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Talkin' Broadway V.J.


Today's column is written by Linda Lerner of The Dance Council of North Texas and Carol Monaco of Tap 2000: Tap into America's Heart to Keep our Children Safe.

Fred Kelly Will Always Tap Into Our Hearts
by Linda Lerner

One of Tap's treasures will not be at this year's Tap Dance Celebration. Fred Kelly died March 15 at the age of 83 after battling leukemia. Fred gave so much of himself to support the dance community of North Texas. He generously accepted the invitation in 1996 to serve as an emcee and master class teacher and he has enthusiastically returned every year. A scholarship in the name of Gene, Louise and Fred is awarded annually at the National Tap Dance Celebration Banquet and Tap Showcase. This year there will also be a special tribute to Fred.

Fred was one of the five "Dancing Kellys," which included Joan, James, Gene and Louise and is credited with teaching his older brother, Gene, how to "Tap" Dance.

Fred was an award winning choreographer, director, actor, and dancer who received Tony Awards for Acting, for Comedy and for Dance. Fred produced, directed or took part in the first network drama series, soap opera, cooking show and talk show. Fred is also known for introducing the Mambo and the Cha-Cha to the New York City Dance Scene.

He also taught Queen Elizabeth and her sister Margaret how to dance when they were both still young princesses. By the mid- 50's his wife, Dottie, persuaded him to open a dance studio in Oradell, New Jersey, where he taught a young John Travolta to dance. He also taught at Pace University for 24 years. His daughter Colleen Beaman is a professor of dance at the University of Arizona in Tucson, and his son, Michael, has produced/directed episodes of "Suddenly Susan" and "Third Rock from the Sun" in L.A.

Fred had a soft spot for Dance Council in North Texas. He liked the way dance, and particularly tap, is supported, promoted and celebrated. He enjoyed being part of all of the festivities. His fans and friends will miss his glorious smile, the twinkle in his eye, his jokes and stories, but most of all, his warmth, enthusiasm and his friendship.

He played a major part in encouraging the planning committee to build the Tap Festival into the best grass roots celebration in the country. Always eager to help, he was excited about Dance Council's association with the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children and the Tap 2000 campaign and eagerly lent his name to help the cause.

The family requests that in lieu of flowers, contributions be sent to the Dance Council and earmarked for the Fred Kelly Foundation. The address is Dance Council, Sammons Center for the Arts, 3630 Harry Hines Blvd., Dallas, 75219. For information, call 214-219-2290.

THe Wonderful Life of Fred Kelly
by Carol Monaco

There is an old saying, "One man's life affects the lives of so many others, and when he isn't there, he leaves an awful hole in the world." Those words are so true.

If someone said to me a year ago that I would soon meet Fred Kelly and he would help me launch a nationwide child safety public awareness campaign through tap dancing, I would not have believed it. But that's exactly what happened.

I fell in love with tap dancing when I was a child after I saw Gene Kelly in An American in Paris. Gene Kelly was and is someone I greatly admire. So in May 1999, when the opportunity came to see Fred Kelly at the Smithsonian Institute, I jumped at it.

It was at that Smithsonian event that I learned May 25 is National Tap Dance Day, and as a volunteer with the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, I knew that May 25 is also National Missing Children's Day. What a combination!

I pitched the idea of promoting child safety with the help of dance studios and festivals nationwide to the National Center and it gave the go ahead. That was the beginning for Tap 2000: Tap into America's Heart to Keep our Children Safe.

Knowing about Fred Kelly's career as a dancer, instructor, choreographer, director and producer, he was the first man I wanted on board this campaign. With the help of my dance instructor Nancy Newell of D.C. Dance Collective and Linda Lerner of the Dance Council for North Texas, I contacted Fred and he agreed to help. Fred referred me to prominent people in the tap community and his name opened doors.

I spoke to Fred several times by telephone. Each time he gave me more people to contact, and each time I learned more about Fred Kelly the man. Fred was a kind, generous and humorous man who was no stranger to children's charities. He produced 24 cerebral palsy telethons as well as helped underprivileged children.

I also learned that it was Fred who taught Gene Kelly how to tap dance. Imagine if he hadn't Gene may have gone through with law school instead of going on to make those wonderful musicals which inspired so many people, including me, to learn how to tap.

Fred did not know it then, and I didn't realize it until just recently, but he put the steps in motion which have led to Tap 2000 -- his final benefit. And now people who know, love, worked with and took dance lessons from Fred are involved in this campaign, including his daughter Colleen Kelly Beaman, the Dance Council for North Texas, Dance Masters of America, Dance Educators of America, UNITY Inc., Acia Grey and the TAPestry Dance Company, Melba Huber, Nancy Newell and DC Dance Collective and so many others.

Thank you, Fred Kelly. We could not have gotten this far without you.

And thank you Linda and Carol! For more information on being a volunteer or to learn more about the Tap 2000 program or National Center for Missing and Exploited Childred contact:

Ms. Tristan Pierce, Coordinator
NCMEC National Volunteer Office
Urban County Government Center
810 Barret Avenue, Room 137
Louisville, KY 40204
(502) 574-0154
FAX: (502) 574-5190
Toll-free number (877)454-3705

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