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Howard "Sandman" Sims.

Celebrated tap performer Howard "Sandman" Sims's memorial service was held May 28 at Harlem's Apollo Theater, where he had been stage manager and was dubbed "the Executioner" for booting losers offstage on Amateur Night for more than thirty years. He died May 20 at age 86. Sims, born in 1917 in Fort Smith, Arkansas, learned dancing on the streets of Los Angeles and followed the vaudeville circuit

Audiences knew him for his light-footed sand dancing--he sprinkled special sand--in a box, and built rhythm after rhythm just moving his ankles. Sand dancing was an old form from Africa but Sims often took credit for inventing it, and bragged to the crowd, a la champion boxer Muhammad Ali, "I'm dancing for me!" as he circled the stage, his long-sleeved silky shirt billowing. Sims started his professional life as a boxer before switching to tap. Despite his pose and cantankerous personality, he was always a great crowd-pleaser.

In 1984 Sims was awarded a National Heritage Fellowship from the National Endowment for the Arts. Legend says that he used the $5000 fellowship to teach dancing to children in a Harlem parking lot He was a regular performer at the annual Flo-Bert awards gala sponsored by the New York Committee to Celebrate National Tap Dance Day each May.

Sandman Sims is survived by his wife, Solange, his son, Howard Jr, and daughters Mercedes White and Diane Jones.
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Title Annotation:Transitions
Author:Goldberg, Jane
Publication:Dance Magazine
Article Type:Obituary
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Dec 1, 2003
Words:232
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