by Thelma Goldberg
Getting a tap routine ready for performance is like putting frosting on a cake. The ingredients have been organized and laid out, and now it’s time to concentrate on the final details: making it look and (in tap’s case) sound great.
How does your dance sound? Tempo and tone are key factors. If dancers are going too fast, they are probably leaving out sounds or not respecting the silent counts. Have students call out the words to complete these sentences during every lesson: “Finish your shuffles. Pick up your feet. Where is the 1?” When your dancers use their voices, another part of their brains is activated, and they are reflecting on the dance and their own sounds. To transform your dancers from reproducing the movements passively to performing them actively, challenge them to know the dance in a deeper way. Say every movement. Start and stop with specific sections of the music, so they think about the phrasing. Count the number of shuffles or flaps in the dance. Figure out which count the heel drops are on. Most important, have students listen to you, to each other, and to themselves.
How does your dance look? Tap is a full-bodied dance form, and the upper body can express rhythm just as clearly as the feet can make sounds. Use the head and hands to draw attention to a specific percussive movement, such as a tip or a hop. If your dancers are simply placing their arms in static positions, talk about the energy coming from their backs and out of their fingertips. Provide positive feedback to reinforce their efforts. Talk with them about how the dance feels and how they feel when they do the dance. Your dancers will shine if they feel confident, safe, and happy.
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.