DanceSense: Tap and Percussive Dance | Dance Arts Toolkit
Four sections explore the origins and characteristics of dance forms in which the feet (and in some cases, other body parts) become percussive instruments, from step dance to tap to flamenco in this video from the Dance Arts Toolkit series.
Have students research the history of tap dance and famous tappers, looking for video or film footage of them tapping. Show these examples and talk about the contributions of dancers such as Savion Glover (students may remember him from Sesame Street!), Bill “Bojangles” Robinson, Fred Astaire, and Gregory Hines.
If there is a student in class who has taken tap lessons, ask them to show the class some basic steps and concepts.
Bring in a pair of tap shoes along with other percussion instruments. Explore the similarities and differences between these instruments. What do they all have in common? How do they differ?
Have students explore rhythm and the percussive nature of tap. Have one student at a time clap a short rhythm, then have the rest of the class copy that rhythm. Next, have students try expressing that rhythm with their feet.
Tap is the art of jazz, expressed as both dance and music. In this art form, as in any form of percussive dance, the dancer is not only the instrument of expression, but also a living percussive instrument.
Tap has its roots in West African dance and music and Irish step dance and English clogging. Eventually these forms came together to create a unique new American form of dance.
Training to be a tap dancer requires learning a specific vocabulary as well as specific techniques for tapping rhythm with the feet. Improvisation and syncopation are part of tap dancing.
Tap is one style of percussive dance. Others include flamenco, Irish step dance, and body percussion.