in Tights: Tap Dancing Can Add Grace and Endurance to Your Footwork
© 2000 Bruce Shutan. All rights reserved
Imagine this: a drummer in tights.
Its not a pretty sight, especially if were talking about
the most macho of male musicians prancing around on a hardwood floor
with a legion of lovely ladies at a tap dancing class. But it may
be one of the best moves a drummer can make.
Tap, a sort of kissing cousin of all
things percussion, can add not only a measure of both aggression and
grace to your footwork, it also can improve general endurance. Like
drumming, tap dancing looks a heck of a lot easier when seen in performance
than it is when an amateur puts on a pair of taps and attempts his
best Gregory Hines impersonation.
By the end of your first lesson, youll
be huffing and puffing your way off the dance floor. No joke. It was
a hard lesson I learned after signing up for six weekly classes last
year something I had put off for years for fear of how Id
look or being viewed as having way too much time on my hands to even
think about doing such a thing. Youve really got to be flexible
and in great shape to pull it off and if youre not, you
sure will be by the end of the course. This alone is worth the potential
humiliation, a feeling deep in the pit of your stomach that quickly
fades once you start brushing and shuffling across the dance floor.
One of the biggest similarities between
drumming and tapping is that both feature a series of rudiments and
fills that are nearly identical the only real difference being
that one involves the hands, the other the feet.
Like the drums, tap has its own version
of "trading fours" in this case, dancers trying to
top one another by creating their best routines for four measures
before yielding to the next performer.
Also consider the following comparisons:
- In tap, a "brush" is executed
by hitting the floor with the ball of the foot in a pushing motion.
This technique and sound are duplicated on a snare
drum with (coincidentally enough) a brush or brushes. Same logic
applies to a "pull," which involves a brush back with
the ball of the foot.
- A "shuffle," which involves
a brush forward with the ball of the foot thats pulled back
with the ball, can sound like a shuffle beat on the drums with a
slight ruff thrown in if repeated enough.
- A "riff" (brush-scuff
forward that ends in the air) or heel-toe combination may sound
like a flam that starts with the kick and ends on the snare. Similarly,
a "flap" (brush forward and down on the ball with weight)
or toe-heel combination sounds like a snare flam or one that starts
on the snare with either a brush or stick (remember that slight
ruff) and ends with the kick.
- A "cramp roll"
essentially four steps crammed together in the form of toe, toe,
heel, heel has the makings of a paradiddle, the mother lode
of all drum rudiments. The steps can start with either the right
or left foot, and if theyre done as a pickup to a downbeat
they can be performed in 'triplet-down' fashion "with the free
foot lifted as the last heel drops," according to a popular
tap dancing Web site.
- A "timestep" (4-count
combination starting on the fourth count) is usually done in 4/4
time talk about the ultimate rock n roll time signature.
These are among the reasons it should
come as no surprise that drumming and tapping can and probably
should be mentioned in the same breath. Not long ago, the two
disciplines were brilliantly fused in the theatrical touring phenomenon
"Stomp," aptly described in a review appearing in the Savannah
Morning News as "a dazzling displace of drumming, dancing,
athletic prowess and improvisation."
I couldnt have said it any better
the Author: Bruce Shutan, an L.A.-based freelance writer, has been
playing the drums since 1970. He has performed and recorded in numerous
bands and attended four of six tap dancing classes last summer.