Encyclopedia of dance: Tap dance


Tap or tap dance is a lively and dynamic dance, the intricacy of which consists of rhythmic kicks on a hard surface to create sonorous fractional sounds.

The purity and elegance of the tap technique, the virtuosic movements of the dancer’s feet in harmony with the music create not only a spectacular dance, but also a unique auditory range, consisting of a variety of fractional sounds.

The history of the emergence of the step

“Step” is translated from English as a step, although the word “tep” (from English “knocking”) would be more characteristic for a dance with this name. Like tap dancing is a dance in the countries of the post-Soviet space.

Legends bring us amazing stories, where the birth of tap dance is associated either with the ancient Egyptian priests, who, worshiping the god Ra, performed ritual dances on drums, kicking them, or with African musical and dance traditions, where the sound carried certain information.

The most popular version says that the step has both European and African roots, which are intertwined on the American continent. Tap originated in America through a mixture of many cultures with similar dance moves, primarily from Irish and African traditions. The end of the 19th and the beginning of the 20th century is considered the time of the appearance of tap dancing and its gradual spread throughout the world.

The knock, characteristic during the performance of the dance, which appears due to the percussive work of the feet, was first removed with the help of hard shoes on hard wooden surfaces, but over time, suitable objects began to be stuffed to enhance the sound: small coins, beer corks, metal staples. The real invention was the appearance of special metal heels.

There is a legend that in 1907 the step was first demonstrated by American dancers of African American origin in St. Petersburg. They were honored to speak at a reception at the Winter Palace. Features of the American tap dance were taken up by Russian dancers who had previously used Russian fractions and gypsy tap dancing.

At the beginning of the 20th century, two directions appeared in the development of tap dance. One was associated with great speed and movement. The most popular dancers in this direction are Jimmy Doyle and Harland Dixon. The second trend was distinguished by its elegant and graceful manner, and its representative in those days was George Primerose.

In the 30s and 40s of the 20th century, the step owes its special popularity to Hollywood musicals. Attention was drawn to it also because clear rhythms became associated with technological progress, the sound of railways and cars.


We can say that the step grew and developed simultaneously with jazz, which expanded the melodic and rhythmic repertoire of this dance. The syncopated structure of jazz compositions was ideally combined with the movements of the step. Becoming a frequent guest of musicals, stage and black-and-white films, tap confidently conquered the world.

Famous actors and dancers have enriched the step with elements from classical ballet and modern dance.

Even having lost special popularity in the 50s of the last century, the step was not forgotten. This is evidenced by the celebration of the International Tap Day on May 25.

Contemporary tap has certainly changed, but it still draws attention in the dance scene. Over time, a new direction for amateur dance also appeared in Europe and America — something similar to aerobics only in combination with step.

Types of step and their features

Step is called the music of the feet, so it can be performed to various musical compositions and even without music at all.

The names of steps and kicks are traditionally called in English. All steps can be combined in one setting, or performed as separate directions (types) of the step. The most popular of them are:

Acro-tap (acro-tap)

Alternation of tap-dance combinations and acrobatic stunts.

Ballet tap, classical tap (ballet tap, classical tap)

Introduction of ballet movements to tap-dancing rhythms.

Cane tap (tap dance with a cane)

The reed is used in the dance both for stage persona and for tapping in combination with foot rhythms.

Tap dance, tap

Clear rhythmic patterns that are created by tapping with the foot, heel and toe.

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