Howard, a worker in the Rocky-Mathey dining halls, danced with the Tapcats in their recent show, Velocity. Having never tap danced before, he asked to be a part of the show, and the Tapcats bought him a pair of tap shoes. Howard brought his family to the show.
Christina Henricks, staff writer for News, sat down with Howard to find out about his experiences.
1. Why did you participate in the Tapcats show?
A year ago, [the Tapcats] came to me .... and [one of them, Stephanie,] said, “Howard, we want to take pictures of you for Tapcats and we want to run it in the show,” and she told me to slide out and stomp my feet. She gave me tickets, and then the following year, they wanted me to be in it live. They came to me two-and-a-half months prior to that, and they worked out with me Monday, Wednesday, Friday for a few minutes after work.
2. How was the process of learning to tap?
At first it was difficult because I got the first part really down pat ... In the last stage, I would always stumble over my foot, and they kept practicing with me and I finally got it. And once I got it, it was a breeze. It worked out beautifully.
3. Do you have any favorite styles of dance?
Not really. I have two left feet ... It took me a while to pick it up, but I picked it up.
4. How was it to work with the dancers?
Wonderful. Next year they want me to work with a couple more dancers. I’ll have about three to maybe five dancers I’ll be working with next year.
5. Do you practice at home?
I practice a little bit. I danced in front of my family, and I danced in front of the workers here when I was eating one night. They said they wanted to see what I could do because they didn’t believe I was practicing. I waited til I was comfortable with it and showed them ... They were very impressed. The people from the office came out to and I had to do it over.
6. What did your family think about your performance?
I had six to 10 people come to my performance out of all the three nights that I performed. It was wonderful. I enjoyed it, and they were very proud.
7. Will you do it again anytime soon?
I would love to! I’m going to do it from now on, until they don’t want me to do it anymore. I have the basics down, and I feel comfortable with it.
8. Would you consider performing with any other groups on campus?
Another group came to me—I was in the common room, and the French teacher ... wanted me to come and watch them do a play, and he wants me to be ... in the play next time. He wants me to give me a small part in that play. I have another play that I’m supposed to be in next year—they want me to breakdance.
9. Do you use the tap shoes that the Tapcats gave you?
Yes. I love them. They’re mine.
10. How long have you worked at Princeton?
Fifteen years. And I love it. Every year is an exciting year because I get new students to come and I fall in love with students every year.
11. How did you learn to cook?
My mother. She was a home mom, and she did cooking three or four times a day—breakfast, lunch and dinner—and I was right there with her. Sooner or later, she said, “I’m going to teach you how to cook,” and then I started cooking for her.
12. Have you always worked in this dining hall?
Yes, this is the main dining hall I’ve been in, but I’ve worked everywhere—at all the other units.
13. How do you like working with the other dining hall employees?
I got along with everybody, so it’s not a problem. I enjoy working with other people.
14. What do you like about working here?
I get to mingle with the kids, and it keeps me young. I just love this job. This is a good job for me. It’s a good place for me. It keeps me young, and I’m happy here.
15. Do you have any favorite students?
I have a lot of favorite students. I have a lot of friends. Every year, I meet new people. I even go to the basketball games, football games, the soccer games, the volleyball games. I met a young lady, Jennifer. She’s a freshmen but she’s great. I went to see her. The third game I went to, she introduced me to her mother.
16. What are your favorite foods to prepare?
I like the pasta bar because a lot of people like different kinds of pasta, and that’s where it seems like all my events usually pop up. People come to me on the pasta bar. That’s my spot!
17. What are your favorite foods to eat?
I like to eat—well right now, I wouldn’t consider it a diet, but I changed my way of eating—I eat a lot of salads, a lot of grilled chicken, grapefruit, bananas, apples, oranges. I’m trying to keep my weight down. The dancing helps, and I play basketball.
18. What is your favorite meal during your day spent in the dining hall?
I would say lunch, because at dinnertime, it slows down a lot, but lunch is the main meal, so a lot of people come for lunchtime, and come to the grill and speak to me.
19. Do you have any memorable moments from your time here?
I have a lot of memorable moments. There’s so many of them. Some of the professors bring their kids there. It was one of the kid’s birthdays, and I got her a little stuffed animal. She wrote me a card and told me how much she loved me. That just blew my mind.
20. What’s one thing that you’d like students to know about you?
That I’m a good guy, and they can pass the word on to somebody else. People can come up and say hi, and that makes my day.