Tap Shoes

Written by Jill Morrison
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Tap shoes are basically character shoes with steel plates fixed on the bottom. They allow dancers to use their feet in order to provide rhythmic patterns of sounds in performance. The earliest documentation of tap dancing was in the mid-1800s. A man named Jim Lowe performed rhythm dancing and jigs in saloons at this time.

Jim Lowe had a large influence over the first great rhythm dancer, William Henry Lane, who performed a style called "Juba." Juba is defined as a lively dance accompanied with hand-clapping. This rhythmic dancing became widely popular among black slaves. Scottish and Irish immigrants were also known to perform dances with hard wooden shoes that would provide great rhythmic sounds in the early 1900s. As the years went by, rhythmic dancing grew tremendously in popularity and developed into the specific style of tap dancing.

Types of Tap Shoes

Tap dancing is now a distinct style of dance and is taught in dance classes all over the world. Specific styles of shoes are appropriate for tap dancing. Tap shoes should be stiff to offer support for feet while tapping. Because taps on the bottom of shoes can be slippery, dancers need a supportive shoe to protect their feet when slipping occurs. Character shoes with taps are most commonly used for tap dancing because they are very stiff and sturdy.

Taps can be added to any type of character shoe or sturdy style of shoe. Some companies specifically make tap styles with the taps already fixed onto the shoes. Capezio, Leo's, and Bloch are popular companies that make high quality tap shoes. Tap styles are always flat for men. Tap shoe styles can be flat or may have a one or two inch heel for women. Most tap shoe styles are available in black, tan, or white.


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