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Live, Learn and Tap

Updated on April 26, 2014

Victoria Moore tapping with a cane

Victoria Moore tapping with a cane.
Victoria Moore tapping with a cane. | Source

Practicing tap on my portable tap board

Victoria Moore practicing tap on her portable tap board at home.
Victoria Moore practicing tap on her portable tap board at home. | Source

Tap Is Still Teaching Me A Lot About Life

Whenever someone asks me why I started tap dancing I always tell them that I wanted to learn ever since reading Sammy Davis Jr's' autobiography, Yes I Can as a child. Then, finally after seeing Tommy Tune tap in Bye, Bye Birdie at the Long Beach Civic Auditorium my long dormant dream resurfaced and I contacted Santa Monica College's Dance Department to see if they offered a tap class. The rest is my tap history. Now that I've been tapping for over 10 years now I can tell everyone the real reason I wanted to learn tap at that particular time in my life.

How Tap Dancing Helped Me:

I was working on my portfolio, while earning my B.A. in Fashion Merchandising from CSULA and my Print and Broadcast Journalism Certificate from UCLA Extension. My stress level was at an all time high, I was 30 pounds overweight and I needed a break from my toxic work environment. When I realized that if I took tap I could relieve some of the daily pressure, lose the extra weight and add some joy to my life I finally decided to take the plunge. Today, i'm surprised it's still bringing me joy, and despite my health issues with lupus, rheumatoid arthritis, breast cancer, osteoporosis and bursitis it's still and important part of my daily exercise regime.

My First Tap Teacher: Mark Mendonca

In the beginning of my learning experience I was fortunate to start with an excellent teacher-Mark Mendonca. I still remember the day I asked him to teach me how to tap and he smiled at me, and touched my arm without saying a word. From that moment on he became one of the most important and beloved people in my life as he consistently taught me how to transform the world around me with dance. The lessons I learned from him also spilled over into other parts of my life, and while taking tap with him at SMC, I finally felt supported enough to get my B.A., Certificate, continue working on my portfolio and deal with my job. He made me really see myself and appreciate my worth as a human being.

Tap History:

In addition to the physical and aesthetic benefits I've gotten from tap one of the most everlasting gifts has been its historical aspect. Thanks to Mark my fascination with tap history started along with my lessons and continues unabated to this day. If you aren't familiar with its history let me give you a thumbnail sketch. First of all, tap gradually evolved from tribal dances done in West Africa, Irish stepping and English ("Lancanshire") clogging spanning the 1600s to the 1800s. Ned Wayburn, Fred and Adele Astaire's early teacher, first created the word "tap" in 1902-03 to describe a group of his female dancers, the Minstrel Misses who performed "a mixture of clog, jig and buck dancing," and it stuck. A few of the most prominent dancers in tap include William Juba Henry Lane (1825-1852), Bill Bojangles Robinson (1878-1949) and Shirley Temple (1928-2014 ). Lastly, the golden age of Tap, was during the 1930s and 1940s. Two of the most amazing routines were from The Nicholas Brothers in Orchestra Wives (1942) and Fred Astaire in Holiday Inn (1942).

It was this passion for tap history that led me to "Fancy Feet: An Afternoon of Jazz Dance on Film" on January 26 at the Mayme Clayton Library and Museum (4130 Overland Avenue, Culver City, CA. 90230,www.claytonmuseum.org, 310-202-1647). Presented by "historian and archivist" Mark Cantor the show consisted of various shorts that I'd never seen before, including Lindy Hopping servants, Harold Nicholas, and others, performing "Mr. Beebe," Rochester performing his own particular brand of swag and other short and memorable clips. If I had to describe my vision of heaven this collection of clips would come close to my ideal, since they encompassed the dance I love the most.

After seeing these clips I went home and started incorporating some of what I'd seen into my own routines to songs like Donny Hathaway's "The Ghetto" and Bill Withers' "Harlem." Stumbling along, as I struggled to do these advanced steps,I discovered something new about my journey with tap-I still had a lot to learn-and nothing could make me happier. What more can you ask of a hobby that's become part of your lifestyle?

Victoria Moore tap dancing at home

Victoria Moore practicing tap at home
Victoria Moore practicing tap at home | Source

How Much Do You Know About Tap Dancing?

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