WHYY-TV to Broadcast Documentaries About University of the Arts Mambo Ballet, Tap Dance Legends

'Cuban Pete' and 'Dancing History – LaVaughn Robinson' to air in February

January 27, 2010

WHYY-TV, Philadelphia’s PBS affiliate, will air two documentaries in February that are directly associated with the School of Dance at the University of the Arts. Produced and directed by Barry Dornfeld, the former director of the University’s Communication program, "Cuban Pete" will air at 8:30 p.m. on February 3, and "Dancing History – LaVaughn Robinson" will air on February 10 at 8:30 p.m.

"Cuban Pete" includes interviews and rehearsal footage of the late Latin dance great Pedro "Cuban Pete" Aguilar and his dance partner Barbara Craddock as they created "Latin Magic," a 2003 mambo ballet for School of Dance students. The piece premiered at the Merriam Theater on December 12, 2003, "mesmerizing audiences with colorful costumes, up-tempo clave-based music and dancers perfectly recreating the glory of the Mambo," according to Craddock.

Known also as the "King of the Latin Beat" and "Mr. Mambo," Cuban Pete invented scores of dance movements and hand embellishments now viewed as standards of Latin dance. In his multi-decade career, he performed in movies, television and stage, and danced for American Presidents, heads of state and dignitaries. He adjudicated prestigious dance events worldwide and lectured on the history of Latin dance and music. He passed away in January 2009 at the age of 81. Craddock, known globally for her talent and passion for the mambo genre, is a schooled ballroom dancer who specialized in Latin dance. She also performs ballet, tap and jazz; studied voice and piano; and brings more than 40 years of teaching and performance experience to the dance floor. To commemorate the airing of this documentary, Craddock will be at the University of the Arts on February 4 – 5 to deliver a Latin dance history lecture and master dance class.

The Robinson documentary profiles the legendary tap dancer, teacher and choreographer who helped promote international recognition of "hoofing" during his long and illustrious career. Known as having "the fastest feet in the East," the native Philadelphian learned to tap on a linoleum floor in the shed kitchen of his family’s South Philadelphia row home. He polished his skills at the corner of Broad and South streets and eventually shared the stage with icons Cab Calloway, Tommy Dorsey, Maynard Ferguson, Ella Fitzgerald, Billie Holiday, John Coltrane, Charlie Parker, Gregory Hines and the Nicholas Brothers. The recipient of a National Endowment for the Arts Folk Arts Heritage Award (NEA), several NEA Choreographer’s Fellowships, and a Pew Fellowship for Choreography and Performance Art, Robinson joined the University’s faculty in 1982, built the tap program from the ground up and retired in 2005 as a Distinguished Professor. Robinson passed away in January 2008 at the age of 80.

Both documentaries will be broadcast on the following channels: 12.1 over air, Comcast 240 and FiOS 512.

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