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Tag: where did tap originate

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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