In 1983 I received the blessing of studying tap dancing with Jimmy Slyde.
Crazy, I know!
Just to watch him move across the floor live and in person – it was a feast for the soul. It was nearly impossible to dance in his presence because I was spellbound (and kind of clumsy). I am sure he could see I was mesmerized and so a few times he talked with just me after class, about dance and how he composed his steps.
It was sad, to me anyway, I remember at the time, that the other students were (snobbily) expecting to learn show dance. What they really missed was that Slyde was much more of a philosopher than a teacher of steps: a true artist in the most profound sense.  It was sad because he was not given the  respect he deserved.  But that was BI –  Before the Internet, those days. Now you can see him perform on youTube and there’s no mistaking this artistic genius.
He taught me that the steps are created by the dancer to mimic certain movements. Now, I guess I would explain what he meant as  “movement-sounds”. For example, he showed me the rhythm of the leaves blowing along the street, or the bus as it swooshes on by or the slide of the windows and gates that unlocking and greet the city dwellers in the morning.   When I listen and watch him perform  I understand these visual and rhythm songs. I’m certain that’s where the “slide” step he so famously created, once began.
Now, when I am dancing I often think of Jimmy and what he taught me about looking out into the world and finding the “rhythm sound” and repeating it in your dance movement.  He made dancing so much fun and to me, elevated it from performance show art, to soul poetry in motion.
I love you, Jimmy! (RIP)
Tara Pelton, B.A. is a graduate student at Northridge University in the field of special education. She is also a tutor. She works in Los Angeles.