History of Tap Dance
Tap dance was developed in the United States during the nineteenth century, and is popular nowadays in many parts of the world. The name comes from the tapping sound made when the small metal plates on the dancer's shoes touch a hard surface. This lively, rhythmic tapping makes the performer not just a dancer, but also a percussive musician (and thus, for example, the American composer Morton Gould was able to compose a concerto for tap dancer and orchestra).
The Encyclopedia Britannica definition for tap dance is: "A style of American theatrical dance using precise rhythmical patterns of foot movement and audible foot tapping. It is derived from the traditional clog dance of northern England, the jigs and reels of Ireland and Scotland, and possibly the rhythmic foot stamping of African dances. Popular in 19th-century minstrel shows, versions such as "buck-and-wing" (danced vigorously in wooden-soled shoes) and "soft-shoe" (shoes) developed as separate techniques; by 1925 they had merged, and metal taps were attached to shoe heels and toes to produce a more pronounced sound. The dance was also popular in variety shows and early musicals."
The influences of tap dancing may include:
African dances were often used as a form of communication and reflected most aspects of daily life
Drum rhythms are often highly complex and syncopated
African gumboot dance were developed in the 1970s in South Africa by mine workers and may have derived from Tap.
Steps included gliding, shuffling, and large amounts of improvisation
There seems to be no historical evidence of percussive (heel toe) dance footwear in this culture predating tap.
Irish and English
Irish Sean-nos step dancing
Clogging, where there may be no accompanying music, just the noise of the shoes
Stomp dancing, where the sound of other objects are used to enhance the stomping sound of the foot
Masters would often challenge each other to be the best dancer and win students
Complex rhythms dictated by drums
Juba Dance a competitive dance involving intricate foot work, hand clapping and patting
There seems to be no historical evidence of percussive (heel toe) dance footwear in this culture predating tap.
Zapateado of 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
Spanish mad-step (practiced by early tap practitioners Eduardo Corrochio and Henry Rogers)
During the 1930s, 1940s, and 1950s, the best tap dancers moved from Vaudeville to cinema and television. Steve Condos, with his innovative style of percussion tap, created a whole new tap style that he introduced to audiences in Vaudeville, and later to the audiences of film and Broadway. Prominent tap dancers of this period included Fred Astaire, Ginger Rogers, Shirley Temple, John W. Bubbles, Charles "Honi" Coles, Vera-Ellen, Ruby Keeler, Gene Kelly, Ann Miller (credited as the fatest recorded tap dancer, a record she still holds), Jeni LeGon, Ann Miller, Fayard and Harold Nicholas of the Nicholas Brothers, Donald O'Connor, Eleanor Powell, Rita Hayworth, Betty Grable, PrinceSpencer, Bill "Bojangles" Robinson, and Jimmy Slyde.
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 dance to become a new form in its own right. Well-known dancers during the 1960s and 1970s included Arthur Duncan and Tommy Tune.
No Maps on My Taps, the Emmy award winning PBS documentary of 1979, helped begin the recent revival of tap dance. The outstanding success of the animated film, Happy Feet, has further reinforced the popular appeal National Tap Dance Day in the United States, now celebrated May 25th, was signed into law by President George Bush on November 7, 1989. (May 25th was chosen because it is the birthday of famous tapper Bill "Bojangles" Robinson.) Prominent modern tap dancers have included Brenda Bufalino, Jay Fagan, Ted Bebblejad, Savion Glover, Peter Briansen, Gregory and Maurice Hines of Hines, Hines, and Dad, Alfonso Ribeiro, LaVaughn Robinson, Jason Samuels Smith, Shirley Temple, and Grant Swift. Indie-pop band Tilly and the Wall also features a tap dancer, Jamie Williams, tapping as percussion.
Characteristics of Tap Dance
Tap dancers make frequent use of syncopation. Choreography typically starts on the eighth or first beatcount. Another aspect of tap dancing is improvisation. This can either be done with music and follow the beats provided or without musical accompaniment, otherwise known as a capella dancing.
Hoofers are tap dancers who dance primarily with their legs, making a louder, more grounded sound. This kind of tap dancing, also called "rhythm tap", came primarily from cities or poor areas. Today this is not the case, especially with such a wide variety of styles spreading throughout the world. Steve Condos rose out of his humble beginnings in Pittsburgh, PA to become a master in rhythmic tap. His innovative style influenced the work of Gregory Hines, Savion Glover and Marshall Davis, Jr. The majority of hoofers, such as Sammy Davis Jr., Savion Glover, Gregory Hines, and LaVaughn Robinson are African American men, although today the art form transcends racial and gender stereotypes. Savion Glover is the best-known living hoofer, who helped bring tap dance into mainstream media by choreographing and dancing for the major motion picture Happy Feet. Another well-known tap film is 1989's Tap, starring the late Gregory Hines and many of the old-time hoofers.
