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Review: A revival of a revival: ‘No Maps on My Taps’ and ‘About Tap’ bring dance back to life

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Chuck Green in the documentary “No Maps on My Taps.”
(Milestone Films)

Let’s reinvent the term “clickbait” as a nonpejorative, percussive lure to signal the joyous return — through restoration by Milestone Films — of George T. Nierenberg’s 1979 tap dancing documentary “No Maps on My Taps” and his short follow-up from 1985, “About Tap.”

Partly credited with helping reinvigorate a sidelined dance form, “No Maps” spotlights a trio of veterans — Chuck Green, Bunny Briggs and “Sandman” Sims — in an intimate concert backed by bandleader Lionel Hampton. An hour-long swell of glorious African American history and feared-forgotten artistry, it toggles among these street-trained virtuosos exuberantly telling of the style’s heyday — Bill “Bojangles” Robinson was a god, tap contests ruled the alley behind the Apollo — and showing their stuff in thrillingly individualistic performances. (Green’s dapper hoofing to the Ellington classic “Caravan” evokes nothing less than the adventure of exotic travel, and when Sims elegantly works his square of dusted sand, the shuffle beat is almost hypnotic.)

The more stylized, studio-bound “About Tap” is hosted by tap’s celebrated late-20th-century custodian/innovator Gregory Hines, whose Broadway fame in “Eubie!” surely helped inspire “No Maps.” “About” adds a couple of extra shadings: the gliding grace of master Jimmy Slyde, and the polyrhythmic footwork of Steve Condos. Together, these films make a breathtaking case for tap as the ultimate bridge between music and dance: the body an instrument, the feet in sync, the movement and sound something to behold.

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‘No Maps On My Taps’ and ‘About Tap’

Running times: 58 minutes and 25 minutes

No rating

Playing: Ahrya Fine Arts, Beverly Hills

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