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Tag: tap dance

History Of Tap | Origins, Founders & Developers Of Tap Dance

History Of Tap | Origins, Founders & Developers Of Tap Dance

Tap dancing, as we know, has many different, distinct styles, almost sub genres, but where and how did this rythmical toe tapping start and how did it develop into what we know it to be today?

FOUNDING NAMES.

No one really knows the true origins of tap dancing, but perhaps the earliest reference, dating back to the 1800’s, is the Juba Dance, originally performed by Master Juba aka William Henry Lane. His style was described as percussive, well timed, expressive and varied in tempo, ranging from smooth to frenzied. Juba was one of the first black performers to dance for a white audience, and although starting in America, he was most popular in England. It was most certainly a style like no one had seen before! It’s thought to have been derived from African tribal persuasions and plantation dances.

At the time, it was rare for black dancers to perform as a solo due to a 2 coloured rule, so many early black performers did so as a duet, notably Buck & Bubbles. Ford Buck Washington would play the piano, and John Bubbles Sublett would tap. It’s documentented that their style was a ‘class act’ often wearing tuxedos. This was said to be a conscious effort to move away from the earlier Minstrels dancing clown appearance. Tuxedos are now a popular choice for tappers, particularly in the Broadway/musical theatre style. However Bubbles particular style was heavy on percussive heel beats and lower body movements, which is said to be the origins of today’s rhythm tap. We talked about rhythm tap in a previous article, and how it seems to be helping to popularize tap again in modern day culture. You can read it here ……..Tap Dance Revival! The Decline & Resurrection

Bill Bojangles Robinson is another famous tapper, famous in the early 1900’s. Originally one half of a duo with George Cooper, they achieved great success touring with their act, but Bojangles found the height of his career when he paired with Shirley Temple , and went in to have many leading roles in the movies. America celebrate National Tap Dance Day on 25th May, chosen because it is Bill Bojangles Robinson’s birthday.

Hot on the heels came The Nicholas Brothers, Fayard & Harold. They quickly rose to fame by adding somewhat acrobatic and extravagant moves to their dancing, notably leagfroging over one another and falling into the splits and rising again without using their hands! Their style was well out together and classy, always remaining under control.

There have been many other contributors to the world and genre of tap, too many to mention individually, but other names that deserve a mention are The Whitman Sisters, Brenda Buffalino, The Clark Brothers, and Gregory Hines.

DEATIALS.

Initially, the original tap styles were done in regular soft shoes, with a smooth, graceful technique, often called The Sand Dance, and perhaps where the grass the soft shoe shuffle was coined. It then developed to hard boots with strong heels, but it’s worth noting that the metal taps didn’t appear till around 1910.

Tap so has it’s own glossary of steps, which are closely linked to the developers and founders of the steps. Examples are, Buffalo, Bojangles, Suzi Q, wings, shuffles, minstrel, shimsham, riffs, rolls. Each step can be traced back to a particular date in time, influences and style.

Tap dance also continues to evolve. There are a number of new tap dancing influencers, regenerating tap for the new generation, each adding their own individual style and flare to the genre. The Arnold Sisters – Chloe and Maude, Jared ‘Grimey’ Grimes are a couple of examples stateside, where tap, particularly the rhythm style seems to be most popular. Heading up in the UK, friends Jamie Spall and Kate Ivory Jordan are hoping to make rhythm tap more commercialised by bringing their tap events to the masses! We wrote about their efforts and what exactly goes on at a tap festival in our previous article Brighton Tap Festival

To conclude, although the exact origins are fuzzy and uncertain, tap dancing has a rich history of founders and influences, which are still evident in all the various styles of tap we have today, and understanding those origins will surely help dancers and students to grasp the technique and the required style, further enhancing their craft.

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Brighton Tap Festival | A Family Affair

Brighton Tap Festival | A Family Affair

You’ve probably all heard of some amazing tap festivals held around the world, America, Barcelona, Stockholm to name a few, but where are the UK ones?! Let me tell you all about the new kid on the uk tap block!

Founded in 2015 and born from a family love for the genre, 4 women, (2 mums and 2 daughters) decided to put their best feet forward and bring tap to the masses here in Great Britannia. Brighton Tap Festival is the brain child of Karen Spall, Jamie Spall, Sarah Ivory and Kate Ivory-Jordan. Jamie and Kate have been tappers since the were tots, and have since shuffled their way around the world, dancing and learning from some of the best teachers and fellow hoofers. Whilst on their travels, they noticed the huge interest and popularity of tap dancing in other countries, yet the UK lacked the same enthusiasm. You can read our thoughts about why this might be on our previous article Tap Revival – The Decline And Resurrection . Keen tappers would have to travel out of the country, and as such incur great travelling expenses that some would be unable to justify, despite their tapping passion. And so the girls sought to change that and Brighton Tap Festival was established.

