Tap Dancing is a cross between the Irish Jig and the African Shuffle. Originating in New York, Tap Dancing is as fun and vibrant as it ever was.

What is Tap Dancing?

Tap dance began in the 1830s in New York City and today is popular all around the world. The name comes from the tapping sound made when the small metal plates on the dancer’s shoes touch a hard floor.

Tap dance is a fusion of Irish jig and African shuffle. This fusion developed when the different immigrants groups in New York would get together and dance, showing off their best moves and having fun competitions. As the dances fused, a new American style of dancing emerged.

Tap flourished in the United States from 1900 to 1955, when it was the main performance dance of Vaudeville and Broadway. Vaudeville was an inexpensive form of entertainment before television, and it employed droves of skilled tap dancers.

In the 1930s, 1940s and 1950s, the best tap dancers moved from Vaudeville to the movies and television.

Well known tap dancers from this era included Fred Astaire, Ginger Rogers, Gene Kelly and Sammy Davis Jr.

Today tap dance enjoys a strong popularity among dance students, who will either specialise in tap or combine tap dance with another dance skill such as jazz (ballet).

Where do you learn Tap Dancing?

Most centres around the country have dance schools or studios. Some only specialise in one particular type of dance such as ballet or highland. Others cover several dance types including tap.

While it varies from school to school, with tap, most operate in a class environment only. There are advantages with the group tuition, where young children interact with others, creating an enjoyable synergy which is stimulating and fun.

As the young dancer progresses individual tuition is available through private teachers. However, the dancer would be expected to be fairly well advanced.

What age can your child start Tap Dancing?

Most schools operate preschool classes catering for three to four year olds. Then five year old classes, six to eight, nine and up. While teachers generally advocate the younger the better, an older would-be dancer, ten to twelve, would be encouraged to join the team.

If your child is interested in taking up tap dancing, phone your nearest dance studio. They will usually warmly welcome you to visit a class and see what’s involved.

How do you progress over time?

Many schools combine tap dancing and jazz (ballet) for the first few years. This provides the child with a range of dancing skills and, after a period of time, allows them to continue with both dances or specialise in one.

Tap dance offers an extensive range of examinations. The student can begin the examination process from as young as age five and continue through the syllabus. Generally eight examinations from pre-prep to advanced are available to the dancer.

To reach advanced status requires several years of dedicated practice. A young dancer would generally be well into their late teens or older before attaining the highest level.

Many dance schools will put on a public show, perhaps twice a year. These shows are a great way for the young dancers to showcase their talents and are an exciting time for the kids.

Tap dancing competitions are held regularly around the country, allowing the young dancer to chart their progress.

While there is not a lot of scope in New Zealand for a professional tap dancer, there is a demand overseas for highly skilled dancers. However, there is a growing demand for tap dancing teachers in this country; a great opportunity to pass on hard-earned skills to others.

Tap dance, as with any dance, is about more than simply dancing. Any dance teacher will tell you that the chance to perform regularly before others generates self esteem and self confidence, putting the young person at ease around peers and in public.

Some dance schools also provide group singing classes in addition to dance. These classes are seen as a way for the young students to develop all around entertainment skills as dancers can be expected to sing should they become involved in stage shows. As the dance student progresses into their teens, teachers will often encourage formal singing lessons for this reason.

What equipment do you need for Tap Dancing?

Equipment is quite simple for tap dance – tap shoes and tap plates.

As the child progresses and enters dancing competitions there are costs involved with costuming, but it’s difficult to put a figure on these, as many costumes are exchanged between parents as well as purchased new.

The young dancer will also need somewhere to practice. Ideally a piece of hardboard on the garage floor is an excellent platform for the tap shoes to be heard clearly (it also means you don’t have to listen to continuous tapping inside the house!).

How much does Tap Dancing cost?

Beginners dance shoes will cost about $70 – $80. Tap plates $35 – $40. They’re fairly standard and there’s not a lot of difference in brand or price.

Schools providing 30 minute classes range from $60 – $85 per term. The more advanced 45 minute classes expect $70 – $90 per term. The terms run in conjunction with the school terms.

Some schools provide group singing classes as well, so they have additional charges of around $90 – $100 per term.

How much time does Tap Dancing take to learn?

Preschool classes are usually 30 minutes in duration. Older pupils’ classes range from 30 – 45 minutes in duration.

Practice at home is expected. Most dance teachers recommend 30 minutes daily for beginners and increasing to 30 – 60 minutes as the child gets older and stronger.

Great Tap Dance Websites


Extensive resources for tap dancers and tap dance fans. Spend some time checking the site out, there’s a huge range of links covering virtually every aspect of tap dancing.

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This information was compiled by the Kiwi Families team.

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