Tap Dance sprang from U.S. soil and would be made popular by dancers like "Daddy" Thomas Rice" (white) and "Zip Coon" who started the popularity of Negro-Minstrel dance with his dances of "Jump Jim Crow" and Zip Coon. Before these dancers offered their renditions of these dances, Master Juba (William Henry Lane) who was known as "the dancinest fellow ever-was" and is described as doing a tap type dance (but was more of a clog.) Later, the great minstrel man Barney Fagan is often times referred to As the "Father of Tap."
Tap dancing started with the Negro slaves who would beat out rhythms and dance on river boats. Plantation owners called these dancers "Levee Dancers" thru out the south, these 'levee dancers' would wear shoes as well as not. Levee dancers would find fame with the minstrel shows around 1830 and would hire them to perform to the "Negro
ditties" as they were called at the time, however, most of these Negro performers were actually white men who would wear face paint, (known as "Blackface") and acting or perform these dances due to racism. Eventually thru competition
amongst the Minstrel show ... the black man had to paint his face, 'if' they could even get hired, which eventually they did. (The dance of the Cakewalk would eventually change this.) The Black Bottom has been credited to contributing to the "Modern Tap Dance: Musical Phrasing," with it's "Off Beat"rhythms.
Tap dance and Clog are very similar, mainly because Tap has deep roots into Clog dance. The most difficult of the Irish clogs are the Irish Jigs,Hornpipes and Reels. In some of these the feet can tap the floor more than seventy times in fifteen seconds. In Clog dancing, no thought is given to facial, line expressions and the arms are kept motionless. The Clog dance almost came to oblivion because of the mixing of the Clog and Shuffle dances of the African-Americans today known as Tap by the end of the 19th century in America. 1900 to 1920 were the years modern tap had evolved.
In 1866 the Black Crook, considered to be the first musical, which featured, Burlesque, Minstrel and Clog dancers who danced very stiffly and gave rise to the term Pedestal dancer. In 1902, Ned Wayburn who created a theater play called "Minstrel Misses" coined
the term "Tap and Step dance" in this musical play. This was the first time these names had been used professionally. The Wayburn misses used light clogs with split wooden soles because aluminum heel and toes taps did not appear till a decade later.
The Pedestal dancer would climb upon a marbled or gilded pedestal (24 inch base) and basically clog or tap out a routine while posing as motionless as a statue. Henry E. Dixey who used to whitewash himself, was one such dancer that was known as a pedestal dancer, he would be presented to the stage as a statue on a pedestal in the likes of Apollo or Discobulos and when the curtains parted he would start dancing on the pedestal in a statue like motion.
The Lancashire Clog, which is a more complicated dance than that of the levee dancers, made some contributions to Tap as well. Especially when George H. Primrose (Cotton Coons Minstrel Company) danced the clog without the wooden soles and invented the Soft-Shoe routine. Barney Williams was the first professional clog dancer The first professional dancers (troupe) in the U.S. were the Irish Clog dancers (traced to pre-Christian Ireland.) These dancers that followed were called "Song and Dance Men" in the Minstrel-Vaudeville shows. Clog contests in the 19th century would have the judges sit behind a screen or under the dance floor, judging the sounds rather than the body movements of the dancers. This dance also is performed in wooden soled shoes. For several decades Tap and Clog would flourish successfully.
The Soft Shoe is a form of tap only done with soft soled shoes without metal taps attached, first introduced by George Primrose on the Minstrel stage in the early 1910s. Performers originally wore all kinds of shoes to perform the Soft Shoe and as time went on the term soft shoe was applied to many eccentric styles of tap. The characteristics of the soft shoe however was the humor, wit, and delicate nature of the tapping performed with a very smooth and leisurely cadence. Occasionally this is referred to as the Sand Dance.
The Buck and Wing was adapted to the Minstrel stage from the recreational clogs and shuffles of the African-American. The Buck and Wing is said to be a bastard dance, made up of Clogs, Jigs, Sand dance etc. The Hornpipe of England was a elaborate Pantomime of English sailors, mimicking their duties while patting the feet to a tune.
Flash Steps consist of acrobatic combinations with expanded lea and body movements, while tapping not being essential became very popular during the teens and twenties. These Flash steps were more a visually stunning form of tap dance and the two main steps called "over the top" and "through the trenches" are credited to Toots Davis in 1913's Darktown Follies. Flash steps were usually done at the end of the routines as they could wear you out.
For the Shim Sham and/or Shim-Sham Shimmy (See Shim-Sham).
The Shout (or Ring-Shout) was a union of dance and song. This gave birth to what was called "Darkie dialect and rhythms" from "de camp meetin' hymns" and "work hollers" of the old south.
