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Different styles of tap dancing

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Fred Astaire
Fred Astaire was a masterful tap dancer and often partnered with Ginger Rogers
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Tap dancing will never go out of favor. It's fun to execute and fun to watch

Tap dancing is a style of dance that had a start long before it was known as tap dancing. Today the different styles of tap dancing all have their roots in the earliest dances that used tap techniques that are still familiar.


Tap dancing made its way to America when African Americans were brought over from their native country. The slaves were the original tap dancers, although the dances that they did were not referred to as tap dancing. That would come later. It is unclear when the phrase tap dancing popped up. It did not appear in print until 1928 but it is believed the phrase was used as early as 1900.


The slaves were forbidden to use drums so they tapped out the beat of a drum with their feet when they danced. When the African slaves got to America, they began combining European dancing with African rhythms, using their feet to make the percussive sounds. The slaves originated the shuffling steps, flat foot steps, as well as brushing the foot against the floor, all of which are present in contemporary tap dancing. The emphasis on specific foot movements and the sounds they create resulted in the development of dance shoes tailored to tap dance.


The Irish did their part in the creation of tap dancing. Irish men, women and children clogged and jigged. Many Irishmen were deported to the Caribbean and that is where the Irish and the African slaves, who were both working on sugar plantation, fused their dance styles and music. There was an emphasis on footwork but very little movement of the upper body, which is a style that is evident in River Dance. The outcome was a dance style called jigging. When jigging, the dancer would bend at the waist, engage in rapid rhythmic shuffles, execute springing steps and jumping but kept his arms and torso still.





White dancers started doing the jig in minstrel shows in American during the 19th century. The dancers wore shoes that were hard-soled or clogs.


Around 1845, a style of tap dancing called Juba dance or Pattin Juba became the rage. It was a mix of clogging, the European jig, African rhythms and reel steps. It was popularized by William Henry Lane, who was referred to as Master Juba.


One of the early forms of tap dancing was called Buck and Wing. This type of dance was performed by Vaudeville and minstrel dancers. The term buck was a derogatory term used for African American males. The dance moves were swiped from the African American style of dancing. The buck and wing style of tap dancing is described as a dance featuring heel clicks, leg flings, springs and sharp foot accents.


It was not until the Roaring Twenties that tap dancing became part of the circus, carnivals and medicine shows that were performed throughout the country. This type of tap dancing was jazz-infused as a result of the emergence of ragtime music. This new form of tap dancing was light, speedy and emphasized precision. Florenz Ziegfeld, owner of the Ziegfeld Follies, introduced tap dancing to Broadway n 1914. The Broadway dancers were the first to attach metal plates or tap or their shoes.


During the Jazz Age, which was the 1920s, tap dancing sped up even more and it was the fastest method yet. In the 1930s and 1940s, tap dancers often danced with the big bands. Two very distinct styles of tap dance evolved: The Black dancers developed a rhythmic style, such as executed by Bill Bojangles Robinson, who was featured in numerous movies with Shirley Temple, versus the elegant, graceful balletic style of Fred Astaire, who was often coupled with Ginger Rogers. Tap dancing evolved into a soft-soled shoe, full body movement in the late 1940s.


Bill Bojangles Robinson was a tremendous influence on child star Shirley Temple, who could out  dance any adult. She was known as the littlest tap dancer in Hollywood. Temple and Robinson did many dance scenes on the silver screen, often employing a set of stairs, going up and down them as they executed their intricate dance moves. Robinson is single-handedly credited with re-energizing the tap dance craze during the 20th century.


Resources:

Famous Tap Dancers

Different Types of Tap

History of Tap Dance


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