What's That Dance
By Jackielou Perez | December 16, 2010
The word shuffle has been around long before the iPod
gadget existed and is usually used as a dance technique, particularly the art of tap dancing. And what's not to love about a dance that has you moving your feet, dancing to the beat of your own drum.
"Tap is one of the only art forms that sees you as a dancer and a percussionist at the same time," says Shawn Byfield, owner of Byfield Dance eXperience (BDX)
in Toronto. "With tap, you can dance to anything that has a beat -jazz, hip hop, classical, Latin, reggae -or you can go acatappa
and make your own beats."
According to Byfield, a stage and screen veteran, tap dance is not one of those things you can learn by reading about steps in a book. "It’s more of a tradition that’s evolved over the years, with people on the streets go back and forth playing with different combinations and steps then sharing it."
Around for more than a century, tap dance has branched into a variety of styles. There are the aggressive hoofers who dance with a louder, much more grounded sound like Bill "Bojangles" Robinson
; ballroom elegance and a light tappity-tap from the likes of Fred Astaire
and then there's Gene Kelly
who added ballet and modern movements to the shuffles and quick ball-changes. So what makes this so fun?
Aside from being something everyone can relate to (because after all, everyone has a heartbeat and therefore has some rhythm), Byfield says there's a lot of pleasure that comes out of tap dancing.
"The joy of tap is anyone can learn how to tap dance," says the hoofer who’s been stomping and stamping since the age of six. "We're so used to walking heel toe, heel toe and with tapping you're using different parts of your foot. It's sometimes harder to understand the coordination, but once you get it, you get it."
While students should dress in clothes they'll be comfortable sweating in, cargo pants, shorts or leggings are the most common picks for a tap class. After all, Byfield says when it comes to executing weight transfers and shuffling the foot forward and backward, it's important to see the feet.
Don't have tap shoes? Bring in hard soled dress shoes to absorb the shock and avoid running shoes because they won't make similar noises a tap shoe is supposed to make.
For those starting a tap class, Byfield offers five tips:
As beginners, we always get anxious and nervous. Allow yourself to let go, relax and feel something new.
2) Use you ears
Ears are important in tap because we are making music with our feet and we need to listen. If we’re not listening then our tap isn’t going to sound as good as it can.
3) Pay attention to detail
In tap, you are using different parts of your feet and at different times. If you’re doing a shuffle, are you doing it with the ball of the foot or with a heel? Every sound matters so you want to be as clear and precise as possible.
4) Don't take yourself seriously and have fun!
It's understandable to be frustrated in your first few classes. But remember that tap is a celebration of rhythm and culture. It’s about sharing the love for dance and having a great experience.
5) Share it!
It's not an art form you keep to yourself and that's why tap has been around for so long. Whether you’re the one sharing or the one taking it all in, we can all relate to rhythm.
The Shim Sham
, a popular tap dance routine in the late 1920s and 1930s.
A collection of tap routines
over the years
Shawn Byfield began his journey into the dance world as a hyper, six-year-old boy after being blown away by a Gregory Hines tap solo. Since then, he has gone on to be an internationally distinguished Hip Hop, Tap, and stage choreographer and opened BDX dance studio in 2009. As a Gemini Award nominee and recipient of the Dora Award he continues to inspire, challenge, and instigate a newfound love for dance, for beginners and professionals alike.
DID YOU KNOW?
Tap extraordinaire the late Gregory Hines is buried in Oakville, Ontario