Tap Dancing – My Secret Love

Fred Astaire
Fred Astaire
Peg Leg Bates
Peg Leg Bates
Bunny Briggs
Bunny Briggs
Eddie Brown
Eddie Brown
John Bubbles
John Bubbles
Charlie "Honi" Coles
Charlie "Honi" Coles
Leon Collins
Leon Collins
Steve Condos
Steve Condos
Cook and Brown
Cook and Brown
Sammy Davis Jr.
Sammy Davis Jr.
Chuck Green
Chuck Green
Gregory Hines
Gregory Hines
Baby Laurence
Baby Laurence
Mable Lee
Mable Lee
Jeni LeGon
Jeni LeGon
Ann Miller
Ann Miller
Nicholas Brothers
Nicholas Brothers
Donald O'Connor
Donald O'Connor
Eleanor Powell
Eleanor Powell
Bill "Bojangles" Robinson
Bill "Bojangles" Robinson
Jimmy Slyde
Jimmy Slyde
Stump and Stumpy
Stump and Stumpy
Cholly Atkins
Cholly Atkins
Savion Glover
Savion Glover
Gene Kelly
Gene Kelly
Debbie Reynolds
Debbie Reynolds
Sandman Sims
Sandman Sims
Shirley Temple
Shirley Temple
 

Ever since I was a little girl I have had a love of music. I am that annoying person that knows all the words to any song and sings at the drop of a hat. I like all kinds of music too; I grew up listening to all types and have many different influences. Still to this day I sing in the car and in the shower without any remorse for those who might be around. I think my love for music helped to create my love for dance. When I was little I started with ballet and modern dance but once I saw my first Shirley Temple movie I knew exactly what I wanted to be doing; Tap Dancing. Oh yeah tap dancing is where it is at for me. It is a total release. I am still not sure when I fell in love with tap dancing but it is something that I enjoy greatly and always have. For me tap dancing is a great escape and I have been doing it for well over 20 years now. I started when I was little and then started again in high school. After I had my children I found a small studio that offered tap classes and was a bit afraid to go; maybe because I thought I was too old or wouldn't remember the steps or anything like that. But I was amazed as soon as I started up again it was as if I hadn't forgotten. So the old adage about it being just like riding a bike is so true because I remembered everything and loved it. Tap dancing has not been a constant especially recently since I am a very busy mom, but I still try to go when my schedule permits me to.

How to Tap Dance

The simplest way to start to tap dance is to find some tap shoes that fit well and feel comfortable. Find some music with a good beat and start simple. With tap dancing there are six basic steps/movements that a beginner must learn for the basic understanding. These are the brush, taps, steps, shuffle, flap and ball change. Knowledge of these six will get you far.

Basic Steps:

  • Brush - A simple movement of the foot where the tap on the bottom of the shoe is brushed lightly across the floor. You can brush forward and backward. The brush is also the start of two other movements; the shuffle and the flap.

  • Taps - Tapsis when you keep your heel on the floor and hit the ball of your foot on the floor.

  • Steps - A step isstepping on the balls of your foot fully. This makes a different sound then a tap would because of how the foot is positioned.

  • Shuffle - The shuffle is a simple step where you brush the foot forward and backward in rhythm making sure that the tap on the ball of your foot brushes the floor. Brush forward and brush backward.

  • Flap - The flap is similar to the shuffle where you brush the foot forward but then you step instead of brushing back again using the tap on the ball of your foot. Brush forward and step.

  • Ball Change - The ball change is a combination of two steps. Depending on the way the ball change is going you would step right then left making sure to accent the second step.

The simplest thing to do to get started is simply tap your toes and heels to get used to the sounds of your taps. I like to warm up doing left toe tap, right toe tap, left heel tap, right heel tap. You can start by doing this eight times, the four times, then two times and the do it one time quickly a few times.

What to Wear

Tap dancers can wear just about anything as long as they have the right type of shoe. The important part of any tap dancers "costume" is the two taps on the heel and the toe of the shoe. Depending on your style you want to make sure that you feel comfortable in whatever you wear whether it is loose or tight fitting.

