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Posted on Oct 28, 2014 |

Video: Dancing Men in Black

Video: Dancing Men in Black

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It’s George M. Cohan vs. Michael Flatley in this tap dancing duel at the Pontifical North American College in Rome last April.


EWTN Rome Bureau Chief Joan Lewis, host of Joan’s Rome, posted the video on her YouTube channel back in the spring, but when an AP reporter saw it last week and wrote a little feature it went viral.

The performance, which includes a show-choir version of Give My Regards to Broadway, was one of several student numbers that made up the evening’s entertainment for the Rector’s Dinner, an annual gala and fundraiser for the college.

“The Rector’s Dinner, begun in 1991 at the North American College when Msgr. Edwin O’Brien (now Cardinal O’Brien) was the rector, is an annual, elegant dinner that is a fundraiser for NAC,” Lewis told The Catholic Beat. “I have attended every year except one. The seminarians are hugely involved in the evening and its preparation and execution.

“The dinner honors a cardinal and a lay person or couple every year. There is a receiving line at the cocktail hour, and the seminarians serve hors d’oeuvres, wine and soft drinks. They also serve at the dinner on their student dining room which, for one night, is transformed into a Hotel Ritz kind of setting. AND they entertain.”

Lewis said she brought her iPad because she knew Deacon (now Father) David Rider was a great dancer and would be featured in one of the numbers. “When the entertainment began I stood in the back of the room and did videos,” she said.” I posted several of them but knew this one of the ‘dueling tap dancing seminarians’ was special.’

At the end of the song, Rider (Archdiocese of New York) and seminarian John Gibson (Archdiocese of Milwaukee — now Fr. Gibson) surprised the guests with a Broadway vs. Riverdance dance-off before teaming up for a performance that had the crowd on its feet. Fr. Rider took the stage for a Broadway-style number on a raised platform beside the choir, only to be interrupted by Fr. Gibson’s Irish step dance challenge. During the number the two seminarians choreographed together (“no one remembers whose idea it was anymore,” says Fr. Rider) both do mocking imitations of the the other dance style.

“I posted it late the night of the dinner and was delighted when I saw the number of views increase daily,” Lewis said Friday morning, after a long evening answering queries about the video from journalists around the world. “A week ago  – just before AP interview — there were about 258,000 views – last night at 10:30 there were 332,122 and this morning, over 607,000!”

As of publication time, the video had been viewed almost 1.5 million times.

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