What’s up in the dance community Dance educator Kim Smith’s search for a dance program that could accommodate her autistic daughter came up short, so in 2015, she created her own. A Chance to Dance welcomes dancers of all abilities at North Carolina studio Miss Donna’s School of Dance; owner Donna Mitzel, Smith’s former teacher,…Read More
Your 2018 guide to workshops and intensives across the U.S. Programs are listed in alphabetical order by sponsoring or producing organization. Horton Teacher Workshop Sponsoring or producing organization: The Ailey Extension Dates: Session I, introductory/beginner, July 9–13; Session II, intermediate/advanced, July 16–20 Location: Joan Weill Center for Dance, New York City Fees/cost: Session I…Read More
Words from the publisher For the past few weeks my mind has been focused on the 2018 DanceLife Teacher Conference. The creation process has been a blast—more than 100 sessions and classes are scheduled, faculty is booked, and special events are planned. We are ready to go! Since the last conference was three years ago,…Read More
The Tap Love Tour podcast Tap artist Travis Knights takes you on an adventure through time, rhythm, and dance. Includes interviews with tappers Starinah Dixon, Roxane Butterfly, and Derick K. Grant; lindy hoppers Aleix Prats Ferrer and Anaïs Sékiné; and former ballet dancer and founder of the Memoirs of Blacks in Ballet online platform Theresa…Read More
Ideas and advice from teachers Freeze out those dreary mid-winter doldrums with a Spirit Week. Creating a week when students can dress up and express themselves is key to cultivating their artistic vision and performance quality. In my ballet classes, I occasionally offer a themed week called “uBu”—a play on “You Do You” or “You…Read More
by Thelma Goldberg Cramp rolls are useful both in class to strengthen small footwork and in choreography. With recital season on the horizon, here are some tips for using them: Begin with clean quarter notes. Dancers should shift weight correctly and separate their sounds. A favorite three-sound pattern for beginners is the press cramp roll,…Read More
Sean and John Scott / Alfred Desio It’s all energy all the time with tap dancing twins Sean and John Scott. Now appearing in the retro-hip cabaret Absinthe in Las Vegas, Sean and John have worked with Christina Aguilera, Beyoncé, and Usher. The 33-year-olds are equally comfortable calling out a rap with their feet…Read More
Everything Old Is New Again by Thelma Goldberg Tip 1 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…Read More
Teacher-Friendly Master Tap Program Launches Chicago Human Rhythm Project’s Rhythm World festival has long been a fount of tap knowledge for dancers. This year, teachers will get lessons designed just for them through the festival’s new Teacher Certification program, which runs July 17 to 20 at the American Rhythm Center in Chicago. Maurice Hines, Lane…Read More
by Thelma Goldberg
Tip 1: Since the early days of tap, flash steps have been used to bring routines to exciting climaxes or to challenge other dancers in contests.
Tip 2: 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.
Videos of note (new and not)
1. Balanchine Essays: “Arabesque”
2. Thelma’s Tap Notes: Tap Into Life: A Guide to Tap Dancing for Adults, Level I
4. Contemporary Turns and Jumps With Albert Cattafi
Books of note (new and not)
1. Tappin’ at the Apollo: The African American Female Tap Dance Duo Salt and Pepper
2. Saving Radio City Music Hall: A Dancer’s True Story
3. How They Became Famous Dancers: A Dancing History
4. Merce Cunningham: Beyond the Perfect Stage
If you can’t hear a beat without tapping your feet, there are no better places to hone technique, learn about history, meet master teachers, and immerse yourself in rhythmic bliss this year than at these national and international tap festivals.Read More
by Thelma Goldberg
Tip 1: Getting a tap routine ready for performance is like putting frosting on a cake. The ingredients have been organized and laid out, and now it’s time to concentrate on the final details: making it look and (in tap’s case) sound great.
Tip 2: Tap is a full-bodied dance form, and the upper body can express rhythm just as clearly as the feet can make sounds.Read More
by David Arce
Tip 1: To start men’s class, my male students and I do 32 push-ups to music (usually at a coda or fouetté tempo) followed by what I call “manly pliés” at the barre.
