Paul Draper


1909 – 1996

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Who was Paul Draper?

Paul Draper was a noted American tap dancer and choreographer. Born into an artistic, socially prominent New York family, the nephew of Ruth Draper was an innovator in the arts. Despite the pressure his family put on him to become an engineer, Paul's love for dance persisted and ultimately won out. His passion and unique style led him to international stardom.

Draper's training in tap dance was minimal. He was a self-taught tapper, having taken only six tap dancing lessons in his life, and he used his knowledge bank of ballet-based materials to influence his tap style. He learned tap at Tommy Nip's Broadway dance school in 1930. Much to the dismay of his family, Paul set off for London as a teenager hoping to find work as a tap dancer shortly after being introduced to the art form. He scraped together a living performing flashy routines in Europe and the United States, then enrolled in the School of American Ballet and realized the possibilities of combining tap and classical ballet.

In 1932, Draper made his solo debut in London. He introduced his new "Ballet-Tap" dance form and gained much notoriety for his unique style. He danced to a variety of music styles, but often incorporated Classical music into his routines. By 1937, he was performing at such venues as the Persian Room at the Plaza Hotel and the Rainbow Room. Carnegie Hall followed, then Broadway and a film version of William Saroyan's Time of Your Life. In 1940, he teamed up with Larry Adler, a virtuoso harmonicist. The two became a world-famous act, performing together until 1949. They appeared as regulars at New York's City Center. The act finally disbanded when jobs dried up after they were blacklisted as Communist sympathizers.. This put a halt on Draper's career. In 1955, Draper returned to the stage performing in Stravinsky's Histoire du Soldat at the Phoenix Theater. Jerome Moross's Gentlemen, Be Seated became another piece Draper could add to his resume in the 1960s. Draper also choreographed pieces for George Kleinsinger's Archy and Mehitabel at Goodspeed Opera House, and performed in the Broadway musical Come Summer during the sixties.

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Oct 25, 1909
  • United States of America
Sep 20, 1996

on July 23, 2013


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