January 2017 | 2 Tips for Tap Teachers | Making Tap Dances

Photo by Robert Rosen

Photo by Robert Rosen

Making Tap Dances

by Thelma Goldberg

Tip 1
Once your students can combine new ideas and move around the room, it’s time to make a tap dance that will demonstrate improved technique, confidence, joy, and musicality. Here are some ideas for preparing students to step out and dance.

Have students use their whole bodies throughout class. Don’t wait until you start teaching the routine to include hands and heads. In weekly drills, even basic, small footwork exercises can incorporate the upper body. Consider adding hand claps to some exercises. Clapping not only requires dancers to engage their arms and hands, it helps clarify the rhythm.

Explore alternative movement patterns for basic across-the-floor exercises. Vary the typical linear action by moving in a circle, on the diagonal, or forward and back. Adding head movements will help students identify the choreography’s direction and rhythm.

Tip 2
Here are tips for creating strong dances that match your students’ level.

Make the first step simple, stationary, and solid, so your dancers get off to a good start and can perform with a confident smile.

List the specific movements that are at the core of each class/level. Choose a tune that suits the dancers and their level. Listen to the music, then decide the order of steps.

Insert a “change line” step somewhere in the middle so every dancer gets to be in the front row. Have children in upper levels change formation several times, to ensure that all dancers have opportunities to shine.

End your dance with another solid step that brings your students together in an exciting explosion of rhythm.


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.