It is a pleasure to introduce Andrew J. Nemr – protégé of the late Gregory Hines and an entertainer worth checking out in the prospective future. As we speak on the phone on a Saturday afternoon while he is at his practice studio in NY, this “interview” transforms into a conversation; it’s as if we are old time friends catching up.
After having three prospects to choose from – America, UK and Canada, his parents receive visas to Edmonton, Canada. In case you are wondering what this suburb has to offer, it used to boast the world’s largest mall prior to the arrival of the Mall of America. After a couple years, the family of three, Andrew being the only child, picks up once more and relocates to Alexandria, VA. Once settled, Andrew expresses interest in dancing, so the next best decision is to scout out local dance schools within walking distance from the house.
Eureka! They find one and after dabbling in tap, tumbling, jazz and modern, Andrew desires to be professionally taught and reach higher dancing goals. During this quest, his classmates attend competitions and he is one of three males who receive solo dance pieces.
Andrew does not know it just yet, however, his life is about to change into a world of new opportunities during a Rhythm Tap Company show in DC.
The director of the production advertises that Gregory Hines is part of an open rehearsal in New York, and this motivates Andrew to convince his parents to make the trek to NY to be a part of it. Fast forward to a year later the movie Tap (1989) erupts and takes over the silver screen like an epic phenomena. Andrew shares his experience at the tender age of nine years old, as this was the “A-ha moment. It was like nothing I’ve seen, people everywhere brought their tap shoes to the premiere. During the movie, they gave out huge posters- as a matter of fact I still have mine posted.” After the movie comes out, Andrew vows to follow Gregory and Savion Glover wherever they perform.
Finally, after investing a great amount of mileage from Alexandria, VA, to New York and D.C., Gregory Hines hands over his personal email to Andrew at fifteen years old. Savion forms an all male group including Andrew and for a few years of daily and weekend trips, tap dancing with Gregory becomes the new normal.
“What about school?”
“Well, let’s just say the principal and teachers were aware of our routine, so yes I missed a lot of classes, but we would travel, and then complete the school work on the way there or back home,” Andrew responds and we both laugh.
We transition into another part of the conversation and I ask Andrew the impact of Gregory Hines’ passing in August of 2003. While attending a birthday party, two months prior, Gregory calls him and informs Andrew of his illness and this is an example of the trust and bond formed over the years. Gregory requests to keep it as a secret and sadly a couple months later he passes away and his parents break the devastating news; Andrews’ family attends the memorial services in Los-Angeles.
“It feels as if I’ve lost a mentor, or uncle and after his death and Sammy Davis Jr. It seemed as if the tap movement just vanished,” Andrew recalls.
However, this does not puncture the persistence to take the learning lessons and continue expanding the awareness of Tap Dancing. Andrew reconnects with Savion, during his senior year in College, as they temporarily separated to pursue other things.
Andrew chases after the “back-up” plan in Visual Arts and Computer Animation, and Savion goes off to produce epic Broadway productions including the most famous Bring in the Noise, Bring in the Funk.
The rendez-vous seems as if they never separated and pick up where they left off and go on the road together with a production called Ti-Dii.
We flip flop between subjects and enter the burning question that goes into preparation for his shows. In addition to investing three- four hours daily with one “off” day of practice, he incorporates an intense cross-fitness exercise regiment.
“If my actions reflect how I feel then in order for my actions to be good, I have to feel, good.” He translates his performance as an “emotional vocabulary” that has to be transported from his sense of awareness to his feet; what a great usage of word-play. As we conclude, Andrew shares his enthusiasm and excitement for his upcoming performance on 4/18/13 with his group Cats Paying Dues/CPD Plus and renowned musicians. Tickets are available by visiting the Cutting Room, and in the meantime check out his video.
-Favorite prospective location for performing: Baalbek Ruins in Lebanon
-Favorite color: Orange
-Favorite number: 23
-Coffee or Tea? He responds “tea- Lipton tea to be exact.”
-Favorite moments with Gregory Hines: having fun while stuck in between a set of revolving doors with Gregory and his parents.
Also while walking on the sidewalk a star-struck skateboarder passes Andrew and Gregory on the street, pursues to say to Gregory “ it can’t be you.” Gregory replies, “you’re right then it’s not me,” showing a humbled and fun side to Gregory’s personality.
-Awarded TED fellowship – tap danced while speaking at the event.
-In High School Andrew was one of two students selected to meet and sat next to Al Gore and the former President, Bill Clinton during the Technology and Education Public Awareness event.
By: Laura M. Artis.