Tap dance is a style of dance in which a dancer generates beats by rhythmically striking the hard surface or floor. A dancer wears shoes fitted with heels.
A brief history of tap dance
In the early 19th century, it was originated in the United States. It originated at the crossroads of Irish American and African dance forms. Tap dance came into being because slave owners took away the traditional African percussion instruments. Slaves tried to retain their cultural identities and express themselves by turning to percussive dancing. From the British Isles, these dancing styles connected with clog dancing. As a result, they created a unique form of rhythm and movement.
In early times, shoes contain wooden soles. Sometimes pennies attached to toe and heels were also observed. Tap dance gained popularity after the Civil War. In the traveling minstrel shows where black and white performers wore blackface and they have amazed black people by portraying them as comical, dumb, and lazy.
Evolution of tap dance
During the 20th century, tap dance becomes an important feature of Vaudeville variety shows. During the early 20th century, it became the major part of the Harlem Renaissance. After some time, tap dancers start to collaborate with jazz musicians. It helps to incorporate complex syncopated rhythms and improvisation into their dance movements. Currently, the modern tap shoe contains metal plates known as taps on the heel and toe. These shoes are used widely.
Broadway and Vaudeville bring lots of dancing opportunities for African and American dancers. Still, there is an issue of racism. Black and white dancers performed separately for their segregated audiences. While in the second half of the century, the popularity of tap dance was declined. But in the 1980s it was reinvigorated through Broadway shows such as The Tap Dance Kid and 42nd Street.
Tap in Hollywood
From 1930 to 1950, sequences of tap dance become a staple of television and movies. There are lots of top stars such as Shirley Temple he was the one who began his career as a tap dancer. Gene Kelly introduced the balletic style of tap.
Fred Astaire becomes famous because he combines ballroom dance with a tap. He insisted that his dance scenes can be captured with a wide camera angle and with a single take. This cinematography style becomes part of tap dancing in television and movies and remains for decades.
The Greats of Tap Dancing
Master Juba was one of the early black tap dancers who visited with a white minstrel group. Another thing associated with Master Juba is he was the first black tap dancer to perform for a white audience. Master Juba is famous for blending African and European dance forms, and he offered a technically brilliant and fast dance style.
Another well-known tap dancer was Bill “Bojangles” Robinson. He began tap dancing in minstrel shows. He is credited for being the first American-African dancer to perform without blackface. He adapted quickly according to the changing tastes of the era. He moves to Broadway, Vaudeville, television, radio programs, and Hollywood. The most popular dancing routine associated with Robinson is dancing up and down the staircase and on each step involves complex rhythms.
Peg Leg Bates loses his leg in a cotton gin accident, and he was a child then. He taught himself to dance. He performed and danced in the Ed Sullivan Show, in films, and Vaudeville. He is known for performing with lots of others with physical disabilities. The first female to perform with Fred Astaire was Jeni Le Gon. She was the first black woman to perform on the screen and later they became an important tap pedagogue.
Other greats of tap dancing are Fayard and Howard known as Nicholas Brothers. They had a television and film tap spanning career and they remain the part of both for more than 70 years. The brothers got training from George Balanchine and both of these introduced virtuosic and an athletic style. They made these styles famous for their performance in film stormy weather in 1943.
The introduction of a higher complexity of improvisation of rhythms, sounds, and steps is associated with great Gregory Hines. Hines has done something different and his dance involves rhythmic and it strayed from traditional rhythmic meters. Another famous dancer in Broadway who hit The Tap Dance Kid was Glover. He mixes the moves he learned from his teacher Hines and his contemporary style. He won several awards for his Broadway choreography.
More about Tap Dance
Tap dance can be separated into two different styles such as Rhythm and jazz. In tap dance, there is a mix of English, African tribal, and Scottish. Dance and Irish music brought life to new genres. This style of dance was focused on the creation of tap sounds by using the toe, shoe heel, and sliding of the shoe across the ground to generate beat.
Tap dance evolved in the late 19th century and unfortunately, like jazz music, it does not make its mark in deep browed books. There is mediocre or small literature available on tap dance. There are some memorable biographies and collections of interviews available, but there is never a volume present that can help to lift the critical and historical perspective of tap dance.
In the early days, dance was not considered very important and that’s why it mostly went under corded. Tap dance was created by extremely poor people. To retain their traditional culture they introduced the concept of tap dance. This dance turned into worth money and this activity helped them and keeps away from dying.
It is the American contribution to the performing arts. A good thing about tap dance is it was a dynamic art form from the start and that’s why it was shaped and molded differently by greats of tap dance. Tap dancers continue to impress their audience by their great dance moves and unique actions. It remains a part of television and films for decades.