How tap dancing was made in America

[rhythmic tap sounds] Tap is one of the first original American art forms. [rhythmic tap sounds] It’s an instantly recognizable combination of movement and sound. Jane Goldberg: It’s such a fun thing to see because people wants to see what’s in the bottom of the shoe. Jane: How you make the sound, that’s always a curiosity. Jane: This is how we made the sound, with the aluminum. Originally they were wooden. Tap dancing started in Five Points. Now Chinatown in New York City. This slum was one of the city’s first melting pots. The percussive dances that nurtured tap, came from african ceremonies, irish jigging and british clogging. In the early 1800s, African-American and Irish people lived and worked side by side. Martin Scorsese referenced the origins of tap in Gangs of New York. Some historians who believe that enslaved people in America started using their bodies and feet for percussion after drums were banned to discourage rebellion; that part of the history is shared with jazz. And with improvisation as an essential element, tap is also considered jazz. Jane: We were considered musicians. We considered ourselves, musicians. Historical records from the mid 1800s describe early tap as a popular entertainment for blacks and whites in cellars and dance halls. Minstrels performed along with folk music on violins and banjos. Those Irish reels were the pop music at the time, and as pop music evolved, so did the fancy footwork. Early tappers, like Master Juba, even went on tour to Europe. By the end of that century, black minstrel shows made people laugh and, over time, tap dancing became associated with American comedy. In the 1900s, tap appeared in films even before they had sound. The style became very popular in the 1930s and ‘40s, when it was featured in major Hollywood movies and Broadway shows. As the decades passed tap was displaced by other styles in popular music and was relegated to musical theater. Traditional tap became an underground expression. In the 70s in New York, Jane Goldberg and Brenda Bufalino produced shows to return the old hoofers back to the stage. Jane: It really was a movement and i think that we were looking for authenticity. And we knew that the Broadway Tap wasn’t, quote, “the real thing.” Jane: We don’t go 5, 6, 7, 8. We go, uh uh uh uh. You know in other words, Jane: You don’t count, just do it rhythmically. The style is still strong in New York City, where young dancers honor the old hoofers. Jason Bernard: To make music from your feet, from your ancestors and your spirit to come out that way. I think it’s quite amazing. Jason: I would say that the most important thing is the music. When the music isn’t there anymore. Jason: And this is being substituted say via the arms or the face, or not being honest… Jason: that’s when it becomes a problem. It’s all about the music. There are old moves still in force. A basic routine from the 1920s the shim sham is still danced worldwide. And tap moves on, merging with new immigrant styles. Felipe Galganni: Always felt very connected with the rhythms that I grew up with. And so I decided to just put it together with my other passion, tap dance. Felipe: …Bossa nova, samba, maracatu, all those rhythms together. Felipe: I mix the American art form—tap dance—with my Brazilian influence. As tap evolves, dancers who preserve the old hoofer style are hopeful that it will continue to capture audiences into the future. Jason: Something that is so intimate and so rare. I believe is always fresh, always new. Jason: Whenever people see tap dancing, they say, “Wow! How can you do that with your feet?” Jason: It just always makes people smile.

100 Replies to “How tap dancing was made in America”

  1. Succ Norris says:

    I wonder who at Vox came up with this idea lmao

  2. Michael Wade says:

    I'm curious to know how, if at all, tap dancing connects to bboying.

  3. Jordan L says:

    "America has culture, it's called tap-dancing"
    aka musical tantrums

  4. مصطفى قبلاوي says:

    the music is too loud it makes it hard to listen

  5. Zaid Siddiqui says:


  6. DrOman5596 says:

    Amazing that Vox didn't mention Rage Against the Machine and the hardcore era of punk in the protest music video, and it's almost as amazing that this video didn't mention Riverdance in a story about tap dancing. I still appreciate the videos, but I would appreciate a more through research and/or a better feel for what the audience might like to see on the part of the Vox editors.

  7. Yohan G says:

    I love the way you direct and edit videos at vox, but this one was to me almost ununderstandable. Indeed, I think the music is way too loud and covers most of the voice

  8. Alvin Cornelius says:

    Thank god for latinas
    Damn dem curves

  9. ProfessorEGadd says:

    If you spend too much time on the internet you eventually come across a comment accusing Americans of having no culture, to which the inevitable response is McDonalds, Hollywood, Coca Cola… products, brands. Why do non-Americans have no clear picture of American culture, and why do Americans do such a bad job defending it?

  10. Jakaba Daymon says:


  11. RestoreSanityFear says:

    You guys should do a piece on capoeira. It is another beautiful and creative form of dance.

