Paddle and Roll
By Thelma Goldberg
The paddle and roll (or paradiddle) is a popular small-footwork movement that combines four basic ideas: heel dig, spank, step, and heel drop. First done in vaudeville and at the Hoofers Club by tap luminaries such as John Bubbles (the father of rhythm tap), Honi Coles, and Steve Condos, the paddle and roll is now a staple of most tap artists’ repertoire, with young artists competing to have the fastest, most articulate footwork at cutting contests around the world.
Dancers of all ages and levels can enjoy doing paddle and rolls once they can shift weight fully on heel drops, with the alternate foot released and relaxed; perform basic step-and-heel-drop combinations in eighth-note time; spank with the foot coming up with a relaxed ankle joint; and heel dig without locking the knee.
Try these tips for varying the paddle and roll’s basic four-sound series, which usually starts with either the heel dig or heel drop.
- Move the 1 to the spank or step. Maintain this, resisting the urge to move the 1 back to the heel dig or drop.
- Double up the heel drop—this will move the 1 every four counts.
- Five-count paddle: add a heel drop after the spank.
- Seven-count paddle: to the five-count paddle, add a shuffle after the heel drop.
- Six-count paddle: double up the heel-dig-and-spank combination.
- Eight-count paddle: add tips, flaps, and heel or toe drops.
- Change the rhythm from straight eighth or sixteenth notes to eighth-note triplets.
- Add rests and accents and play a variety of notes to create interesting musical phrases.
Thelma Goldberg, teacher and director of The Dance Inn in Lexington, Massachusetts, since 1983, is the author of Thelma’s Tap Notes: A Guide to Teaching Tap: Children’s Edition.