How tap dancing was made in America

How tap dancing was made in America


[rhythmic tap sounds] Tap is one of the first original American art forms. [rhythmic tap sounds] It’s an instantly recognizable combination of movement and sound. Jane Goldberg: It’s such a fun thing to see because people wants to see what’s in the bottom of the shoe. Jane: How you make the sound, that’s always a curiosity. Jane: This is how we made the sound, with the aluminum. Originally they were wooden. Tap dancing started in Five Points. Now Chinatown in New York City. This slum was one of the city’s first melting pots. The percussive dances that nurtured tap, came from african ceremonies, irish jigging and british clogging. In the early 1800s, African-American and Irish people lived and worked side by side. Martin Scorsese referenced the origins of tap in Gangs of New York. Some historians who believe that enslaved people in America started using their bodies and feet for percussion after drums were banned to discourage rebellion; that part of the history is shared with jazz. And with improvisation as an essential element, tap is also considered jazz. Jane: We were considered musicians. We considered ourselves, musicians. Historical records from the mid 1800s describe early tap as a popular entertainment for blacks and whites in cellars and dance halls. Minstrels performed along with folk music on violins and banjos. Those Irish reels were the pop music at the time, and as pop music evolved, so did the fancy footwork. Early tappers, like Master Juba, even went on tour to Europe. By the end of that century, black minstrel shows made people laugh and, over time, tap dancing became associated with American comedy. In the 1900s, tap appeared in films even before they had sound. The style became very popular in the 1930s and ‘40s, when it was featured in major Hollywood movies and Broadway shows. As the decades passed tap was displaced by other styles in popular music and was relegated to musical theater. Traditional tap became an underground expression. In the 70s in New York, Jane Goldberg and Brenda Bufalino produced shows to return the old hoofers back to the stage. Jane: It really was a movement and i think that we were looking for authenticity. And we knew that the Broadway Tap wasn’t, quote, “the real thing.” Jane: We don’t go 5, 6, 7, 8. We go, uh uh uh uh. You know in other words, Jane: You don’t count, just do it rhythmically. The style is still strong in New York City, where young dancers honor the old hoofers. Jason Bernard: To make music from your feet, from your ancestors and your spirit to come out that way. I think it’s quite amazing. Jason: I would say that the most important thing is the music. When the music isn’t there anymore. Jason: And this is being substituted say via the arms or the face, or not being honest… Jason: that’s when it becomes a problem. It’s all about the music. There are old moves still in force. A basic routine from the 1920s the shim sham is still danced worldwide. And tap moves on, merging with new immigrant styles. Felipe Galganni: Always felt very connected with the rhythms that I grew up with. And so I decided to just put it together with my other passion, tap dance. Felipe: …Bossa nova, samba, maracatu, all those rhythms together. Felipe: I mix the American art form—tap dance—with my Brazilian influence. As tap evolves, dancers who preserve the old hoofer style are hopeful that it will continue to capture audiences into the future. Jason: Something that is so intimate and so rare. I believe is always fresh, always new. Jason: Whenever people see tap dancing, they say, “Wow! How can you do that with your feet?” Jason: It just always makes people smile.

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