How to TAP DANCE – Beginner Tutorial

Hi guys, and welcome. My name is Bill Simpson and I am a professional tap teacher, performer and choreographer, and the creator of the ‘Just TAP’ series. In this video, I’m going to teach you the 2 most important tap steps for any beginner to have in their “Tap Toolbox”. It doesn’t matter where you’re from or what style of tap you want to do; the fundamentals are all the same. Don’t worry if you don’t have tap shoes. Let’s just get straight into it, and I’ll tell you bit more about these steps afterwards, and why I feel they’re so important. Alright, so, to start with, I want you to stand comfortably, with your feet parallel and directly underneath your hips. Picture a straight line that runs from your shoulders down to your toes. If we just have a look for a sec, we can see that this is too wide and this is too narrow. We want our body weight to be right on top of the feet, and we want to make sure that when we bend our knees, our knees bend over our toes. So if your feet are turned out, your knees bend turned our also, in the direction of your toes. When you’re bending your knees, you’ll quickly find when they become too bent, in that it will just become quite uncomfortable. Now, unless you’re ‘Peg-Leg’ Bates, there are virtually no straight legs in tap. You want to keep your knees bent at all times. Before we start making noise, I want you to shake out your feet. What we are aiming for here is to shake using the main quad muscles of the leg, while relaxing the ankle muscles. We want our foot to just flop around at the end of our leg. This is actually harder than it seems, and may even feel a bit counter-intuitive. If your ankles are tense, it will look like this. Focus on really letting these muscles go. The further you go in your tap journey, the more you’ll see that the relaxed ankle is one of the key principles of tap. The first of the two most important steps that we’re going to look at is called a ‘Ball-Heel’. It’s also commonly called toe heel, or a step heel. The ‘Ball-Heel’ is made up of two individual beats called the ‘Ball Dig’ and the ‘Heel Drop’. We’re going to have a look at them now, one at a time, starting with: the ‘Heel Drop’. Keeping the toes on the ground, we lift up the right heel, and then drop it into the ground. We’re then going to do the same thing on the other side, and then start changing from side to side each time. The ‘heel drop’ beat can be easily lost, and is sometimes hard to achieve clearly. Remember to keep your knees bent, and the way I think of it is by picturing some imaginary resistance between your heel and the floor. So that’s the heel drop. It’s a great one to gradually take faster, side to side. Now, let’s look at the ‘Ball Dig’. To begin, I want you to lift the leg up and forward. Then, we step the ball of the foot into the ground, right underneath our hips. Think of the ball digging – it stays in the ground and doesn’t lift up. When you ‘ball dig’, you want to put your weight onto the foot, so that you can lift the other foot off and thus do the same beat on the other side , and then repeat on the first side once again. So once we’re going side to side, it’s basically just walking on our toes, on the spot. That’s the ‘Ball Dig’. From here, we’re going to put these two individual beats together to get the ‘Ball-Heel’. We start with the ‘ball dig’, and then simply add in the ‘heel drop’ straight afterwards, then repeat on the other side. Also, really think about stepping the weight onto the ‘ball dig’, rather than holding the weight on the supporting leg. You want to transfer the bulk of this weight straight away, so that you can lift the other side, ready to go. With this one, I’d recommend starting off slow, and then start gradually speeding up over time. If you aim to get that little bit faster every day, you’ll be surprised how soon you’ll be able to do the step quickly. Now that we’ve covered the ball-heel, The second of the two most important tap steps we’re going to touch on is called the ‘Shuffle’. I see the shuffle as a crucial, bread-and-butter step in tap dance that forms a significant part of many many steps and combinations. It’s one of the easiest steps to get wrong, and is crucial for any tap dancer to know and understand. The shuffle is made up of two ‘brush’ beats; the ‘Brush Forward’, and the ‘Brush Back’. Now, a little secret: even though we say ‘brush forward’ and ‘brush back’, tap dance happens mostly using up and down movement, rather than forward and backward movement. Let’s look at the ‘Brush Forward’ to begin with. Start with your leg lifted up and forward. We push our leg down, striking only the ball tap, and continuing the momentum forward. While we do push the leg gently forward as it hits the ground, we certainly don’t want this to swing out with a lot of unnecessary movement. The ‘Brush Back’ is the exact opposite. We pull our leg slightly back, striking the ball tap once again and lifting the leg as we go. Now, if we imagine our toe tap covered in paint, we’d want each brush beat to look like a spot on the floor, not a streak or a stripe. We really want to strike the ball tap as we do each brush beat. Now, as a rule of thumb, the working leg should generally not push back past the supporting leg, as this is going to cause the leg to start swinging, which as we can see is not conducive for happy speeding up. This is one of the most common mistakes made when doing shuffles. So, when we look at the step front on, the tell-tale sign is: the knee. You want to see this moving up and down, with every shuffle you do. If the knee isn’t moving up and down with the leg, the chances are that either the lower leg or the whole leg is swinging once again, resulting in a lot of unnecessary movement. Also, as I touched on already, it’s really important to relax your ankle, especially as you start to take this step faster. The shuffle needs both the initial momentum that the quad muscles provide as you push the leg down and the freedom of movement that the loose ankle provides. Think of it like this: The leg does the work, the ankle just relaxes. So that’s the shuffle. As I mentioned earlier, I feel the ‘Shuffle’ and the ‘Ball-Heel’ are the most useful and most important steps to work on when you’re starting out. And I’ll tell you why; It’s because these 2 steps are the ‘building blocks’, and once you’ve got these safely in your ‘Tap Toolbox’ you’ll see that they contain the potential for many more steps. The first and most obvious is called: The “Shuffle Ball-Heel”. Feel free to have a try of this; it’s exactly as it sounds. You do the ‘Ball-Heel’ straight after the ‘Shuffle’, and then repeat on the other side. But further than that, the beats used within the ball-heel and the shuffle are universal in tap dance, and by changing or adding more of these same beats, or by taking beats away, we realise that we already understand the fundamentals for many more steps. So hopefully that’s making sense so far and you feel like you’re off to a great start, but if not, don’t worry. This has been only a very brief introduction to these steps, and it’s meant to take a little time. In the full ‘Just TAP: Absolute Beginner’ course we explore these steps and many others in a detailed, yet super-fun way. Over my years as a tap teacher, I’ve been constantly refining my teaching method, which I have carefully compiled into this course, specifically for beginners. I’ve packed it with value, and many simple secrets that I’ve learned along the way, and have really set out to make tap as as to learn as possible. Basically, it’s the course I wish I had when I was starting out. Be sure to check it out at In any case, it’s been great having you with me for this video. Please, feel free to ‘like’ and share this video around with anyone you’d like to. Tap dance is an endlessly enjoyable and rewarding past-time. Wherever your tap journey takes you from here, I strongly support your decision to learn tap dance and I truly hope you stick with it. All the very best, and I wish you a great a deal of tap-happiness in the future. My name is Bill Simpson, and this is ‘Just TAP’.


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