Early dancers like Fred Astaire provided a more ballroom look to tap dancing, while Gene Kelly used his extensive ballet training to make tap dancing incorporate all the parts of the ballet. This style of tap led to what is today known as "broadway style," which is more mainstream in American culture. It often involves high heeled tap shoes and show music, and is usually the type of tap first taught to beginners. The best examples of this style are found in Broadway musicals such as 42nd Street.
Common tap steps include the shuffle, shuffle ball change, flap (pronounced "fuh-lap"), flap heel, cramp roll, buffalo, Maxi Ford, single and double pullbacks, wings, cincinnati, the shim sham shimmy (also called the Lindy), Irish, Waltz Clog, shuffle hop step, running flaps, running shuffles, sugar, the paddle and roll, slap, stomp, brushes, scuffs, and single and double toe punches, hot steps, heel clicks, single, double and triple time steps, riffs, and chugs. In advanced tap dancing, basic steps are often combined together to create new steps. The flap heel toe heel step brush heel is one combination of basic tap steps that is usually practiced while spinning around in a circle. Higher levels of tap dancing may also consist of toe work, which are steps performed on the toes of the tap shoes. This may vary from simply jumping up onto the toe in a toe stand or doing steps mentioned above on the toe such as shuffles or wings.
Tap dance is a form of dance characterized by using the sound of one's tap shoes hitting the floor (or other surfaces) as a percussive instrument. As such, it is also commonly considered to be a form of music.
Two major variations on tap dance exist: rhythm (Jazz) tap and Broadway tap.
Broadway tap focuses more on the dance. It is widely performed as a part of musical theater.
Rhythm tap focuses more on musicality, and practitioners consider themselves to be a part of the Jazz tradition.
The sound is made by shoes with a metal "tap" on the heel and toe.
Tap shoes can be bought at most dance shops. There are different brands of shoes which sometimes differ in the way they sound.
"Soft-Shoe" is a rhythm form of tap dancing that does not require special shoes, and while rhythm is generated by tapping of the feet, it also uses sliding of the feet (even sometimes using scattered sand on the stage to enhance the sound of the performer's sliding feet) more often than modern rhythm tap. It preceded what is currently considered to be modern tap, but has since declined in popularity.
Tap dance has roots in dancing such as the Juba Dance, English Lancashire Clog dancing, and probably most notably Irish stepdancing. It is believed to have begun in the mid-1800s during the rise of minstrel shows. White performers would imitate Southern blacks and satirize their dance forms while incorporating step-dancing.
In later minstrel shows, black performers in blackface would play roles in which they imitated the Irish imitation of black dance forms, further mixing the two. Famous as Master Juba, William Henry Lane became one of the few black performers to join an otherwise white minstrel troupe, and is widely considered to be the most famous forebear of tap dance.
As the minstrel shows began to decline in popularity, tap dance moved to the increasingly popular Vaudeville stage. Due to the two-colored rule, which forbade blacks from performing solo, the majority of Vaudeville tap acts were duets. This gave rise to the famous pair "Buck and Bubbles," which consisted of John "Bubbles" Sublett tap dancing and Ford "Buck" Washington on piano. The duo perfected the "Class Act", a routine in which the performers wore impeccable tuxedos, which has since become a common theme in tap dance. The move is seen by some as a rebuttal to the older minstrel show idea of the tap dancer as a "grinning-and-dancing clown."
Another notable figure to emerge during this period is Bill "Bojangles" Robinson. Well versed in both Buck and Wing dancing and Irish Step dancing, Bill Robinson joined the Vaudeville circuit in 1902, in a duo with George W. Cooper. The act quickly became famous, headlining events across the country, and touring England as well. In 1908, however, the two had an altercation, and the partnership was ended. Gambling on his popularity, Robinson decided to form a solo act, which was extremely rare for a black man at that time. Despite this, he had tremendous success and soon became a world famous celebrity. He went on to have a leading role in many films, notably in the Shirley Temple franchise.
During the 1930s tap dance mixed with Lindy Hop. "Flying swing outs" and "flying circles" are Lindy Hop moves with tap footwork. In the mid- to late 1950s, the style of entertainment changed. Jazz music and tap dance declined, while rock and roll 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 dance to become a new form in its own right. Well-known dancers during the 1960s and 1970s included Arthur Duncan and Tommy Tune.
