Born March 20, 1929 in Dallas, Texas, Bryant was recognized for his decades of achievements as a multigenerational tap instructor and faculty member of the Osher Lifelong Learning Program. The celebration took place last Friday, June 5th, from 1:30pm-3:30pm in the Gerontology Center of Salazar Hall (C98).
With nearly seven decades of dance experience, Bryant has been honored with numerous awards, including the “Tradition in Tap Series” in New York City earlier this year, “Legend of Los Angeles” at the St. Barnabas Senior Services black-tie gala in Dowtown LA, and in 2006 was named a Los Angeles Cultural Treasure and Ambassador of Tap for the city of Los Angeles by the Los Angeles Cultural Affairs Department. Bryant has history working with legendary jazz artists such as Duke Ellington, Nat “King” Cole, Dizzy Gillespie, and Charlie Parker, not to mention his mentorship with Bill “Bojangles” Robinson. In 2004, Bryant paid homage to Duke Ellington during a “Sacred Music” concert at the Walt Disney Concert Hall.
Bryant finds new techniques into his tap history curriculum effective. He uses diverse methods in his lectures and shares early roots of tap culture with students.
Connie Corely, a CSULA Social Work Professor and Director of the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute (OLLI), worked with Bryant for several years. “Ardie may be THE last member of a generation of tap geniuses. It’s incredible to see where students begin and in less than 10 weeks they can do complex tap routines”, Corley said.
Now at 80 years old, Bryant continues to perform his routines, and is currently writing a book about his life, which will soon stock the shelves of jazz and tap libraries. The archive of Ardie Bryants’ jazz and tap legacy are stored at the Smithsonian Institution’s National Museum of American History as part of the Jazz Oral History Exhibit.
Former Dance student Melanie Keller explained her experience in Bryant’s beginner and advanced tap classes. “Ardie is canning, he keeps everyone on the same page and understands how to push each student fairly,” Keller said. After his birthday party he describes the best things about being 80. “I’m grateful to be in good health with a positive attitude and still passionate for what I love,” said Bryant. Not only does Bryant influence his students with tap mastery, but he encourages them to do the best they can and gives them life lessons of what really happens after they graduate from the University.
Prior to jazz music, Ardie Bryant danced to the swinging sounds of Dizz Gillespi. After studying various records and rhythms from the B-Bop culture, Bryant soon became the innovator of the Jazz Tap style. At 18 years old, Ardie Bryant heightened his path by working with one of the most influential jazz musicians Charlie Parker in San Francisco, 1947.
Ardie Bryant described his 80th birthday celebration as emotional, and was happy to see many of his former students succeeding in the commercial market after graduation, “Public education is the equalizer in America. Good education from pubic and private schools leads to participation in society at a higher level.”
The celebration included speeches by friends of Bryant, as well as a photo presentation by former student Chin Fong. The party lit up as seniors from the Hollenbeck Palms Retirement Community, better known as the “Silver Liners”, performed three dances with Pink Cowboy hats and illuminating tiaras. The ten female dancers ranged from 80-95 years old adding to the intergenerational audience involved in their dance steps.