Sonny Watson's Homepage
Ballrooms | Blog| Burlesque | Contests | Dances | Dancers | Dance History | Marathons | Movies | Music | Posters Store | Sheet Music | Troupes || Refresh Page
History Index HomePage
Music Lists: Contemporary WCS| Trad'l WCS| C/W Swing| Big Band| Disco| Gospel| Holiday| Hustle| Late Night| Latin| Latin WCS| Mash-Ups| NC2S| Techno
You Are here: Search Streetswing Site Site Search --->

Buckdance Buck Dance and Pigeon Wing Title

         This page deals with all things Buck or Wing. The history of the Buck dance, Flat Footing, Pigeon Wing, and Wings. Buck dancing is a pre-tap dance  routine and was done by Minstrel and Vaudeville performers in the mid nineteenth century portraying the African-American males, known as "Bucks." Originally the Pigeon Wing steps (foot shaking in the air) were a big part of this early folk dance but later separated when variations began such as the shooting out of one leg making a "Wing."

   The term "buck" is traced to the West Indies where Africans used the words po' bockorau (Buccaneer), and later the French term Buccaneer. Ship captains would have the men dance on the ships (dancing the Slaves) to try to keep the morale up as well as a form of exercise. It was one of the dances that became popular with the Irish Buccaneers who did Jigs and Clogs, reels etc. who would be known as Buck Dancers. These terms would eventually become dance steps.

   The legendary dancer "Master Juba" did a Buck and Wing in the 1840's. It is said that the Buck and Wing 'routine' was first performed on the New York stage in 1880 by James McIntyre as well as inventing the 'Syncopated Buck and Wing.' king Rastus Brown is considered one of the best Buck and Wing dancers in history. During the dance craze of the 1920's, buck and wing dancers would be considered square and corny when compared to the newer style of tap dancing that was slowly replacing the buck and wing style of previous years.

   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, Reels, Sand dance etc. which later gave birth to the "Time Step" and "Soft Shoe." The Breakdown is also related to the Buck dance. The Buck and Wing can and was used in Reels, Clog dance, Can-Can (Pigeon Wing,) Jigs and Tap dance. The modern Buck and a Wing is characterized by wing-like steps done in the air (known as "wings") done mostly on the balls of the foot and which is considered the forerunner of rhythm tap. The Hornpipe of England was a elaborate Pantomime of English sailors, mimicking their duties while patting the feet to a tune.

Buck: (Buck dance) ............................................. (Videos are not in any order to text).
   Rhythm and Percussive, originally just a stamping of the feet to interpret the music which later became more refined when mixed with the Jig and Clog. Buck dancers usually dance alone and in a small area of space. In Tap Dance it is known as the earliest version of the "Shuffle and Tap Steps." The basic Chug or Buck step is done by pushing the ball of the foot across the floor, at the same time dropping the heel, with or without weight. Buck dancing was the first known American Tap form performed to syncopated rhythms. These rhythms were performed on the "Offbeat or Downbeat" which came from Tribal rhythms in Africa. Buck dance was a type of countrified Clog or Tap dance. Usually associated with Barn Dancing or Country Dance. The Indians (Mainly Ute), also had a dance, participants would dress in Deer Skins (Buck) and do a ceremonial dance called Buck Dancing.

Originally the music used was 2/4 time and was of the Syncopated March type. The Mobile Buck was an ancestor of the common Buck Dance that later evolved into the Time Step.

    Flatfoot dancing is mostly Buck dancing in nature, but much more laid back in which the feet stay very close to the floor and without the soles of the dancers shoes making much noise, nor stomping. The flatfoot dancer seems relaxed and carefree while he or she dances, even though the feet are constantly moving. If you could imagine a "soft-shoe" Buck dance. This dance is a spot dance (done in place) with the arms moving only slightly to flow with the dancers balance which gives them a fluid look. If more than one person wants to dance at the same time, they each dance individually i.e. freestyle, but still adhering to the rhythm of the music being played.

Pigeon Wing:
   Originally (1830's) just the shaking of one leg in the air. Was also known as the "Ailes De Pigeon" in Ballet. For a time it was commonly referred to as "Pistolets" by the French and just plain ole "Pigeon Wing" by the Folk dancers, later being taken over by the Minstrel dancers. In the Can-Can the "Pigeon Wing" was bringing the bust into play by leaping forward, kicking high and throwing the shoulders back while "carrying on the arm" (or holding one leg up against the cheek, while hopping lightly on the other leg). Basically it's just the lifting of the leg (demi-Plie') and move the leg too beat the back calf of the other foot. Can be done in front of other leg or as in the variation of Michael Jackson's modern version of his front lifting leg swing. When Minstrel dancing came en vogue, many variations came about, namely a small hop on one leg while shooting out the other leg to form a "Wing."

   Wings Evolved into a waving of the body with arms and legs flapping to appear like wings on a bird (see above clip) which makes the Buck, Tap, Hip-Hopper, Charleston, Jig dancer more animated. 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. Eventually becoming what they'd call "air steps" (not adagio), and even later "Flash/Shine 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" usually remains 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. Today Wings are part of the Tap dance family.

