History of Tap Dance in Performance

Essay by awkwarderikCollege, UndergraduateA-, December 2004

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History of Tap in Performance

The art of Tap dancing has amazed audiences for ages from Broadway to Hollywood. The creation of the modern and highly stylized Tap venue holds deep roots in widespread and culturally diverse nations from Africa to several places in Europe. Percussive dancing including Clog and the Irish Jig are closely related European cousins while Africa holds counterparts in Juba and Shuffle Dances. Tap was brought over to the Americas by enslaved Africans dancing what became known as "ring shouts", aboard transport ships. Since the Civil War, Tap grew tremendously in technique and popularity and soon became a predominant routine seen in the growing popularity of entertainment venues across the United States.

The first records of Tap in performance were viewed in a locale that later became known as Minstrel Stages. Black faced performers known as Levee dancers, would clog out rhythms throughout the south in 1830.

It became necessary to develop a personal style if one intended to hold an audience, and to do so performers would often "steal steps" and/or partake in "challenges". These performers were highly primitive compared to the legends that are to appear in later dates such as Bill "Bojangles" Robinson and Fred Astaire which are both said to have paved the way for the future of Tap.

Bill Robinson was born in a small town in Virginia on May 25, 1878. He was raised with the name Luther, given to him by his birth parents but after their death he continued to live with his grandmother for the remainder of his childhood. At the age of six, Robinson was already making a living performing in "beer gardens" as a bright young song-and-dance man. At the age of thirteen Bill was discovered by a traveling vaudeville company who acknowledged his talent...