Finding a class

Find a beginning tap dance class they are usually offered through community or city centers or through a dance studio. Find the class that is right for you and remember if it is a beginning tap class most likely 50% of the people there have never taken it before and tap dance is for all ages so you might find a variety of people in the class.

Famous Tap Dancers

There are many famous tap dancers that have come and gone some of which are International Tap Dance Hall of Fame inductees;

  • Fred Astaire (1899 - 1987)- Known for his partnerships with his sister Adele Astaire more famously Ginger Rogers. Also know for wearing top hats and tails. Was inducted into the International Tap Dance Hall of Fame in 2002.

  • Peg Leg Bates (1907 - 1998) - Lost his leg in a cotton gin accident and taught himself to tap with a wooden leg. Inducted into the International Tap Dance Hall of Fame in 2005

  • Bunny Briggs (1922 - )- Was nominated for Broadway's 1989 Tony Award as Best Actor and inducted into the International Tap Dance Hall of Fame in 2006.

  • Eddie Brown (1915 - 1992)- Was discovered by Bill Robinson at a tap dance contest held in his hometown and Inducted into the International Tap Dance Hall of Fame in 2007.

  • John Bubbles (1906 - 1986) - Known for his role in Porgy and Bess and inducted into the International Tap Dance Hall of Fame in 2002.

  • Charles "Honi" Coles (1911 - 1992) - With Cholly Atkins formed the tap team of Coles and Atkins. Won Broadway's 1983 Tony Award as Best Actor and was inducted into the International Tap Dance Hall of Fame in 2003.

  • Leon Collins (1922 - 1985) - Instead of doing the normal repetitive eight-bar/break patterns Collins used his feet to follow the melody of the music. He was inducted into the International Tap Dance Hall of Fame in 2007.

  • Steve Condos (1918 - 1990) - Tapped with big bands such as Benny Goodman and Duke Ellington and was inducted into the International Tap Dance Hall of Fame in 2002.

  • Cook and Brown - Known as the greatest of all knockabout comedy teams ever to grace the Apollo stage was Cook and Brown and inducted into the International Tap Dance Hall of Fame in 2008.

  • Sammy Davis Jr.(1925 - 1990) - Was a true renaissance man, he was a singer, a dancer, an actor, and a musician and inducted into the International Tap Dance Hall of Fame in 2005.

  • Chuck Green (1919 - 1997) - Was known for his gracefulness even though he was tall and had big feet he was inducted into the International Tap Dance Hall of Fame in 2003.

  • Gregory Hines (1946 - 2003) - Was a team with his brother before they went their separate ways and Hines turned to acting. He was inducted into the International Tap Dance Hall of Fame in 2004.

  • Baby Laurence (1921 - 1974) - As a boy he was a soprano and toured with groups watching hoofers and gaining interest and talent in tap. He was inducted into the International Tap Dance Hall of Fame in 2002.

  • Mable Lee (1921 - ) - Considered the "Queen of Soundies" and a child prodigy she was inducted into the International Tap Dance Hall of Fame in 2008.

  • Dr. Jeni LeGon (1916 - ) - She was one of the first African American women in tap dance to develop a career as a soloist and inducted into the International Tap Dance Hall of Fame in 2002.

  • Ann Miller (1923 - 2004) - Took up dancing to make her legs stronger since she suffered from rickets and was inducted into the International Tap Dance Hall of Fame in 2004.

  • Nicholas Brothers Fayard (1914 - ) Harold (1921 - 2000) - Fayard would learn tap steps and teach them to his younger brother Harold. They were inducted into the International Tap Dance Hall of Fame in 2002.

  • Donald O'Conner (1925 - 2003) - Known as a song and dance man from a circus/vaudeville family and was inducted into the International Tap Dance Hall of Fame in 2004.

  • Eleanor Powell (1912 - 1982) - Considered the "Queen of Tap Dancing" because of her long legs and style and was inducted into the International Tap Dance Hall of Fame in 2002.

