one of America’s major contributions to the world of percussive dance,
born out of the melding of African and European dance traditions.
There’s so many variations within tap dance,
as many approaches as there have been tap dancers.
And there have been a lot!
Since its birth, over 125 years ago,
tap dance has grown up
in the world of American popular entertainment.
From minstral shows and vaudeville,
to night clubs, musical theater, and movie musicals,
tap dance has held a featured role.
And your approach depends on when in the history’s lineage
you decide to connect.
The landscape of American entertainment shifted in the 1950s and 60s.
Big bands became cost-prohibitive,
rock and roll was becoming a popular music,
and American musical theater moved
towards a format incorporating ballet with narrative
rather than the extension of variety shows
that it had been in the past.
All these factors pushed tap dancing
to the fringes of the entertainment world.
Tap dance still existed;
there were dancers,
but it was outside of the popular discourse.
There were fewer and fewer places to dance
and very little need for new tap dancers,
so those who have been dancing in the 20s, 30s, and 40s,
really had no one to pass along the art form to.
In the 1970s, a multifaceted resurgence began.
Modern dancers became interested in the older tap dancers,
drawing them out of retirement to teach.
Grassroots-organized tap festivals began to spring up,
featuring the older tap dancers teaching the technique
and the history of the craft.
Older dancers also came out of retirement to perform
with groups such as The Copasetics and The Original Hoofers, traveling the world.
Even Broadway regained interest in the form,
with Gregory Hines becoming a public figure
for tap dance on the stage and in feature films.
Since then, the resurgence has spawned a more popular interest,
with Savion Glover at the nexus of the crowd.
Considered the quintessential tap dancer,
Glover presents the form as a pure musician.
Since the 1990s,
and thanks in a large part to the work of Savion Glover,
we’ve seen a rise in young people’s interest in tap dance.
I’m part of that generation.
Today, as we begin to rediscover the craft,
we continue to look back
and take examples of what tap dance was from past generations,
at the same time, discovering our own unique approaches.
There is so much freedom today.
We can take what exists
and apply past examples within our own unique context –
today’s perspective on tap dance.
It all really boils down to
two pieces of metal on a leather-soled shoe,
the wood to dance on,
an audience to watch and listen,
and something to say.
It’s the balancing of these elements
that is a tap dancer’s craft work.