Tap dance began in the 1830s in New York City as a fusion of the African Shuffle and Irish, Scottish, and English step dances. Dancers from different immigrant groups would get together to compete and show off their best moves. As the dances fused, a new American style of dancing emerged – tap dancing.
Tap flourished in the USA from 1900 to 1955, when it was the main performance dance of Vaudeville and Broadway. Vaudeville was the inexpensive entertainment before television, and it employed many skilled tap dancers. Many big bands included tap dances as part of their show. For a while, every city in the USA had amateur street tap performers.
At the time, tap dance was also called jazz dance, because jazz was the music that tap dancers performed with.
In the 1950s, the style of entertainment changed. Jazz music and tap dance declined, while rock and roll music and the new jazz dance emerged. What is now called jazz dance evolved out of tap dance, so both dances have many moves in common.
But jazz evolved separately from tap to become a new form in its own right.
Later in the early 1980s, a few films staring Gregory Hines put tap back on the map. As the popularity in tap increased, there was a call for it to be recognised as an art form which was done by a vote of Congress in 1989, out of this National Tap Dance Day May 25 was born and is celebrated in many countries on and around this date.
In the early dancing years, most tap dancers started out dancing on street corners and outside clubs, and some the slogans that where used were “Stealing Steps”, “Trading Fours”, and “Top This”.
- Stealing Steps – means to figure what another dancer is doing
- Trading Fours – means to have a performance with two or more people
- Top This – means to have a competition with other dancers
To find out more about tap dance and how to learn tap dancing at your local dance centre please refer to the links list to the right.