MS. REBECCA SHEIR
Welcome back to "Metro Connection." I'm Rebecca Sheir. And this week, we are making connections. Earlier in the show, we met a local hip-hop artist who's connecting with audiences despite a hearing impairment. And we heard from a guy who's helping Washingtonians reconnect with the Anacostia River. But to kick off this part of the show, we're going to chat with a man who's connected with a number of superstars throughout his 69 years.
MR. MAURICE HINES
Like Lena Horn and Ella Fitzgerald and Judy Garland.
Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin.
Nat King Cole and Harry Belafonte and Sammy Davis.
Not to mention, says dance legend Maurice Hines, his younger brother, Gregory, who died of liver cancer 10 years ago, at the age of 57. Maurice helped plan his brother's memorial at New York's Apollo Theater.
As far as I'm concerned, Gregory was the greatest tapper I ever saw. And I did a number where I tapped with Gregory, with an empty spotlight, which was very emotional at that time because he recently passed away and it was really hard for me. But -- and the audience loved it. And it was very real; it was a real moment.
So Hines has taken that moment and expanded it in to an entire show. Maurice Hines Is Tappin' Through Life premieres at Arena Stage next month, before touring the country. And as Hines explains, using song, dance and story, he'll take audiences through his entire career, starting at the very beginning, when he and his brother were growing up with their mother in New York City.
She's the one that used to walk us down Lenox Avenue when we were three and five. And the people used to run out of the stores, and the beauty shops and the grocery stores and the liquor stores to look at us. And she told my father this and my father said, Well, what were they doing? And she said, Walking. That was before the word 'charisma' was used a lot. She said, They got something. I don't know what it is, but the people are running out just to look at them.
And Hines says that same something is present in his two Tappin' Through Life co-stars, Leo.
MR. LEO MANZARI
I'm 18 years old and I'm from Washington, D.C.
MR. JOHN MANZARI
I'm 21 years old from Washington, D.C.
Manzari, aka, the Manzari Brothers. You may remember this dynamic duo from Arena Stage's award-winning 2010 production, "Duke Ellington's Sophisticated Ladies," both of them clad in tuxedo pants and vests, Leo's mane of kinky curls exploding from his 6-foot-plus frame.
The Manzaris had been dancing from infancy, more or less, and were competing on a national level. But that show, directed by Charles Randolph-Wright and starring and choreographed by, yes, Maurice Hines, marked the brothers' first big theatrical splash. I recently sat down with Hines and the Manzari Brothers at Howard University, where Hines was teaching a jazz and hip-hop master class.
And he says the trio's creative collaboration began when he was teaching another master class at Duke Ellington School of the Arts back in 2009.
And it was mostly little girls. And then I took a step and I saw in the back these curls, Leo's curls pop up. And I said, Who's back there? They ain't no girl. That's a guy back there. He's too tall. So I didn't think anything of it. And then, at one point, I didn't see him and I went back and he was sitting holding his ankle. And so I said, Are you okay? Did you hurt yourself? So he, from behind me, he goes, yeah, my brother's okay.
I thought, oh, they're brothers. And I said to myself, well, this is exciting. I said, can you guys tap? And John, as you could tell, is full of himself already. So he said -- he says to me, yeah, we can tap. I said, well, yeah, okay. I'll tell you what you do. You come to the Lincoln Theater tomorrow for dance auditions, for the dance auditions and bring your tap shoes. Because I knew I already wanted them because they could do jazz and ballet.
So I knew I wanted them for the show. But I didn't have the idea of another set of tappers, you know, because it wasn't our thing, me and Charles Randolph-Wright. So they came and they tapped for me and they were sensational. They were sensational. I said, Charles, I know Arena Stage got no money, but I want both of them now. I want both of them. I'm the star of the show, don't let me use my power because I will.
