Science Fair Project Encyclopedia
Tap dance was born in the United States during the 19th century, and today is popular all around the world. The name comes from the tapping sound made when the small metal plates on the dancer's shoes touch a hard floor. This lively, rhythmic tapping makes the performer not just a dancer, but also a percussive musician.
Its evolutionary grandparents may well have been:
- African dance to drum rhythms
- African welly boot dance
- Spanish flamenco, where nails are hammered into the heel and the front part of the dancers' shoes so that the rhythm of their steps can be heard
- Step dancing
- Clogging , for example from Lancashire, where there may well be no accompanying music, just the noise of the shoes
Tap dance began in the 1830s in the Five Points neighborhood of New York City as a fusion of the African Shuffle and Irish, Scottish, and English step dances. Perhaps the most influential of all were the syncopation of African music and dance and the Irish jig. 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 flourished in the U.S. 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 droves of skilled tap dancers. Many big bands included tap dances as part of their show. For a while, every city in the U.S. 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.
Characteristics of tap dance
Tap dancers make frequent use of syncopation. Choreographies typically start on the eighth beat, or between the eighth and the first count.
Famous tap dancers
- Fred Astaire
- John Bubbles (born John William Sublett)
- Sammy Davis, Jr.
- Vera Ellen
- Savion Glover
- Gregory Hines of Hines, Hines and Dad
- Maurice Hines, Jr. of Hines, Hines and Dad
- Maurice Hines, Sr. of Hines, Hines and Dad
- Master Juba (William Henry Lane) of Five Points
- Ruby Keeler
- Gene Kelly
- Ann Miller
- Fayard Nicholas of The Nicholas Brothers
- Harold Nicholas of The Nicholas Brothers
- Eleanor Powell
- Bill Robinson (aka Bojangles)
- Howard "Sandman" Sims
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