  • Bill "Bojangles" Robinson (1878 - 1949) - One of the most recognized African American tap dancers of the 20th century and was inducted into the International Tap Dance Hall of Fame in 2002.

  • Jimmy Slyde (1927 - 2008) - Known as a jazz hoofer and was inducted into the International Tap Dance Hall of Fame in 2008.

  • Stump and Stumpy - Considered the most swinging two-man comedy team to play the Apollo and use the height differences as part of their comedy routine. They were inducted into the International Tap Dance Hall of Fame in 2008.

And some very notable mentions goes to:

  • Cholly Atkins (1913 - 2003) - With Charles "Honi"Coles, formed the tap team of Coles and Atkins. Won Broadway's 1989 Tony Award for best choreography.

  • Savion Glover (1973 - ) - Has won several Tony awards and has helped to reinvent tap dance bringing it back into style.

  • Gene Kelly (1912 - 1996) - Similar to Fred Astaire but did not wear top hat and tails instead he wore work clothes and was a more athletic dancer.

  • Debbie Reynolds (1932 - ) - Was not a dancer until she was chosen as Gene Kelly's partner for Singing in the Rain, she was a quick study.

  • Sandman Sims (1918 - 2003) - Known for using sand to make the sound of his steps louder, also known for ushering out bad acts at the Apollo.

  • Shirley Temple (1928 - ) - The famous child start of all time and the youngest person to receive an Oscar. Also known for her curly hair and cutesy face.

Tap Dance has become much more prominent in recent years as a revival of sorts with the animated movie Happy Feet brought about by the styling of modern tap dancer Savion Glover.

So get a pair of tap shoes find a studio or tap class and move your feet!!!

Fred Astaire

Peg Leg Bates

Nicholas Brothers

Savion Glover

Bill Bojangles and Shirley Temple

Eleanor Powell

Bunny Briggs

More by this Author


Comments 21 comments

Angela 8 years ago

Great post; very informative. Wow, I'm learning so much about you from these postings! I knew you were taking classes, but I had no idea you'd been taking classes for so long before! I took a tap class when I was four. My three biggest memories of it were: (1) "shuffle, hop, step," (2) being in a routine about Mickey Mouse's birthday partty where we were all dressed like Minnie Mouse, and (3) while goofing around in class, I did a big spin on one of my heels and fell flat on my behind. Good times! LOL!


Triplet Mom profile image

Triplet Mom 8 years ago from West Coast Author

Thank you very much. Yeah I really enjoy tap, I wish I could take it much much more. But I do take a class here and there. I find myself craving classes at certain times because it is such a release. Hey and I have my graceful moments too many to name especially in high school (I am scarred for life for sure). How cute you must have been in that Minnie Mouse outfit. Oh and I have tried to do a tricky step only to have my feet come right out from under me and land flat on my bottom!!


izettl profile image

izettl 8 years ago from The Great Northwest

Reminds me I need to find an adult tap class somewhere. I miss it- took it as a kid for 6 years. It was a compromise with my mom- she said if I took ballet (her idea) that I could take tap (my idea). Nothing better than getting frutsrations out and tapping your feet to music- it's rewarding with every little tap click.

Thank for this hub! L


Triplet Mom profile image

Triplet Mom 8 years ago from West Coast Author

Good luck with finding a class. I find that it really does get the frustrations out and I am never angry when I am tap tap tapping. ;)


MindField profile image

MindField 7 years ago from Portland, Oregon

Thanks for introducing me to so many tappers I hadn't heard of before. I think if forced to choose, I'd pick Ann Miller and Geoffrey Hines from the tap dancers I'm most familiar with. Vera Ellen tapped in several movies, too. And I seem to recall that George Burns and others started tap-dancing on street corners to make a little badly needed money as children.

I have a tap-training video of Donald O'Connor's but I do it just for fun. There's about as much tap-talent in me as in my cat. No, I lie. The cat is far better at it.


