Letters To The Masters is a new series brought to you by Operation: Tap. We hope that this forum will allow today’s masters of tap dance to express why a certain master was of importance to them by writing them a letter! We hope you enjoy this beautiful piece written by our good friend Jason Janas to the ever masterful John Bubbles!
Dear Mr. Sublett
Hello sir, I hope that this letter finds you relaxed and happy. I'm doing pretty good for the most part. Being in my 30's now I usually wake up in pain, but that's too be expected at this point in the game as you I'm sure know all too well. But that's why we have meds, hot tubs, ice buckets, and whiskey!
I've actually been doing well as far as pain goes, I've been taking a lot of supplements for my joints. All natural stuff so it's not bad for me and there's no side effects thank goodness. I wonder if you had any major injuries. Every time I have seen you dance which isn't nearly enough, you've looked super agile and controlled. But the more miles we put on our bodies, the more we have to maintain them and I'll tell you what, it's easier to maintain than to overhaul. Right? So yea I'm always making sure I do my best to stretch and keep in shape. I want to dance for a long long time just like you did sir.
I've been on the road a lot lately and as you know that means not being able to practice at my spot. And/or at my favorite time. This makes me grumpy a little and anxious as well. Did you experience that as well? Bad floors and stages? Those are things I can't control and therefore cause anxiety lol. But just as you did, I make the time and make the spot and I make it happen. Easier to maintain right?. You always pop in my head in the practice room. Just your blend of tap dancing steps and jazz improvisation rhythms/music, is such a great platform to begin to create something. The perfect blend. I love your attention to detail sir, and your phrases. Some people may see steps, but I see past the actual step. I see and admire the attention to detail and the mastery of the step as you make it seem effortless and anyone else who sees it would think that they could do it too! That's genius sir!! The varsity show is my favorite and we'll talk about that later, but cabin in the sky and a song is born must have been so amazing to create. My favorite clip by you may be the Lucile ball show with Mel torme..I believe it was Called "Main Street USA". Your acting and timing vocally and dance wise, is simply off the charts incredible.
On the days I'm so tired I think about how you must have had days way worse and that motivates me. No matter how hard my journey has been, yours must have been way harder for different reasons and I admire you persistence and dedication. Your truly amazing sir. I know they say Mr. Bill Robinson was the grandfather, but your the father of tap dance sir. You've been apart of so many Important days in tap dance history!! I wish I could have been there in 1932 in London, when you and Ford (Buck) were the first black artists to appear on TV!! So incredible!! You were the true king that night!!
I wish i could dance with you sir..just once. I realize I'm not worthy but I promise I love tap dance with all my heart and I strive and fail for perfection. Talking about perfection, what was it like to teach Fred Astaire? That must have been intense! Did you know that Fred said you were the finest tap dancer of your generation?! I 100% agree lol! In my eye without your contribution, tap dance would be incomplete. Haha I wish you could see me do your cross over and single wing step. I practiced that varsity show clip so much sir. Younger dancers will see that step and go "oh I like that new step" and my first rhythm tap teacher Deborah Mitchell always said "whatever's old is new again". And it's so true. I just tell the dancers "sir John Bubbles!"
I wish you here sir, maybe we could play chess, as long as you don't cheat like you did on the Lucile Ball show with Mel Torme lol. "A jiggle is not a move". You were such a great actor and singer too! What was it like playing with Mel Torme and Lucile Ball? Were they cool? In fact, were most people black and white in showbiz respectful and cool? I'm sure that you faced some pretty weird and hurtful people but I hope that a lot of the people in showbiz treated you with the respect and alore that you deserve.
I wish you could see the impact that you have had on tap dancing sir!! So many young and hungry dancers not only in the US but around the world!! I've had the chance to teach and perform at tap festivals worldwide! The world loves tap dance sir and your such a big part of this!! I remember listening to Dianne Walker talk about you and I would just listen for hours, as she masterfully talked about you and made you sound almost God-like. And that was so amazing and inspiring for a young dancer like me who was searching for something to sink into. Once I got a taste of your rhythms and ideas from Derick Grant when I was in Imagine Tap, I was so intrigued and hungry for more. And after IT, when I went back to tapestry, Acia Gray gave me the opportunity to actually play you (The Varsity show) on tour in a show called "The souls of our feet". I was so honored and to this day is something that I'm so proud of. I spent 5 days a week, 3 hours a day for 3 months trying to recreate your solo. I was and am amazed by you. Like how is that much attention to detail humanly possible?! I'm not trying to blow smoke or whatever, but seriously they just don't "make them like you anymore" not too many anyway. Your creativity and imagination of how tap dancing should look, sound, and be perceived is perfect IMO. I can remember telling either Chris or Jumaane awhile back that if Tap dancing had a professional league you would be Jerry West! The logo! That silhouette of you in the beginning of the varsity show, sliding down the railing. BTW, what was that like? Scary? Fun? Acia never allowed me to try it. Smart on her part but I asked! How many takes did that take? Knowing you it was most likely the first take!
Jason Janas performing a tribute to John Bubbles.
And getting back to that whole GTA (global tap association) you would indeed be the logo and a unanimous first ballot hall of famer!! Sometimes it makes me sad to think that your greatness wasn't celebrated like it should have been but sir to me your batman, Magic Johnson, your the OG.
Without you I know that my dreams wouldn't have happened at all. Watching you dance gives me confidence. Your swagger, your style, and how you always smile even as you amaze. Your steps and abilities have transcended generations. You are loved and admired by many (not enough) but you have motivated, inspired, and helped so many. I wish you were here sir. I wonder if you can tell when ever I do or try one of your steps or if I watch your videos. I hope so. Your legacy I will never forget, Louisville, KY was so lucky to be your home and Johnny Unitas, Peyton Manning and Andrew Luck were and are not the only leading men to have called Indianapolis their home.
Everyone I love and Respect today
It's a fact if you ask them, they all tend to say
That Bubbles is the pops, and he brought the heel drops
And Febuary one nine his life is the tops!!
Mr. Sublett I really hope this letter had found you well, I think about you often and I wish you were here sir. I can never say it enough, but thank you so much sir Bubbles, aka the logo, aka the pops with the heel drops..thank you for the inspiration. I owe you so much and I will do everything I can to make you proud.
Respect and Admiration
PS. There was no sky scrapers in my home town either..
You can follow Jason Janas on Instagram and Twitter @jayjan300