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5 Common Mistakes Tap Dancers Make & How You Can Avoid Them

Posted Mar 24 2008 12:00am


Creative Commons License photo credit: smadden

It’s time to review those common errors that keep us tap dancers from performing at our highest level.

Dropping heels when they shouldn’t be dropped is a nasty habit that shows up all of the time in tap dancing. It can lead to unwanted sounds & improper weight transitions.

Also, an unnecessary “Stamp” can ruin the music in a tap step by changing its intonation.

Mean what you say, and say what you mean.

There is as much difference between a Step and a Stamp as there is between a Shuffle and a Flap. Don’t treat the two as interchangeable, as it only robs each of its unique flavor and your dancing of some of its range.

Most of the problems that we have learning new tap dance steps are due to placement of weight. If your weight is on your right foot and you need to lift it, chances are you’re not lifting it.

Also, dancers sometimes have a tendency to lean back too much when tap dancing. This causes you to lose your center of gravity and increases the likelihood of falling down.

Incline your weight forward when tap dancing. Primarily you should be balancing on the balls of your feet, with your heels up and available. And when learning a step, pay just as much attention to where your weight is, as you do to the order of the steps.

This affliction strikes the young with particular fury.

I mean who can resist the temptation to blind others with blazing speed and a wall of sound. The problem is, as soon as speed enters the room, cleanliness often heads for the exit.

To be frank, speed without clarity is just mess! You may feel like speed hides your mistakes but, in reality, it only pushes them closer together.

First – SLOW DOWN! Getting faster with a tap combination is usually a process. Plus, remember that speed is not everything. A clean combination speaks. A combination that is not is hard to understand.

And isn’t communication what tap is all about anyway?

Often, we tend to overuse our ankles when trying to execute steps more quickly. Nerves can add to this effect leaving us unable to execute anything on stage.

We tap dance using our legs, starting from the hip. The more you limit your movement to the ankle, the more shut out the very muscles that make tap dancing easier.

One secret to speed (and cleanliness) is relaxing the ankles. For the fastest tap dancers, the ankles are almost completely removed from the equation. Practice allowing your legs to do the work, and imagine the feet just following along.

A focus on cleanliness and relaxed ankles will lead to much success.

Tap dancers experience the rhythm of the music and the dance in a very special way. When performing before an audience, it can become very tempting to turn inward and focus on the “experience” of tap dancing. This approach is not always appropriate and can lead one to forget to engage the audience.

If you don’t engage the audience they will disengage from your performance.

Obviously, the solution is to engage the audience. This can be accomplished with eye contact or a smile. You can also find other ways to interact with them and respond to their reactions.

A lot can be accomplished by just remaining conscious of the audience and directing your attention and energy toward them.

Becoming a better dancer is not just about adding speed or tricks to the repertoire. It’s also about reducing the number of basic mistakes you make. Problems that start out small can become major stumbling blocks as you continue to grow as a tap dancer.

What mistakes are you struggling with? Share them below so we can all learn and grow!

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