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Enc1101 Tap Dancing

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Brooke Ftacek

Professor Henry


February 10th, 2019

Tap Dancing

John Bubbles, the father of rhythm tap, once said, “Listen to my feet and I will tell you the story of my life” (West Coast Tap).  This could stand as an apt description of tap dancing as a whole. This is because tap dancing uses the movement of the feet to create a marvelous song from their sound. The song that comes from tapping is a story in itself, meaning that is does not need words to be understood. In addition, tap is a dance that does not always need music because the noises the tap make is the music. While tap has affected the lives of many people, tap dancing is about more than just making noises with your feet; it is a form of expression, it can deeply affect people on a personal level, and has been around since the 1800s.

The origins of tap can also be viewed as a mix of diverse cultural dances. In the middle of the 1800s when a lot of families immigrated to North America, people started to see the emergence of the modern tap dance style. The combinations of African tribal with Irish and Scottish music brought this dance to life. In a way, people can say that tap dancing is a way to bring distinctive styles together, as tap dancing is always changing. In the 1930-1950 tap dancing hit Hollywood in a big way, tap went from the stage of Broadway to the big screen. With many actors now adding dance to their name. A lot of dancers became big like Gene Kelly, John W. Bubbles, Donald O'Connor, Eleanor Powell, Rita Hayworth, Shirley Temple, and many more. Tap became a part of American culture, with its style being classy yet modern. Even having its own national holiday called National Tap Dance Day celebrated on May 25th. The reason it is on May 25th is that tap legend Bill “Bojangles” Robinson’s birthday is on that day (“History of Tap Dancing”).

While the Webster dictionary defines tap as “a step dance tapped out audibly by means of shoes with hard soles or soles and heels to which taps have been added” (Webster's Dictionary). In reality, it is much more than just making audible noises. Tap dancing uses a person`s feet to express narratives and emotions. This is possible through the movement of someone's feet, but that is only one small part of how tap is defined. It is important to remember that the second part of how tap dancing is defined is that it is a way to cheer people up when they are down. It even gives people a way to disappear from the reality of life even if, only for a little while in time. In summary, tap dancing is defined, just like any other word, in many ways. Mostly, defined as a way to express how one truly feels deep down and a way for the said person to feel their most confident in themselves. The characteristics of tap dancing is a topic that has been discussed and debated over time. But the key factors of being a dance is that is typically in the eights or first beat count of the music. Another factor is that a dancer can improvise certain moves. Therefore, making tap dancing a dance style or form that has no need for music. This is called a cappella tap dancing (Tap Dance).

As Savion Glover, a famous tap dancer known for his unique pounding style of tap dance, said, “For me, the importance in learning about the dance is using it as a voice. It's not about a step, it's about a way to express oneself.” (Brainy Quote), which is exactly how tap should be defined. Tap gives an outlet for people to let others know how they feel without using actual words to speak. In tap, each noise made is considered a word and multiple noises together makes up a story. It may not be easy to tap, but it sure is easy to express how one feels when they are tapping. Especially, if you know how to listen to tap dancing. For example, when a person is trying to convey anger, they will make their hard, sharp, and fast tap noises, making it sound as though the person is beating the floor with their feet. Or if a person is wanting to convey sadness their taps would not be so hard or sharp and it might be slowed down compared to normal.

Tap is a dance that deeply affects many people's everyday lives. Tap especially helped people get through hard times. It creates an escape for people to shut out the world and lets them be who they really are on the inside. Everything that matters melts away when their feet start to move, and they are making the most beautiful tap noises anyone has ever heard. It is only when a person is tapping that they can get the best feeling of confidence and being free, even if they are always told otherwise.



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