Tap Dance FAQ

What is tap dancing? A rhythmic type of dance where dancers tap their feet (in tap shoes) against a hard surface to create sound and rhythm.

What is the history of tap dancing? I'm going to defer to the following sites on this one:

Theatredance.com or Streetswing.com

What age should I start tap dancing? Any age. I often hear adults say they are too old to learn to tap dance, but the adults I teach and the ones I talk to who are taking lessons online, universally enjoy it. In fact I find adults learn quite a bit faster than children. Also most adults aren't out to be the best tap dancers in the world, they just want to enjoy the experience and get a little exercise doing it.

You don't have to start at age 3 to be really good either. Some tap dancers don't get into it until their late teens or early twenties. With a good amount of practice, practically anyone can be good.

Try our Beginner Lessons - they are a great place to start!

What type of tap shoes should I get? That depends. If you want a really high caliber shoe you might try a Miller and Ben shoe, a Just Tap shoe, a Capezio K360, or a Ruben Sanchez shoe. I use thea Bloch Jason Samuel Smith shoe because it’s very durable but it’s also very heavy. A beginner might just want to start out with a Capezio CG55 or similar. Don't get the bottom of line bargain basement tap shoes. They are cheap for a reason. I would recommend starting out with a mid-priced shoe ($45-85). If you don't have a lot of money you can often go to a local dance studio and buy used shoes there or online at a site like ebay.

How much should I practice? How good do you want to to be? Two half hour practice sessions a week will yield decent progress. If you really want to get good fast, try a half hour to an hour every day.

Our Premium Beginner Package is the ultimate starter package for a beginning tap dance.

How many classes should I take a week? As many as you can! The more you take, the better you will get.

Who should I take from? Just about anyone. Taking from a variety of teachers will quickly broaden your vocabulary and give you a wide array of techniques to pull from when you need them. Are there bad teachers out there you should avoid? Sure. How do you spot them? Look for teachers who are not specific in demonstrating or teaching a step and who cannot give you clear and detailed answers to your questions. A good teacher usually has a specific way they want you to do steps and a good reason why. Your teacher should be able to explain those clearly to you.

Can you really learn how to tap by watching videos? Yes and no. You can learn steps and technique but if you really want to pursue this art-form you need feedback from an experienced teacher. The ideal situation is being to have someone there beside you to give you real time corrections.

What kind of floor should I use? Don't tap on cement! This can do serious damage to your body. I tap on laminate wood flooring laid over top of 2 layers of exercise mat (for cushion). You could get a 4ft by 4ft piece of plywood or particle board (3/4 inch thick or more - any less and it will break or warp) from a store like Home Depot or Lowes and put that on top of an exercise mat or other type of non-skid cushion. Beware of simply placing the wood on carpet as I found it tended to move around as I tapped. Also if you do a search online you'll find several practice tap floors for sale such as The Portable Tap Floor, (use coupon code UT and save $20 on your Portable Tap Floor Purchase) The Tappin' Floor, The FasFoot floor, and the Jubilee Dance Floor.

I can't get my shuffles (flaps, brushes, etc.) clean. What should I do? Be patient. Clean sounds take time. Some things you can do to clean your sound include:

  1. Imagine dipping your toe tap in paint. Every time you brush, shuffle, flap, etc. imagine painting dots with your tap as opposed to stripes.
  2. Flex your foot more and sooner. Immediately after the ball tap hits the floor it needs to be lifted off of it. If it stays against the floor even for a second it can scrape. Getting it off the floor faster prevents it from staying down long enough to scrape. This takes practice.
  3. Don't point your toes. This goes with number 2 above but is worth saying again. Pointing leads to scraping.
  4. Adjust the placement of your first sound. For instance if you're doing a flap and scraping the first sound every time, it's possible when your foot first touches the floor during the first sound, it's touching the floor several inches or more behind you. If you try to make it touch the floor either in line with the other foot or slightly in front of the other foot you may have more success. This can only be taken so far though. If you make the first sound too far in front of you, you'll have a host of other problems crop up. This works for shuffles as well.

