Tap dance

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Tap dance was born in the United States during the 19th century, and today is popular all around the world. The name comes from the tapping sound made when the small metal plates on the dancer's shoes touch a hard floor. This lively, rhythmic tapping makes the performer not just a dancer, but also a percussive musician.

Its evolutionary grandparents may well have been:

  1. African dance to drum rhythms
  2. African welly boot dance
  3. Spanish flamenco, where nails are hammered into the heel and the front part of the dancers' shoes so that the rhythm of their steps can be heard
  4. Step dancing
  5. Clogging, for example from Lancashire, where there may well be no accompanying music, just the noise of the shoes


Tap dance began in the 1830s in the Five Points neighborhood of New York City as a fusion of the African Shuffle and Irish, Scottish, and English step dances. Perhaps the most influential of all were the syncopation of African music and dance and the Irish jig. Dancers from different immigrant groups would get together to compete and show off their best moves. As the dances fused, a new American style of dancing emerged.

Tap flourished in the U.S. from 1900 to 1955, when it was the main performance dance of Vaudeville and Broadway. Vaudeville was the inexpensive entertainment before television, and it employed droves of skilled tap dancers. Many big bands included tap dances as part of their show. For a while, every city in the U.S. had amateur street tap performers. At the time, tap dance was also called jazz dance, because jazz was the music that tap dancers performed with.

In the 1930s, 1940s, and 1950s, the best tap dancers moved from Vaudeville to the movies and television.

During the 1930s tap dance mixed with Lindy Hop. Flying swing outs and flying circles are Lindy Hop moves with tap footwork.

In the 1950s, the style of entertainment changed. Jazz music and tap dance declined, while rock and roll music and the new jazz dance emerged. What is now called jazz dance evolved out of tap dance, so both dances have many moves in common. But, jazz evolved separately from tap to become a new form in its own right.

Characteristics of tap dance

Tap dancers make frequent use of syncopation. Choreographies typically start on the eighth beat, or between the eighth and the first count. Another aspect of tap dancing is improvisation. This can either be done with music and follow the beats provided or without musical accompaniment. Hoofers are tap dancers who dance only with their legs, making a louder, more grounded sound. Dancers like Fred Astaire provided a more ballroom look to tap dancing, while Gene Kelley used his extensive ballet training to make tap dancing incorporate all the parts of the body.

Steps in Tap Dancing

The simplest step is the toe tap, using the ball of your foot to make a sound. The same sound came come from the heel, although often it is not as loud or pronounced. These steps can be combined to make a cramp roll which produces a rolling sound like a horse gallop. It is done by stepping on your right toe, then left, then placing your right heel down, then the left or it is started with the left toe. By slighty jumping into the step and doing it continually, the proper sound is made. The next step in tap dancing is the shuffle. Standing on one leg, the other is brushed out by sliding the toe of the shoe against the floor, then brushed back in. Making the step faster must be done by making smaller movements that are closer to the body. The final simple tap step is the flap. This is like the shuffle, but instead of brushing the toe back, the toe steps, i.e. brush-step. Both the shuffle and the flap make two sounds. By combining the tap/heel, the shuffle, and the flap, many other tap steps can be produced.

Famous tap dancers

See also

Dance - Jazz dance

External links

All About Tap Dance: A Hoofer's Notebook (http://www.theatredance.com/tap/)
Tap Dance Homepage (http://www.tapdance.org/)

fr:Claquettes de:Steptanz


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