Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Synergy Arts Camp: Tap Dance

Tuesday is Tap Day at Synergy Arts Camp!  Tap dance is one of my favourite dance forms, I've been an appreciator of tap for some time, recently purchasing my very first pair of tap shoes from Synergy!  (We've got all sorts of dancewear here!)  I've been practicing with them on my balcony and some spare time in the Grand Ballroom at the academy.  I'm rather elated, actually, and will be considering proper tap lessons in the future.  I've had some basic lessons a few years ago and remember the steps, and have also looked up a few basic moves that are really good for balance and weight transfer for young kids to try.  Here's the handout for tap dance, as well as an activity sheet for the kids to fill out on the parts of a ballet pointe shoe.  (First one to finish got their choice of sticker!)  Enjoy!

Tap dance was developed in the United States during the nineteenth century and has gained popularity around the world!  The name 'tap' comes from the sound of the small metal plates on the soles of a tap dancers' shoes when they touch a hard floor.  This dance form uses precise and quick foot patterns in rhythms, choreographed to a pace in the music very much like a drummer in a band.  American composer Morton Gould has composed concertos for tap dancer and orchestra - using the dancer as the rhythm section!

A history of tap can be seen in traditional clog dances in the Netherlands, Irish and Scottish jigs, as well as the rhythmic foot stamping of African dances.  North American tap dancing has two modern techniques: classical tap and hoofersClassical tap blends elements of ballet or jazz dance into the upper body movements into the tap choreography, and tend to stay on their toes.  Dancers like Ginger Rogers, Fred Astaire and Julie Andrews are great examples of classical tapHoofers use every part of the shoes to make their feet sound like drums – a great example is the Broadway show Stomp!, where the dancers also incorporate objects like trash cans and broomsticks into their rhythmic choreography!

Tap dance is also a regular part of musical theatre choreography, with many shows specifically composed for ‘tap dancer accompaniment’.  Busby Berkeley started the trend of ‘movie musicals’ with hundreds of dancers tap dancing at once!  Other popular musicals featuring tap dance are Anything Goes, 42nd Street, Singin’ in the Rain, Mary Poppins and many more!

Basic Tap Dance Warm-ups and Stretches

Arm Circles
Holding your arms straight and out to the sides, gently circle your arms about 20 times; 10 to the front and 10 to the back.   (A tap dancers uses the arms and shoulders for balance, so these will need to be nice and loose!)

Ankle Rolls
Standing with your weight on one foot, point the toe of your other foot into the floor.  Gently roll the heel of your foot around your toe.  Perform 20 turns on each foot, 10 to the front and 10 to the back.  (This helps stretch the muscles and tendons in your legs and feet!)

Point and Flex
Stand with your weight on one foot.  Point your other leg to the front, keeping your knee straight.  Change from one foot to the other until each foot has had 20 turns.  (This helps stretch your calf muscles in the back of your legs!)

Runner’s Lunge
To perform a runner's lunge, lunge forward on one knee, straightening the other leg behind.  Place your hands on your lunged knee.  Push the heel of your back leg into the ground, feeling the stretch through your entire calf area.  Hold the stretch for 20 seconds on each leg.  (A tap dancers’ lower legs work very hard – this stretch helps stretch those out a little more!)

Hamstring Stretch
Stand with one leg in front with your foot flexed.  Place your hands on your thighs to support your body weight.  Lower your upper body towards your leg.  Hold the stretch for 20 seconds on each leg.  (This will help stretch the back of your thighs!)

Tap Dance Shoes

Here are some great tap dance videos to inspire!

Gene Kelly and Julie Andrews are two of the most popular classical tap dancers, having entertained in movies and musicals together with their singing voices and tap dancing.  This clip features a very interesting way you could practice your tap moves!

Ms. Sutton Foster stars in the Broadway revival of the musical Anything Goes, full of romantic antics aboard a steamer cruise ship across the Atlantic.  This tap dance number, as performed at the 65th Annual Tony Awards celebrating Broadway theatre, is of the title song 'Anything Goes' that closes the first act.  And for an added surprise ...

The opening credits from one of my favourite movies, Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom!  Here's Kate Capshaw peforming 'Anything Goes' in Mandarin - and a Busby Berkley tribute to tap dance!

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