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The Marjorie Davies Star Tap Awards

The Marjorie Davies Star Tap Awards

26 February 2014

Heather Rees relates a little more of its history

Soon, it will be time for the 2014 Marjorie Davies Star Tap Awards and perhaps now is the moment to reflect on the progress and development that has occurred since the Awards began. It is also fitting to pay tribute to the special people in whose names additional awards were introduced.

The Additional Awards

Murielle Ashcroft Award for Artistry

Murielle Ashcroft was a gifted teacher, examiner and Committee Chairman. Under her chairmanship (of what was originally the Modern Dance and Tap Faculty) she forged the faculties ahead with her vision for growth and for the future of both genres. In her teaching and coaching she was the consummate artist with the ability to develop a dancer’s performance into something special. She was passionate about the ISTD and, in particular, about the Modern and Tap Faculty of which she had been Chairman for some 25 years.

Gwen Carter Award for Choreography

Gwen Carter was creative, rhythmical and an artist. Her work with the Tap syllabus spanned many eras. She was involved with some of the earlier Tap grade and medal syllabi. Her beautiful Gold Star choreography to Georgia is remembered fondly by many teachers. She and Moyra Gay were jointly responsible for the Senior Medals, which were so very popular. She was also part of the team in the 1980s working on the then new syllabus, which involved revision of the whole syllabus from Primary to Advanced 2.

Moyra Gay – Class Prize

One of the first new awards was for excellence in the ‘class work’ section of the competition. It was introduced by Moyra Gay, whose contribution to the Tap Faculty of the ISTD was legion. Miss Gay started her dance career in theatre and later became a teacher, examiner and committee member. Her rhythmically creative choreographies were part of the early Tap syllabus, culminating in the joint choreography of the Senior Medals. She was a stickler for technical perfection in rhythm and tone. So many examiners and teachers were fortunate to receive her guidance during their training.

Betty Laine – Boys’ Cup Premiere Section

Betty Laine OBE, is founder and Principal of Laine Theatre Arts, member of the ISTD Grand Council and formerly a senior examiner and member of the Modern Dance Committee. Trained at Bush Davies Schools Romford by Marjorie Davies, Daphne Peterson and Joyce Percy, she successfully entered the theatre and television profession prior to commencing teaching. Betty Laine enjoys the opportunity to adjudicate the Marjorie Davies Star Tap Awards not only because of her commitment to Marjorie Davies but because she is also passionate about nurturing young talent.

Victor Leopold – Boys’ Cup

The Boys’ Cup for the most outstanding boy was presented by Bush Davies School in 1983 to honour Victor Leopold. Mr Leopold’s career in theatre commenced at the tender age of 10 years. He appeared in pantomime working with many of the famous names of the time such as Arthur Askey, Fred Emney and the Crazy Gang. He became a member of the ISTD in 1934 and soon progressed to Examiner and Committee Member. For 30 years he was a member of Council fulfilling the role of Vice- Chairman from 1958 to 1971. Sadly, he did not survive to see the first winner of his Cup.

Daphne Peterson – Premiere Award and Runner-Up

Miss Daphne was a major influence in both Modern and Tap genres, contributing a large percentage of her work to both faculties. Her choreography was clever – she had the ability to know when to do ‘less’ and when to ‘include more’ and how to bring out the highlights in any part of a performance. She was kind and understanding as a teacher with a penchant for making students and teachers feel good about their work, whilst allowing no quarter in striving for perfection.

Format and Progress of the Competition

The content of the Star Tap Awards always included short sequences, a set amalgamation and a solo. In 1986 a Junior and Senior amalgamation choreographed by Bill Drysdale supplanted the set amalgamation and latterly the challenge has been for the candidates to learn and perform the amalgamation on the day.

Adjudicators and Class Lecturers

Throughout the history of the competition there have been many eminent adjudicators and a variety of experienced lecturers/teachers taking the classes. Daphne Peterson took the class at the very first competition, followed in succeeding years by Patricia Craill (1983), Marianne Jepson, Betty Laine and Carol Ball, to name but a few. Adjudicators have been drawn from the world of theatre as well as from the Society. The ‘Theatre’ adjudicators, who hail from various aspects of the profession, usually adjudicate at the Finals. Petra Siniawski and Carol Ball – both of West End fame – have been regular invitees. Amongst others have been Charles Augins (Bubbling Brown Sugar), Stewart Morris (Executive Producer of Light Entertainment, BBC TV), Lionel Blair, Bill Drysdale, and Roy Castle (who did not adjudicate but presented prizes, talked and then, Tap shoes appearing from deep pockets) performed a delightful Tap dance.

Heather Rees

Image (top) shows Victor Leopold


An interesting but little known fact is that, although the Star Tap Awards were introduced in 1977, Tap Dancing had already been part of the ISTD awards. Prior to 1977 the Janet Cram Award had already been established. This competition allowed a Modern dance or a Tap routine as the candidate’s solo. 

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