Tip-Tap In My Tap shoes
In the mid-1600s in America, before tap dance shoes were invented, the bare soles of slaves walking rhythmically across the wood decks of river boats combined with the energetic steps of the Irish jig and the Lancashire clog. These movements that originated worlds apart, merged and evolved into the tap dance beat. That beat would take to the minstrel stage during the 1800s. Thomas D. Rice (1808 to 1860), who performed in the role of "Jim Crow," took tap dancing onto center stage and to a formal place in history for tap by the turn of the century.
It was not until the period between 1900 and 1920 that tap dance emerged as a dance form in its own right. With it, tap dance shoes were born. In the earliest days of tap dance, pennies or hobnails were hammered into the toe and heels of shoes, to create the tap sound as performers danced. Before 1910, tap dancers wore shoes made with leather uppers and wooden soles, so that the wood tapped out the beat. After 1910, it became the fashion to apply metal taps to the bottoms of tap dance shoes.
Bill Robinson & Shirley Temple
By the time that Bill Robinson (1878 to 1949) became famous as "Bojangles," tap dance shoes were part of the total package. Robinson wore tap shoes with wooden soles and heels. His dance partner in a memorable 1935 film called "The Little Colonel" was Shirley Temple, who popularized eyelet-style tap dance shoes, with large, laced-through bows. In the film, Robinson and Temple demonstrate the "stair step routine" invented by Robinson, which showcases them tapping up and down a staircase. Robinson and Temple would go on to show off their fancy tap footwork and shoes in three other films, "The Littlest Rebel" in 1935, and "Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm" and "Just Around The Corner" in 1938.
Tap dancing was featured often in movies made between 1935 and 1970, with the focus on glamorous costumes and shoes. Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers tapped their way through the 1936 classic, "Swing Time." Astaire's standard of perfection included black patent leather shoes. Quite apart from the formidable dance routines, Rogers had to contend with wearing high-heeled tap shoes. She made every dance routine look effortless, even though--on at least one occasion--her feet bled from the strain. Her white satin-covered shoes turned red.
Tap Shoe Evolution
The movies made tap dancing look magical and glamorous, and the demand for tap dance shoes grew accordingly, bringing about new design features over the years. Traditionally, leather soled flat tap shoes are considered best, especially for beginners, and not rubber soles because they tend to stick. Canvas and synthetic materials are also used in place of leather. Most taps have adjustable screws to create different sound effects, and they should be of equal width as the heels and toe of the shoes. Styles have evolved to include lace-up Oxfords, Mary Janes, the Jazz, the heeled tap, and the tap sneaker.
Tapping Into Fame
The legendary choreographer and director,Tommy Tune, began his award-winning career as part of the chorus on Broadway in the mid-1960s. At six-foot six inches, he was probably the tallest dancer to take the stage. He went on to tap dance in two notable movies, "Hello Dolly" in 1969 and "The Boyfriend" in 1971. Meanwhile, at Radio City Music Hall in New York City, the high-kicking Rockettes were also keeping alive the tap dance tradition, all at least 5-foot six inches tall, and stepping perfectly in time. For aspirants to Broadway and Radio City Music Hall, Broadway-style high-heeled tap dance shoes are sold with taps already installed as are sturdy yet flexible tap dance shoes designed to take the beginner all the way to Broadway and film fame.
Electronic Tap Shoes
The 1989 film "Tap" stars the dancer Gregory Hines. It illustrates the history of tap dancing. The film famously includes Hines performing an electronic tap dance sequence, wearing a special pair of electronic tap shoes. Al Desio, the inventor of the shoes, built electronic transmitters into the tap shoes. The transmitters were connected to synthesizers so that when Hines tapped, he was able to create different sounds. The film was directed by Nick Castle Jr., the son of the legendary Hollywood choreographer, Nick Castle (1910 to 1968) who worked with Shirley Temple, Fred Astaire and many other dance stars.
National Tap Dance Day
In 1989, a joint United States Senate/House Resolution declared that May 25 be celebrated as National Tap Dance Day. The significance of May 25 is that it was the birthday of Bill "Bojangles" Robinson. Robinson and his tap dance shoes are honored in his hometown of Richmond, Virginia with a life-sized statue.
The Day In The Life Of Ann Miller
Ann Miller, the long-legged tap-dancer with the lacquered raven hair and Nefertiti eye makeup whose athleticism made her a staple of big-screen musicals in the 1940's and 50's, died on Thursday at a Los Angeles hospital. She was believed to be about 80.
The cause was lung cancer, Esme Chandlee, her friend and former publicist, told The Associated Press.
She was, in her heyday, America's female tap star, inheriting the mantle of Ginger Rogers and Eleanor Powell. She always took a vigorous approach to dancing, and her agent said she could produce 500 taps a minute. Nobody ever disputed him.
As a young actress, she consistently won praise for her roles in movies like ''Easter Parade'' (1948), in which she danced most gracefully with Fred Astaire as she tried to woo him away from Judy Garland; ''Kiss Me Kate'' (1953), in which she portrayed Lois Lane, the nightclub hoofer who became Bianca in Cole Porter's version of ''Taming of the Shrew''; and ''On the Town'' (1949), which paired her with Jules Munshin, the sidekick of Frank Sinatra and Gene Kelly, sailors desperately looking for girls on their 24-hour leave in New York. These, she said, were her favorite movies, and most fans and critics would agree.
She first attracted attention in 1938, when she played the fudge-making, ballet-dancing daughter in Frank Capra's ''You Can't Take It With You.'' And in 1979, after a long hiatus, she made a tremendous comeback, starring with Mickey Rooney in ''Sugar Babies,'' a musical salute to vaudeville that ran for nearly three years on Broadway. She enjoyed the stardom that she felt she had been denied earlier.
''At MGM I always played the second feminine lead,'' she told the writer Bob Thomas in 1990. ''I was never the star in films. I was the brassy, good-hearted showgirl. I never really had my big moment on the screen. 'Sugar Babies' gave me the stardom that my soul kind of yearned for.''
Johnnie Lucille Ann Collier was born in Chireno, Tex. Her father, John Alfred Collier, was a successful criminal lawyer who counted among his clients Clyde Barrow, Bonnie Parker and Baby Face Nelson. He dreamed of having a son he could call John Jr.; instead, he named his daughter Johnnie. Her mother was the former Clara Birdwell, whose mother was a Cherokee.
The Colliers soon moved to Houston, where her mother saw to it that she studied piano and violin but mostly dancing, partly to build up legs affected by rickets, a condition caused by a vitamin D deficiency that can lead to softening of the bones and deformity.