NATIONAL TAP DANCE DAY | May 25
On May 25 during National Tap Dance Day, we pay tribute to one of America’s original dancing art forms.
Tap dance is a percussive dance dating back to the early 1800s, with a combination of primarily influences of African and Irish heritage.
Incorporating complex rhythmic step combinations, tap dance performers often expressed enormous amounts of character through sound and body movement. From clogging to buck and wing styles, soft-shoe to the sand step, and a little bit of jazz, tap dancing evolved from a stiff Irish jig to the bodily Cakewalk and vocal Ring-shout.
Famous Tap Dancers
- Bill “Bojangles” Robinson
- Fred Astaire
- Gregory Hines
- Ginger Rogers
Each of these performers added their own flair to a dance style that continues to influence film, music and stage.
Another dance similar to tap dance is called soft-shoe. While still rhythmic, the sound is muffled since tap shoes are not necessary to perform the steps. Many of the dance steps in tap transfer to soft-shoe making the two very compatible.
The popular Shim Sham of the vaudeville era became a line dance in the 1980s.
HOW TO OBSERVE #NationalTapDanceDay
Get your toes tapping and share your favorite tap dance experiences. There are so many ways to celebrate your appreciation of this entertaining art form.
- Give a shoutout to your favorite tap dancer.
- Attend a performance. Tap dance is included in theatre productions, recitals, and spur-of-the-moment events.
- Perform! Put your tap shoes on and show off your talent. Create a video and share it on social media.
- Take a class. Tap dance offers great exercise and creates an opportunity to share experiences with others.
- Teach someone. Share your tapping talent with others who want to learn.
- Read about tap dance. Three terrific places to start include:
- Beginning Tap Dance by Lisa Lewis
- Tap Roots: The Early History of Tap Dancing by Mark A. Knowles
- The Souls of Your Feet: A Tap Dance Guide for Rhythm Explorers by Acia Gray
- Watch movies that include tap dancing. We like these:
- Tap starring Gregory Hines and directed by Nick Castle.
- Swing Time starring Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers. Directed by George Stevens.
- La La Land starring Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone. Directed by Damien Chazelle.
Let us know how you celebrate by using #NationalTapDanceDay to post on social media.
NATIONAL TAP DANCE DAY HISTORY
On February 7, 1989, Congress reviewed a request for National Tap Dance Day. Carol Vaughn, Nicola Daval and Linda Christensen, all tap dancers and enthusiasts, brainstormed the idea for legislation while Christensen attended George Washington University. The bill came to fruition when President George H.W. Busch signed it into law on November 8, 1989. The law created a one-time official observance on May 25, 1989, the anniversary of Bill “Bojangles” Robinson, a significant contributor to tap dance born in 1878. The observance has continued to be celebrated each year on May 25th.
Update, May 2022 – National Day Calendar was recently approached by one follower (Jamie S.) who wrote, “Hello. I was just reading about National Tap Dance Day and believe your history may be incorrect. I believe the first National Tap Dance Day came from a relative of mine. His name is Bill Robinson, not related to Mr. Bojangles, and I have documentation. I have a letter dated 2/17/1989 from a member of Congress approving his request for this National day. Please email me and I can forward the documentation. I believe he was the first to request the day and the people in your notations may have asked that it be recognized annually going forward.”
From our correspondence with Jamie S., here is a PDF copy of the letter sent to Bill Robinson from Congress.
Jamie tells us to this relative (Bill) is their cousin, who has since passed away, but Bill’s mother would love to know this National Day has honor and meaning to their family.