Tap dancing is characterized by spunk, energy and originality, traits displayed by famous tap dancers throughout history. From the roots of tap dancing to modern musical performances, tap dancers enjoy the fun appeal that their dancing epitomizes for many dance enthusiasts.
Traditional American Tap Dancers
Everyone loves a good tapper; somehow, tap dancing is enjoyable because it is lighthearted alongside the music to which it is performed. From community productions to the big screen, tap dance has captured the hearts of millions of Americans, and this is most evident in the fan base supporting the careers of several influential tappers.
Most are men, with a few exceptions. America's tapping stars in the golden era of Hollywood enjoyed lengthy careers and continue to be noted today for the fun entertainment they provided. Below are just a few of those who truly reigned as "tap's tops!"
Perhaps there is no other name as synonymous with tap dancing as Fred Astaire. With his countless American films, including those with sidekick Ginger Rogers, Fred revolutionized the tap world's presence in movies. Many people recall his partnership with Ginger Rogers not only for the beautiful ballroom dances, but also for the tap dances, such as Let Yourself Go. His killer combination of a handsome face and a suave style, paired with his peppy dance numbers made him one of Hollywood's most cherished musical stars.
Bill "Bojangles" Robinson
Before he hung out with Shirley Temple both onscreen and off, Bill Robinson could be found in numerous theater productions. He is known for re-igniting the tap craze during the 20th century, and bringing the genre from popular to the elite art level. He often challenged competitors in tap competitions, almost always coming out as the victor. He was also the choreographer of the now infamous stair dance found in the movie The Little Colonel. He inspired and coached Shirley Temple, one of Hollywood's littlest tap dancers, and she revealed in her autobiography how Bill was like an uncle to her, mentoring her both in dance and in life.
Another famous tapper from the golden era of Hollywood, he became notorious for his "sand dancing," which involved tap dancing in a sandbox. He used to travel across the nation, challenging competitive tap dancers, and he rarely (if ever) lost a dance-off. He is regarded as one of the most creative and innovative tappers of his generation, and will always be known as a top tapper who never conformed to otherwise traditional rules of the dance.
Today's Tap Stars
There are also plenty of famous contemporary tap dancers as well as those still up and coming in the dance arena. Below are a couple of tappers who continue to take the modern tap world by storm.
Gregory Oliver Hines
Tapping his way into the 21st century, Hines started dancing in New York City as a young boy, and was regarded as his generation's greatest tapper before he passed away from cancer in 2003. He appeared in a wide variety of films, including Running Scared, The Cotton Club, and Tap. He also had his own TV show while appearing on popular network favorites such as Will and Grace. A Tony award winning tap dancer, Hines captured the hearts of a generation, and perfected his craft, setting an ideal example for future tappers to follow in his footsteps.
Savion Glover was discovered, performed the lead in a Broadway play, and was nominated for a Tony Award all by the time he was 12 years old. He also choreographed for Bring in Da Noise, Bring in Da Funk, which continues to be a theater hit, filled with revolutionary tap routines that other artists envy. He has the honor of being one of the youngest men ever nominated for a Tony, and also received a Martin Luther King Jr. Outstanding Youth Award when he was still a relatively young child. Glover has a bright future in the entertainment industry, and continues to create and amaze in all tap arenas today.
Watching Famous Dancers
Whether you enjoy the classic tap dancing style seen in Hollywood films of the 20th century or you enjoy contemporary tap shows to popular music of our times, there are many ways to enjoy the most famous tap dancers of America. While the classics are readily available as rentals or even online, there is a magical appeal of hearing tap dancing in person. Check out a show near where you live and see if you can spot one of America's new rising stars.