A Brief Look at Tap and Jazz

Last but not least, we come to two dance forms that are in every way American. Ballet came from Europe, and even though modern dance was created by Americans, they had to go to Europe to establish it. But tap and jazz dance were created by Americans, in America, and it hardly seems they could have come about any other way.

Tap is a unique blend of Irish clogging and African dance. If you’ve seen commercials for Riverdance on TV, you’ve seen Irish clogging, and the similarity - in the feet and lower legs - to tap dance. But Irish clogging involves a stiff back and very little movement in the upper body. We’ve all seen Fred Astaire, one of the best tap dancers of all time; he didn’t dance like that. No, the looseness and fluidity of the upper body in tap dance, the low to the ground center of the body, come from traditional African dance. It could only happen in America, where African slaves and Irish migrants were able to mix and blend their forms of dance into one.

Jazz, like its name, originated in the jazz music of the 20's. The first dances were social dances - the Charleston, the Fox Trot, the Lindy Hop - but the dances and the soul of the music later translated into a unique form of dance for the stage which is now called Modern Jazz.

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