Tap dancing mixes two beautiful arts — dancing and making music — into one mesmerizing act. Tap dancing can be recognized by the unique tapping sounds created by metal plates that are attached to the ball and heel of each dancer's shoes.
Many companies make special tap shoes that have custom tap plates attached to the bottom of the shoes with screws. Since each shoe has a tap plate near the toe and one on the heel, tap shoes are sometimes called "two shoes and four taps." The screws that attach the taps to the shoes can be adjusted to change the sounds they make.
Of course, it's also possible to make your own homemade tap shoes by taping quarters or screwing metal plates to the bottom of any pair of shoes. It's also possible to tap dance in shoes that have a hard, solid sole. However, the sounds such shoes make is not the same as true tap shoes.
Tap dancing has roots in various dances from cultures all over the world. Some likely influencers of tap dancing include African Juba dancing, English clogging, Irish step dancing, Native American stomp dancing, and Spanish flamenco dancing.
Tap dancers often improvise, making up their specific moves and beats as they go along. They also rely heavily on syncopation, which means they use an irregular rhythm to place stresses or accents where they usually wouldn't occur.
Would you believe you can even tap dance without music? Just like singing without music, tap dancing can be done “a cappella."
Instead of dancing to music, tap dancers instead create their own unique rhythms using a variety of special steps.
Tap dancing was popular in America from the 1930s to the 1950s. The best tap dancers of the time moved from touring shows to Broadway to movies and eventually television.
Some of the famous tap dancers from this period were Fred Astaire, Ginger Rogers, Shirley Temple, Gene Kelly, Rita Hayworth, and Bill “Bojangles" Robinson.
With the birth of rock and roll, tap dance declined in popularity. A new form of dance — jazz dance — eventually evolved out of tap dance.
Although they were similar in the past, tap dance and jazz dance are considered separate forms of dance today.
Traditional tap dance is once again starting to become popular. Modern tap dancers include Gregory Hines and Savion Glover.