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What is Tap Dance?

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By Samantha Bellerose, B.Ed, Dip.Dance (Performing Arts)

Tap dance is essentially making rhythmical percussion sounds using your feet. To enhance the noise being produced metal plates are screwed onto a tap dancer’s shoes. A shoe with a wide heel is generally best for this. Sound is then made by tapping the balls or heels onto a hard wooden or similar surface to create a ‘tapping’ sound.

Tap dance has a broad set of steps and terminology that is fairly universal throughout the world and includes steps and labels for steps such as the shuffle, digs, slides, taps, slaps, toe, drops, and wings.

With American origins, Tap dance was born through a merging of Irish and African dance which were both brought to America through slavery and immigration. Originally performed in vaudeville during the mid 19th century it was developed into what was known as broadway tap through the popularity of Hollywood movies and dance legends such as Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers. As popular culture evolved dancers such as Gregory Hines took tap dance to the next level showcasing a more rhythmical tap dance style.

Today a tap dance is practiced and learned in many different ways. A class may be based in the broadway style, it might be focused on creating new noises, rhythms, and movements whilst dancing in workman boots ala ‘The Tap Dogs’ or it might be set to popular movement with funk and hip hop choreography like the group ‘Syncopated Ladies’.

This page is just one of hundreds of definitions of the many styles and genres of dance. This library is being continually added to by the writers and contributors of Dance Parent 101!