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Tap dance

Tap dance


Introduction to Tap Dance

Tap Dance is fun, exhilarating and the syllabus is fairly easy to learn. Tap Dance technique, however, takes time and patience. Yet, tap dance remains one of today's popular dance forms. If you can tap your toes, dig your heels, brush your feet against the floor, keep time to music, you can perform a complete tap dance in as little as six weeks. Some of the most famous tap dance routines are a literal 8th wonder of the world. Who can forget the amazing Tap Dogs whose precision tap beats and movements seem to be an illusion? How about the tap dance routine by Eleanor Powell in "Born to Dance" with Fred Astaire make her shuffles, triple and quadruple spins seem impossible? Powell's extraordinary tap technique is the goal of most tap dance students and lovers of this style of dance. Perfecting tap technique is what tap dance is all about.

History of Tap Dance

It's difficult to say exactly when tap dance originated. Some tap historians believe tap dance has its roots in clog dancing of the early Celts. The sound of scrapes and thuds of wooden shoes is likely the birthplace of using shoes to make sounds with the feet. From clog dancing to soft shoes and sand dancing, eventually by the late 1800s, minstrel shows began to offer the first tap dances in the USA. Using sand on newspapers, minstrel dancers graduated to placing small metal "cleats" on the toes and heels of their shoes to accentuate syncopated sounds. Tap dance steps of this early period consistently mainly of slides, scuffing the feet and shuffling or brushing shoes against gritty surfaces.

Basic Movements of Tap Dance

The reason tap dance is so enjoyable is the ease with which it can be learned. The basic movements of tap are toe taps, heel beats, slaps, shuffles and scuffs. Most tap dance steps over time were given names like Cincinnati, Shuffle off to Buffalo, Triples, Cramp Rolls, Grapevine, Suzie-Q, Double and Single Wings, Front and Back Essence, Falling off the Log, Sciffle, Scuffle, Cubanola, Trenches, Train Step, Coffee Grinder and Front and Back Irish. Tap dance also includes movements like spins, turns, hops and jumps.

Popular Styles

The popular tap styles depend on the dancer adding their own personal style to the manner in which they perform tap steps. For example, Bill "Bojangles" Robinson's tap style was smooth and included props like stairs. Charles "Honi" Coles and his brothers gave tap dance a touch of elegance with their Broadway style of tap dance. Fayard and Harold Nicholas were Vaudevillian tap dancers, along with Howard Sims, whose style included large aerial leaps and exaggerated tap steps. Modern day tap dancers like Gregory Hines and actor Richard Gere, adapted this tap style for their movies, "The Cotton Club" and "Chicago." Another style of tap dance is to use props like chairs, stairs, luggage, canes and umbrellas as part of the tap dance routine.

Famous Dancers

Choosing the most famous tap dancers depends largely on the skill and technique. Fred Astaire, though not specifically a tap dancer, and Gene Kelly both performed tap dance routines in movies. Eleanor Powell is likely the most famous female tap dancer, based on her unique technique, tap speed and split rhythms. Bill Bojangles Robinson, Gregory Hines, Savion Glover, Arthur Duncan and today's Tap Dogs are famous male tap dancers.

Current Trends in Tap Dance

The current trends in tap dance is to rely less on music as an accompaniment and more on actual tap sounds in precision rhythms and speed. In the late 1970s, for example, The Lawrence Welk show featured tap dancer, Arthur Duncan. His style is semi Broadway and yet follows the fluid tap movements of Fred Astaire. The Tap Dogs are a group of male tap dancers whose tap choreography appears to audiences like a percussion section of an orchestra. The trends in tap dance today are to compete among other tap dancers to determine maximum tap technique.

Competitions (USA / world) - Known/Famous

Every year in New York City, an outdoor Tap Dance Extravaganza is held near Radio City Music Hall. It's sponsored by the "New York Committee to Celebrate National Tap Dance Day."

Radio City Music Hall is home to the famous, "Rockettes" whose stunning tap dance are part of their regular shows. The June Taylor Dancers of the late 1950s and the Jackie Gleason show, also performed tap dances regularly on TV. These two dance groups are most known for their precision tap dances that include chorus line kicks.

Other tap dance competitions include Revolution Talent Competition, Star Talent National Competition and International Dance Organization's Annual Tap Dance Competition. Competitions are generally based on age, tap skill and experience.



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