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Understanding …. tap dance

Tap dance is a type of dance, in modern terms, that is performed wearing shoes fitted with metal taps and involves the rhythmical tapping of toes and heels, and sometimes quite complex foot work.

There are two main forms – jazz or rhythmical and Broadway. Rhythmical tap focuses on musicality and sometimes had softer shoes, and made use of the noises generates with slides and even used sand on stage to emphasise this. Broadway tap is probably the more familiar – and focuses on the dance element, as seen in musical theatre.

It’s a fusion style of dance with its history and roots going into African Tribal Dance as well as English, Scottish, and Irish Clog dancing. In the mid 20th Century dancers brought their own elements into this form of dance. Fred Astaire for example combined tap with ballroom, whereas Gene Kelly introduced elements of ballet to his tap.

Tap dance makes use of syncopation – the displacement of beats where a strong beat becomes weak in a tap, and vis-a-versa. It also usually starts on the 8th count.

Examples of tap can be seen in Happy Feet, Singin’ in the Rain, 42nd Street, Stomp, as well as more modern takes – Youtube has some fabulous performers – Christopher Rice – check this out https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LAU8eBek_NU

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Musicality for dancers

Dance is more than just movement – it is listening too and interpreting the music – the feel, the mood, the tempo, the rhythm.

It’s understanding phrases in songs or pieces, how to interpret the music with the movement – the height, the speed, expansion and contraction.

Importance

Being able to connect to the music you are dancing too is key. You can’t dance the same to Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairy as you would do to Crazy in Love. You can’t dance the same to “Everything I do” as you would do “Sweet Child o’ Mine” – even if the steps are the same

Developing Musicality

In our classes (and you can try this at home) we involve these aspects from pre-school classes (in less obvious ways such as our Rig a Jig track or Twinkle Twinkle) to our dance club and older with using beats and bars.

  • Tempo – using different speeds of music for the steps or combinations and asking children to dance to the music
  • Using 3/4, 4/4/ and even 2/4 tracks to help develop understanding different music arrangements
  • Using a combination of steps and dancing them to different styles of music and asking them to show the type of music through the steps
  • Putting music on for improvisation – emotions, adventures, party, space, forest and landscapes and ask them to use their movements to express the type of music