(02/06/14) - During Black History Month, the Genesee District Library honors local men, women, and organizations in the African American Community.
This week, ABC12 News will highlight five honorees who come from different walks of life, but have one thing in common - the desire to make a difference in their community.
Thursday, we honor Bruce Bradley.
Bradley is considered one of the masters of Tap dancing - although he didn't pick up the art form until later in life.
"I didn't learn to tap dance until I was 33," he said.
His love of dance, however, began much earlier, as a young boy growing up on Flint's south side. His older sister would be his first teacher.
"She was into American Band Stand and dancing and she would make me dance with her everyday. And you know, back then, there was a lot of hand dancing, and so I learned how to bop, how to slow dance, do the turns and was pretty good at it," Bradley said.
It wasn't long before he discovered that dancing came with perks.
"I learned there was power in the dance - it made you very popular with the ladies," he said.
Growing up, he never had any formal dance lessons - he was self-taught. After college, he got married and began singing.
"I started doing Jazz Singing, I started a Jazz Band and we would go out and do gigs, little did I know that was preparing me for my next endeavor," he said.
His raw talent and discipline took him to stages all over the world, singing and dancing, but it was during a show in Toronto that he had a revelation.
"Most of the people in the business were trained dancers," he said.
So, in his early 30s, he decided to become one too.
"I took one lesson from him a week, and it cost me $50 an hour and back then that was a lot of money," he said.
It proved to be money well spent, because he would soon become the teacher sharing his talent.
"Everything I would learn I would give it to them. They would just take to it. It might take me two or three days just to pick up a step and they would learn it like that. I said, 'Wow, that's amazing,'" he said.
It was that moment when the great performer knew he had a purpose beyond the stage.
"This is my life's work, this is what I love to do, make a difference in kids' lives," he said.
In 2000, Bradley founded Tapology, a festival of tap dance that draws dancers from all over the country.
"After going to festivals and taking our kids and exposing them to kids and I saw how much they were learning by being exposed to all of these great dancers, I said, 'Man, if I can do this in Flint, look how many more kids I could impact in our community,'" he said.
Not all of his students will go on to become professional dancers, but he says they all will benefit from a life-changing experience through learning the art of tap dance.
Although many of his students don't become great dancers, they become great people.
"There is no thing that I enjoy more than to work with a child, especially one that has difficulty and to watch their confidence grow and their technique, their enthusiasm, their technique, it just, it changes them and I I love that, I love my work, I love impacting the lives of kids and helping them become their dreams," he said.
The Genesee District Library will honor Bruce Bradley and others this Saturday during the annual Black History Month Brunch. The brunch will be held at the Riverfront Banquet Center in Flint.
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