  12. Shailene Hawthorn says:

    Well, this was a nice break from politics and all that crap.

  13. C J says:

    Make tap dancing great again

  14. kpanga says:

    Do one about TANGO!

  15. mayela ct says:

    woulda been nice to hear more of the taps, but I'm sure that had to do w the music licensing 😕

  16. Indiana-Jonas says:

    is it called tap dancing becaus you tap your feet

  17. SketchyHippopotamus says:

    Why won't you let us hear the tap dancing 🙁

  18. omegadan says:

    Is anyone a fan of Gus from Psych?

  19. Helgali says:

    Lovely. 🙂

  20. Robert Yoshida says:

    "Irish and black people worked side by side."

  21. BeHestonIncomparable says:

    An interpolation of "Lost Ones" by Lauryn Hill at the end, don't think we don't know Vox!

  22. StarMonkies says:

    I have to say i'm not a fan of old style tap dancing. It looks too clunky and ungraceful compared to "broadway tap" Techniques and style evolve over time. That's not a bad thing. I can say the same thing about Irish dancing. The more traditional "sean-os" style is similarly pretty clunky and ungraceful. Irish dace has improved greatly overtime while still maintaining its essence.

  23. Jack G says:

    They say tap is about music then cover the tapping with music so we barely hear it- remove the audio layer so we aren't just seeing feet flying with no noise

  24. notawake says:

    Omg, this is scary bc i literally broke out into a tap dance in front of my friends randomly today

  25. zah says:

    hey umm sorry 2 say, butt Poppy actually envented tap dancing. get ur facts strait

  26. Mike Litores says:

    watching a video about tapping but "NO" real feature of real nice tapping???? No examples longer than 5 sec snippets where you can appreciate this art??

  27. John Farry says:

    This is good research but the first tap dancing was in pre-famine Ireland and it was changed to fit American music in America during/after the famine when there was mass immigration to America

  28. GaGoum says:

    makes a poibt tap dancibg is about music – covers the sound of the images with music and voice: I want to hear the brazilian dancers that you showed in the clip!

  29. YAYA JF. says:


  30. Jarren Z says:

    Why use a background track for nearly the entire video? Let's hear the tap dancing!!!

  31. Vicky Abramowitz says:

    Forget about what influenced tap dancing. The first person who attached metal plates to the soles of shoes invented tap dancing. And we don't know who that was, do we? So the mystery remains.

  32. Landon says:

    Poppy invented tap dancing

  33. Lauratou B says:

    the music is too loud and the narration isnt loud enough but good info-video

  34. Harry says:

    hellloooo felipe

  35. Terrencify says:

    Is that CashNasty at the beginning ?

  36. Nuse says:

    it'd be nice to hear more tap and less talking and music.

  37. Jacob Armstrong says:

    What do u think of the muslim ban now

  38. Aud. Rad says:

    I have never clicked so fast

  39. Dubediton7 says:

    this and learning to play the piano are just some the things i want to learn.

  40. Corn Kopp says:

    tap dancing and banjos, American art at it's best.

  41. A.M. Wolf says:

    Your sound mixing is off.

  42. Sup says:

    Im so happy you differentiated between broadway and rhythm tap.

  43. patq911 says:

    The audio mixing of this video is god awful.

  44. The Absolute Madman says:

    That Brazilian booty though…

  45. Korakys says:

    It just occurred to me that people might not be familiar with tap dancing.

  46. Jeffrey Dupont says:

    That Brazilian chica around 4:00 though 😉
    But seriously, I've always been enthralled by tap dancing since I was a kid. Thanks for reminding me that it's on my bucket list Vox!

  47. iHaveContrl says:

    For some reason I always thought of tap dancing is originated from Ireland or something….oh well

  48. GradyMitchell says:

    Vox, you should also look into Street Tap as well, as that is a major sub-genre of tap that has returned to the original roots of tap being more about the sound and rhythm.

  49. Gabriel Calo says:

    Do a video on "John Doe"

  50. Lukas Niebuhr says:

    music's a bit loud, ay?

  51. Peter O'Grady says:

    I don't think you realise that tap Dancing is 100% Irish

  52. appelmoes says:

    I like your videos Vox, but I can barely hear the narrating because the music is so loud :/

  53. Nightfury Matthew says:

    Master Yoda

  54. Nightfury Matthew says:

    Uhhh… euhhhhh…

  55. Tulikukka Huovinen says:

    "One of the first original Americal art forms"? I'm sorry, but I feel like we're forgetting that art existed even before Columbus…

  56. Stephen Hope says:

    Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars

  57. William B says:

    "the style is still strong in new York city"… no it isn't

  58. Sekela N says:

    Tap dancing is so hypnotic! Thanks for making this video 😀

  59. Gasvia says:

    I really don't like the narrator's voice. It sounds like she's always trying to hold back from laughing.

