The early slave trade in America was a collision of cultures that resulted
in the creation of a new art form.
Slave-holders already fearful of revolt, began to panic when it was discovered
that Africans could communicate with each other - over long distances and
in code - through the use of drums. All over the South, slave-holders forbid
the use of drums and other native instruments in African religious
But African-Americans held on to their traditional rhythms by transferring
them to their feet. The tapping out of complex rhythmic passages was developed,
and a subtle, intricate and vital physical code of expression was born.
By the mid-nineteenth century, African-Americans had combined their footwork
with Irish and British clogging steps to create an entirely original form
of dance called "buck and wing." The popularity of the "waltz clog" is said to have led to a smoother style. Bill "Bojangles" Robinson
was the master of this style.
The waltz clog preceeded the "soft shoe" -- a graceful and controlled dance
(usually without taps) made popular in Vaudeville. There is also a fast military tap known as "shotgun tap." The tap dancers
in vaudeville were called "hoofers." Hoofers usually improvised and were sometimes known for their own specialty
In the early part of the 20th century several people contributed to the development of tap. Toots Davis and Eddie Rector did tap in
the review "Darktown Follies" in 1913. Eubie Blake and Noble Sissle created a Broadway show in 1921 called "Shuffle
Along" that featured tap dance and became enormously popular. The Charleston was introduced in a show called "Liza"
but truly took off after the "Charleston" song written for the musical "Runnin'
Wild" featured tap dancers Pete Nugent and Derby Wilson in 1923. Another
show "Dinah" (1924) introduced the "Black Bottom." Clarence Robinson is reported to have brought tap dancing to the Cotton Club in 1934.
The early career of Eubie Blake
The early "Buck Dancers" used shoes with wooden soles and heels. Aluminum metal taps developed later.There are also noise-making "jingle" taps.