Everything Old Is New Again
by Thelma Goldberg
Summer is a perfect time to plan ahead for a fabulous new year of tap dance programming. Remember, investing now in your own growth and training (with intensives, books, DVDs, etc.) will pump new energy and ideas into your classes.
Begin by planning new warm-ups that provide a comprehensive review of and strengthen basic skills, emphasizing the relaxed feet, ankles, and knees that good tap technique requires. To challenge dancers who may think there is only one way to do something, break down movements into their smallest parts and introduce new ideas and rhythms to familiar steps, as described below for the paddle and roll series. You can apply this tactic to all of your warm-up exercises.
To help break old habits, bring attention to each part of the paddle and roll.
Start with simple two-sound drills of the heel dig and spank. Make sure dancers do not lock their knees or flex their ankles when they do the heel dig. Add the traditional toe dig following the spank to make a three-sound drill, or change things up with another heel dig or the opposite heel drop. Complete the four-sound movement with the usual heel drop, or surprise your dancers by dropping the opposite heel or toe.
Choose a straight tune like Stevie Wonder’s “I Wish” that can work in half time or double time, and combine half notes, quarter notes, eighth notes, and rests to vary the rhythm. Start with the heel drop, toe dig, or spank to move the “1.” A swing tune changes the timing to (1 a2 a3 a4 a) instead of (1&2&3&4&).
Adding heel drops, shuffles, and flaps to the paddle and roll will have you singing “Everything Old Is New Again”—and get your students excited about a new year of tap dance.
Teacher and director of The Dance Inn in Lexington, Massachusetts, since 1983, Thelma Goldberg is the author of Thelma’s Tap Notes: A Step-by-Step Guide to Teaching Tap: Children’s Edition.