There was once a time and a place where the term ‘dance’ was synonymous with the term ‘tap-dance’. Tap was at the forefront of artistic innovation; you weren’t considered a dancer if you didn’t tap.
Sometimes I catch myself wishing that I had lived in this time.
Everyone wants to feel their work is valued, and I can’t think of a time in history when tap dance was valued on a grander scale. When you watch some of the clips, it’s not hard to see why. Dream-like sequences coming to life on the screen, created by artistic innovators striving for uncharted levels of beauty and excellence.
Think about the world of it all. Think of what it would’ve been like to have lived as a tap dancer in this time. Just imagine collaborating with Fred Astaire or Gene Kelly, Eleanor Powell, Ann Miller, or any one of the astounding tappers recognised by Hollywood at the time*.
Yet, despite feeling occasional nostalgia for a time before I existed, I cannot deny the joy I’ve had from being part of the tap dance world for the brief time that I have.
Tap & Me.
I began tap at age 16 in 2001. I had some serious ground to make up, but I had several strong handicaps on my side; I wanted to tap dance more than anything else, and as result of the success of Tap Dogs it had become ‘cool’ to do so. At last, boys could dance without being worried about having things thrown at them, including the term of choice: fag.
In that first year of tap, I disciplined myself like a pro-athlete, and it paid off. I’d received my first professional tap performance within a year of starting.
Ultimately, I could never progress fast enough to take full advantage of this exciting time in tap history. If I’d been born 10 years earlier, I might have caught it, but when I was gearing up to take off, the industry as a whole was making a gentle descent, and would soon come in to land.
Still, I can’t help but feel very grateful to have tapped during such an exciting time in the industry, and must acknowledge the impact that Dein Perry’s Tap Dogs had upon my life, and the lives of many others.
I find it so encouraging and exciting that there is a level of rhythmically and physically complex footwork currently being achieved that would undoubtedly have Fred Astaire and Gene Kelly gasping with awe (and excitement, I daresay). It makes me very happy that there are people in world who are tapping with a level of dedication equal to or greater than any given artist or athlete.
Tap dance is here to stay. It’s just too much fun, especially for those who’ve had the chance to truly experience it.
I quietly hold out hope that there may be a way to ignite a new era with tap once again at the top of the beauty/excellence scale (and with the 20s just around the corner, who knows?).
In any case, I’m glad to have been a part of the world of tap dance at all, and to have contributed in my own humble verse to the story. **
Tap. Not quite dance, not quite music. Acquainted with many, close with few. Always happy. Always done with a smile. Forever the dying art, forever just around the corner, ready to come back. Forever admired. Forever misunderstood. And forever, I feel, one of the most astounding forms of magic & beauty the world has ever seen.
* Of course, one must also acknowledge the numerous tap dancers who weren’t acknowledged by Hollywood at the time, many of whom have equally contributed to the story of the art form.
** That’s me: https://vimeo.com/152142673
I also created a video to help absolute beginners take their first few steps. Discover the magic for yourself.