Triplet Mom profile image

Triplet Mom 7 years ago from West Coast Author

MindField - I am going to have to check out that video, sounds like it would be fun. There are many actors that know how to tap dance. I remember seeing Tony Danza tap and he was really good.


MindField profile image

MindField 7 years ago from Portland, Oregon

How funny! I don't ever remember seeing Tony Danza tap-dancing. I'm not surprised he was good at it, though. Oh, just thought of Jane Powell. She was originally one of the Journal Juniors, named for a Portland, Oregon newspaper; they tapped a lot, according to my mom, who saw her several times. And finally, have you seen "White Nights" with Gregory Hines and Mikhail Baryshnikov? The tapping is superb. I still can't believe Gregory died so young. What a loss.


Triplet Mom profile image

Triplet Mom 7 years ago from West Coast Author

Mindfield - Yes I enjoyed White Nights very much. There are many stars that tap dance on the side that I have heard of. I have to agree that Hines is a great loss.


Tiptopcat profile image

Tiptopcat 7 years ago from London, UK

Hiya.

I also took tap classes when I was young and it is something you never forget. Any time I find myself on tiled floors, I can't help pretending I am in some broadway show, singing and taping away.

Loved the scene from White Nights with Mikail Baryishikov and Gregory Hines - Brilliant.


Triplet Mom profile image

Triplet Mom 7 years ago from West Coast Author

Tiptop - You should take classes now. They are so fun to go to.


Marisa Wright profile image

Marisa Wright 7 years ago from Sydney

It has to be Gene Kelly for me. I get bored with dancers who are all about the flash - just showing off how fast their feet can move. I prefer dancers who use their whole body.

It's one of the reasons I gave up flamenco and moved to belly dance, actually. Modern flamenco is all about fast footwork and almost nothing else - boring!


Triplet Mom profile image

Triplet Mom 7 years ago from West Coast Author

Thank you for your comments Marisa! I enjoy watching belly dance although I doubt anyone would want to watch me do it!! I see what you mean about dances that use your whole body!


suziecat7 profile image

suziecat7 6 years ago from Asheville, NC

This is a great Hub - I just happened on it while doing some research. Good stuff.


Triplet Mom profile image

Triplet Mom 6 years ago from West Coast Author

Thank you suziecat7!


patty burke 4 years ago

I am 77 and started tap at age 4. I now tap dance with 11 other seniors at our local Sr. Center. Great for the mind and body. Where did you find the Donald O'Connor tape? I've looked for it for years. I do have a good instructional tape by Bonnie Franklin. My joints work fine, which I attribute to the tap exercise.


Triplet Mom profile image

Triplet Mom 4 years ago from West Coast Author

Hello Patty! It is so nice to hear your story. In my tap dancing class there is an older couple in their 80s and I only aspire to be as good as they are. Some days I cannot keep up with them. All of the videos are from You Tube.


DarylnCochrane profile image

DarylnCochrane 4 years ago from New York, NY

Oh, this was such a pleasure to read and watch. I don't tap, but I love to watch the old-time performers. I've been obsessed with Sammy Davis Jr. for as long as I can remember! That's great that you dance. I just might take a class for fun and exercise. Great Hub!


Triplet Mom profile image

Triplet Mom 4 years ago from West Coast Author

Thank you Daryln! You should really take a class. It is such fun. I love watching the old time performers too. They really knew what they were doing.


DarylnCochrane profile image

DarylnCochrane 4 years ago from New York, NY

Yes, they really did. And what makes them so special is that most of them never had any formal training. They made it up as they went along.


Triplet Mom profile image

Triplet Mom 4 years ago from West Coast Author

That is so true and awesome!


C22 profile image

C22 2 months ago from CULVER CITY

Thank you for sharing! What a wonderful list of all the tap greats. Stormy Weather will forever be my favorite Nicholas Brothers routine :)

    Sign in or sign up and post using a HubPages Network account.

    0 of 8192 characters used
    Post Comment

    No HTML is allowed in comments, but URLs will be hyperlinked. Comments are not for promoting your articles or other sites.


    Click to Rate This Article
    working