Our guide to tap dancing
Alistair Stafford

Our guide to tap dancing

First published date October 30 2013 Amended date April 17 2015

Think you’ve got what it takes to be the next Ginger Rogers or Fred Astaire? Or just want to stay active by getting some regular exercise? Whatever your dancing ambitions, one way you can stay in shape while getting your toes tapping to a beat is by joining a tap dancing course near you.

Nowadays, tap dancing is popular worldwide, with television programmes like Strictly Come Dancing enticing dance enthusiasts of all ages to take up the pastime. Not only does regular tap dancing boost your shape and physical fitness, it can also tone your calf muscles and help you maintain a healthy lifestyle. What’s not to like?


How it all began...

 Tap dancing was created during the mid-19th century, combining elements of the Irish jig and the African juba dances (that had been brought to America through immigration and slavery) with already common dances in the USA at that time. Since then two major variations of tap have developed. Theatre tap (often referred to as Broadway tap) uses the whole body to exaggerate the dance moves, like you’d see in the movies, while rhythm tap focuses on the beat of the dance being performed.


Have no dancing experience?

It doesn’t matter if the closest you’ve previously come to dancing is tapping your feet to Billy Elliot or Singing in the Rain in front of the television. The tap dancing courses are categorised on ability and you level of experience, so don’t worry you’ll be with people of a similar standard to you (however good, or bad, that level is).  For those of you with some dancing experience, you may notice a few similarities with tap dancing to both the Waltz and Swing.

On a beginner’s course, you’ll be eased into the basic steps, allowing you to get to grips with the balance and technique needed to tap dance. As you progress through to more difficult levels of dancing, a higher focus will then be put on style, rhythm and choreography, as you start being able to perform more challenging dance routines.  Before you know it, you could be creating tap dancing routines of your own!


But I don’t have the right equipment....

There is a specialist shoe designed for tap dancing, although you don’t necessarily need those for your first go. These shoes can range hugely in price and style, depending on the quality of the fabric and the style of taps (the piece on the shoe that makes the distinctive tap dancing sound) you choose.

The taps are often metal (but not always the case) and are attached to either the heel or the toe, with each tap producing its own unique sound as you move around the floor. If you are considering buying specialist shoes seek advice from an experienced dancer first, but to begin with as long as you’re wearing comfortable footwear and loose clothing, you’ll be in the right attire to get started.


Getting to know the basics

When you first begin tap dancing, there will be lots for you to take in as you have to get to grips with both the rhythm and technique.  With so many steps to remember, it will help to have an understanding of a few of them before you get started. Here are some of the most common moves first taught to tap beginners:

. Tap –Like the name suggests, it’s where you tap any part of your foot on to the floor, whether that be the heel, the toe or your tip-toe.  You keep your weight on your standing leg for this tap dancing step.

. Stamp – Where you put your heel and toe on the ground at the same time, shifting your weight to the foot hitting the ground.

. Stomp – Similar to a stamp, but you keep your weight focused on the other foot

. Shuffle – It’s a quick move that requires you to lift your leg up, with your toe brushing the floor, and then back again with your heel striking the ground (don’t worry, it’s easier and clearer than the description makes it seem)

. Brush – You’ll swing your leg just like you did in the shuffle, but this time only your toe will brush the floor


Once you get to grips with those basic steps, you’ll quickly go on to start combining them together for some slick tap dancing moves! Even if you don’t have the time or lack the confidence of attending a tap dancing course, it shouldn’t stop from taking up dancing, as there are options to study tap dancing online. So, in the words of the legendary Sir Bruce Forsyth, keep dancing!

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