How To Tap Dance

Tap dancing is a lively form of dance that originated in the 1800s and has complex roots in several forms of dance (including Irish step and English clogging).  Tap dancing enjoyed renewed interest during the late eighties thanks to legendary performer, Sammy Davis, Jr., and his role in the popular movie, "Tap."  Tap dancing is less constrictive than other forms of dance, particularly ballet.  While it can take years to master ballet, if ever, it is entirely possible to discover tap dancing later in life and still perform quite respectably.  

Below you're going to discover how to become a tap dancer.  For the following moves, there are endless variations for your hand movements, but you will be given specific instructions for a simple default position.  Below you will learn how to perform four beginner moves and one advanced beginner move.  If you need additional guidance and feel you will benefit from live interaction, consider purchasing an instructional video or taking an adult tap class at a local dance studio.

Dig Step:

  1. Stand with your feet and legs close together but not quite touching.  Your feet will be slightly less than hip distance apart and your toes should point forward.  Place your hands on your hips.

  • Pick up your right foot, moving it slightly forward.  Place your right heel on the ground when your leg is stretched as far forward as it can go while still keeping your left foot planted on the ground.  Your right toes will be pointing forward and up at a 45-degree angle to the ground.
  • Bring your right foot back toward your body and place your foot on the ground back in the initial position.
  • Repeat Step 2, this time beginning with your left foot and digging it out.
  • Bring your left foot back toward your body and place your foot on the ground back in the initial position.
  • Continue the dig-step sequence by dig stepping on the right as indicated in Steps 2 and 3 followed by dig-stepping on the left as in Steps 4 and 5.  Repeat this sequence until you are comfortable.
  • Flap Heel:

    1. Stand with your feet slightly less than hip distance apart but not touching.

  • Lift your right foot slightly off the ground so that neither your toes nor your heel are touching the ground.  Move your right foot forward by lightly brushing the ball of your foot on the ground leading with your toes.  Complete the flap by pressing the entire ball of your foot evenly onto the floor.
  • Now press your right heel onto the floor.  Your right foot will stay planted where it is and you will begin next on the left.
  • Lift your left foot slightly off the ground.  Lightly brush the ball of your left foot on the ground leading with your toes.  Complete the flap by pressing the entire ball of your foot evenly onto the floor.
  • Now press your left heel onto the floor.  Your left foot will stay planted on the ground.
  • Continue the Flap Heel step by performing Steps 2 and 3 followed by Steps 4 and 5 until you are comfortable.
  • Shuffle Step:

    1. Stand with your feet and legs close together but not quite touching.  Your feet will be slightly less than hip distance apart and your toes should point forward.  Place your hands on your hips.

  • Move your right foot in front of you and brush the ball of your right foot against the ground.  Your heel will not make contact with the ground at all.
  • Bring your right foot toward you, again brushing the ball of your foot against the ground.  Step your right foot back into the initial position.
  • Move your left foot in front of you and brush the ball of your left foot against the ground.
  • Bring your left foot toward you, again brushing the ball of your foot against the ground.  Step your left foot back into the initial position.
  • Continue shuffle stepping by performing Step 2 then Step 3 followed by Step 4 then Step 5 multiple times in a row until you are comfortable.  The Shuffle Step can serve as a good warm-up.
  • Shuffle Hop Step:

    1. Stand with your feet hip distance apart and your toes pointing forward.  Place your hands on your hips.

  • Move your right foot in front of you and brush the ball of your foot against the ground.  Your heel will not make contact with the ground at all.
  • Bring your right foot toward you, again brushing the ball of your foot against the ground.
  • Raise your right knee slightly and hop, bringing the heel of your left foot slightly off the ground.
  • Place your right foot back in the initial position.  You will be in the position you were in Step 1.
  • Move your left foot in front of you and brush the ball of your foot against the ground.  As in Step 2, your heel will not make contact with the ground at all.
  • Bring your left foot toward you, again brushing the ball of your foot against the ground.
  • Raise your left knee slightly and hop bringing the heel of your right foot slightly off the ground.
  • Place your left foot back in the initial position.  You will be in the position you were in Step 1.
  • Continue shuffle-hop stepping on your right foot as indicated in Steps 2 through 5 followed by shuffle-hop stepping on your left foot as indicated in Steps 6 through 9 multiple times in a row until you have mastered this step.
  • When you progress toward more difficult steps, the Shuffle Hop Step can serve as a warm-up.
  • Shuffle Off to Buffalo:

    1. Begin with your hands on your hips and your feet slightly less than hip distance apart.

  • Lift your right foot about four inches off the ground and step with your entire foot, letting both your toes and heel evenly hit the floor.  All your weight will now be on your right foot.

    (a)  At the same time your right foot hits the floor, raise your left foot so that your knee is slightly bent and your foot is about four inches off the ground.

  • Perform a shuffle as you did in Steps 4 and 5 of Shuffle Step except that your left foot will be outstretched to your left and shuffling with your toes and foot facing the front left corner.
  • Bring your left foot back toward you and transfer all your weight to your left foot.

    (a)  At the same time your left foot hits the floor, raise your right foot off the ground and hold it suspended in the air.  Your right knee will be slightly above the midway point between the floor and hip level.  The toes of your right foot will be about four inches above the floor and pointing toward the floor.  Your right calf will be crossing in front of your left leg and your right foot will be to the left of your left leg.

  • Begin the above sequence midway through Step 2.  Since your right foot will already be raised, you can immediately begin with transferring your weight onto your right foot.
  • Repeat Step 2a, Step 3, Step 4, and Step 4a.
  • Continue the Shuffle Off to Buffalo multiple times in a row until you are comfortable.
  • Congratulations!  You have mastered an advanced beginner step.
  • You can also perform a Shuffle Off to Buffalo on the "left side" by beginning Step 2 with your left foot.
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