Tap dance is a lively and entertaining activity that transforms the dancer from a mere performer into a fully-fledged percussive instrument. Taking its name from the tapping sound created by dancers’ feet, it’s now a popular style around the world, take a look at our guide to tap dancing.
Introduction to tap
Modern-day tap has evolved from a number of different sources to become one of the most distinctive dancing styles in the world today. Although an American theatrical dance, tap originated from 17th Century clog dances in northern England, African foot stamping, and traditional Gaelic jigs.
Tap is as much about creating sound as it is physical performance. The rhythmic tapping noise made by the metal plates of dancers’ shoes is meant to chime with syncopated choreography and improvisation. Tap dancers may perform to music, or simply dance a capella, using nothing but the steady beat of their feet as a rhythm.
After being adopted by a number of early US musicals, tap dancing has grown significantly in popularity and is now enjoyed by a wealth of performers across the globe.
Boost cardiovascular performance - If performed at a high intensity for 15 to 30 minutes, tap dancing offers great exercise for the cardiovascular system, working out the heart and lungs so they function more efficiently. Strong CV performance is vital to ensure that muscles are supplied with a steady flow of oxygen.
Tone leg muscles - Tap dancing offers a great way of toning your lower-body muscles by optimising the thighs and quads.
Reduce the risk of high blood pressure - If you suffer from high blood pressure, tap dancing could offer an effective way of bringing it down. Tap dancing gets blood flowing around all the body’s major muscle groups, causing arteries to dilate and contract more effectively.
Burn fat - If you’ve been trundling on a treadmill for what feels like an eternity, maybe it’s time to try something new. Tap dancing is a surprisingly effective activity if you want to burn calories quickly. Depending on the intensity of your tap workout, anywhere between three and four hundred calories can be burnt off.
Styles of tap dancing
Although tap dancing has grown from a number of disparate sources, modern-day tap is made up of a variety of key steps. These include the following:
Walk step - The most basic tap move and most likely the first that beginners will learn. It simply involves stepping normally across the dance floor, in time to the rhythm of the music.
Step-heel - Slightly more advanced than the walk step, this move sees the dancer step so that the ball of their foot comes down first, just before the heel. This way, two distinct sounds are created.
The stamp - Here, the dancer puts his or her foot down sharply, with both the ball of the foot and the heel loudly hitting the ground at the same time to create one big tap.
The brush - In this step, the dancer swings his or her leg forwards and backwards, with the ball of the foot brushing the floor during the sweep.
Cramp-roll - A more complex move, the cramp-roll sees the dancer jump into the air and then land on the ball of one foot, before bringing down the ball of the other foot and then one heel after the other. This should occur in a steady rhythm.
What to expect from your first class
Tap dance does require some initial investment before you book a place in a class. Buying a good pair of tap dancing shoes is vital to ensure that you don’t do any damage to your feet, so make sure you shop around before committing yourself.
Beginner tap classes are friendly affairs, with welcoming teachers able to deal with your initial fears and misgivings. They’ll only push you as hard as you want to go, so don’t worry about being left dazed and confused. As with most dancing lessons, it’s worthwhile to check out a few different clubs and instructors before settling on one. You may need to scout around to find the place where you feel most comfortable.
Key tap dancing tips
Whilst tap dancing may appear to place a great deal of stress on the toes and feet, it’s important to remember that these areas will be well-supported with a good quality pair of tap shoes. As long as you perform with care and use the right shoes, tap is just as safe as any other form of dance. Ensure that you take your time when learning the basics of tap dancing so that you progress at your own pace and do not injure yourself attempting anything you are not comfortable with.