No Maps on My Taps, the Emmy award winning PBS documentary of 1979, helped begin the recent revival of tap dance. The outstanding success of the animated film, Happy Feet, has further reinforced the popular appeal. National Tap Dance Day in the United States, now celebrated May 25, was signed into law by President George Bush on November 7, 1989. (May 25 was chosen because it is the birthday of famous tapper Bill "Bojangles" Robinson.)
Prominent modern tap dancers have included Sarah Reich, Brenda Bufalino, Melinda Sullivan, The Clark Brothers, Savion Glover, Gregory and Maurice Hines, LaVaughn Robinson, Jason Samuels Smith, Chloe Arnold, and Dianne "Lady Di" Walker Indie-pop band Tilly and the Wall also features a tap dancer, Jamie Pressnall, tapping as percussion.
Characteristics of Tap Dance
Tap Dance Technique
Tap dancers make frequent use of syncopation.
Choreography typically starts on the eighth or first beatcount.
Another aspect of tap dancing is improvisation.
Tap dancing can either be done with music following the beats provided, or without musical accompaniment; the latter is known as a cappella tap dancing.
Hoofers are tap dancers who dance primarily "closer to the floor", using mostly footwork and not showing very much arm or body movement. This kind of tap dancing, also called rhythm tap, was employed by slaves in America. Because the slaves were generally not allowed to practice their own culture and customs, they mixed their form of dancing with Irish step dance to create tap dances that could be concealed from slave owners and over-seers.
This is the origin of tap and what later evolved into (what most people know as tap now) "show tap" because it uses more arm movement. This form evolved because show tap was thought to be more exciting to watch and became famous when show tap was put on Broadway.
Steve Condos developed an innovative rhythmic tap style that influenced the work of later tap dancers such as Gregory Hines and Savion Glover. The majority of early hoofers, such as Sammy Davis, Jr., Glover, Hines, and LaVaughn Robinson were African American men, although today the art form transcends racial and gender stereotypes. Savion Glover helped bring tap dance into mainstream media by choreographing Happy Feet, a film about a tap dancing penguin. Another well-known tap film is 1989's Tap, starring Gregory Hines and many old-time hoofers.
Early tappers like Fred Astaire provided a more ballroom look to tap dancing, while Gene Kelly introduced ballet elements and style into tap. This style of tap led to what is today known as Broadway style, which is popular in American culture. It often involves high heeled tap shoes and show music, and is usually the type of tap first taught to beginners. Examples of this style are found in Broadway musicals such as Anything Goes and 42nd Street.
Common tap steps include the shuffle, shuffle ball change, double shuffle, leap shuffle, hop shuffle, flap, flap ball change, running flaps, flap heel, cramproll, buffalo, Maxi Ford, Maxi Ford with a pullback, pullbacks, wings, Cincinnati, the shim sham shimmy (also called the Lindy), Irish, Waltz Clog, the paddle roll, the paradiddle, stomp, brushes, scuffs, spanks, riffs, and single and double toe punches, hot steps, heel clicks, time steps, over-the-tops, military time step, New Yorkers, Shiggy Bops, drawbacks, and chugs.
In advanced tap dancing, basic steps are often combined together to create new steps.
Many steps also have single, double, and triple versions, including pullbacks, timesteps, and drawbacks.
In tap, various types of turns can be done, including step heel turns, Maxi Ford turns, cramproll turns, and drag turns.
Timesteps are widely used in tap and can vary in different areas. These consist of a rhythm that is changed to make new timesteps by adding or removing steps.
Tap dancing can also be done using an a cappella method, in which no musical accompaniment is provided and dancers creating their own "music" through the sounds of their taps.
In group tap dances, the steps are typically kept simple and easy to control. The group of dancers must work together to create the sound keeping their steps at the correct speed to match each other.
In the earliest years of tap dancing, tap shoes often had wood soles, but most tap shoes since have had leather soles. Today, most manufacturers of tap shoes also produce taps.
Depending on manufacturer and model, tap characteristics can vary considerably. For example, some taps have relatively low weight and small footprint whereas others may be thicker and fill out the edge of the shoe more, making them heavier as a result. A tap's "tone" is influenced by its weight as well as its surface shape, which may be concave or convex. The tonal quality of a tap can also be influenced by the material it is made from.
Taps are mounted to the sole of the shoe with screws, and sometimes adhesive as well. The screws are driven into a soundboard -- a thin fiberboard integrated into the sole that can be firmly "gripped" by the screws -- to reliably attach the tap to the shoe. When no adhesive is used, the screws can be loosened or tightened to produce different sounds, whereas tonal quality is fixed when adhesive is used.