The Origins of Tap Dancing

Tap dancing became popular in the middle of the 21st Century when prominent tap dancers such as Fred Astaire, Bill "Bojangles" Robinson, and Gene Kelly moved from vaudeville to television and cinema. This brought mass appeal to this exciting form of dance.

It's difficult to pinpoint the exact origins of tap dancing but it's thought to be influenced by several earlier styles of dance such as Lancashire Clogging, Irish step dancing, and Irish stomp dancing where objects are used to enhance the stomping sound of the foot. It even takes some of its influences from the African Juba Dance which is a very quick and competitive dance which involves intricate foot work with hand clapping and patting of the bum. This was brought to America from Africa via the Trans Atlantic Slave Trade in the early 1800's when the dance was incorporated in minstrel shows.

Tap shoes are an essential for the modern tap dancer as without these there would be no tapping sound! They have a metal plate fitted to the heel and toe of the shoe sole which makes a tapping sound every time the sole of the shoe makes contact with the floor.

There are three different types of sound for taps known as teletone, duotone and supertone. Teletone taps are the most common type of tap shoe and allow tap dancer to fine tune the type of sound they make by carefully adjusting the screws that hold them to the shoe. This enables the tap shoes to make a tapping sound which fits the character of the dance.

Tap shoes are available in a wide array of colours such as brown, red, white, and even gold and silver. The most popular colour of choice for tap shoes is black. They're also available from a wide range of manufacturers such as Roch Valley, Bloch, Capezio, So Danca, and Leo's Dancewear.

The tap shoe upper is most commonly manufactured from leather or PVC. The soles are generally manufactured from a combination of a plastic sole and wooden heel. You may occasionally find a pair of tap shoes with rubber soles though it is advisable to avoid these because they provide grip which can prove a hindrance to certain dance moves.

When you purchase a pair of tap shoes, you'll obviously be influenced by the price but it's also important to make sure they're comfortable. Tap dancing in poorly fitting shoes is not enjoyable and could even damage your feet so it's a good idea to try them on first - maybe in a local dance shop. Remember to bear in mind that you may need to break in your dance shoes a little before you can dance in them.

Tap dancing is a great fun, so once you start learning you'll no doubt meet plenty of new people and keep yourself in great shape too!

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