Charles said, okay, Bruce, okay, okay. Be calm. Be calm. Because I got too excited, you know. Here's why, because I had discovered Savion Glover. And when I met Savion, he's tiny. I think 11 or whatever he was when I first saw him. And I talked to him as a young man. And I realized he didn't want to do anything but tap. So I knew my brother was the right one for him. And Gregory said to me, God bless his soul, he said, one day you're going to find the dancers that you like.
Because I like dancers who do everything. I don't like one-dimensional talent. I'm a snob about it, I have to admit. And I knew already they could do the jazz and the ballet and then they could tap. And when I told Charles this, I saw my brother smiling at me and said, I told you, Maurice. I told you you'd find them. It took me years. It took me years, but I did. And that's the gift that they have, besides the charisma, they're talented.
They sing. Because Gregory and I were raised in the Sammy Davis school. You had to do everything. You can't just do one thing. To have the options, you got to sing, you got to dance, you got to be funny, you got to go work the audience. It's a big thing as a performer. And the minute I saw them, they have it. It's amazing how the audience responds to them. And they're wonderful in my show. They're wonderful. They're gonna be so great.
They're making costumes already. They look so handsome. You know, at least Leo. John...
So if the show is autobiographical about your life, like, are you guys playing Maurice and Gregory at younger ages? How does that work?
No. They're sort of like an extension. Like they come in part of the show where after I do this number with Gregory as if he's with me and with an empty spotlight. And I do the first dance, Gregory and I, a little soft shoe. And then there's a film of Gregory and I that I'm hoping they can get, of Gregory and I tapping in Eubie on Broadway. And then right after that, I come back on and I say to them, like dancing with your brother.
Nothing like dancing with your brother. And I start tapping, and then he comes out. And then he comes out. And then we see what tap is going to go to, because they'd just seen Gregory and I do a kind of old style tap. It's exciting but it's so dated. And then they come with new stuff. And we see what tap has evolved to. They're the next generation.
You guys, when did you get started? How young were you when you started dancing, when you realized you could dance?
John is two and a half years older than me. But I started when I was two and he started when he was three. We started dancing then but we didn't start tapping together or getting really serious into tap until, like five years ago, five, six years ago.
You're just two and three? Some kids are barely walking.
Yeah, I know. It's one of those things, I mean, I feel like every parent, at least for little girls, they put their little girl into dance and, like, test it out. Almost everyone I know danced at some point ballet or something when they were two. So we were put into it. But, you know, as time progresses, you get more and more committed to it. And it's just something that we started to as possibly, like, a hobby.
Something that -- it wasn't promised to go as far as we did, as we're going. But we progressively got more committed to it.
What was it like when you were at that master class and this man, this legend, walks up to you?
Like Mr. Hines said, my ankle was actually just recovering. Because I'd sprained it at a national competition, like, a few months back. So I wasn't, like, fully willing to go to the class in the first place because my ankle, like, really hurt. Except my best friend's mom contacted my mom, sent her an email saying that Mr. Hines was teaching the class. So I knew it was important, and I knew it would be fun. So when we went, you know, I was in pain, but it was worth going to. I mean, I'm sitting here with you now.
You know, John, yeah, he's good. You know what I'm going to say about them, when you see them tap, you know, it's rhythm. It's close floor work. They really can do everything. They were much more far along than Gregory and I were at their age. When you got it, you got it. And they got it. They got it. Their future is limitless now. When we go to Hollywood, we're going to do a show at the New Theater in Beverly Hills, right in the center of the Hollywood homes.
All these stars, Angelina Jolie, I hope she's up the street because I got to meet her. And so we're going to be there for three weeks. Well, Hollywood is going to go crazy, Disney and all that. They're going to have a series. There's no doubt about it in my mind. I'm going to lose them, but I would be happy to lose them because they're going to have a great, big career.
That was the fabulous Maurice Hines and the marvelous Manzari Brothers. They'll be appearing in Maurice Hines Is Tappin' Through Life at Arena Stage starting on November 15th.
For more information and to see video of the Manzari Brothers in action, visit our website, metroconnection.org.
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