Tap Dance & Tap Shoes
Know more about Tap Dance Shoes - History, Shoe Anatomy, and the Major Brands.
A Brief History of Tap Dance
From the time it first appeared in public, tap dancing immediately enchanted the people in North America. It became an integral part of the Jazz music culture and was one of the influential factors in popularizing tap dancing as a hobby for many millions of people.
Tap dancing separated into two distinct styles – Jazz/Rhythm dance that is focused on musicality and tradition of tap dance, and Broadway that is used by stage performers who weave the dance into the theater stories.
The first Black performer ever permitted to dance on stage in front of white audiences was William Henry Lane a.k.a Master Juba. His fame rose as the dancer who could outperform all his white competition in the United States. He visited England with his musical troupe "Ethiopian Serenaders" and gathered a massive fan following. It was because of him that many others on both sides of Atlantic took up tap dance.
Tap Dance Today
In recent years, we can see that tap dancing has gained popularity once more in the United States.
Documentaries like"No Maps on My Taps" and the highly successful animated film "Happy Feet" in which a penguin named Mumble is an exceptional tap dancer whose dancing sets him apart from the crowd have contributed to its resurgence.
Other instances of Tap inspiration include the modern flamenco dancers who often perfect foot and heel beat and more recently, the Broadway play Bring in 'da Noise, Bring in 'da Funk interpreted African and African American history through the Tap. Today, tap dancing is viewed as a multicultural dance style that expresses a number of legacies.
What Should I Wear to a Tap Dance Class?
Some dance studios specify the outfit, but often street clothes or casual wear are acceptable. If you are in doubt, wear a comfortable form-fitting top paired with jazz pants.
Avoid any pants which have too long a leg or are baggy as the pant legs could come under your heel. If your first tap dance class is just a trial run, a less expensive pair of tap shoes will do, at least until you figure out your exact needs.
A Detailed Guide to Tap Shoes
A good pair of tap shoes makes a world of difference but it could be tricky to figure out which styles are best. Here is a guide explaining the types of Tap shoes and what would be appropriate.
The Mary Jane style is an excellent choice for younger tap dancers. More experienced tap dancers would be likely to enjoy the oxford tap shoes or tap shoes with heels as it provides for an added challenge. Only the most advanced dancers go for the pointe and split-sole jazz tap shoes. These provide increased flexibility of movements; however, they sound great only when the expert dancers get each step precisely.
Styles of Tap Shoes
Tap shoes come in various colors, shapes, and styles. They are constructed using one of these four materials; leather, canvas, wood, and plastic. The proficiency of the dancer determines the material used and the shape of the shoes.
Beginners use the Mary Jane style tap shoes; these shoes have a single ribbon or lace tied in a bow on the top of the foot and provide security and extra support for balance for youngsters learning to tap dance.
Older, more experienced dancers prefer the flat leather oxford tap shoes or tap shoes with heels(Heels are usually one or more inches high). Since these shoes place more weight on the ball of the foot and the toes, they are more challenging to balance on.
Soles are made of leather or suede, can be either split, providing more flexibility, or full. The split-sole shoes are used only by the most advanced dancers allow for double tapping and generate more clicks per beat. The pointe shoes focus on more center work performed by the female dancers.
Sole Power of Tap Shoes
Tap shoes with a thicker sole further increase your options when selecting the perfect tap shoe. Out-sole thickness can change a tap shoe’s weight, durability, and tone. The soles of the tap shoe are made of thick leather or plastic. The thickness can be increased by increasing the layer of the material used in the sole. To prevent repeated re-tightening, longer screws can be used to affix the taps.
Leather Tap Dance Shoes
Leather is the most versatile material that is used in the manufacture of the tap shoes. PVC (Polyvinyl chloride), PU (polyurethane), denim, fabric, and hemp are all suitable materials, but none can match the strength and durability of leather.
Cowhide is used to make leather. However, kidskin is a cheaper and stronger alternative.
