TAP DANCE: A dance in which the rhythm is sounded out by the clicking taps on the heels and toes of a dancer's shoes.

Unlike ballet or jazz, tap dancing involves making noise with your feet. Although your body moves, the most impressive and important part of tap is your feet because they make the rhythmical noise.

Part of the evolution of tap is West Africa. Improvisation and rhythm stem from West African roots. They emerged during slavery when slaves would beat drums as signals. Laws soon enabled the slaves from using drums so they came up with other means to make noise. They used tambourines, bones and slapped their bodies to make sounds like drums. They also stomped the ground the made more rhythm. Often times, plantation owners would use their music to perform dances, such as reels.

In the 1800s, minstrel shows began. These shows used white men, who painted their faces black in performances. Mostly English and Irish immigrants performed these shows. They would perform dances of the slaves, along with their own forms of dance. The Essence of Old Virginia, one dance, was based on shuffling feet like the slaves. This turned into Soft Shoe. The Jig and Clog were also used in these shows.

New York City was one of main areas that the minstrel shows were performed in. William Henry Lane, a free black slave, became one of the first greatest tapers known. He was known as the “Master Juba” and did fast footwork of the jig and African rhythms and beat. This was the beginning of tap.

As time went on, tap evolved with the times. The Jazz Era played a big part in the birth of tap. Jimmie Lunceford’s orchestra played a song, For Dancers Only, which was used for a tap course line routine. Many musicians have written pieces for tap dancers. Often times, the musicians and dancers would work with each other to come up with a musical piece.

There have been many famous tapers throughout time who have added to the history of tap. some of the famous tappers were Fred Astaire, Gene Kelly, Ruby Keeler, Ann Miller, King Rasus Brown, Bill “Bojangles” Robinson, For Lee “Buck” Washington and many more.

King Rastus Brown was a great buck dancer. Buck dancing is a blend of shuffle and tap, with the body being close to the floor moving from the hips down and dancing flat-footed. Bill “Bojangles” Robinson perfected Brown’s moves and appeared with Shirley Temple.

Tap changed when John W. Bubbles and Ford Lee “Buck” Washington joined together. Buck played the piano as Bubbles danced. With this, the birth of rhythm tap. Rhythm tap involves dropping the heel to add more flexibility in shifting accents. The toe is the treble and the heel is the bass.

Tap has continued to grow and change. It has been performed on television, traveling shows, Broadway and Hollywood films. Tap can be performed individually, partnered or in groups to make a great amount of rhythmical noise.