Wings and Flash Steps
by Thelma Goldberg
Since the early days of tap, flash steps have been used to bring routines to exciting climaxes or to challenge other dancers in contests. Many of these risky moves include wings, high kicks, trenches, splits, or toe stands, and all require strength, flexibility, and coordination. Before teaching flash steps, be sure you and your dancers are thoroughly warmed up.
Wings, the quick motion of brushing out with the side of the foot and in with the ball, are part of many famous flash steps. Start by doing single-foot exercises that loosen the ankle. From parallel first position, brush the outside of the foot to the side (one sound), then brush/spank the ball up, inward, and back to parallel (two sounds). Work both feet equally and with increasing speed in the repetitions.
When students are ready, move them to ballet barres or a chair. Have them hold on with two hands, jump open to second position parallel, then brush both feet up and inward to first position. Once they have mastered this inward movement, students can add the outward brush. As in the traditional pickup exercise, dancers can jump between each wing. Let the ballet barre or chair support students until they are ready to practice in the center.
Popular flash steps with wings include the single-foot wing in the third step of the B.S. Chorus, the double wing in Bill “Bojangles” Robinson’s “Doin’ the New Lowdown,” and the alternating wing and tip in the traditional buck and wing. There is virtually no limit to the possible combinations when you add brushes, heel stands, toe stands, pickups, and bell clicks. You can find great footage on YouTube to introduce students to these and other showy moves by famous hoofers including the Nicholas Brothers and Clayton “Peg Leg” Bates.
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.