  60. Alien Hybrid says:

    A little sand on the stage…for the shim sham…sand dance! Born to do it!
    Hey, what country are you from? Ethiopia! What part? 125th street! ~ Mel Brooks History of the World Part 1

  61. Ervin says:

    if only i can double tap this video, to show my appreciation 😀

  62. spoddie says:

    For a video on tap dancing there's a surprising lack of tapping, we don't hear any of the tapping we see.

  63. imax digital says:



  64. Luis Hernandez says:


  65. nobody really says:


  66. Daniel Cossey says:

    a video about tap dancing yet you hear barely any actual tapping! why?

  67. Hogaza says:

    "We don't count, we just do it rhythmically"

    Is rhythm not periodic? Isn't that what counting is meant to assist?

  68. Lazrael Nokawa says:

    dat brazilian dancer has got a phat ass

  69. SatanSass TalKING says:

    Hey VOX tell the truth they where Native Americans

  70. IncognEmu says:

    That dude in the beginning was doing wings, man! Those are SO annoying to do, I can't do them and I've been trying for ages.

  71. Ben Richards says:

    So Irish and African… Not American.

  72. Catie D says:

    I bet these people are really good at dance dance revolution.

  73. Layla Evans x says:

    I'm a tap dancer and I'm only young

  74. KingWak says:

    2:02 Isnt Dimples one of the worst racist Blackface Movies?

  75. Tai Theguy says:

    OMG! @3:51 she's definitely channeling Sumthin from brazil

  76. fordhouse8b says:

    this video would have been far more interesting if you had let the music of these musicians be front and center. Instead the editors chose to obscure the music created by the actual tap dancing by overlaying it with a soundtrack that drowned it out.

  77. rsss says:

    Does a segment about tapping… cranks up background music and drowns out tappers… :/

  78. e c says:

    No discussion of Flat footing, good job. Ignore Appalachia more, dang city slickers

  79. Matt S. says:

    You don't count, you just do it rhythmically

  80. Michael Butler says:

    I wish you didn't play music over everyone tapping. You're saying this dance is so great lemme hear it!

  81. Deadlyaztec27 says:

    I think what holds tap dancing from most young people is the specialized footwear.

  82. Rachel Garber says:

    Broadway dance is called jazz, not tap. The shoes are totally different, they don't have taps on them

  83. Monica Cilley says:

    This made me feel cool about being a jazz musician and a tap dancer

  84. Sky The Terrible says:

    I feel a new found importance because I am a tap dancer.

  85. Tap Dance Taiwan 踢踏台灣 says:

    tap is awesome ! amazing and make ppl feel happy ~

  86. D I says:

    Is it just me, or does New York starts everything?!!

  87. • RAW ĐæŢæ says:

    I betcha a black dude invented this. 100%

  88. Devin du Plessis says:

    4:35 and they’re also like,’Pick it up! Pick it up! Pick it up!’ After they knock your lunch onto the floor.

  89. Daniel Dobbins says:

    I am here to say that musical theater tap is not ingenuine and is just as good as traditional tap.

  90. Noël Harris says:

    I love hearing about white and black people working together and dancing together.

  91. Георгий Настенко says:

    tap dancing was invented in Russia. Ivan Petrov had 10 small children and only one chamber pot

  92. Gio Alberto says:

    Salsa please

  93. kkaysiena_21 says:

    Nah man musical theater tap all the way 😂👯‍♀️

  94. 123 G says:

    Tap dancing is Sean Nos dancing from Ireland. This style existed before America existed.
    How does the fact blacks in NYC started Irish dancing mean they coinvented tap.
    Tap is just the American nickname for Sean Nos dancing.
    Just youtube Sean Nos.

  95. A Little Bit of Today says:

    ❤️ I still casually tap dance sometimes… literally a couple of days ago before I started actually working, I felt the need to bust a step which turned into a few steps lol

  96. Life Hacks says:

    So it’s not an American art form but a West African/Irsh Art form?

  97. InstagramLiveeVideos 24.7 says:

    I thought it was from Bill bojangles robinson

  98. E G says:

    Wow !!! No mention of Gregory Hines or Savion Glover.

  99. E Vercetti says:


  100. IZ FUMBLES says:

    Five Points isn't just Chinatown, but otherwise solid video.

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