Saturday, 5 June 2010


my mum's son (photo H.Schulz-Wendel copyright)


Near the end of his life Cornell Lyons lived in Berlin, in an unassuming street and in an unassuming, one bedroom apartment.

I met him in the summer of 1989, a time when I was trying to learn to play the saxophone and, more importantly when it comes to Cornell, tap-dancing.

Cornell had once been one-third of a trio that tapped, threw themselves into splits, break-danced and spun trays on their fingers – at the same time. I could spin a tray on my finger already, the tap dancing I needed help with; the splits I have always been happy to leave to others.

I don’t remember who told me about him, maybe it was Karl who knows everyone in the city, but one afternoon I followed the instructions on the piece of paper where I had scrawled his name and address and I came to a small block of flats midway along a street of mainly vegetable shops and junk stores.

Cornell was intimidating at first – very loud and very black; he was also twice my age. We drank tea, discussed my needs and arranged our first one-to-one session the following day in a small basement in Hitler’s disused former film studios .

When I arrived Cornell, who walked with a heavy limp due to a double hip operation, sat down and said; “Show me what you’ve got.”

I didn’t have a lot - “Well, this is my right foot….” .

I hadn’t made a lot of progress since the Spring and those first tentative steps in the Pineapple Dance Studios. “I know this”- I demonstrated an amateurish shuffle, “And I can do this” – and I fell over.

“No,, no, no!’ he shouted. Then he stood up awkwardly, grabbed my hand , dragged me to the centre and screamed; “you gotta sing! Dah, dah, da…da-da da-da da-da!” and he broke into a pretty weird version of tea-for-two; his plastic hips morphed into muscle and bone and he lost thirty years which were replaced by a burning intensity in the eyes and for the next hour started to transform me from stumbling novice to capable shuffler."Ya gotta SING IT."

A couple of days later I went back for more.

And sang with him.

Everything he taught me, and it was a lot as I went back the following year, is carefully written down on scraps of paper folded and stored in my mum’s tap book.

Some of it is still in my feet.

Finding the right teacher for you is important when you are learning something.


Anne Hodgson said...

hehehe what a clangk you guys must have stomped up on that stage.

As for your countdown, I wrote on Vicki's blog, can I steal your video tip? I'm all excited too. Spent Friday, before the sun came back,
and here
and here

Anne Hodgson said...

Janet Bianchini said...

I had a feeling the countdown was to do with the World Cup and was glad to see it confirmed over at Vicki's blog! Not much time left for the final countdown...

I agree with you about the right teacher - it can make or break enthusiasm for a subject.

popps said...

Anne, how excited? Would you like to join our fantasy football league?
Or just dance like in the video, feel free to use it .

Anne Hodgson said...
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Anne Hodgson said...
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Anne Hodgson said...