The Unique American Art Form of Tap Dance

Tap was created from combining elements of African drumming and dancing with the techniques of European clog and step dancing. The unique rhythms of jazz music distinguish American tap dance from all other kinds of dancing based on percussive footwork.

Between the 1600's and early 1800's, tap slowly evolved from European step dances like the jig and clog and a variety of secular and religious African step dances that were loosely labelled "juba" dances and "ring shouts." Danced primarily by enslaved Africans, this blend of jig and juba was transferred to the minstrel stage, and there it was polished into something identifiable as "American tap dance."


Blue Tap GirlAfter the Civil War, vibrant new steps were added to the tap vocabulary including syncopated 'stop time,' 'soft shoe,' 'waltz clog,' and 'time step.' Dancers relaxed their postures and arms and shoulders were often used for whimsical gestures.

With vaudeville, great individual talents like Bill "Bojangles" Robinson and John Bubbles helped to refine rhythm tap dance, and later Hollywood popularized tap dance worldwide with films featuring Fred Astaire, the Nicholas Brothers, and Eleanore Powell, among others.

During the 1950's, the style dance changed and tap lost is popularity, although tap dancers continued to dance for their own pleasure.

In the 60's, several public tap dance events ignited the great revival of tap dance. Suddenly, tap was considered an art form rather than just entertainment. During the 1970's, tap returned to Broadway, film, and the concert stage throughout the USA, Europe, and Japan. The public's interest in watching tap dance has produced several Broadway hits, including the recent "Black and Blue," and "Jelly's Last Jam," and films such as "The Cotton Club," "Stepping Out," and "Tap."