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Tap for Beginners


Black tap shoes Photo © 2007 Treva Bedinghaus, licensed to About.com, Inc.

Tap is an exciting form of dance in which dancers wear special shoes equipped with metal taps. Tap dancers use their feet like drums to create rhythmic patterns and timely beats. The term "tap dancing" is derived from the tapping sound produced when the small metal plates on the dancer's shoes touch a hard floor or surface.

Tappers and Hoofers:

A common style of tap dancing is called "classical tap." Classical tappers use their arms and upper bodies to blend movements of ballet or jazz into their tap routines. "Hoofers" try to use every part of their shoes to make their feet sound like drums.

Clogging is similar to tap dancing. Cloggers perform with an up-and-down body motion and tend to make the most sounds with their heels. Tap dancers stay light on their feet and tend to dance to the melodies of music, rather than to the beats. Cloggers often dance in groups, such as in Riverdance.

Tap Classes:

Typical tap classes last about an hour, beginning with a warm-up to stretch the muscles of the legs and feet. Dancers practice a series of basic steps, adding more difficult combinations as they become more proficient. Tap dancing is a vigorous form of dance, requiring a great deal of physical fitness. Many kids as well as adults tap dance for fun and exercise. It builds aerobic fitness as well as muscle control.

Tap Shoes:

Tap shoes are available in several different styles. Some dancers prefer flat shoes while some feel more comfortable with a heel. The most popular colors for tap shoes are black, white and beige. The shoes should fit well and be comfortable. Snug-fitting shoes are preferred over loose ones. The taps, two on each shoe, should be the same width as the heels and the toes of the shoe.

Basic Tap Steps:

Tap dancing is mastered through lots and lots of practice. Beginning tap dance classes focus on learning single tap steps, then incorporating the steps into series of combinations. A few of the basic tap steps include the brush, flap, shuffle, and ball change. Tap dancers strive to produce clean tap sounds with each step. Tap teachers will roam the studio during classes, listening for extra taps.


The goal in tap dancing is to produce clear, clean sounds, with various levels of tone. Body weight should be held slightly forward, allowing most of the dancing to be done on the balls of the feet. The knees and ankles should be relaxed at all times. Beginning tap dancers are sometimes told to dance as if they were dancing on a glass floor.

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