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Tap History Dancing Dancer

            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.'

   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).


Birth Place

Creation Date


Dance Type

Five Points District 1840 William Henry Lane Folk/ Solo

Posters, Lobby Cards etc.

Sheet Music Covers

Various Music Titles

$ A tap dancer / Albert Smith Clog Dance (Hanson) Bootmen CD
$ Avon Long Tap Dancing and Singing The Soft Shoe Song Brazil (Miranda's Samba Boogie Tap)
$ How to Tap Dance Your Way to Fame   Buck Dancers Lament
$ Ray Bolger Tap Photo Poster   Chattanooga Choo Choo (Nicholas Bros.)
$ Ray Bolger Tap Photo 2   Good Ship Lolli Pop (S. Temple)
$ Tap, Movie poster   Melody In F. (Bojangles)
$ Tap Dance Kid   Missouri Waltz (S. Temple- Waltz Clog)
$ Tap Roots   School Days (S. Temple)
    $ Shuffle Off To Buffalo (1932 Warren)
    $ Soft Shoe Shuffle (1942)
    Stompin' At The Savoy (Ann Miller)
    $ Tap Dance (Briggs, Jimmy Slide, Laurence etc) CD
    $ Tap Jamz - Music For Tap Dance
    Tea For Two (George Murphy)
    Tico-Tico (Carmen Miranda -Samba Boogie Tap)

Night Clubs



Apollo - N.Y. Broadhurst Theatre (1983) n/a
Cotton Club - N.Y. Liberty Theater (1928)      
Hoofers Club - N.Y. Minskoff Theatre (1983)      

Biography Videos



$ Baby Laurence: Jazz Hoofer 1950's - Colgate Comedy Hour 1913 - Darktown Follies
$ Biography: Ann Miller 1973 - BBC - TV Record Breakers 1921 - Shuffle Along
$ Biography: Bill Robinson 1989 - Tap Dance in America 1923 - Runnin' Wild
$ Biography: Nicholas Brothers   1928 - Blackbirds of 1928
$ Biography: Sammy Davis Jr.       1930 - Brown Buddies
$ Biography: Shirley Temple       1939 - Hot Mikado
        1940 - All In Fun
        1945 - Memphis Bound
        1983 - Tap Dance Kid
        42nd Street, Tap Dogs, Stomp
        ... Click Here for more Stage Listings

Films with or About Tap Dance

1914 Rounders 1942 Orchestra Wives [DVD] 1989 Tap! [DVD | VHS] (Hines)
1928 Dancing Colleens, the 1943 Stormy Weather [DVD] 1991 Five Heartbeats [DVD]
1928 Movietone: Ruby Keeler 1944 Pin Up Girl [DVD] 1992 Dancing Man: Peg Leg Bates [?VHS]
1929 St. Louis Blues (Mordecai) 1945 The Littlest Rebel (Temple) [DVD] 1993 [DVD]
1930 Negroes Entertain Sailors on USS TX. 1948 Tap Roots 1993 Two Takes on Tap (Coles etc)
1930's Rooftop Frolics (Short) 1948 Pirate [DVD | VHS] 1994 Honi Coles: The Class Act of Tap
1931 Blue Rhythm (Animated Disney) 1948 Time of your Life [DVD] 1996 Tap Dogs [DVD | VHS]
1932 Tip, Tap, Toe (& 1944) 1950 Summer Stock (Gene Kelly) [DVD] 1997 Double Tap?
1933 Footlisght Parade 1956 Tapdancin' (Maceo Anderson) 1997 Stomp Out Loud [DVD | VHS | '08 Live]
1933 That's The Spirit (La Redd) 1964 Get Yourself a College Girl 1999 Tap: Migration of a People & Dance
1935 Littlest Rebel (Temple) [DVD] 1965 Camera Three (Coles-Atkins) 2000 Bootmen [DVD | VHS]
1935 Little Colonel (Temple) [DVD] 1973 Baby Laurence: Jazz Hoofer [VHS] 2001 Bojangles (Hines) [DVD | VHS]
1936 By Request (Tip, Tap & Toe) 1980 Tap Dancin' (Bubbles, Coles etc) 2007 Talking Feet: Solo So. Flatfoot, Buck & Tap [DVD]
1938 Rebecca Sunnybrook Farm (Temple) [DVD] 1981 Stepping Out (Palmer) [DVD] Fred Astaire Movies 2001 Bojangles DVD About Tap VHS
1940's Dancing Thru* 1984 Cotton Club [DVD | VHS] Hal Leroy Shorts
1940 Down Argentine Way [DVD] 1985 About Tap (Condos etc) [DVD | VHS] $ The Jazz Tap Ensemble
1941 Sun Valley Serenade [DVD] 1985 White Nights [DVD | VHS] 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 [DVD] Stan Kahn Tap Dance Tech. [DVD]
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 | VHS] 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]

