Tap dance is a dynamic and very exciting medium of dance where the performers wear special shoes that have a metal “tap” on either the toe or the heel. They then proceed to use their feet similar to that of a drum to follow a beat and some quick rhythmic patterns. Did you know that “tap dancing” comes from the sound of the foot’s metal tap against the hard floor?
Different Tap Dance Styles
Perhaps the most renowned and the most common tap dancing style everyone is familiar with is the classical tap. These type of tap dancers not only use their feet to generate beats, but they also know how to make use of their upper body to mesh in jazz or ballet-like motions as they perform. There are also tap dancers who love to utilize their feet and tap shoes to the limit; hence, they use all the different subtle ways their shoes can produce sound and are called “hoofers”.
A common characteristic of all tap dancers is their ability to be very light on their feet, to the point that they seem to be bouncing on the hard floor. They follow the music’s melody first, then give emphasis to the beat second.
Much like other musical instruments, there are different brands of tap shoes, each with their own unique way of producing a tapping sound. The shoes themselves are also available in different styles, tailored for a specific function or to complement the rest of the ensemble. Some of the shoes are flat, while others have a raised heel, reinforced with metal. They can come in black, beige or white.
Tap shoe manufacturers and models have also made unique tap characteristics in their shoes. They can have a low weight and a smaller footprint, or the metal taps can be made heavier and fuller, covering the shoe’s edge more. The tone is dependent on the metal’s weight and surface shape, which can be either convex or concave.
Basic Tap Steps
Tap dance is a fun art of dancing, but mastering it takes hours and hours of both patience and practice. Tap lessons that teach beginners are mostly focused on single tap steps to ease them into the wonderful world of tap dancing. Some of the basic steps that will be taught are the ball change, the shuffle, the flap and the brush. When the dancers master the basics and are able to consistently perform these steps, they can form various combinations from the pool of basic taps they have learned.
It takes some time before the tap dancers can learn how to produce a crisp, clear sound while tapping their shoes on the floor. The correct number of taps should also be carefully maintained, as an extra tap can ruin the melody and overall rhythm of the dance.
Various tone levels may also be achieved using certain tap dance techniques. The balance and body weight should be centered slightly forward, with most of the tapping done on the balls of a tap dancer’s feet. In order to maintain flexibility and quickness of taps, the ankles and the knees should be limber and relaxed all the time. Sometimes it helps if tap dancers imagine they are dancing on a glass platform.
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