Tap Dancing America: A Cultural History

Oxford University Press
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Here is the vibrant, colorful, high-stepping story of tap -- the first comprehensive, fully documented history of a uniquely American art form, exploring all aspects of the intricate musical and social exchange that evolved from Afro-Irish percussive step dances like the jig, gioube, buck-and-wing, and juba to the work of such contemporary tap luminaries as Gregory Hines, Brenda Bufalino, Dianne Walker, and Savion Glover. In Tap Dancing America, Constance Valis Hill, herself an accomplished jazz tap dancer, choreographer, and performance scholar, begins with a dramatic account of a buck dance challenge between Bill "Bojangles" Robinson and Harry Swinton at Brooklyn's Bijou Theatre, on March 30, 1900, and proceeds decade by decade through the 20th century to the present day. She vividly describes tap's musical styles and steps -- from buck-and-wing and ragtime stepping at the turn of the century; jazz tapping to the rhythms of hot jazz, swing, and bebop in the '20s, '30s and '40s; to hip-hop-inflected hitting and hoofing in heels (high and low) from the 1990s right up to today. Tap was long considered "a man's game," and Hill's is the first history to highlight such outstanding female dancers as Ada Overton Walker, Kitty O'Neill, and Alice Whitman, at the turn of the 20th century, as well as the pioneering women composers of the tap renaissance, in the 70s and 80s, and the hard-hitting rhythm-tapping women of the millennium such as Chloe Arnold, Ayodele Casel, Michelle Dorrance, and Dormeshia Sumbry Edwards. Written with uncanny foresight, the book features dancers who have become international touring artists and have performed on Broadway, won Emmy and Tony Awards, and received the prestigious Dance Magazine, Adele and Fred Astaire, and Jacob's Pillow Dance awards. Presented with all the verve and grace of tap itself and drawing on eyewitness accounts of early performances as well as interviews with today's greatest tappers, Tap Dancing America fills a major gap in American dance history and places tap firmly center stage.
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About the author

Constance Valis Hill is a dance historian and choreographer. She is Five College Professor of Dance at Hampshire College and the author of Tap Dancing America: A Cultural History (OUP, 2010) and Brotherhood in Rhythm: The Jazz Tap Dancing of the Nicholas Brothers (Oxford University Press, 2000), winner of a 2001 ASCAP Deems-Taylor award. She has composed a chronology of tap dance for the Library of Congress in "Tap Dance in America: A Twentieth-Century Chronology of Tap Performance on Stage, Film, and Media by Constance Valis Hill," a 3,000 performance record database with 180 biographies of twentieth-century tap dancers.
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Additional Information

Publisher
Oxford University Press
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Published on
Jan 22, 2010
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Pages
464
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ISBN
9780199745890
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Language
English
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Genres
Music / Genres & Styles / Musicals
Performing Arts / Dance / Tap
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Content Protection
This content is DRM protected.
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Available on Android devices
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Eligible for Family Library

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Magisterial, revelatory, and-most suitably-entertaining, What the Eye Hears offers an authoritative account of the great American art of tap dancing. Brian Seibert, a dance critic for The New York Times, begins by exploring tap's origins as a hybrid of the jig and clog dancing from the British Isles and dances brought from Africa by slaves. He tracks tap's transfer to the stage through blackface minstrelsy and charts its growth as a cousin to jazz in the vaudeville circuits and nightclubs of the early twentieth century. Seibert chronicles tap's spread to ubiquity on Broadway and in Hollywood, analyzes its decline after World War II, and celebrates its rediscovery and reinvention by new generations of American and international performers. In the process, we discover how the history of tap dancing is central to any meaningful account of American popular culture. This is a story with a huge cast of characters, from Master Juba (it was probably a performance of his in a Five Points cellar that Charles Dickens described in American Notes for General Circulation) through Bill Robinson and Shirley Temple, Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers, and Gene Kelly and Paul Draper to Gregory Hines and Savion Glover. Seibert traces the stylistic development of tap through individual practitioners, vividly depicting dancers both well remembered and now obscure. And he illuminates the cultural exchange between blacks and whites over centuries, the interplay of imitation and theft, as well as the moving story of African-Americans in show business, wielding enormous influence as they grapple with the pain and pride of a complicated legacy.What the Eye Hears teaches us to see and hear the entire history of tap in its every step.
Winner of the 2017 Tony Award for Best Musical

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Here is the vibrant, colorful, high-stepping story of tap -- the first comprehensive, fully documented history of a uniquely American art form, exploring all aspects of the intricate musical and social exchange that evolved from Afro-Irish percussive step dances like the jig, gioube, buck-and-wing, and juba to the work of such contemporary tap luminaries as Gregory Hines, Brenda Bufalino, Dianne Walker, and Savion Glover. In Tap Dancing America, Constance Valis Hill, herself an accomplished jazz tap dancer, choreographer, and performance scholar, begins with a dramatic account of a buck dance challenge between Bill "Bojangles" Robinson and Harry Swinton at Brooklyn's Bijou Theatre, on March 30, 1900, and proceeds decade by decade through the 20th century to the present day. She vividly describes tap's musical styles and steps -- from buck-and-wing and ragtime stepping at the turn of the century; jazz tapping to the rhythms of hot jazz, swing, and bebop in the '20s, '30s and '40s; to hip-hop-inflected hitting and hoofing in heels (high and low) from the 1990s right up to today. Tap was long considered "a man's game," and Hill's is the first history to highlight such outstanding female dancers as Ada Overton Walker, Kitty O'Neill, and Alice Whitman, at the turn of the 20th century, as well as the pioneering women composers of the tap renaissance, in the 70s and 80s, and the hard-hitting rhythm-tapping women of the millennium such as Chloe Arnold, Ayodele Casel, Michelle Dorrance, and Dormeshia Sumbry Edwards. Written with uncanny foresight, the book features dancers who have become international touring artists and have performed on Broadway, won Emmy and Tony Awards, and received the prestigious Dance Magazine, Adele and Fred Astaire, and Jacob's Pillow Dance awards. Presented with all the verve and grace of tap itself and drawing on eyewitness accounts of early performances as well as interviews with today's greatest tappers, Tap Dancing America fills a major gap in American dance history and places tap firmly center stage.
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