Various Tap related Dancers, Choreographers, Groups etc. thru time

1830 - Thomas D. Rice Derby Wilson Jack Donahue Nicholas Brothers
1840s - Master Juba Eddie Cantor James Barton Nick Castle
1840 - Barney Williams Eddie Foy Jack Billings & Diana Chase Pat Rooney Sr.
1860 - Barney Fagan Eddie Leonard Jack Wiggins Patty Hughes
Ann Miller Eddie Rector James Cagney Paul Draper
Baby Laurence Eleanor Powell James Hess Ray Bolger
Berry Brothers Fred Astaire Jaunita Pitts Red and Struggy
Bill Bailey Four Flash Devils, the Jim Diamond "Rubberneck Holmes"
Bojangles (Bill Robinson) Four Fords, the Jim Dukes Sammy Davis Jr.
Bonnie Franklin Four Step Brothers Jimmy Slyde Sammy Dyer
Buck and Bubbles Gene Kelly Johnny Mack (1942) Savion Glover
Buddy Ebsen George Cohen Johnny Nitt Shirley Temple
Bunny Briggs George H. Primrose Juba, Master Slick and Slack
Carlos George Murphy Kid Checkers Strut Flash (1942)
Carmen Miranda Ginger Rogers King Nappy Stump and Stumpy
Chappy Chappelle (Sand) Grace Rector King Rastus Brown Three Ritz Brothers
Charles Shelton Gregory Hines Leonard Reed Tip, Tap and Toe
Chris Gill (acrobatic) Hal Leroy Lou Keane U.S. Thompson
Cholly Atkins Harriet Brown (Sand Dance) Marilyn Miller Will MaHoney
Clarence Bowens Harry Swinton Martha Raye Will Mston Trio (see Sammy Davis)
Clarence Dotson Henry Williams Maxie McCree Willie Covan
Condos Brothers   Ned Wayburn Zip Coon

Other Tapping type dances, Related or other Dances of the time

Appalachian Flamenco Pattin' Juba Soft Shoe
Ballet Gigue Pedestal Dance Spanish Dance
Ballet-Tap Hornpipe Reels Truckin' Tap
Black Bottom Irish Step Dancing Samba Boogie Tap Virginia Reel
Buck and Wing Jazz Dance Sand Dance Waltz Clog
Charleston Tap Jazz-Tap Shake Dance Zapateado
Clog Jig (Gigue) Shim-Sham Zip Coon

Tap Dance Books

Title Writer date Publisher
Black Dance from 1619 to Today (Lynne Fauley) ?? ?? ??
$ Mr. Bojangles (Bill Robinson) ?? ?? ??
Tap Dances Duggan, Anne Schley 1933 ??
Tip Top Dancing Shomer, Louis 1937 ??
How to Tap Dance Castle, Nick 1948 Self Printed?
Dance Encyclopedia Chujoy, Anatole 1949 A.S. Barnes
$ Inside Tap ?? ?? ??
$ Jazz Dance: Story of American Vernacular Dance Stearns, Marshall Winslow
1964 Da Capo Press
$ Jazz Tap: From African Drums to... ?? ?? ??
$ Brotherhood in ... (Nicholas Bros) ?? ?? ??
$ Tap Dance Dictionary Knowles, Mark 1998 McFarland & Co.
$ Tap! - The Dancers - 1900-1955 Frank, Rusty 1995 Da Capo
$ Tap Dancing America : A Cultural History Hill, Constance 2009 Oxford Univ. Press
$ Talking Feet (Appalachian) ?? ?? ??




Clarence Williams n/a 8/25/1941 - Life Magazine
Harry Warren     Zapateadode Negro Mania

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

Appalachian Bojangles Irish Minstrel Rhythm Shuffle Tip-Tap
Ball Change Claquettes Jig Patter Riffs Steppen' Vaudeville
Black Face Clog Keith Circuit Pearl Rolls Sapateado Time Step Zapateado


Basic Tap Dance Steps: >Click Here!
Need New Shoes: Tap Flex Split-Sole : Tap Shoes
July 23, 2015