Bruce Bradley: Building a legacy in Flint through dance

Bruce Bradley headshot.
Bruce Bradley, founder and CEO of Tapology, at the organization’s new rehearsal space at the Flint Development Center. Photo: Mike Naddeo

Bruce Bradley is a dancer, mentor, instructor, father and a friendly face known throughout the Flint community. For the past 22 years, he has been the guiding force behind Tapology, a nonprofit organization that has been dedicated to promoting what he describes as the “science of dance and art of rhythm” through performance, education and community outreach.

Teaching tap to Flint youth is something Bradley said inspires him daily, and he hopes his students embrace how this art form can impact them personally and professionally. He believes the partnership between tapping and rhythm can guide individuals through life.

“Your heart beats in a rhythm,” said Bradley with his hand on his chest. “The birth cycle, the earth’s rotation, the seasons of the year, the time of the day — it’s all based on rhythm. That is a common denominator of humanity. Why not utilize that to unite us? This is the salvation of mankind. And through this art form, that’s what I promote.”

“His goal was to make a positive impact on the community, and he has far exceeded that,” said Sa’Rah Hamilton, a longtime student who is now an instructor with Tapology.

Bradley’s path to tap

Born and raised in Flint, Bradley always knew he wanted to be a dancer. However, his journey to tap was a little unconventional.

After graduating from Southwestern High School, he attended Mott Community College and later graduated from Alabama State University, where he studied theater and earned a bachelor’s degree in education.

Bruce Bradley tap dances in front of a plain wall.
Bruce Bradley, founder and CEO of Tapology, shows off his tap dancing skills in one of the organization’s rehearsal spaces. Photo: Mike Naddeo

Always an athlete, Bradley was involved in track, swimming, football and wrestling. He also prided himself on being a very proficient social dancer as a young man.

“After practice, we would have our equipment on, and I would teach the guys how to dance before we went to the parties that weekend,” he said.

Also an artist, actor and singer, Bradley was constantly involved in musicals and the theater. He would go on to make his mark in several off-Broadway productions. As a dancer, he said he was always fascinated with tap dancing, but it wasn’t until he was in his 30s that he took his first tap lesson.

Bradley decided to pursue tap dancing while playing the lead role in an off-Broadway show called “One Mo Time” in Toronto. While on the job, he heard about auditions for the Broadway show “Bojangles,” which was about a Black tap dancer. Bradley started taking lessons right away to prepare.

“I love this city. That’s why I’ve stayed here. I keep coming back because I believe in this city, and I believe in the people here,” he said. “There are good people in this city. If you’re doing good, they will support you. I could not have done what I’ve done without support. And I’m continuing to build new friends and new support.”

He founded Tapology in 2001 at Berston Field House and has been leading it ever since. Since 2006, the Charles Stewart Mott Foundation has granted more than $1 million to support Tapology’s efforts.

Impacting the community

Through Tapology, Bradley went on to teach hundreds of children throughout the Flint community and across the world. Bradley put kids into tap competitions, and they excelled. It had become one of the main things he was known for.

But Bradley wanted Tapology to go beyond the competitions. That is why he decided to bring a tap festival to Flint and expose kids to some of the greatest tap dancers in the world. Along with the Fall Tap Festival in November, Tapology also provides several programs year-round for kids in the Flint community.

A man leads a tap dance class with four women.
Bruce Bradley helps dancers prepare for the Fall Tap Festival in 2022. Photo: Mike Naddeo

Bradley’s passion for tapping comes from being able to offer kids new and diverse experiences through creative outlets.

“I’ve given them opportunities, and many of them have gone on to do great things with their lives,” said Bradley. “Even the ones who didn’t just pursue tap have been successful because of the discipline and the self-esteem that they learned through Tapology.”

Hamilton is one of many students who have benefited from Bradley’s mentorship and guidance.

“I feel that I have matured a lot, and I have become more comfortable in my own skin. Not only have I learned the history of tap, but also the history of our culture in general. Bruce has so much to share with people and so many life lessons to give you,” Hamilton said. “The reason I started tapping wasn’t because I enjoyed the history. It was because I liked making noise with my feet. But, over time, you learn to appreciate its history more and more.”

Creating his legacy

Bradley has high hopes for Tapology. He already sees his legacy being lived out through his own children and his students, and he also has a vision for the future.

He’d like to travel around the country to educate even more people about the importance of tap and how African American culture has influenced the art form. He envisions communities coming together to learn, perform and build relationships, and he hopes he and his students can bring all of that back to Flint.

Three women tap dance on a stage in front of a band.
Tapology participants perform during the 2022 Fall Tap Festival at The Whiting. Photo: TRU Heart Photo

“My concept was for my students to go out and create those relationships. They would teach, and they would create, and they would come to Flint every year for our competition and our festival,” he said. “They would bring goods and services and foods and artifacts around African American culture. That would create revenue and diversity in our city.”

For example, a former student is now teaching in Africa and showing how tap dance can be used to help students learn math and English.

“That’s how the legacy will be lived out, through building those outside relationships,” Bradley said. “A lot of people give me all those accolades, but I’m going to tell you the truth. Everything that I’ve been able to achieve is through the mercy and grace of the creator. And when I start to believe that I’m responsible for doing this, I’m in trouble. Because everything that I’ve been able to do, someone had to help me do it. And when people are helping, that spirit that comes from God.”

Learn more about Tapology and its programming at