Famous tap dancer Fred Astaire

Similar to jazz, tap dance originated from a fusion of European and West African culture.  Today, tap is divided into two broad categories: rhythm tap and theatre tap.  Rhythm tap focuses more on musicality and improvisation, while theatre tap is concerned more with the aesthetics and overall presentation of the body.

Elements of Tap:
  • Time steps: A dancer keeps time, or the beat, with his or her feet.
  • Isolations: The dancer isolates certain parts of the feet (heel, toe, ball) to make a sound.
  • Brush: While one foot remains still, the other foot strikes the ground either forwards or backwards.
  • Shuffle: The combination of two (or more) brushes.
  • Flap: A quick brush followed by a step.

There isn’t a specific dress code for tap dance, but the attire is very similar to jazz dance.  There are different styles of tap shoes that can be worn that are made of different materials.  Tap shoes typically are made of leather and can have a full sole or be split sole.  Connected to the shoe are metal taps on the heels and toes.

Leo’s split sole tap shoe
Capezio Manhattan Xtreme tap shoe

Any type of music can be used for tap; this style of dance conforms to fit the rhythm of the music.  Theatre tap typically uses Broadway or jazz music, while rhythm tap can be more modernized.  An example of theatre tap is Lex and Gaby’s performance “More” on season 14 of So You Think You Can Dance.