October 2015 | 2 Tips for Tap Teachers | Released, Relaxed, and Ready

Photo by Robert Rosen

Photo by Robert Rosen

Released, Relaxed, and Ready

By Thelma Goldberg

Tip 1
Clear weight shifts are essential for strong and articulate footwork. A dancer needs to have one foot released, relaxed, and ready for whatever step is next. A brush, spank, step, stamp, stomp, tap, toe dig, heel dig, or toe tip, for example, requires a 100-percent weight shift to one foot, over the arch, and with the shoulder stacked over a relaxed hip, knee, and ankle. In contrast, only a partial weight shift is needed to produce a strong heel drop or toe drop.

Training students to instinctively shift the weight and release what’s needed is essential to developing strong tap technique. Remember: no locked knees, pointed toes, or flexed ankles in tap class!

Tip 2
Try these simple ideas to reinforce the principles of released, relaxed, and ready.

  • Incorporate a visual aid: for dancers who stand on a locked knee, use a large cardboard key to “unlock” the knee while they stand on one foot during rudiment or shuffle exercises.
  • Consider a fun activity: a wiggle-and-shake exercise will encourage relaxed ankles, hips, and knees.
  • Ask the question: stop the class mid-step to ask “Are you ready?” before a shuffle or single-sound movement to elicit enthusiastic responses from even your youngest dancers.
  • Use special words: instead of saying “shuffle step step shuffle step,” say “shuffle step lift shuffle lift.” When teaching ball changes, vocalize the rhythm with the word “re-lease” to train your dancers to finish on one foot. Use the words “change feet” to ensure that dancers are completely shifting weight to the ball of the foot on flaps.
  • Make sure your students understand that being ready for what comes next is key to building a strong foundation in tap technique.

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.