Tommy Tune stood head and shoulders above everyone — literally and figuratively — at the National Museum of Dance on Sunday evening. The six-and-a-half-foot-tall dancer humbly accepted accolades, applause and an engraved Waterford crystal bowl as he became the latest inductee into the museum’s Hall of Fame.
The nine-time Tony Award winner will join others giants, like George Balanchine, Martha Graham and Fred Astaire, in the hall that celebrates outstanding achievement in American dance.
“I’m overwhelmed,” said Tune of the honor, which will place his name in gold leaf letters in the museum’s foyer. “This is really special.”
The 70-year-old Tune is no stranger to laurels. On Broadway, he has won Tonys for directing, choreography and acting. He is also the recipient of the National Medal of Arts, eight Drama Desk Awards, two Obie Awards, and two Astaire Awards. Yet as he spoke to the crowd in the museum’s foyer, he credited his parents, who “moved as one when they danced,” for his abilities. His sister, Grace, also spoke of her parents, saying because of them “Tommy was dancing before he was born.”
The celebration of Tune and his achievements began on Saturday at the museum’s Gala. There, Tune and his sister danced together before he performed what was described as a flawless tap solo.
On both Saturday and Sunday, a film was screened featuring some of the highlights of Tune’s career such as his performance in “Seesaw,” which earned him his first Tony, as well as choreography for such shows as “The Will Rogers Follies” and “Nine.” The film also showed clips of his work in such musicals as “My One and Only” and “The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas.”
It appears Tune was destined for success on Broadway. After leaving his home state of Texas for New York City, he landed a job at his first audition. As a dancer in “Irma La Douce,” he went on tour. One of the stops was Saratoga Springs. During his stay here, he choreographed two shows, “Showboat” and “Kiss Me Kate,” at the Spa Little Theater.
“The first shows I ever choreographed were right here,” said Tune. “That was 50 years ago.”
Michele Riggi, the president of the museum’s board, was thrilled that he was back.
“He’s a legend, he’s huge,” said Riggi. “But he’s so unique — so gentle and kind.”
As part of the induction, the museum sold lithograph prints of Tune’s painting. Tune donated a portion of the proceeds to the museum.
The museum is also exhibiting Tune’s large collection of his size 13 dancing shoes, from sequined spats to the long red leather boots he wore in “Hollywood Boulevard.” The shoes will surround the dancer’s Hall of Fame panel, which quotes him as saying, “When in doubt, dance.”
Tune smiled and said, “It works for me.”