Tap dance enjoyed the height of its popularity in the 1930s and 1940s. However, it’s still practiced by many young dancers. Anyone studying tap should know its history. For example,
(1) African-American slaves created an early form of tap that was an inspiration for the current art form,
(2) metal taps weren’t always used, and
(3) one of the most famous movie dance routines was a tap dance routine.
Read this article to expand your knowledge of tap dance.
Tap dance is one of the few dances that also engage the ears. It’s like a dance that creates its own music. Very few dances fit into this category. Are you interested in studying tap? Or maybe you just want to know more about it? Here are some questions and answers to get you informed.
Question One. Where did tap dance come from?
Answer. Tap dance is believed to be a mixture of dances from various cultures. African-American slaves are credited with starting an early form of the dance in America. They used their hands and feet to make music because they weren’t allowed to play African drums.
Question Two. What did tap dancers do before metal plates were available?
Answer. Dancers wore wooden clogs on leather shoes. The heel or toes were used to strike the wooden clogs against the floor. It produced a musical sound, although different from the one produced by metal plates.
Question Three. Who were some of the earliest famous tap dancers?
Answer. Bill “Bojangles” Robinson was one of the first dancers to become well known for tap. He began dancing professionally at the age of 6, and joined his first dance troupe in 1886. In 1891 when he was 12 years old, he joined a traveling dance company. Robinson spent his entire life dancing and performing, but he didn’t perform for a white audience until he was 50 years old.
The Nicholas brothers were also famous tap dancers. They first gained attention as featured dancers at Harlem’s famous Cotton Club. They were so popular, until they were the only act allowed to socialize with the white patrons. After leaving the club, the brothers appeared in movies and television shows.
Question Four. Were all popular tap dancers African-American?
Answer. At one time, the answer to that question would have been yes. But dancers such as Fred Astaire and Gene Kelley proved that dancing skills weren’t limited to one ethnic group. Astaire and Kelley were well-known for their dancing skills, which included tap.
Just the Beginning
The history of tap dance can’t be condensed into one short article. There’s much more to learn. If you’re interested in this art form, take time to read and learn more about it.