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Let me introduce you to William Henry Lane, the inventor of tap dancing.
William Henry Lane was born circa 1825, in Rhode Island America.
He was taught to dance by Uncle Jim Lowe – a prominent jig and reel dancer.
In a unique opportunity, Lane was hired by PT Barnum the famous American showman.
It was unique as African Americans were rarely allowed on stage with white performers, let alone allowed to perform during that time.
In the 1840s you could see Lane entertain at PT Barnum’s American Museum and was also known in the Five Points district in New York City.
This was a melting pot of Irish immigrants and free African Americans, this was where he began to mix the Irish Jig and the African American vernacular dance.
As he grew older he entered many dance competitions.
Master Juba: The King of All Dancers
Lane was given the new name Master Juba: The King of All Dancers, after the juba style of dance that he incorporated with variations of the Irish jig.
Master Juba began to tour with the all-white Ethiopian Minstrel Group as “The Greatest Dancer In The World”.
Unfortunately, the show consisted of the Minstrels wearing Blackface and dressing up as enslaved people – which meant Master Juba had to wear Blackface too.
This launched his career outside the USA and he became the first African American dancer to perform with a minstrel group in the UK.
He was loved in England and had the audiences enthralled.
He soon caught the attention of Charles Dickens.
Charles Dickens used to write under the pseudonym “Boz”, whilst he travelled through America.
In 1842’s American Notes Juba was referred to as “Boz’s Juba”.
This endorsement helped him settle in London and he married an English woman and eventually opened a dance studio.
Juba unexpectedly died in 1852 in his early 20’s, however, his dance style, influence and legacy are still felt today.
We at Adeptales, salute you, Master Juba.