December 2016 | 2 Tips for Tap Teachers | Across the Floor and Around the Room

Photo by Robert Rosen

Photo by Robert Rosen

Across the Floor and Around the Room

by Thelma Goldberg

Tip 1
Small, stationary footwork is important to master, but it’s equally important that tap dancers learn to move rhythmically across the floor and around the room.

Beginners can move with swinging skips, marches, and step ball changes. The simple ball change can move in a grapevine pattern in various rhythms, for example “a1a2a3a4” or “1&[2]&3[&]4&.” Try steps and heel drops in different patterns; this requires control and a distinct decision whether to swing the rhythm or play it straight. Dancers who know Irish and Maxie Ford can alternate them with steps to travel in one direction or in a square or circle. After students master the flap, they can combine it with ball changes, hops, and steps to travel in any direction—even backward.

Tip 2
Two simple flap ball changes can easily become a half turn (tell the dancers, for example, “Let’s face the front; now face the back”), which adds variety to traveling combos. Add a shuffle hop cross and step step, and you have a nice advanced-beginner sequence that can reverse. Replace the step step with a step ball change, and you can repeat the sequence on the same foot to head back in the opposite direction.

Other favorite across-the-floor steps include a cramp roll turn that begins with a stamp (R), followed by an around-the-world (LRRL) cramp roll; two Maxie Ford turns with a step step (try this to challenge advanced dancers, or add the pick-up sound for even more difficulty); and the traveling time step.

Moving side to side, forward and back, or in circles and squares will add variety and fun to your tap classes and help keep your students on their toes.


Thelma Goldberg, teacher and director of The Dance Inn in Lexington, Massachusetts, since 1983, is the author of Thelma’s Tap Notes: A Step-by-Step Guide to Teaching Tap: Children’s Edition.