Updated: Jan 23
The best entertainment speaks to the human condition in an honest way.
~ Gregory Hines
I never played a rich man, I never played a prince. And to play a sailor or longshoreman you had to make your dance more eclectic and varied, but still keep it indigenous to your nationality, upbringing, and background. ~ Gene Kelly
www.interviewmagazine.com June 26, 2013 accessed Jan. 7, 2023
It’s easy . . . if you know how.
~ Dianne “Lady Di” Walker
T ap creates sound and rhythm
A mplifies the vibrations of the universe
P roduces joy, health, and community
D ance your heart out through creative expression
A chieve fitness, skill, and friendship
N avigate steps, ideas, and rhythms
C reate joyous music through improvisation and choreography
E xpress yourself in rhythm and movement
The benefits of tap dancing are as varied as the music, routines, improvisations, and dancers themselves. Men, women, and youth, like the iconic Bill Bojangles Robinson, Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers, Gregory Hines, Dianne “Lady Di” Walker, Sam Weber, Savion Glover, and Shirley Temple, have all made timeless contributions to the art of American percussive dance and rhythm. Their legacy, creativity and generosity inspire tap dancers worldwide.
To list all or even most of the benefits of tap dancing would be nearly impossible. The list of 10 benefits below are enough to get anyone’s feet moving from the rhythm of jazz music on a portable device or tunes circling in one’s heart, mind, and soul.
Ten Benefits Everyone Gains from Tap Dancing
Body, Mind, and Spirit. Mental acuity through physical activity gives life a richer experience. Less stress, lifting the human spirit is achieved through enjoyable tap dancing. Memorizing patterns for a dance routine increases brain capability. Further, dancing in rhythm can improve balance and reduce depression according to a 2020 Atlantis Press article citing research by Kwon et al. (2016). Rhythmic activity also stimulates creativity.
No Age Barred. Nearly everyone, from young children to senior adults, can tap dance with varying levels of fitness and skills. Education programs for youth are fostered by community development initiatives. In school and after school dance opportunities promote rhythm-centric performances. Students develop artistic skills while enhancing social and emotional learning. Check out our own in-school and after school programs in Chicago. We also offer adult classes at the MAC. The Golden Heartbeats consists of tap dancers ages 50 and older. Similar offerings are in Canada and throughout the United States.
Exercise the Fun Way. The fun of dancing is one of the best ways to exercise. In a tap-dancing class, the social benefits make that full-body workout more than wiping away sweat. Weight loss may also be an added benefit.
Health Benefits Galore. The full-body workout of rhythmic movement develops stronger muscles from the neck down to the feet with improved flexibility and balance. Other cardiovascular benefits also include improved endurance.
Increased Energy. The physical benefits of tapping feet to the sound of music are better balance and posture since core muscles are strengthened. Balance by moving bodily weight from one foot to the other while moving forwards, backwards and side to side works the core. Benefits include increased energy, less back pain, and decreases risk of falling.
Healing Music Made By Feet. Toe tap, heel tap, and slide to dance music give the satisfaction of producing more rhythm and sound, giving physical and emotional release. Sound healing has a profound effect on one’s state of mind. Music can produce happiness, sadness, or nostalgia, some of the strongest emotional reactions. Rhythm and sound produced by the feet with or without tap shoes are like playing an instrument, in fact, drumming with your feet!
Enjoy A Social Art Form. Clearly, tap dance is a social art form. From dancers in a studio class, a community cypher, the Broadway and concert venues, human interaction takes center stage. An audience of all ages applaud an energetic performance of intricate footwork. All the while performers delight the eyes, an appeal to complement the ears tuning in to the tapping rhythm of shoes. Tap dancing can be performed almost anywhere…in dance halls or street corners, in tuxedos or in jeans.
Tap Dance Is Steeped in History. The rhythmic movement of tap dance is steeped in history. Even though the golden age of great jazz clubs like the legendary New York Jazz Club, a.k.a. the Cotton Club have long since closed, numerous opportunities to enjoy tap dance performances are found globally. Nearly everyone can enjoy the benefits of a cultural experience. Tap dancing originated from African and Irish cultural traditions and has evolved over three centuries of the American experience. Fred Astaire once called the 1943 performance by the Nicholas Brothers in Stormy Weather “the greatest dance number ever filmed.” New work is being created around the world by a new generation including CHRP’s artistic director, Jumaane Taylor, tap diva Dormeshia, Leonardo Sandoval, Christina Carminucci, Ian Berg, Brinae Ali and so many more.
Alzheimer’s Patients Are Happier. Tap dance helps to delay, slow, and potentially prevent onset of Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia as well as improves general mental acuity. For individuals living with Alzheimer’s disease, dance/movement therapy stimulates social interaction, reduces anxiety, minimizes stress, and cognitive decline while increasing self-expression. A gain in healthy brain activity provides for a happier lifestyle. Erica Hornthal, LCPC, BC-DMP, of the Women’s Alzheimer’s Movement believes that “through the use of movement, memories and emotions can be recalled and re-experienced despite cognitive, psychological, or physical impairment”.
Elderly Population Gain Brain Power. Dancing is good for the mind. Dementia risks are lower for the elderly who engage in social dancing. Carolyn Fredericks, MD, neurologist at Yale Medicine said, “There’s actually some very good evidence that social dancing can reduce the risk of cognitive decline as we get older.” (www.everydayhealth.com)
History is being made today too…in 2023. Take the Emmy Award nominated Cloe Arnold, a tap dancer and choreographer who performs concerts with Syncopated Ladies: Live. Naming Debbie Allen as her mentor, Arnold gives dancers her own advice: “Believe in yourself, no matter what. You can be whoever you imagine.”
Now take a giant step back historically for a quick look at the spiritual connection with dance. King Solomon in Ecclesiastes 3:4 wrote that there is a time for everything under the sun. He specified “a time to dance.” The wisest man to live learned a lot from his father, King David who danced with all his might in gladness, celebrating the moving of the arc of God. Read more here of Kathryn Dickason’s March 22, 2021 article citing a PBS documentary on dance.
Whether a dancer is jumping off a piano or tapping his feet up the stairs, the artistry of tap dancing is extraordinary to watch. The only thing more enjoyable is DANCING! At the Chicago Human Rhythm Project, we know the benefits of dance and offer classes, events, resources, and much more so you, too, can enjoy dance like never before! See our own dance class offerings at the Mayfair Arts Center or MAC and other opportunities around Chicagoland; there is something for everyone! As always, you can contact us for more information!
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