November 2016 | 2 Tips for Tap Teachers | Building Fun Combos

Photo by Robert Rosen

Photo by Robert Rosen

Building Fun Combos

by Thelma Goldberg

Tip 1
Once students have a variety of basic tap skills, start introducing combinations that challenge them to connect short ideas into complete phrases of 4 to 32 counts. Even beginners can connect single sounds to form combos they’ll find interesting.

Be careful to build complexity slowly, adding sounds only after a phrase’s simple variation is mastered. For example, once students have the ball change and shuffle down, try doubling the ball change, adding a hop before or after the shuffle, or substituting a flap or stamp for a step.

Experiment with weight shifts. For example, students can stomp and pick up the same foot to repeat a phrase, instead of stepping or stamping to change feet.

Even changing a combo’s direction can make it more funtry moving in circles, squares, and lines.

Tip 2
You can also increase a combo’s complexity based on the students’ level. Consider the waltz clog (leap shuffle ball change). For beginners, develop a four-count phrase by adding another leap, shuffle, or ball change. For intermediate dancers, add a brush before the leap, and/or a heel drop after the leap, the shuffle, or the ball change. And, for advanced dancers, make the combo more challenging still by adding a pullback after the shuffle.

The four-sound cramp roll also provides a good starting point for combo development. Try flapping into the cramp roll, then add a hop before the flap, followed by additional heel or toe drops to create a crawl.

Finally, experiment with accents or syncopation to change a combo’s feel. We all have our personal habits. Change what you normally do to provide your students with fun footwork that keeps basic material fresh and exciting.


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.