By Lesley Mealor / Edited by Samantha Bellerose, B.Ed, Dip.Dance (Performing Arts)
Ever wondered about the early days of tap dance? How about the production of one of the most famous tap movie musicals of all time? With this list of books, hoofers of all ages will be educated and entertained about this American art form!
The tap dance books featured on this list include titles appropriate for the tiniest tappers to those who want to immerse themselves in the history of rhythm.
Reading a book might not be the first thing you think of when considering how to learn about tap dance. After all – tap dancing is one of the most active and engaging forms of dance out there!
While reading might be a more sedentary activity, the knowledge and information you can gain from picking up a book about tap dance is just as valuable as putting on your tap shoes and “shuffling off to Buffalo”!
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For the youngest tap dancers out there, Rap a Tap Tap: Here’s Bojangles – Think of That! is a great read.
This book gives a fun history of Bill “Bojangles” Robinson, one of the first famous tap dancers. It is also beautifully illustrated, and guaranteed to be a favorite!
One of the more unique tap dancing books for young readers is Tap Dance Troubles, of the Emma Every Day series.
Emma is a deaf little girl who starts tap dancing lessons and quickly realizes it’s not as easy as it looks! But, with hard work and perseverance, she learns that she can overcome any challenge. Each book comes with an ASL fingerspelling chart.
Tap-Dance Fever tells the tall tale of Annabelle, a tap dancing fanatic who just can’t stop moving!
From the kitchen to the school house, Annabelle’s neighbors are convinced her rhythmic footwork is the cause of all their problems and they set out to stop her. But Annabelle’s love of dance can’t be tamed. This fun book is written for children 5-7 years old.
In Tallulah’s Tap Shoes, our main character (who loves ballet) attends a summer dance camp where she has to take (gasp!) tap class!
Tallulah does not enjoy being an absolute beginner, and struggles to have any fun in class. But when she meets another dancer with a similar problem, she discovers that maybe tap class isn’t so bad after all.
Written by Karen Callaway Williams, the only African-American female tap dancer and dance captain in RIVERDANCE – ON BROADWAY, Gabriella and The Tap Dance Floor highlights the story of Gabriella and her search for the perfect surface to tap dance on.
Children ages 6 through 8 will love reading about Gabriella and her determination to find the tap dancing floor of her dreams!
Readers between the ages of 8-10 will enjoy Knockin’ on Wood – Starring Peg Leg Bates.
Clayton “Peg Leg” Bates was a tap dancer in the early 20th century who lost a leg in childhood, but went on to become world renowned for his unique style. This inspirational story is an easy and fun read.
In Rhythms For Ruby, we again encounter Gabriella of Gabriella and The Tap Dance Floor. This time, inspired by a true story, Gabriella helps to support her friend Ruby who has lost her leg in a car accident.
With help from a few great teachers, Gabriella and Ruby learn about Peg Leg Bates, the famous one-legged tap dancer, and raise money for a special leg for Ruby to dance with. This book is appropriate for ages 8 and up.
Savion!: My Life in Tap is an easy to read autobiography about Savion Glover, one of the most celebrated tap dancers in history.
Readers ages 10 and up will appreciate hearing about his early years, and enjoy the over 50 amazing photos included in the book.
Tap dance is an uniquely American art form, and as detailed in Tap Dancing America: A Cultural History, has a complicated and comprehensive past which is necessary for all tap dancers, young and old, to understand.
This edition includes illustrations and photographs, and is appropriate for ages 13 and up.
For ages 12 and up, Tap! The Greatest Tap Dance Stars and Their Stories 1900-1955 gives readers an inside look at the lives and memories of so many tap dancers from the early days of the art form.
With a foreword from Gregory Hines, this is a must-have for serious tap fans.
One cannot be a well-rounded scholar of dance without learning about Bill “Bojangles” Robinson. In Mr. Bojangles: The Biography of Bill Robinson, readers ages 13 and up will read stories of perseverance, civil rights, and the invention of the phrase “Everything’s Copasetic!”
A book that includes a little bit of everything, Tapping The Source: Tap Dance Stories, Theory and Practice by renowned tap dancer Brenda Bufalino provides a myriad of knowledge for the information hungry tap dancer.
From personal stories to intricate break downs of tap phrases, this book is a must have for those who want to take their tap dancing to the next level.
A rarely showcased duo, Edwina “Salt” Evelyn and Jewel “Pepper” Welch took the tap dance world by storm in the early 1940s, headlining shows at Harlem’s Apollo Theatre and finding success in a racist and sexist era.
Including beautiful and rare photos, Tappin’ at the Apollo by Cheryl M. Willis is sure to inspire dancers old and young.
One of the most famous tap dance movies of all time is Singin’ in the Rain starring Gene Kelly, Debbie Reynolds, Cyd Charisse and Donald O’Connor. For an in-depth peek at the behind-the-scenes details, look no further than Singin’ in the Rain: The Making of an American Masterpiece.
With information gleaned from interviews, memories and oral histories, this is an incredible read that is not to be missed by tap dance lovers!
Fred Astaire continues to be one of the most recognized and celebrated tap dance stars of all time, and in his book Steps in Time: An Autobiography, we hear from the man himself about his legendary career in show business.
Much more than just a tap dancer, Astaire did it all, and did it all well. This is a fabulous read for anyone who wants to dive deep into the world of movie musicals.