Good dancers can make even the most complicated, strenuous techniques look effortless and fluid. If you’ve ever watched an experienced dancer perform a tap routine, you probably watched in disbelief as their feet turned into a blur of movement that seemed to move independently from the rest of their body. Sometimes the sound effects are even more impressive; when done well, tap dance is a musical art form that creates its own rhythm.
Do you want to train your own feet to create this unique mixture of motion and music? The following four tap dance steps are simple but essential elements of all tap choreography.
The shuffle is one of the first tap dance steps you should learn. It’s a combination of two moves that are even more basic: the brush and the strike. Start with the brush. Stand on one leg and bend the other, lifting your foot off the ground. Turn both feet out, without letting the raised foot touch the ground.
Now, perform a brush by swinging the foot forward. As it passes your standing foot, point it slightly so the ball quickly brushes against the floor. Don’t let your heel touch the floor at all. Next, follow it with a strike. This is simply the same movement in reverse; swing your foot backwards instead of forwards.
2. Ball change
In tap, there are several different ways to shift your weight from one foot to the other, but the ball change is by far the most common. In order to pull it off perfectly, make sure that only your toe tap–the smallest of your shoe’s metal plates–makes any noise. First, stand with your feet side by side but not touching. Now lift your heels, so that only your the balls of your feet are in contact with the floor. Next, place your right foot behind you, and rock back onto the ball of it. As you do so, your left foot should completely leave the floor for a moment. Now switch feet and do the same thing, rocking your weight from one ball to the next.
3. Step-heel and heel-step
These two steps are the opposite of one another, and when you perform them in a pair of tap shoes, they each produce two very distinct sounds. The first step you should try is the heel-step, because it mimics the natural progression of walking across the floor. The rules are very basic: when you place one foot in front of the other, bring the heel of your foot down first. You’re still learning, so it’s okay to exaggerate the movement and “stomp” your heel into the floor. Next, bring the ball of your foot down too. Repeat with the opposite foot, and continue until you’ve moved forward several feet.
The step-heel is just the reverse, so the ball of your foot should come down before your heel. This will come more naturally if you’re used to wearing high heels. Make sure the ball of each foot makes full contact with the floor before the heel joins it; the more you arch your foot, the more force you’ll need to complete each step.
4. Single buffalo
The pickup is a stylized way to transition between steps. First, step down onto the ball of your right foot. Next, lift your left foot behind you and perform a shuffle, moving it forward and back again. When you return to your original position, hop onto the ball of the foot, placing it behind your right foot, and simultaneously lift your right foot into the air in front of you. Bend your right knee outward, so that your toe falls on the other side of your left foot.
If you enjoy learning and practicing these simple tap dance steps, why not take it a step further and work with a private dance teacher to improve your moves? There’s only so much you can learn through online videos, so if you want to perform or compete as a tap dancer, find a dance instructor who can make sure you’ve mastered the basics. Eventually, you’ll combine them into more advanced tap dance steps and learn how to truly make music with your feet. Enjoy!
Photo by Taphead25