Tip 2: When male students practice tours en l’air, they often need reminders to clean up their preparation port de bras.Read More
by Ryan P. Casey
What if the trick to getting more people to tap dance was getting them to attend a fitness class?
That’s the premise behind Sole Power, a tap workout program Riverdance alumnus Aaron Tolson conceived in 2013 that fuses basic tap dance with cardio and strengthening exercises.Read More
by Thelma Goldberg
Tip 1: For a well-organized class that moves smoothly from one activity to another, create a set playlist that complements your lesson plan.
Tip 2: Choosing appropriate music for tap performances can be challenging.
Read 2 great tips for tap teachers from the legendary Thelma Goldberg, teacher and director of The Dance Inn in Lexington, Massachusetts, since 1983, who is the author of Thelma’s Tap Notes: A Step-by-Step Guide to Teaching Tap: Children’s Edition.Read More
by Thelma Goldberg
Tip 1 Small, stationary footwork is important to master, but it’s equally important that tap dancers learn to move rhythmically across the floor and around the room.
Tip 2 Moving side to side, forward and back, or in circles and squares will add variety and fun to your tap classes and help keep your students on their toes.Read More
by Thelma Goldberg
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.
You can also increase a combo’s complexity based on the students’ level.
Building a strong foundation in tap basics enables your dancers to make steady progress in acquiring new skills. Begin with mastering the single sounds of tap, heel dig, toe dig, step, brush, spank, tip, toe drop, heel drop, and heel stand. Whether beginning or advanced, all students will benefit from combining these single sounds into various quarter-note phrases.
Once they’ve mastered single sounds, students can progress to playing eighth notes, both straight and swinging (1&2& and a1 a2). Shuffles, ball changes, double heel drops (such as press or traditional cramp rolls), and slaps and flaps add challenges for dancers who have a strong single-sound foundation.
There are two major streams of tap dance from which all other styles have evolved. One is rhythm tap (or jazz tap), which derives from the musical qualities of jazz music and includes core elements of rhythm, call-and-response, and improvisation.
The other is a more theater-derived style that can be called musical theater tap, a full-bodied style of percussive dance that incorporates elements of soft shoe (an early form of stage dancing derived from the jig and clog, performed in slow 4/4 time without tapping), ballet, and ballroom, and often relies on set choreographies for large choruses, with relatively simple step patterns that allow the dancers’ meticulous steps to be seen and heard.Read More
The start of a new dance season is a perfect opportunity to spice up your tap program with new ideas that will reinforce your lessons and inspire students to practice.
Flash cards with one-bar rhythm phrases can provide a wealth of teaching moments. Whether dancers are novices or experienced tappers, the clarity of their sounds depends on their ability to reproduce specific rhythms, and seeing a phrase in addition to hearing and doing it will help bring success. In particular, when dancers see the rests, or silent notes, in a rhythm, they are more likely to respect them and produce accurate footwork.
There’s nothing like a flag-waving, rhythmically precise tap dance to lift spirits and boost interest in tap. In 1904, George M. Cohan danced the buck and wing to his song “Yankee Doodle Boy” to embody his proud American heritage. During World War I, Broadway chorus girls danced “soldier” numbers that integrated tap and stepping sounds. Later, movie musicals like Gold Diggers of 1937 (1936), featuring Busby Berkeley’s amazing formations, and Yankee Doodle Dandy (1942), with James Cagney’s patriotic strutting, helped introduce military-style tap to a larger population. With their precision and fast footwork, traditional military routines are still a hit. For music, try a version of “Yankee Doodle,” “You’re a Grand Old Flag,” fife and drum tunes, military anthems, and armed forces medleys.
Though military tap can be challenging, beginners can combine marching steps with single sounds, hops, ball changes, and shuffles in straight quarter- and eighth-note time. Add simple but precise formations with quarter- and half-turns; use an upbeat tune like “MacNamara’s Band” to inspire students to dance like they’re in a parade, lifting knees high and moving with pride and joy.
Tip 1 Merriam-Webster defines counterpoint as “the combination of two or more independent melodies into a single harmonic texture in which each retains its linear character.” How can we use counterpoint in our choreography and classroom exercises?
Tip 2 For advanced dancers playing more complex rhythms, make sure the volume of each counterpoint section is equal—otherwise one rhythm will drown out the other.