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Stage Name

Birth Name

Willie Covan Willie Covan
The Four Covans  

    Versatile dancer Willie Covan and his cousin Maxie McCree started dancing at a very young age with Cozy Smith and her Pickaninnies on the George Webster circuit in the Dakotas. As a young dancer Covan worked out many Buck and Wing and Acrobatic movements to dance including the "Double Around the World (aka Coffee Grinder.)" Later as a dance star danced with Leonard Ruffindoing a elegant Soft-Shoe routine. Ruffin at the time was considered the better Soft-Shoe dancer, but Covan could do many other dances as well as the Soft-Shoe including Acrobatics.

    Covan and Ruffin helped define the Class Act team using the Soft-Shoe as their base, they were so good in fact they got fired from the Palace Theatre in New York. The Palace was the place to be if you were good and Covan and Ruffin were good. After they would perform at the Palace, nobody could go on after them as the audience booed every act which tried to follow, after shifting them around in different spots with the same results, they had to fire them. Same thing happened to them at the Hipodrome Theatre.

    By 1921 Willie would meet and marry an Everglades Club chorus dancer named Florence. Later, and now a seasoned performer, Covan and his wife Florence joined his brother Deweyand his wife and became known as the Four Covan's with Willie at the helm. The Four Covan's became Headliners at many clubs by 1927 including Sebastian's Club in Los Angeles, The Orpheum and Keith's Circuits and starred at the elusive Palace Theatre in New York City which as a dancer, doing anything at the Palace was a major achievement, let alone being headliners.

    When the Covan's danced, Willie was the star of the show, however their act was a well planned group effort. None of the performers ever left the Stage during the act. Their act consisted of 6 parts with the first being all four Covan's doing a Jazz number (no Tap) which slowed to a Tap-Waltz done to a Russian Lullaby tune. This lead into the others falling back and clapping a rhythm while Willie did his first Tap and Buck and Wing solo to a medium paced song called Rose Room finishing with the orchestra playing half tempo and Willie doing some Amazing Acrobatics while the others becoming a precision tap ensemble in a Russian Flair with the whole group finishing with Kazotsky's in Stop Time (See Russian Dance) and finally finishing the performance in a Challenge dance among the group with Willie going last.

    Willie, along with his cousin Maxie McCree and others were one of the pioneers among Acrobatic dancers, however he loved Tap Dance the most. Willie would go on to work with and teach many stars over the years with his first being Mae West. Others followed such as Vera Ellen, Jeannette MacDonald, Mickey Rooney, Kirk Douglas, 11 year old Shirley Temple, Bobby Burgess, Debbie Reynolds, Mary Tyler Moore and Dick Van Dyke to name just a few, however he never got any film credit for any of it. He opened his own South Central, L.A. Dance studio in CA. and became the resident choreographer for MGM Studios, Hollywood, CA..

Willie left a legacy of dance to many thru his innovations, performing and teaching. Willie passed away in Los Angeles in 1989.

Birth Place

Birth Date


Savannah, GA. 3/4/1897-5/7/1989 Florence Covan n/a

Dance Types

Dance Partners

Music Titles

Acrobatic Four Covan's, the n/a
Buck and Wing Leonard Ruffin      
Legomania Maxie McCree      

Night Clubs



Everglades Club (Florence) Palace Theatre Dixie to Broadway [1924]
Sebastian Club (4 Covan's) Los Angeles       In Old Kentucky
        Shuffle Along [1921]




1929 - On With the Show [Warner Bros] n/a $1964 - Jazz Dance (Marshall Stearns)
1938 - Duke Is Tops (dancing)   Tap! (Rusty Frank)
-- aka: Bronze Venus        
1940 - Gang War (dancing)            
1978 - Big Fix (as an Elderly Servent)            
Duke Ellington and his Orchestra