The Diverse Origins Of Tap
Tap has a long history, stemming from a wide variety of historical dance forms, and it has substantially evolved over time through its cultivation of ingenuity and innovation.
Modern tap is an amalgamation of a variety of traditional ethnic dance forms, most predominately originating from Irish, English and Scottish jigsand African tribal dance. Researchers believe that these disparate forms were first synthesized in urban areas, where a range of ethnicities lived closely in cramped conditions under the constant rhythms of the city noise.
By the middle of the 19th century, it had gained popularity, as dancers observed each other during minstrel shows and other competitions, learning a diverse range of new techniques and rhythms. Over time, additional methods began to develop and merge, incorporating an array of styles such as soft shoe (a limber, graceful method performed in soft-soled shoes), buck dancing (a early form using clogs) and buck-and-wing (a showy, quick derivation performed in wooden clogs).
The modern image of tap did not materialize until the 1920s when metal plates were fastened to the bottom heels and toes of soft-soled shoes, and the term, tap, was coined. As it progressed, it became particularly known for its dancers’ aptitude for creativity and innovation. These artists not only influenced the development of dance, but also greatly impacted the progression of music, as drummers mimicked the patterns created during performances.
As the 20s progressed, tap emerged as a commonplace talent in vaudeville variety shows, and dancers had to conceive more creative ways to distinguish themselves from the herd, incorporating more extensive acrobatics and using a wider range of props. Through the consistent presence of challenges and competitions, individuals continually found innovative ways to reshape the art form, creating variations such as novelty, eccentric, comedy, swing tap, class, military and rhythm. Even within each developing style, every dancer presented unique capabilities.
Throughout the following decades, as the popularity of vaudeville decreased, performers found new venues to showcase their talent, appearing at nightclubs and then later in films. From the 1930s through the 1950s, tap was a predominate fixture in feature films, even allowing African American dancers to begin breaking color barriers in the industry.
While the presence of tap in film and on stage declined after the 1950s, its popularity has withstood time on Broadway stages and in small dance studios across the nation.
As its history demonstrates, tap is a laudable art form that requires intense skill and on-going ingenuity, something thatboth experts and amateurs can appreciate.
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Sophia has years of experience in the arts, music and dance industry. You can find her thoughts at: Tumblr Blog.
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