    Don't be surprised if you see a Buck or Flatfoot dancer bring a $mall portable dance floor or plywood, lay it down on the ground and start dancin' away. Music is often times a string band. A great DVD on this subject is "(2007) by Smithsonian Folkways dvd $ Talking Feet: Solo Southern Dance - Flatfoot, Buck and Tap" (2007) by Smithsonian Folkways.

Birth Place

Creation Date


Dance Type

Appalachian Mountains ?c.1830s? n/a Solo / Folk / Country

Posters, Lobby Cards etc.

Sheet Music Covers

Video Clips (pop-up)

Music Titles

n/a 1894 - a la Pigeon Wing Video Clip not available at this time 1870s - Rabbit
      1897 - Evening pastimes Video Clip not available at this time 1910 - Chicken Reel (Daly)
      1897 - Shuffling Coon
You-Tube video clip pop up
1938 - Buck Dance Rhythm (Slim and Slam)
      1905 - Baltimore Buck Video Clip not available at this time 1960 - The Pigeon (Don Apilado)
      1907 - Buck Dance Video Clip not available at this time Bee's Wing
      1909 - Southern Jamboree
You-Tube video clip pop up
Buck Dancer's Choice (Sam and Kirk McGee)
      1915 - Scramble Rag
You-Tube video clip pop up
Foggy Mountain Breakdown (Flat & Scruggs)
      Bowery Buck (Turpin)
You-Tube video clip pop up
Good Ol Mountain Dew (Stringbean)
        Video Clip not available at this time LaFayette (Kirk McGee)
        Video Clip not available at this time Massa Johnson (Buck Dance)
You-Tube video clip pop up
Old Buck Dance, the (Buck Owens)
        Video Clip not available at this time Red Wing
You-Tube video clip pop up
Stocktime - Mississippi John Hurt

Night Clubs



Tony Pastor's Theatre (1879) n/a USA

Video Clips (pop-up)

Films / Movies


Ballets / Stage

Not Viewable thru a Youtube Video Pop-up window. 1894 - The Little Magnet n/a 1895 - Black Patti Troubadours (Buck Contests)
Not Viewable thru a Youtube Video Pop-up window. 1894 - James Grundy       1915 - In Old Kentucky (Buck Contests)
Not Viewable thru a Youtube Video Pop-up window. 1898 - Buck Dance, (Ute Indians)       1916 - Melody land (Wayburn)
Viewable thru a Youtube Video Pop-up window.
1903 - Pickaninny's Dance (Breakdown / Buck)       1919 - Boutique Fantasque
Not Viewable thru a Youtube Video Pop-up window. 1929 - Hallelujah (Buck and Wing)       1923 - Topsy and Eva (Gehrue)
Not Viewable thru a Youtube Video Pop-up window. 1929 - Marking Time (Pat Rooney)        
Not Viewable thru a Youtube Video Pop-up window. 1929 - Steppin' Along - Sunshine Sammy & His Bros.        
Viewable thru a Youtube Video Pop-up window.
1949 - Square Dance Jubilee (Clip2)        
Not Viewable thru a Youtube Video Pop-up window. 1950s - The Buck Dance (Horace Sprott)        
Not Viewable thru a Youtube Video Pop-up window. 1956 - Tap dancin' (Maceo Anderson demos Buck)        
Not Viewable thru a Youtube Video Pop-up window. Cole Porter's Can-Can      


Not Viewable thru a Youtube Video Pop-up window. Talking Feet: Solo Southern Dance [DVD]       Talking Feet: Solo Southern Dance
Not Viewable thru a Youtube Video Pop-up window. 1989 - Tap [DVD] (Duncan)        

Other Related Dances of the time...

Ailes de Pigeon Essence of Old Virginia Pigeon Wing Square Dance
Arkansas Traveler Horn Pipes Pistolets Statue Dance
Bamboula Jigs (Gigue) Reels Step Dancing
Barn Dance Juba Dance Ring Shout Stomp
Breakdown Jump Jim Crow Roger de Coverly, Sir Tap Dance
Buck Dance Kid In Play Sapateado Virginia Essence
Can-Can Lancashire Clog Sligo (an Irish Clog) Virginia Reel
Charleston Mobile Buck Soft Shoe Waltz Clog
Clog Pedestal Dance (see Jig)   Zip Coon

Dancers, Choreographers etc.


Arthur Duncan Jeni Legon n/a
Barney Fagan "King Rastus" Brown  
Dan Rice (7) Legris brothers  
Dave Reed Master Juba  
"Diamond" Jim Brady Max Ford (Wing Dancer)  
Dynamite Hooker Mayme Gehrue (in Topsy & Eva)  
Florence Mills Miss May Day (1909)  
George White Ruby Keeler  
Horace Sprott Willie Covan (a Buck and Wing Innovator)  
James McIntyre (1880's) Syncopated Buck & Wing Zip Coon  

Books, Magazine Articles on the dance...



Date Published


The Dance Encyclopedia Chujoy, Anatole 1949 A.S. Barnes & Co.
$ Jazz Dance Stearns, Marshall rv.1994 Da Capo Press




Poets / Writers

n/a n/a n/a n/a

Misc. Research Words that may be related ... to help your searches

Appalachians Fiddle Levee Dancers Sailors
Barn Dance Juba Mountain Dancers Square Dance
Chug Jump Jim Crow Set The Floor Water Dances
Dan Rice Flatfoot Breakdown