- The Washington Times - Thursday, March 23, 2000

In tap circles, "information" refers to the language, the tradition and the dancers who helped establish the jubilant art form. By that definition, Cartier Williams could be the information disseminator for the next generation of tap dancers.
Cartier has developed a remarkable knack for tap, one that has let him share the stage with legendary performers such as Savion Glover.
Not bad for a 10-year-old. "He's so at home on stage. The bigger the crowd, the more he likes it," says Cartier's grandmother, Audrey Williams, a tap dancer herself who helped her grandson master the basic tap steps.
Cartier, a fifth-grader at Leckie Elementary School in Southwest, Washington, D.C., will be performing alongside Mr. Glover in "Savion: The Concert" at 7:30 p.m. Saturday and 3 p.m. Sunday at the Warner Theatre. Sharing the bill with Cartier will be Jimmy Slyde, Buster Brown and Dianne Walker. The young dancer also will be giving two tap workshops tonight for young tap dancers, at 5:30 p.m. and 6:30 p.m. at the D.C. Dance Collective on Wisconsin Avenue NW.
Cartier began dancing, street style, at the age of 4 during family gatherings. He then watched Gregory Hines strut through "Jelly's Last Jam" and found a style of dance he soon would call his own.
Today, the gifted dancer assumes a casual approach to his craft.
"If there's nothing on TV … I'll go upstairs and start up," he says of his practice regimen.
His grandmother paints a different picture.
"When his feet hit the floor in the morning, he taps to the bathroom," Mrs. Williams says.
Cartier isn't as cavalier in his admiration for Mr. Glover, the tap maestro behind the Tony award-winning "Bring in 'da Noise, Bring in 'da Funk." The duo have formed a unique bond through their mutual devotion to tap.
"He loves me like a brother, and I love him back," Cartier says. Mr. Glover, who, like Cartier, discovered a gift for tap at an early age, has helped hone Cartier's onstage theatrics.
"Sometimes when I'm tapping, he'll tell me how to make it cleaner," Cartier explains.
"Someday, I'm gonna tap not just like him, but better," he promises.
One element of "show biz" for which Cartier needs little coaching is performance anxiety.
"Before I start, I get nervous. When I get on stage … it's like I'm in the zone," he says with the ease of a slugger describing his home-run swing.
Some of the crowds Cartier has played to haven't always been as oversized as his talents. He often performs for area schools and nursing homes, a far cry from the Warner Theatre but just as gratifying for the big-hearted hoofer. "He's positive, and he likes to give back," Mrs. Williams says.
Cartier began his dance training with the Tap America Project but found himself well ahead of the learning curve.
"I could see he was so bored. He was past the basics … heel-toe. He was at the level of the teacher," says Mrs. Williams, laughing. He then moved to the Washington School of Ballet, where he spent four years sharpening his dance chops.
Cartier's peers hope he keeps tap in the limelight for decades to come.
"When they leave, they want me to keep the 'information' up … to pass it on, like a torch," says Cartier, who envisions a day when he'll be the main attraction on Broadway in shows such as "The Lion King" and the aforementioned "Funk."
"My plan is to never stop dancing," he says.
Cartier's mother, Aleicia Williams, credits Mr. Glover with having a profound influence on her son, both on and off the stage.
"He can get down to Cartier's level, like a kid," she says. Fellow tappers such as Mr. Brown also have become like long-lost relatives to the fifth-grader.
"These legends … they're like family. There's no other way to put it," she says.
Cartier has been taking their familial lessons to heart.
Backstage before a performance, Mr. Glover or another veteran often will whisper some new trick to Cartier. Moments later, the youngster will emerge from the curtains and seamlessly incorporate it into his act.
"They've been calling Cartier 'the sponge' since he was 8. He grows every time I see him on stage," his mother says.
"You can see it in his face and in his footwork, it's something he loves to do," she says.
For more information on tonight's workshops, call the D.C. Dance Collective at 202/362-7244.

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