There are two types of leather: soft and hard. Soft leather is comfortable but gets easily worn out. Hard leather may not be very comfortable at the start but does last for a more extended period. Patent leather is another type of leather with a plastic coating that creates a shiny coat and extra durability. The split in the texture of the leather gives a very fuzzy appearance.
These shoes look good and perform well; it wouldn't bother you to pay a little extra.
Tap Dance Shoes with PVC or PU Plastic
PVC and PU plastics are exclusively in cheap, and an ideal option for beginner level tap shoes.
Its an economical option for parents who have just enrolled their children in tap dance classes and whose kids have growing feet.
However, the students and parents must be aware of the time when they should be thinking of upgrading their footwear.As you progress in class, the technical demands will arise, and a delay in changing the shoe may cause severe aggravation or injury.
Buying Tap Shoes
It is best to buy your first pair at a dance supply shop although tap shoes are available online if your town is too small to have a dancewear supply store. An expert salesperson who understands the needs of young students would be in the best position to advise you of a good pair of beginner shoes.
When shopping for shoes, be sure to wear the same kind of socks or tights you will wear while dancing. This way, dancers can get a real feel of how the steps and stretches they are likely to take in an actual class will feel in these shoes.
How The Anatomy of The Shoe Determines Your Purchase Decision
Here is a short glossary of different shoe terms, explaining what they are and how they relate to choosing a tap shoe:
The high heel at the back of the shoe can also be altered for sound and comfort. A plastic heel, found on most entry-level tap shoes, is reasonable but has a mediocre sound quality. A thick leather heel will produce a deep, rich tone. The higher the heel, the more uncomfortable it gets for the dancer.
The method of cutting the housing material, should be taken into account for function and style. The cut of the shoe is essential when considering the width and length of your foot. Pay heed to how the pattern is sewed together. More stitching can mean higher durability, while less sewing will mean a more flexibility.
The toe box is a pillar of the area that keeps the toes and can be helpful for tap dancers that dance vigorously and have to perform on the tip of their toe. However, a strengthened toe also means less flexibility and compacted toes can be uncomfortable, in that case, a soft leather toe is more beneficial.
The top edge of the sides and back of the shoe is the top line. A lower top line will allow fabulous ankle flexibility, while a higher top line will promote ankle suspense. To prevent painful chafing, the top line can be padded where it comes in contact with the skin or cut out in the back to give additional leeway to the tendons.
Fitting Tap Shoes
It's important that a dancer find a style and fit that's as snug as possible with very little space in the toe box. The fit should however not painful or uncomfortable. When selecting tap shoes, if a dancer is not sure of two sizes, he or she should opt for the smaller size, though.
Tap sounds will be clear and precise only if the tap shoes fit perfectly. With frequent use, most tap shoes will stretch and allow more room for the dancer's feet.
Sounds Of Tap Shoes
Tap shoes have screws attached to the taps and differ by the number of screws. The screws are adjustable, and to procure different sounds, many tap dancers often loosen or tighten screws.
The most common tap shoes have three screws on each shoe, but after dancing for a while, dancers develop a personal preference for the screw configuration on his or her tap shoes.
Special Notes for Parents of Children Buying Their First Pair of Tap Shoes
- Tap shoes will generally cost between $40 and $100. Don't spend too much on your child's first pair, as she may not continue in her class or on the other hand like it so much that she may want a pair more suited to her style of dance.
- Before choosing the final pair, insist your child not just walk around in them but try a dance step or two as well.
- While parents all over may want to leave a little room for growth – especially in younger children – too much room can be quite dangerous. There is an emphasis on the use of the ankle joint in tap dance, and therefore good support of the foot is needed in tap shoes. If the shoe is too loose, the student may sustain ankle injuries.
- Capezio makes some of the best Tap shoes, with Bloch and Leo's being other world-class brands.
- Many dance schools choose the tan colored tap shoes because they will suit any colored costume students may be wearing. Other schools like to stay with the more traditional black leather.
- If your child has special needs partial customization may be possible with some brands. A narrow foot may prefer the tight fit of SoDanca’s TA715 (the heart shoe), while a wide foot may be more comfortable in the roomy Bloch SO313M (the J-Sam shoe)