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The Mavis Butler Award

The Mavis Butler Award

26 March 2012

Heather Rees has been recognised for her great contribution to Tap Dance

The Mavis Butler Award was given to Heather Rees in 2011 at the Marjorie Davies Tap Awards. The Award recognises a significant contribution to Tap Dance. Below is a brief biography of Heather’s career to date, which will, we hope, enlighten some of you on her dance background and expertise.

Caroline Lavelle



Heather Rees started dancing at the age of three. It was just Tap and movement initially. Later she commenced Classical Ballet, training with the RAD scholarship teacher, Marguerite Thomas, in Penarth. Modern Dance and National Dance came later.

Tap Dance has been part of her life for as long as she can remember. Her original training was in American Tap with ‘Madam Beaton’ from whom she learned the basics and developed a love for the subject.

Like many people, her idol and most important influence was Fred Astaire and she spent hours trying to emulate his rhythm and style. As a young teacher she was introduced to the ISTD and learned a great deal from these excellent teachers and examiners: Tom Parry, Doreen Austin, Moyra Gay, Gwen Carter, Daphne Peterson to name a few. The structure of the syllabi and the constant analysis of rhythm were extremely beneficial. 

“As a young teacher she was introduced to the ISTD and learned a great deal from these excellent teachers and examiners”

In the ensuing years she branched out by studying in America with the masters of the time. In New York she took classes with Bob Audi (author), Gregory Hines, and Maurice Hines. In Los Angeles, Vancouver and Chicago she studied with Sam Weber, Laine Alexander, Fred Strickler, Lyn Daly, Eddie Brown, Jim Taylor, Lady Diane Walker and many other specialist teachers. She has taught in many parts of the world (and also in her home-town of Bexhill) covering Imperial Tap as well as her own development of American Tap. Workshops have been taken in Germany, France, Spain, Hong Kong, Malaysia, inter alia, and in Los Angeles she taught alongside Sam, Lyn and Jim.

In the 1980s she was invited by the late Murielle Ashcroft to become part of the sub-committee for re-structuring the ISTD Tap syllabus and spent many happy years working alongside Gwen Carter and Pat Ellis – with George Jones and John Chantrey at the piano. In 2003 her book Tap Dancing: Rhythm in Their Feet was published. In preparing the book she spent much time in America interviewing some of the luminaries of the Tap world such as Fayard Nicholas and Leonard Reed. She has now created a powerpoint presentation/lecture on the history of Tap Dance. It was first shown at Earl’s Court, Olympia and the lecture has since been given at Chichester, Preston College, Rhythm Roots and other smaller venues.

She continues to teach and perform and is taking opportunities to follow the extensive progress of Tap – but also retaining the old values.

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