Tap Dance in America
According to Funk & Wagnalls New World Encyclopedia, “ tap dance [is a] style of American theatrical dance, distinguished by percussive footwork, [which] marks out precise rhythmic patterns on the floor.” Also, “Tap is an exciting form of dance in which dancers wear special shoes equipped with metal taps. Tap dancers use their feet like drums to create rhythmic patterns and timely beats,” Treva Bedinghaus, graduated from Holli Barron's School of Performing Arts and The Ballet Academy, writes in Tap for beginner, “The term "tap dancing" is derived from the tapping sound produced when the small metal plates on the dancer's shoes touch a hard floor or surface.” In 125 Years of Tap, Jane Goldberg, a dancer-writer who is considered as one of the most prolific voices in the filed of tap dancing, writes: “What distinguishes tap [dancing] from most other dance forms is that it is two arts in one: music and dance. The dancers are ‘playing their feet’ and moving at the same time.” In another article - The Art of Tap Dancing, Amy Brinkman-Sustache, artistic director of Dance-works on Tap (DOT), describes, “A step is a word. You put steps together to make a sentence. Questions are raised and answered through rhythm. It’s like listening to a conversation.” Literally, tap is America’s unique contribution to dance. “Tap history is mostly an oral tradition,” Kikelly, performer/scholars from Virginia Tech, says, “and a single definitive history has not yet been written.” Still, Kikelly and many other people like her are working hard to reveal the truth about how this art form developed. Tap is believed the double of diversity. “The history of tap has been a story of survival, revival, renaissance and innovation,” Jane Goldberg indicates in her 125 Years of Tap article, “the controversial roots of which arc still being debated, though the primary sources are usually considered to be Irish and African-American.” According to Constance Valis Hill, Ph.D. in Performance Studies from New York University, “tap dance is an indigenous American dance genre that evolved over a period of some three hundred years. Initially a fusion of British and West African musical and step-dance traditions in America, tap emerged in the southern United States in the 1700s. The Irish jig (a musical and dance form) and West African gioube (sacred and secular stepping dances) mutated into the American jig and juba. These in turn became juxtaposed and fused into a form of dancing called “jigging” which, in the 1800s, was taken up by white and black minstrel-show dancers who developed tap into a popular nineteenth-century stage entertainment.” Furthermore, “early styles of tapping utilized hard-soled shoes, clogs, or hobnailed boots. It was not until the early decades of the twentieth century that metal plates (or taps) appeared on shoes of dancers on the Broadway musical stage,” Hill summarizes, “in the late twentieth century, tap dance evolved into a concertized performance on the musical and concert hall stage. Its absorption of Latin American and Afro- Caribbean rhythms in the forties has furthered its rhythmic complexity. In the eighties and nineties, tap’s absorption of hip-hop rhythms has attracted a fierce and multi-ethnic new breed of male and female dancers who continue to challenge and evolve the dance form, making tap the most cutting-edge dance expression in America today.” Yet, according to theatredance.com, “no one really knows when the phrase ‘tap dance’ was first used – perhaps as early as 1900 – but it didn’t appeared in print until around 1928.” “Unlike ballet with its codification of formal technique, tap dance developed from people listening to and watching each other dance in the street, dance hall, or social club where steps were shared, stolen and reinvented. ‘Technique’ is transmitted visually, aurally, and corporeally, in a rhythmic exchange between dancers and musicians. Mimicry is necessary for the mastery of...
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