I have recently taken on the challenge to immerse myself in learning the intricate differences of the older styles of Tap (Mainly Swing and Soft Shoe). Since I mainly study the more Urban/ Rhythmic style of today’s generation, I thought it would be beneficial to me and my students to really learn where Tap came from. Also, being able to study these styles, steps, people, and history has opened a new door for unlimited rhythmic possibilities. It’s fascinating to hear and see what life was like back in the late 20′s and 30′s; and to understand the social aspects that helped shape what was performed and seen on stage.
I have decided to go in no particular time order of the people I have chosen to study, and have found some really amazing videos that are full of information that I will share.
First up is a video of Honi Coles, one of the cleanest Tap dancers ever heard. Lena Horne talks in the video about what it was like listening to him dance. Honi talks a little about the creative process and what Tap means to him. There are also several clips of performances with the Coles and Atkins Act,an act that could captivate audiences with their seamless routines, crystal clear taps, and inviting personalities.
Here are a few videos of Arthur Duncan who appeared as a regular on the Lawrence Welk Show. Arthur has a great since of rhythm and can move his feet at lightning speed while keeping his timing on point and his taps crisp. His signature moves you will definitely recognize, as well as several of his rhythmic breaks (though they sound very similar to what you would hear in the Buck and Wing Time Steps).
Check out Chuck Green. What an amazing artist. Listen to how he phrases his music and the syncopation he uses. Growing up in the Swing Era definitely influenced his dancing and he stayed true to his roots while Tap was evolving with BeBop and Hollywood. Chuck studied under John Sublett (Bubbles) (of “Buck and Bubbles”) who trained him well in the Swing style.
Also, here is a clip of The Four Step Brothers performing in Barber Shop Blues (1933)