About Tapdance
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II. National Tapfestival

The development of tapdance
Tapdance, lindy-hop… from the beginnings
It was only in 1928 that the word first appeared in print but its roots lead back to as far as the times of slavery. In America, the slave holders discovered that Blacks were able to communicate with each other from the distance with the help of their drums, whose beats served as a kind of code. The slaveholders’ fear from revolt lead to the prohibition of the use of drums and every kind of device that uttered a sound in their religious ceremonies in the whole area of the South. But Afro-Americans continued their traditions, changing the drums to the sound of their feet… Thus tapdance, which is a mixture of simple and complicated rhythms once served as a code for expressing thoughts, feelings.
In the 19th century the clog-dance of the Irish and English immigrants mixed with the steps of the Afro-Americans and this lead to the formation of what we call today „tapdance”. But the typical tapshoe with pieces of iron on its sole appeared only in the 1910’s.
In the 1830’s many white dancers were inspired by the Afro-Americans, the so-called „Leeve Dancers”. Their Shuffle Dance were popularized by the hoofers and their touring companies.
The American tapdance has a strong connection with William Henry Lane (1825-1852), widely known as „Master Juba”. He had his own dance style, the Juba-dance, which was a mixture of the European jig and the African rhythms. In the 1840’s he got to know the famous Irish tapdancer, Jack Diamond, and was strongly inspired by him.
In 1866 the first musical entitled The Black Crook was staged by hoofers and Irish immigrants. It was an important event in the developement of tapdance.
Tapdance became very popular by the turn of the century. The widely-known combination of Shim Sham Shimmy was created around that time and has become widely-used by the lindy-hop dancers ever since.
After the appearance of the ironed tapshoe in 1910, the jazz, swing, tap and lindy-hop hand in hand set on their way to conquer the world.
The modern American tapdance is stronly related to swing. This style and dance also has African origins and up to 1913 it was known as Texas Tommy. Later on it was called Mooch, Sugar, and in 1919 it became knowns as Break-a-way. In the 1920’s together with the fashionable charleston, it became a totally new dance-style, without a name. In 1926 in the heart of New York Harlem the Savoy Ballroom opened its gates and it became a dance centre for Black and White Americans – eg. the famous swing dancer, George Shorthy Showden. It was in 1927 that this new dance style got the name: Lindy-hop or Lindbergh-hop, after Charles Lindbergh who was flying over the Atlantic in 33 hours. When a journalist asked George Shorthy Showden the name of his dance he answered that is was the Lindy-hop „because we are flying like Lindbergh”.
Dancing styles come and go but the famous charleston, cakewalk, shim-sam-shimmy, foxtrott and many others have remained in „use” ever since.
The 1930’s saw the appearance of Frankie Manning with his Savoy-style, and the company of Whitey’s Lindy Hoppers, who used many acrobatic elements in their dances.
1932 is again an important date in the developement of tapdance: the Cotton Club was opened, presenting the most famous tapdance pair ever: the Nicholas Brothers. Their unbelievable talent draw the attention of Blacks and Whites to tapdance once again…
Louis Armstrong, Cab Calloway, Benny Goodman, Duke Ellington… New Orleans spread the very best musicians. Their music called to dance.
Then the movies began to popularize these dances, too., presenting the Whitey’s Lindy Hoppers in one picture after the other… And of course later on, with the birth of the American musical, Fred Astaire, Gene Kelly and many others were making these dances more fashionable than ever. Is there anybody who hasn’t heard of „Singin’ in the rain”, „An American in Paris”, „Royal Wedding”, „An invitation to dance”…?
Step by step tapdance and swing became the world’s favourite dances….
Root: Zsófi Laszlovszky


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