Tap dance is a form of dance characterized by using the sound of one's shoes hitting the floor as a percussive instrument. As such, it is also commonly considered to be a form of music. Two major variations on tap dance exist: rhythm (Jazz) tap and Broadway tap. Broadway tap focuses more on the dance, and is widely performed as a part of musical theater. Rhythm tap focuses more on musicality, and practitioners consider themselves to be a part
of the Jazz tradition.
Tap dance has its roots in both Irish step-dancing and black slave dances, such as the Juba Dance. It is believed to have begun in the mid-1800s during the rise of minstrel shows. Irish performers would imitate Southern blacks and satirize their dance forms while incorporating step-dancing. In later minstrel shows, black performers in blackface would play roles in which they imitated the Irish imitation of black dance forms, further mixing the two. Famous as Master Juba, William Henry Lane became one of the only black performers to join an otherwise white minstrel troupe, and is widely considered to be the most famous forebear of tap dance.
Early tappers like Fred Astaire provided a more ballroom look to tap dancing, while Gene Kelly used his extensive ballet training to make tap dancing incorporate all the parts of the ballet. This style of tap led to what is today known as "Broadway style," which is more mainstream in American culture. It often involves high heeled tap shoes and show music, and is usually the type of tap first taught to beginners. The best examples of this style are found in Broadway musicals such as 42nd Street.
Register for Tap classes!