Tap – Light and Shade and Safe Dance Practice

I love listening to a tap dancer with lots of light and shade to the sounds made by their feet. It makes for interesting sounds and demonstrates that the dancer has control over the sounds they make. If all the tapping sounds the same then the interest that the sounds offer to the listener is so much less. Light and shade gives the sound of tap a crispness of quality and the wow factor.

I believe that light and shade in tap offers another benefit too. Controlling the amount of sound made means that the dancer is not simply tapping the floor as hard as they can all the time. Aiming to tap loudly all the time increases the risk of putting too much pressure on the feet. And depending how long the dancer is tapping this can add up to a lot of bashing of the feet on the floor. Aiming for controlled quality of sound with light tapping contrasted with louder or heavier sounds at times means that the dancer is not simply tapping the floor as hard as he or she can. And as his or her feet are touching the floor lightly a lot of the time this reduces the amount of force to the foot and body.

Teaching your tap students about quality light and shade not only enhances their tap but it promotes safety in that it varies the amount of pressure and force to the feet and body created by the tapping. Teaching light and shade to young tappers gives them the chance to try out how to make different sounds. You can do this in a fun way with simple steps from foot to foot or little springs. Or try getting them to do simple toe taps loudly and then very quietly. I like to encourage self-listening with tap even with the little ones so that light and shade is not something that is only introduced after years of bashing the floor as loudly as possible. Making light and shade part of tap learning right from the start encourages control and sound quality. And it also offers some safe dance practice benefits too. So well worth exploring.

If you want some brilliant examples of light and shade to watch and listen to then the following clips are fab – enjoy.

Gene Kelly – Singing in the Rain

Gene KellyTapping on roller skates

Fred AstairePuttin’ on the Ritz

Fred Astaire & Ginger RogersSwing time

Gregory Hines – tap solo from White Nights

Shirley Temple and Bill Bojangles Robinson – from Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm