on                       
Motown Returns to the Apollo. On the USA Network, Hines starred with Annette O'Toole               
in the critically acclaimed original film, White Lies, based on the novel                           
Louisiana Black by Samuel Charters. He also starred on TNT with Christopher                         
Lloyd in Lewis Teague's T-Bone and Weazel; with Sinbad, James Coburn and Burt                       
Reynolds in the comedy western, The Cherokee Kid; with Judd Hirsch and F. Murray                   
Abraham in Showtime's urban drama, The Color of Justice; on CBS-TV with Jean                       
Smart in the thriller, A Stranger in Town; on the USA Network in the                               
psychological thriller, Dead Air, and in Subway Series, the anthology-style film                   
series for HBO directed by Ted Demme. Hines made his television series debut in                     
1998, playing Ben Stevenson, a loving single father hesitantly re-entering the                     
dating world on CBS-TV series, The Gregory Hines Show. As Ben Doucette, he made                     
up part of the gifted ensemble that won NBC an Emmy Award for Best Comedy Series                   
in 2000 for Will and Grace. He also earned an Emmy Nomination as Outstanding                       
Lead in a Miniseries or Movie for his portrayal on Showtime of the legendary and                   
groundbreaking dancer/film star Bill Robinson in Bojangles, and also starred in                     
the ABC/Touchstone mid season television series, Lost At Home. For three years,                     
Hines was the voice of "Big Bill" on Bill Cosby's animated series for                               
Nickelodeon, Little Bill. He voiced and sang one of the key characters (alongside                   
Eartha Kitt, Patti LaBelle and Vanessa Williams) in the Fox TV/Coca Cola                           
animated musical special, Santa Baby. He made his television directorial debut                     
with The Red Sneakers, for Showtime, and also appeared in the film, which                           
centers on a 17 year-old high school student--more mathematician than athlete--who                 
becomes a basketball sensation through the gift of a magical pair of sneakers.                     
Throughout an amazingly varied career, Hines continued to be a tireless advocate                   
for tap in America. In 1988, he lobbied successfully for the creation of                           
National Tap Dance Day, now celebrated in 40 cities in the United States and in                     
eight other nations. He was on the Board of Directors of Manhattan Tap, the Jazz                   
Tap Ensemble, and the American Tap Foundation (formerly the American Tap Dance                     
Orchestra). He was a generous artist and teacher, conscious of his role as a                       
model for such tap dance artists as Savion Glover, Dianne Walker, Ted Levy, and                     
Jane Goldberg, creating such tap choreographies as Groove (1998) for the Jazz                       
Tap Ensemble, and Boom for the 1997 Gala for President and Mrs. Bill Clinton,                       
filmed for (ABC) at the Ford Theater in Washington D.C.                                             
Like a jazz musician who ornaments a melody with improvisational riffs, Hines                       
improvised within the frame of the dance. His "improvography" demanded the                         
percussive phrasing of a composer, the rhythms of a drummer, and the lines of a                     
dancer. While being the inheritor of the tradition of black rhythm tap, he was                     
also a proponent of the new. "He purposely obliterated the tempos," wrote tap                       
historian Sally Sommer, "throwing down a cascade of taps like pebbles tossed                       
across the floor. In that moment, he aligned tap with the latest free-form                         
experiments in jazz and new music and postmodern dance." The New York Times                         
dance critic Anna Kisselgoff described Hines' performance in 1995: "Visual                         
elegance, as always, yields to aural power. The complexity of sound grows in                       
intensity and range."                                                                               
In addition to his work on the dance and theatre stage, in film and on                             
television, Hines' wide-ranging career also included making a 1987 album called                     
Gregory Hines, and writing introductions for books Brotherhood in Rhythm: The                       
Jazz Tap Dancing of the Nicholas Brothers by Constance Valis Hill, and Savion!                     
My Life in Tap, a biography by Mr. Glover for children. Everything Hines did was                   
influenced by his dancing, as he told Stephen Holden in a 1988 interview with                       
The New York Times: "Everything I do," he said, including "my singing, my acting,                   
my lovemaking, my being a parent." He died in Los Angeles at the age of fifty-seven.