Tap dancing has been called the "Second American Past time." But how was this dance created? How does it exist today? Read this article to learn about the history of tap dancing, and how it's faring in modern times.
Tap dance has a number of ancestors. It is a mixture of the English clog dance, Irish step dancing and African drum rhythms and dance movements. African dances that are directly linked to the nature of the tap dance are "juba" and "ring shouts," rollicking dances with a rhythmic beat. Tap also contains the wild movements made popular in Swing and Lindy Hop, and the rolling glide so common to the Waltz and Foxtrot. So basically, it is a mixture of many elements.
Mock slave dances were added to early vaudeville shows in a degrading way, and this is how tap became known. Dancers would paint their faces pitch black and dance around in imitation of black farmhands. This type of performance was known as "blackface comedy." Often, rattles and other clacking materials would be placed on the blackface costume. In 1982, the first blackface minstrel show premiered a tapping dance by the famous dancer Thomas Rice. This performance was different from previous ones because of the hard, metallic soles he had blaced on the bottom of his stage shoes. His movements were then immediately imitated by other blackface dancers, and tap became an accepted form of comedy.
Three styles of tapping dance emerged at this time in the vaudeville. There were the kicking dances of chorus girls, namely, the Charleston, which created a clacking noise on the stage. The louder the beat during these dances, the more the audience cheered. There were the buck-and-wing styles of certain minstrel shows, featuring fast dancing in Dutch-style wooden-soled shoes, and a style known as the soft-show, or a light tapping created by semi-stiff leather soles on hard floor. When these three styles mingled, tap dance became a dance with a beat governed by noise, with a leather shoe and...
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