HEATHER CORNELL LEGACY PROJECT
Below is our Zoom Session from Oct 20. It includes some updates, changes, and addresses some common questions.
Long time mentees and renowned tap dancers Travis Knights, Allison Toffan, and Ella Steele began collaborating in 2021 to start the first phase of the Heather Cornell Legacy Project - a lengthy venture that will likely span the next 15 years. The goal is to disseminate her knowledge, history and teachings to the largest demographic possible without losing the inherent oral traditions. Being a top practitioner in the field, the importance of embarking on this project now is vital, while Heather is able to lead it and fully participate in it.
“I have the unique blessing of carrying much of the oral history of the original vaudevillians who defined tap dance. For over a decade I studied and performed with, and created projects for a number of these artists - Charles “Cookie” Cook (Cook & Brown, Kiss Me Kate), Steve Condos (Condos Brothers, stage and film), Buster Brown (Speed Kings, Bubbling Brown Sugar), Chuck Green (Chuck and Chuckles, Ellington Orchestra), Eddie Brown (Bill Robinson Show, Evolution of Jazz w/ Jon Hendricks), and Harriet Browne (Silver Belles). Many of these dancers have little or no remaining recordings of their work, their approach, their pedagogy and their contributions. They passed on their work through oral tradition directly from artist to artist.”
In its entirety, this project has many components and will evolve through many phases. Current components include:
1. Archives - dating back to the 80s and rapidly degrading, the goal is to make them public, while maintaining their integrity by:
a) digitizing historical video, audio, press materials and musical charts
b) creating a cataloging of metadata
c) create an online presence
2. Body of Work - passing on Cornell’s creative work to the next generation” of professionals by:
a) using the archives for the mining of information and to give access to a foundation of a folkloric tradition
b) passing on some key works
c) build a multi generational community of dancer/musicians for the next stage of the project
3. Dissemination - this will happen in a number of phases but will include:
a) working to define a new approach to tap pedagogy, one that is equally rooted in the approaches of both music and dance
b) creating intergenerational in-studio encounters with artists who were involved in a stage of the archival work
c) assembling a multi-generational touring company who’ll share this work through performances, lecture demonstrations, and master classes.
With the archival process now in its beginning stages, we begin our journey into dissemination with phase one: Making connections with guest mentors Dianne Walker, Max Pollak, and Andy Milne.
Phase one has been made possible due to the generous support from the Ontario Arts Council and Canada Council For The Arts.