or American tap - what's the difference? -
- which shoes to buy? -
- can anyone learn to tap? -
- will tap keep me fit? -
English or American tap - what's the difference?...'
taught in most dancing schools in the UK is based upon an English
set syllabus which is geared towards passing exams. The syllabus
has specific technical requirements against which you will be measured
during your exam. You will also be assessed on timing, beat clarity
and performance skills. Some people prefer learning a syllabus as
they feel comfortable within its restrictions, enjoy the safety
of repetition and feel more confident learning a 'set' style. For
many children, the tap syllabus provides a solid grounding in dance
alongside traditional ballet and modern classes. Indeed, many dancing
schools and parents measure their children's success in terms of
the exams they pass - whether or not this is a good thing obviously
depends on your point of view!...
other hand, it could be argued that a set syllabus leaves little
room for creativity and rhythmical expression by the teacher or
student. In any art form, innovation comes from experimentation.
Anyone wanting to dance like Fred Astaire', Bill Robinson, or the
Nicholas Brothers needs to look further afield across the Atlantic
at the rich cultural and artistic heritage from which tap was born
tap (sometimes called rhythm, freestyle or jazz tap) has always
had a close relationship with the development of blues and jazz
music, thus the use of challenging rhythms in the form of syncopation,
cross phrasing and unusual accents and time signatures. A tapper
is a musician as well as a dancer!
The impressively fast beating often seen in American tap is a result
of close work - the feet stay near the floor with little elevation
and the dancer appears to move effortlessly along whilst producing
amazingly fast and accurate beats - although speed isn't everything!
Some of the greatest freestyle tap dancers have continued to dance
well into their 70s and 80s - they may be less athletic, but years
of refinement result in subtleties of timing and tone similar to
those of an experienced jazz musician.
tap class should be anything other than dull and repetitive. It
should provide an opportunity to explore and play around with rhythm,
rather than just copying or learning parrot fashion. Instead of
laying down rigid requirements for arm and body positioning, a freestyle
tap teacher is more likely to give guidelines which will allow his
or her students to develop their own style and move in a way that
suits their own body. (This may not be the case when teaching those
destined to become professional dancers, where employment can depend
upon being able to 'fit in' or imitate what the choreographer requires.)
By tap dancing to different kinds of music you will refine your
sense of timing and musical appreciation. Back to
which shoes to buy?'
your first pair of tap shoes can be a bewildering experience. First
of all, find yourself a good dancewear supplier with staff who know
what they are talking about! Try Dancewell
The following tips should help...
The most basic and economical shoes you can buy tend to be made
out of canvas. If money is an issue, or where children are concerned
(as they grow out of shoes so quickly), then canvas is a good beginner's
choice. Leather shoes are more comfortable and hard wearing, but
are going to be more expensive. Buy the best you can afford - serious
tap dancers will always go for a top quality leather shoe.
instep, or 'Oxford' style?
The open instep shoe is a more old fashioned style - some people
still like to replace the laces with ribbbons! This style also tends
to be cheaper than the alternative 'Oxford'. The Oxford is like
an ordinary lace up shoe, more masculine in appearance, but very
supportive and hardwearing. If you are a keen tapper and want your
shoes to last a long time and give you good support, then go for
High, (Cuban) heel or low heel?
In tap, as well making a noise with your heel you also need to keep
it clear of the floor if you don't want a heel sound. Bear in mind
that the higher the heel, the harder it is to keep it off the floor
when you need to. If you are a beginner, you may prefer a lower
heel because of this. In the end of course it comes down to comfort,
looks and personal preference! With a lower heel, the actual tap
is larger, which I think gives a better sound.
taps or riveted taps?
In the UK, some manufacturers produce a very basic shoe with riveted
on, curved taps. These can't really be loosened and produce a very
'dull' sound, so they are not ideal. These taps can be replaced
with American style or 'Capezio' taps which screw on and have a
'sound card' underneath. Once screwed on, the taps can be finely
'tuned' to give a lively sound, without too much ringing or rattling.