WHAT’S INVOLVED

The festival itself is a 3 day event open to anyone with a love for tap. It caters for every age and ability, from beginners to more advanced, and professional levels, so everyone will feel comfortable but still have the option to challenge themselves. Classes and workshops run throughout the day, then make way for the evening events. Here’s where the festival comes into its own!

The first is the Tap Jam, where willing participants are invited into the stage and improvise to live jazz music played by the Michele Drees Trio, what a treat! If you’ve never danced to live accompaniment before, you need to give it a go at least once. There is something so spine tingly special about it. The music literally vibrates through you, giving your dancing an incomparable quality.

Next up is the Cutting Competition where competitors will stomp it out against each other to win prizes. The key is to maintain rhythm whilst impressing the judges, so any personal flair is sure to be well received! Perhaps some homework watching the great Gene Kelly or Fred Astaire might come in useful!

Lastly is the Gala Night, a perfect way to conclude the festival. The whole faculty give a performance alongside some of the biggest UK hoofing talent, with live music from Michele Drees again. Jamie Spall had this advice, “The Gala is always the best event of the festival, and if I could recommend attending only one, it would be this one!”

Don’t worry though, there’s no obligation to participate in the evening festivities. They hold so much entertainment, good music and phenomenal talent, that you can simply buy a ticket and immerse yourself in the electric atmosphere!

TICKETS

The festival have a tiered system. The lowest is a 2 class pass. This enables you to attend any 2 classes of your choice over the entire weekend, perfect if you can’t commit to a set day or just popping in and out. You can also choose from a 1,2 or 3 day pass, giving you access to all the classes taking place on the day(s) you’ve selected. Workshops and evening events are extra and tickets need to be purchased separately, unless, that is, you go for the all inclusive pass, which does exactly what it says on the tin!

DETAILS

For 2018, the festival will run from 31st Aug -2nd Sept. Boasting some of the most admired and influential tappers of the current generation, including Jason Janas, Derick Grant , Adele Joel and the D’Angelo Bros to name a few. Jamie and Kate will also be taking classes! Visit the website www.brightontapfestival.org.uk for tickets and more information. What’s more is the girls have kindly organised a discount code for you, our readers! Send them a message through the contact page of their website and quote DANCENICHE which entitles you to 20% off ticket prices! What other excuse do you need?!

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Tap Revival – The decline and resurrection

Tap Revival – The decline and resurrection

In years gone by, teachers and studio owners noticed a growing trend of a decline in students in their tap classes. Read on for the possible causes of this and those that are championing an almighty return to greatness!

Many have put this decline down to the sheer difficulty and intricate foot and ankle technique putting students off. We all know the feeling of being almost beaten by a sequence of tap steps, you hit a wall and feel you are never going to ‘get’ it. It’s at this point that you either give up all together or push through that wall, but boy does that take A LOT of mental strength, persistence and dare I say it, stubbornness. If you don’t hold that love for tap, then you’ll most likely knock it on the head and wave your little white flag of defeat. It’s not always forever though. Teachers have commented on younger students nearly having a break from tap. They give up classes when they’re younger, only for some to return a few years down the line. This may be due to varying abilities and cognitive maturity. Children all develop at different rates, so some may be finding tap more difficult earlier on, and then want to try again when their brains are more developed and firing those signals at much quicker rate to enable them to execute the steps properly.

It has also been commented on the ‘style’ of tap being to blame. The Tap style of late was very ‘broadway’. Not that there’s anything wrong with that, I love the glamour, pizazz and sequins, but that just wasn’t ‘cool’ enough for the most recent generation of teenagers. Tap became a bit lame for want of a better word. These teens saw their parents watching those (wonderful) old MGM movies, seeing those tap routines and the getting to class and seeing the same style and steps. Teens are fickle creatures! So perhaps not wanting to lose their street cred had something to do with the decline.

However in more recent years, there’s been a steady incline in tap class numbers, but why?! Well, as mentioned before in talking about positive male ballet role models on social media, the same can be said for tap. Sisters Chloe & Maude have been something of a tapping sensation. Their prevalent presence on social media has brought a distinct new style of tap to the masses – rhythm tap. Rhythm tap is almost the polar opposite of the traditional style tap syllabuses taught in dance schools. Less about the lines and more about the sounds. Less upright and on your toes technique and more earthy, down into the ground. It’s a very free moving style, allowing your body to do whatever it needs to do to fire out the sounds from below. And that’s what makes it altogether more appealing, it looks more fun and expressive. The girl’s furious footwork often beggars belief, and you’re wondering why there aren’t any sparks coming from their shoes! They also have an infectious passion for tap that never falters, spreading the joy of creating rhythm with just your own feet where ever they time-step to!

So perhaps if you’re a studio owner, perhaps you could shake up your regular syllabus tap classes by doing a few free work rhythm tap sessions or host a rhythm tap workshop to reignite students love for the genre. Yes, it’s a very different style to traditional tap, but it can only add to your student’s roundedness as a dancer and performer, and may just inspire a new passion.

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