The fast Step dance: once popular and is the forerunner to the slower Soft Shoe style of Tap dancing done in 3/4 time. Originally came from Ireland around 400 A.D. and is often times called the great Granddaddy of Tap dancing. The early Irish dancers wore hard shoes designed to protect the feet for the weather in the British Isle. It was here these dancers created the Jig's they used in step dancing. These dancers would keep their arms perfectly still and at their sides, ignoring the more flashier arms movements of other dances. This dance would later become popular in England.
The Time Step: derived from the older Buck and Wing Style of dance and would prove to become one of the basic steps to tap dancing as well as 'Falling off a log' and' shuffling off to buffalo' and 'Wings.'
The more modern Wings started to become a basic stable to tap dancing around 1900. "Wings" are basically derived from the much older minstrel variations of the Pigeon Wing but no real air step being done. Eventually becoming "air steps" that have the dancer springing up from one leg off the floor, and using the correct timing to do a certain amount of taps with the same foot before landing back down while the other "winging leg" which usually remained motionless. There are variations such as the pump (winging leg goes up and down), double back, pendulum, Three-tap wing (one tap on the way up and two on the way down), Five-tap wings, etc.
Guinness World Book Records:
Roy Castle - January 14, 1973 -- 1,440 Taps Per Minute (24 per second).
|Five Points District
||William Henry Lane
|Apollo - N.Y.
||Broadhurst Theatre (1983)
| Cotton Club - N.Y.
||Liberty Theater (1928)
|Hoofers Club - N.Y.
||Minskoff Theatre (1983)
Films with or About Tap Dance
|| Orchestra Wives [DVD]
|| Tap! [DVD
||Dancing Colleens, the
|| Stormy Weather [DVD]
|| Five Heartbeats
||Movietone: Ruby Keeler
|| Pin Up Girl [DVD]
||Dancing Man: Peg Leg Bates
||St. Louis Blues (Mordecai)
|| The Littlest Rebel
The Jazz Band Ball [DVD]|
||Negroes Entertain Sailors on USS TX.
||Two Takes on Tap (Coles etc)|
||Rooftop Frolics (Short)
|| Pirate [DVD
||Honi Coles: The Class Act of Tap|
||Blue Rhythm (Animated Disney)
|| Time of your Life
|| Tap Dogs [DVD
||Tip, Tap, Toe (& 1944)
||Summer Stock (Gene Kelly) [DVD]
||Tapdancin' (Maceo Anderson)
Out Loud [DVD
||That's The Spirit (La Redd)
||Get Yourself a College Girl
||Tap: Migration of a People & Dance |
|| Littlest Rebel (Temple) [DVD]
||Camera Three (Coles-Atkins)
|| Little Colonel (Temple) [DVD]
|| Baby Laurence: Jazz Hoofer [VHS]
||By Request (Tip, Tap & Toe)
||Tap Dancin' (Bubbles, Coles etc)
||Talking Feet: Solo
So. Flatfoot, Buck & Tap [DVD]|
|| Rebecca Sunnybrook Farm (Temple) [DVD]
|| Stepping Out (Palmer)
||Fred Astaire Movies
||Cotton Club [DVD
||Hal Leroy Shorts|
|| Down Argentine Way [DVD]
||About Tap (Condos etc) [DVD
|| $ The Jazz Tap Ensemble|
|| Sun Valley Serenade
|| White Nights [DVD
||Great Feats of Feet (the Copasetics)>|
Click for More Tap Dance Films/ Videos|
|Tap Instructional Videos |
|Tap With Ginger - 3 Levels [DVD]
||Leonard Reed's Original Shim Sham Shimmy [DVD]
||Rusty Frank and the 1930's B.S. Chorus [DVD]|
|Charles Goodetz - Adv. Tap [VHS]
||Leonard Reeds: Shim Sham Shimmy [DVD | VHS]
||Rhythm Tap One (Zee) [DVD]|
|Coles & Atkins Slow Soft Shoe [DVD]
||Louis DaPron Chorus
||Stan Kahn Tap Dance
|Eddie Brown's B.S. Chorus [DVD]
||Music Theory For Tap Dancers [DVD]
||Swing Fever Beg Tap Routine [DVD]|
|Henry Le Tangs - Beg. Tap Video [DVD]
||No Maps on my Taps (Sims, Briggs) [DVD
||Tap Dance Made Easy 1 [DVD]|
|I Hate To Exercise - Love to Tap [DVD]
||Revenge of the Shim-Sham [DVD]
||Tap Notes 1&2 [DVD]|
||8/25/1941 - Life Magazine|
||Zapateadode Negro Mania|
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