Tap dance for fitness

Getting fit through tap dancing

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 a style that has taken the western world by storm with the number of tap dance clubs and competitions growing rapidly. As a result, here’s the realbuzz.com guide on how tap dancing could be the exercise to get you on the road towards health and fitness success ...

An introduction to tap dancing 

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 to follow.

After being adopted by a number of early US musicals, tap dance has grown significantly in popularity and is now enjoyed by a wealth of performers across the globe.

Key fitness benefits of tap dancing

Tap dancing has many key health and fitness benefits, in addition to those already associated with dance exercise. Benefits of tap dance include the following:

  • Boosting 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. Tap dance provides a great way of developing this system.
  • Toning the leg muscles through tap dance - If your legs currently resemble trembling slithers of jelly, wobbling at the slightest hint of movement, it might be an idea to get into tap dancing. Tap offers a great way of toning your lower-body muscles by optimizing the thighs and quads.
  • Reducing the risk of high blood pressure - If you suffer from sky-high blood pressure, tap dancing could offer an effective way of bringing it back down to earth. Tap dancing gets blood flowing around all the body’s major muscle groups, causing arteries to dilate and contract more effectively.
  • Fighting fat through tap dance - 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.


Key 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 moves ...

  • Walk step - The most basic tap move and the earliest beginners will master. 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 tap dancing class

Tap dance does require some 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 and more information

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 as safe as any other form of dance. Horror stories about tap injuries largely derive from people not taking adequate precautions, or trying out ambitious steps before they can even master the basics. Don’t be one of these people! Instead, take your time over tap and you’ll find it enjoyable and progress at your own pace.

Sources of further tap dancing information include:

  • Beginner’s Tap Dancing Two, with Susan Bishop (DVD)
  • Broadway Dance Centre: Tap, Tap, Boom (DVD)
  • Teach Yourself Tap Dancing by Derek Hartley (book)

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