I can't do pullbacks (pick-ups, grab-offs, etc.). What can I do to get them? There are two main approaches to these: traveling vs. in-place/up-and-down. I do the traveling approach for pullbacks and the other approach I actually call pick-ups. For pullbacks with the traveling approach here is what I recommend:

  1. Travel backwards more. Even more. Even more. Traveling more results in students getting sounds a lot of the time. Don't lean forward and look down or you'll fall.
  2. Don't point your toes. That will result in scrapes.
  3. Don't lift your feet more than 4-5 inches off the floor. If you lift them too high, you will not get sounds. I lift mine about 2-3 inches of the floor.
  4. Relax or tighten your ankles. This is different for everyone. If your ankles are too tight/stiff you won't get sounds. In that case relax them more. If they are too relaxed/floppy you might have trouble getting sounds, in that case tighten them. On a scale of 1-10 if 10 is super tight and 1 is super loose my ankles are about a 4 or 5.

What can I do to get wings? There are different techniques for wings. I'll walk you through mine. First of all when you scrape out (notice I did not call it a brush - brushes aren't supposed to scrape and don't start from the floor they start from the air) make sure you're on the outside of the METAL of the ball tap, not on the outside of the shoe. Why? The ball tap only covers the top part of the foot. If you roll your foot to the outside you'll find that the tap is often not even touching the floor. What IS touching the floor is the rubber on the bottom of your shoe. That rubber PREVENTS the foot from scraping out resulting in pressure on your ankles causing pain.

Also, as the feet scrape out make sure your weight is going upwards so that it's not pushing down against your feet causing pain.

The next problem is how/when to get the spank in. I teach my students to try to get the spank sound when their feet are at their furthest outward point. Now technically if you watched me do wings you would see me do the spank a little bit in (say 3-4 inches) from my furthest outward point. That's because I've been doing these for years and don't need to try to make them happen at my furthest outward point. So why do you? Because when you are learning wings you generally aren't as fast as you need to be in terms of your feet doing exactly what you want the exact second you tell them to. So what will probably happen with you (there are ALWAYS exceptions) is that you'll try to make the spank happen at your furthest outward point but it won't actually happen until about 3-4 inches in from your furthest outward point. That's okay. That's better than trying to make the spank happen 3-4 inches in from your furthest outward point and not making it happen until 8-9 inches in from your furthest outward point, where even if you did make it, it will be timed so closely to the landing that follows that it will not sound good.

Next I recommend that immediately after the spank you try to lift your feet upwards as they come in before they finally land. This is very hard to do and there isn't much time to do it. It will keep your spanks and landing separated though. How much should you lift? Probably as much as you can, but an inch or two should make a difference.

How do I get into a tap company / What should I do to pursue tap after high school? Good questions. There are many different perspectives on this so I'll give you mine. First of all you need to be good. Very good. And not just good feet, though that will get you far. People want the whole package: good feet, good performer, good teacher, good choreographer, and versatile (can jazz dance too). If you have all that going for you then you need to get in front of the right people often. Who are the "right" people? I'm actually not the best person to answer that since I sort of do my own thing. Go to all the big tap festivals and workshops you can. The people teaching at those are probably the "right" people. Introduce yourself to them. Be in front of them as much as possible. Tell them you're interested in being a part of any projects they might have going. Ask them what you need to do to get where you want to be. If you are a stand out in their classes, are nice to them, and make it a point to be seen by them, they will learn who you are. Then, when they need a really good tapper like you, there's a chance they will call upon you.

As for tap in college....well it depends. I'm not aware of a college tap program that is top notch and is getting people great tap jobs. There may be one, I just haven't heard of it. As for college or no college that's a tough one. I think college could be used to augment your tapping - maybe a major in theater or arts administration etc. But be realistic too...if you're doing college and tap on the side and someone else is tapping every day in front of the right people, that other person is likely to get the cool tap job.

More questions?

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