A Beginner's How-to Tap Dance Guide
If you are somewhat new to tap dancing, this page is for you! You are going to learn some of the basic tap steps that give all tap dancers a solid foundation. Watch out though! Typed tap dancing steps are not easy to follow.
It would be best if you read the counts that we type out for you. The counts follow the steps in (brackets). When necessary, right and left foot are indicated by (R) and (L), respectively. Pay close attention to the CAPITAL letters also, which will highlight the accented steps. (Accented steps are the ones that are emphasized in a combination. Technically, any step can be accented, but as a beginner it is recommended that you follow the traditional accents.) Additionally, pictures are provided of my own feet doing the steps so that you know how they are supposed to look.
The basic steps that I will be explaining include: the FLAP, SHUFFLE, and SINGLE TIME STEP. Then, I will leave you with links for MORE INFORMATION if you are interested in learning more steps. Good luck!
First, I will be explaining how to do a flap. A flap requires you to use only the balls of your feet. There are no heels involved whatsoever. Stand on your left foot and keep all of your weight on that foot. Pick up your right foot (bending your knee back) and brush the ball of your right foot forward on the ground. Then touch the ground with the ball of your right foot (1-2, “fa-lap”). Pull your right foot back off the ground, bending your knee back again and repeat.
Having a hard time keeping your balance? You may not be bending your knees enough. It is important to keep both of your knees (right and left, but especially left) elastic. Keeping your left knee bent gives you enough cushioning to do complex steps and get all of the correct sounds with your right foot. If you are having a hard time getting in the 1-2 sound, you may be curling up your toes in your shoes. Remain relaxed and shake out your feet if this is happening. Then, try again. When you have successfully completed 8 on your right foot, place your weight on your right foot (with your knee bent!) and flap with your left.
When you have successfully completed the flap step, with the 1-2 sound, on both your right and left foot, you can move on to the shuffle.
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You can start out the shuffle by placing your weight on the left foot. Pick up your right foot and bend your right knee back. Then, swing your right foot forward and brush the ground with the ball of your right foot. When your right foot is forward in the air, swing it backward again and brush the ball of the foot against the ground, bending your right knee backward again. Finally, you can STEP on the right foot, with both the ball of your foot and the heel, as your last sound. So, the entire step can be simplified: brush ball front (R), brush ball back (R), step (R) (1-2-3, shu-ffle STEP). When you step on your right foot, make sure you place your weight on it. Now, you can repeat the shuffle on your left foot. Each time you do a shuffle, it will alternate right foot, then left foot.
This will be challenging at first, but keep at it. The purpose of alternating feet is to get used to switching your weight back and forth for more advanced steps. One thing that will help you shift your weight is slightly bending your knees, as mentioned before. When you have mastered the shuffle on both your right and left foot, you can make it more complex by adding a hop on the standing foot. After you have shuffled with your right foot and it is still in the air, HOP on the left before placing the right foot back on the ground. So, it will go something like this: shuffle (R), HOP (L), step (R) (1-2-3-4, shu-ffle hop step). This will take a lot of practice, so don’t get discouraged! Now, I will move on to explain the single time step.
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SINGLE TIME STEP
The single time step is a classic step that is very important to know. Pay close attention to the timing. It does not follow traditional timing (1-2-3-4-5-6-7-8), but rather starts on count 8. To begin, place your weight on the left foot, with the knees slightly bent as usual. Then, pick up your right foot and STOMP (8) forward of your body with it, but do not place your weight on! Quickly pick up your right foot from the STOMP and hop (and) on your left foot. After the hop, you can step (1) the ball of your right foot back on the ground and place your weight on it. Flap forward (2-3) with your left foot and place your weight on it (if you do not know how to do a flap, you can refer to the instructions at the top of this article). Step (4) on the ball of the right foot and transfer your weight to the right foot. Then, repeat by STOMPING (8) on the left foot and hopping (and) on the right foot. So, to bring the whole step together: stomp (R) (8), hop (L) (and), ball step (R) (1), flap (L) (2-3), ball step (R) (4), STOMP (L) (8) and repeat.
If you are confused, referring to the pictures should help. Again, there is a lot of weight shift in this step, which can be difficult for beginners. To effectively get all of the sounds in (8-and-1-2-3-4), it will be important to use the balls of your feet (except for the stomp, which requires the whole foot) and to keep both feet relaxed throughout the step (do not curl up your toes).
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By now, you should know how to complete a flap, shuffle, and a single time step. The next few steps to learn will include a double time step and pullbacks. If you cannot successfully get your feet to follow the flap, shuffle, and single time step just yet, don't worry! Practice is the only way you will improve. For more instruction, you could come to an R U Tap Troupe meeting if you are a Rutgers student, or buy an instructional tap video. Websites that sell instructional tap videos are listed below. Different levels are indicated. If you are looking for a beginner video, be careful and make sure you know what you are buying.
The Bob Rizzo Video Catalog
Dance Videos and DVDs
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