A tap dancer learns to always carry a screw driver as taps need
checking every time you wear them!
are too loose, the taps rattle around too much and you lose some
clarity of beating - also loose screws are likely to gouge out large
chunks of your dancefloor! So keep your screw driver with you at
all times! At last in the UK, manufacturers are now producing tap
shoes with American taps already fitted to the toes and the heels
- so all you need is that screw driver!
I need heel taps?
The short answer is - Yes! Otherwise it would be like having a drum
kit without the bass drum! For more information on shoes, see www.dancewell.com
anyone learn to tap?'
can move your feet and legs, then you can make rhythm with them
(even sitting down!) Don't be put off if you feel that both your
feet are of the left variety, or you may have lost sight of your
feet altogether behind an expanding waistline!
the joys of tap is its universal appeal - anyone can learn, regardless
of their age or shape, and it's a great way to exercise. (See Will
tap keep me fit?) In my own classes, the emphasis is on
having fun with rhythm and learning within a relaxed, light-hearted
atmosphere - even at beginner level, it's amazing what you can achieve
with only a few simple steps.
said that a journey of a thousand miles starts with a single step
- so find yourself a pair of tap shoes and get shuffling!
'...but I don't have any rhythm...'
heard this many times from people who would like to have a go at
tap, but feel they haven't got 'any rhythm'. Rhythm is within all
of us - everyone has tapped their foot or clicked their fingers
in time with a favourite tune. Rhythm is all around us - in our
bodies and our environment. The first sound we hear in the womb
is the sound of our mother's heartbeat; creating rhythm and making
music is one of our most basic instincts - one that will surface
even in the most adverse circumstances. (See history.)
true that some people have a more well developed sense of rhythm
and can effortlessly negotiate their way through complex rhythmical
combinations with ease and flair. We can't all be Fred Astaires
or Ginger Rogers - but we can still derive immense pleasure from
joining together simple tap steps and moving our bodies to music!
Back to Top
tap keep me fit?...'
As a qualified
fitness instructor, I am constantly aware of the immense benefits
that participating in tap dance can bring to the individual. Firstly,
if you have had a recent illness or are overweight, or are an older
person who has not exercised in years, then it is always a good
idea to check with your doctor before you embark on any new programme
of physical activity.
look at the benefits of tap under each component of fitness...
fitness (heart, lungs, stamina...)
Participating in a tap class will raise your heart rate - the amount
depends on the speed of movement and whether or not you use arm
movements. For an otherwise healthy individual, getting slightly
out of breath is good for our heart and lungs. Current guidelines
recommend that we get a little breathless for at least 30 minutes,
5 days of the week. That 30 minutes can be in short bursts - which
tends to be what happens in a tap class. So - regular tapping can
help to keep your heart healthy!
strength / endurance...
The constant movement and changing of weight in tap means that it
is particularly good for strengthening thighs, lower leg and buttock
muscles. The deep abdominal and back muscles are also activitated
when changing weight and direction, to keep our 'centre' strong.
In any dance class, we learn about posture and improved quality
of movement - tap is no exception!
Tap is particularly good for mobilising the ankle, hip and knee
joints, and, if regular stretching exercises are undertaken at the
end of the class when the body is warm, flexibility may be increased.
Tap is fantastic for improving skills such as balance, co-ordination
and agility. Having to remember combinations of steps certainly
challenges our brain as well as our body!
Tap is a fantastic bone loading exercise. Our bones are living things,
which respond to the forces of gravity by becoming stronger. In
tap, the impact of the foot hitting the floor travels through the
body, thus helping to keep our bones strong and healthy. (Exercise
involving impact may not be suitable for those with osteoporosis
or arthritis. Please check with your health professional).
of well being..
A good tap class is a fun, social event - a great way to meet other
like minded people and make new friends. We can also feel a great
sense of achievement and satisfaction when we have mastered new
skills (even with the inevitable frustration along the way when
we don't quite get it right!) If you ever get the chance to perform
with your class, then take it! There is nothing like the 'buzz'
you get when performing in front of an audience!