Tapping Into the History of Tap Dancing

Updated on July 22, 2019
kenneth avery profile image

I was born in the south. I live in the south and will die in the south. This is only a small part of the memories I share.

Arther Duncan: Tap Dancing Legend

A Brief Look at Tap Dancing Says

that the tap dance is a type of dance characterized by using the sounds of tap shoes striking the floor as a form of percussion. The sound is made by shoes that have a metal "tap" on the heel and toe. And there you have it. The super-simple actions produced by a man or woman's legs and feet who wear taps, the next stop is Broadway. Just ask Gregory Hines, one of the most-prolific Tap Dance Masters in our world, to say nothing about Arther Duncan who got his start by tap dancing on the very popular Lawrence Welk Show.

But tap dancing was not seen and heard ONLY in Broadway theatrical plays, as the text about Lawrence Welk states, but in the beginning, many tap dancers started by making their living while in the Great Depression--and dancing on every street corner available in order to get another nickel to help their families have one more meal. In this case, depression bred talent, thus tap dancing, which caught on like a gasoline fire. And is still popular in 2019.

Not every Gregory Hines and Arther Duncan could just slip on a pair of tap shoes and get after the chase for fame and fortune--while many did find success and as many succeeded, there were many more dancers who fell by the wayside and almost starved before they went to begging for some needed-food. I would go as far as to say that times were hard, but that would be an insult to those who are (still) with us who came out of the Great Depression, and I am not about to insult them or anyone else.

Tap dancing can be shown with a single dancer or with a duo, sometimes a trio.
Tap dancing can be shown with a single dancer or with a duo, sometimes a trio. | Source
Story in print about Arther Duncan.
Story in print about Arther Duncan. | Source

What About The Tap Dancing Duo’s

is a question that I had to labor to answer. But in their shining glory, I give you: Bill “Bojangles” Robinson and Shirley Temple; The Nichols Brothers; Fred Aistaire and Eleanor Powell and Sugar Ray Robinson and Gene Kelly. Again, this is not a complete list of celebrities who gave audiences a lot of joy with their tap dancing prowess.

Sure, without question, these famous individuals learned how to tap dance and they did not experience that much trouble. In fact, I have learned that “they” found tap dancing to be loads of fun. And why not? Tap dancing is a great source of exercise, plus it helps to relieve the stress that often accompanies the fast-paced lives of the celebrity as they have to work before sunrise learning lines from big scripts and work on into the night due to them having a tough director, so you can understand why these “stars” loved tap dancing.

And What About the Songs About Tap Dancing

Allegretto – Bond; Because We Can – Fatboy Slim; Bird Song – Florence + The Machine; Cute – Count Basie; Did You Get My Message? – Jason Mraz; Empire State of Mind – Glee Cast; Every Teardrop Is a Waterfall – Coldplay; Fast Car – Tracy Chapman; Fever – Patti Drew; First Train Home – BOCA 2011: Best of College A Cappella; Have You Met Miss Jones? – Robbie Williams; Hit ‘Em Up Style – Carolina Chocolate Drops; If I Had a Boat – Lyle Lovett; Leaning On a Lampost – The Ukulele Orchestra; Man With the Hex – The Atomic Fireballs; Matches to Paper Dolls – Dessa; My Own Way to Rock – Burton Cummings; Neon Lights – Natasha Bedingfield and Paris – Kate Nash . . .and again, this list is not even close to being the complete list of songs about/or with tap dancing.

Now, if you were ever curious about the event of tap dancing, you can know without a question that tap dancing itself has helped to inspire songs, books, and the men and women who became celebrities because of their work with tap dancing.

And sure enough, there were films that featured tap dancing. Notice this list: Bojangles; Happy Feet; Lady Be Good; Shall We Dance and Killer Diller. I hate to use overkill here, but I do wish that this was a complete list of films about tap dancing. Guess we cannot have everything.

Finally, if you were given a choice for watching ten years of watching every Broadway play, Hollywood films, Best-selling books about tap dancing or 50 years of dancing with one woman: Ginger Rogers, in one place: Time Square in daylight? What would it be?

July 18, 2019______________________________________________-

© 2019 Kenneth Avery


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