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The Origin of Tap Dance PDF Print E-mail
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 Nobody could have predicted that the collision of cultures in the New World centuries ago would result in Tap, the uniquely American dance form. Yet the fusion of British Isles Clog and Step dancing with the rhythms of West African drumming and dancing in colonial times created an ever-evolving art form that continues to flourish today. 

In the mid-1600s, Scottish and Irish indentured laborers brought their social dances to the New World. Slaves in the southern United States imitated the rapid toe and heel action of the Irish Jig and the percussive sensibility of the Lancashire Clog, and combined them with West African step dances that were known as "Juba" dances and "Ring Shouts." As a result, African dance styles became more formal and diluted, while European elements became more fluid and rhythmic, eventually resulting in a uniquely American Tap hybrid. 

Urban tap dancer
  But Tap didn't become a stage dance until the rise of the Minstrel Show in the late 1800s. 
Before the end of the Civil War, black and white performers were rarely allowed to appear on stage together, with the exception of Master Juba (William Henry Lane). Born a free man in 1825, as a teenager Lane became a well-known dancer in New York City. A superb Irish Jig and Clog dancer, Lane created such rhythmically complex dances that he was declared the champion dancer of his time. He even had featured billing above white dancers on the circuit. 
White dancers (usually Irish) blackened their faces with burnt cork and staged performances based on their interpretations of African and African American dance and music styles, competing to see who had the most "authentic" material. From 1840 to 1890, Minstrel shows were the most popular form of American entertainment, featuring a variety of jokes, songs, dance and music in a loose format. 
Dancers like "Daddy" Thomas Rice (white) and Zip Coon who started the popularity of Negro-Minstrel dance with dances of "Jump Jim Crow" and Zip Coon. 
Later, the great Minstrel man Barney Fagan started being referred to as the "Father of Tap", but that title has passed hands thoughout history to several dancers. 

The term "Tap" came into popular use as late as 1902. 
In late 19th-century two techniques were popularized: a fast style in wooden-sole shoes (also called Buck-and-Wing) and Soft-Shoe, a smooth, leather-sole style. These styles gradually coalesced, and by the 1920s metal plates, or taps, attached to shoe bottoms, had been added to leather-soled shoes. 
Before then, most shoes were made of leather uppers and wooden soles, while others had hobnails or pennies pounded into the toe and heel. 

In the 1920s and 1930s black dancers contributed to the development of new styles of Tap dance, and black dance teams became popular for their acrobatic, often satirical acts. 
John Bubbles popularized a slower, more syncopated style of Tap dance. Prominent dance teams of the era included Slap and Happy (Harold Daniels and Leslie Irvin) and Stump and Stumpy (James Cross and Harold Cromer). Jazz provided further rhythmic complexity, and Bill “Bojangles” Robinson became America's most famous Tap dancer. 
John Bubbles
The style was further expanded in the 1930s and 1940s, when dancers such as Fred Astaire, Paul Draper, Ray Bolger In the late 1950s, Gene Kelly added movements from ballet and modern dance. 

During the transition to the big screen, unfortunately, many of the masters were past by in favor of white entertainers. 
Although they were highly talented,they did not represent the Afro-American Jazz Tap of the time. Tap was brought onto film but it was heavily choreographed and the technique of adding the taps after the dance was filmed removed the "what you see is what you hear" aspect. 

With the demise of vaudeville during the 1930s, performers turned to flashier Tap routines with increasingly dangerous acrobatics. The Nicholas Brothers (Harold and Fayard Nicholas) were the most respected Tap performers who used flash techniques. Flash Tap refers to spectacular tricks incorporated into Tap phrases. Leaping from platforms and stairs as high as ten feet, they would land in full splits, bounce up, and continue tapping. Flash and acrobatic Tap entails timing each feat precisely so that the rhythms of the dance are uninterrupted. 
This produced incredible audio visual Tap sequences, but the live heart of jazz Tap was lost. 
In the 1950's Tap lost is popularity, due to many reasons some of which were the changing style of music and the trend towards classical balletic dances in films. Tap still existed in the clubs and continued as a social dance for pleasure. 

At the end of the 1980s, inspired by the Broadway success of Black and Blue (1989) and the tremendous talents of Gregory Hines, who starred in Sophisticated Ladies (1983) and in Jelly's Last Jam with Savion Glover, as well as in the movies White Nights (1985) and Tap (1989), many young African American male dancers became interested in Tap again. 

As the popularity increased in Tap, there was a call for in to be recognized and this was done by a vote of Congress in 1989, and National Tap Dance day May 25th was born. 

The most famous and influential young hoofer is Savion Glover, who has become the leader of a new generation of rhythm tappers. His hip-hop-funk Tap has caused a stylistic revolution within the field and brought tap in line with modern music. Sometimes called "Power Tapping," this style is distinguished by dense, hard-hitting rhythms. Eye contact is rarely made with the audience, as the focus is on "finding the groove." This masculine, heavy and fast style was seen in the wildly popular Broadway dance drama Bring in 'da Noise, Bring in 'da Funk: A Hip Hop Discourse on the Staying Power of the Beat (1996) by Glover and George Wolfe. 

Today, Tap continues to evolve into a varied cultural tradition that is both intergenerational and multiracial. No longer considered mere entertainment, Tap is finally receiving its due as a dynamic art form that encompasses a range of eclectic and individual styles. 

Below: Gene Kelly Dancing on Roller Blades



Origin of tap dance. Irish populair dances danced with wooden "clogg" shoes. 

A very light and elegant dancing style, quite classical in its way. 

English style but with out taps. (Often done with wooden taps). 

Very jazzy, down into the floor, lot's of heel work, strongly syncopated. 

The dancer throws a bit of sand on the floor and dances on it . The working technique is quite different as it's based on hits and slides. 

Same as the sand-shuffle but on the water (1 cm). 


Clap your hands. 

Tap with the ball with out weight transfer. 


Step with the ball, (or flat foot) changing weight . 

Full flat foot with out changing weight. 

Full flat foot step with weight change. 

Hitting the floor with the ball in a pushing motion. 

Brush (spank) back with the ball (pull-bck is also a 4 beat back-jump). 

Forward brush with heel, end in the air. 

Short slide fwd with a heel-drop HOP Leaving ground and landing on the same foot. (temps levé). 

The pointe of your shoes. 

Leaving ground and landing on the other foot. (jeté). 


Brush to top, brush up (lifting the knee). 

Change weight R+L ball-stamp (step-stamp), or stamp-stamp. 

Brush forward and back with ball. 

Like the shuffle but with the heel. ( heel-brush forward heel-spank). 

Brush-back step. 

Glissement avant sur le pied plat. 

Heel-click or toe-click 

Tap-heel-tap-heel ( a fast go forward-and-come-back-sequence.) 

Brush forward and down on ball (brush-ball), or tp-stp in a jumping sequence. 

Brush-step sans transfert de poids. 

Brush-heel forward or side. 


Slide to the front. 

To hold, stay in suspention. 

Dont move,stop. 

Often used as HEEL-DROP dropping heel of supporting leg. 

Pull your leg behind you 

Improvise ! 

Often used as HEEL-DIG , hit the heel strongly into the floor. 

Main Source: 
International Encyclopedia of Dance 



+4 #2 That girl 2013-02-02 14:17
I had a project on tap & this really helped a lot!! xD
+4 #1 Georgia 2011-05-26 11:22
I like this page! The vid was interesting and the Vocabulary was cool! Cheese!

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