Margo: I suggested on another thread that PF, famous for his musical pieces Peace like a river and Your top ten protest songs in 2005's post election blues, let us know what music he was into this election campaign. He responded: "I have not been listening to any election songs lately but I have been very busy listening to music for tap dancing. I thought I offer this diversion to Webdiarists from the election politics."
The Tap of Our Lives
by PF Journey
I must confess that secretly I do love John Howard. Yes, let me repeat again, I do love John Howard. Don’t like his politics but I do love the way that he keeps fit, and in particular the way he keeps fits. I love his morning walks, more accurately I envy him where he can have his morning walk. I envy him for the exotic places where he can have his morning walk.
There is nothing to beat a morning walk in a beautiful and exotic place. I have seen him walking, very often, by the beautiful Sydney Harbour from Kirribilli to Luna Park and to Lavendar Bay. I have seen him by sidewalk in front of the White House, the great Wall of China, the Forbidden City in Beijing, and get ambushed by the Chaser Boys by the Yarra River or the Howard Ladies who offerred him the Erection (sorry the Election) viagra. Yes, I wish I could walk a mile in his shoes.
I still enjoy my walks very much but I have also discovered another way of keeping fit that is just as enjoyable, if not more enjoyable. Some 12 months ago, I accidentally came across an article on the web about keeping fit and healthy. It said that: “If you want an exercise that will keep you in shape and that is good for your heart as well, consider tap dancing. The beauty of tap dancing is that the basic steps are easy to learn and you can add your own flair and touches to make it fun for you. Just 20 minutes of tap dancing three times per week is enough to improve your health and get you back into shape”.
Eureka and bingo! That was all the encouragement that I need. I have always loved watching tap dancing. The elegance and romance of Fred Astaire with his dancing partner Ginger Rogers or Eleanor Powell. The long legged and sexy Ann Miller, the star of Easter Parade. The energetic, frantic and athletism of the Nicholas Brothers. The cute and cuddly little Shirley Temple who tapped into many hearts. The handsome and incomparable Gene Kelly who was the first dancer to bring classical ballet into tap dancing - who can forget his pitter pattering in Singing in the Rain with a smile on his face and a happy refrain? What that guy can do with the umbrella is just amazing. A full version of that dance sequence is available for download on YouTube.
Mr. Sammy Davis Junior who at 6 years old was already tapping up a storm tiptoeing on his toes. A more contemporary one is Mr, Gregory Hines, who with Mr. Mikhail Baryshnikov turned the movie White Nights into white heat tapping and dancing. And most of all, the best tap dancer ever, Mr. Bill Robinson:
I knew a man Bojangles and he'd dance for you in worn out shoes. With silver hair and ragged shirt and baggy pants, the old soft shoe. He'd jump so high, he'd jump so high, then he'd lightly touched down. Mr Bojangles, Mr. Bojangles, dance
More recently, local shows such as Hot Shoe Shuffle by David Atkin and Tap Dogs by Dein Perry have created a brand new audience for tap dancing.
The origin of tap dancing can be traced back to African slaves brought to the cotton fields of the American South. Their owners forbade the slaves to do their sensual and expressive dances to the pulsating beat and rhythm of their African drums. So the slaves transferred their rhythms and movements to their feet and their hands. On their feet, they developed the “Shuffle Dance” and on their hands, they took up, picked and strummed the guitar - the Blues was born. Later, the combination of Tap Dancing and Blues would give rise to another great American art form that is called Jazz.
The modern tap dancing as we know to day was re-born in the American cities of the North, especially New York. As different ethnic groups lived and mingled in the melting pot of New York, they bought with them their own form of ‘ “tap dancing”. The English with their clog dancing, the Irish with their Irish Jig, the Scots with their step dancing, the Spanish with their exquisite Flamenco and the Blacks with their shuffle dance. Throw into the mix, the sound, rhythm, the bustle of the city and its traffics and factories.
What is tap dancing? The Webster dictionary defines it as "A step dance tapped out audibly by means of shoes with hard soles or soles and heels to which taps have been added". When you tap dance, you are not just a dancer, you are also a musician. You are making percussive sound with your feet and shoes. You are just like the drummer who hits the drum with his rhythm sticks. The basic moves of tap dancing are:
Toe Tap – The simplest move of tap dancing is the ball tap, which involves striking the ball of the foot on the floor and releasing it immediately, using an ankle movement. Most people instinctively tap when listening to a piece of music that moves them without realising. Tapping is the most natural thing that we do.
Heel Tap - The same can be done with the heel, which involves dropping the heel of the foot on the floor and releasing it immediately.
Step - Put only the ball of the foot on the floor with your weight on it.
Stamp - The entire foot is placed flat upon the floor rapidly, with the heel and the ball of the foot striking the ground simultaneously and WITHOUT lift.
Stomp – The entire foot is placed flat upon the floor rapidly, with the heel and the ball of the foot striking the ground simultaneously and WITH lift.
Brush - by striking the ball of the foot on the floor in a sweeping motion forward or backward.
Shuffle - by combining two brushes, one forward and one backward.
Flap - involves a brush forward and a step (which is striking the ball of the foot on the floor with a change of weight; similar to a walking step.
Time Step - The Time Step is combining the different tap moves into a recognizable rhythmic sound or pattern.
The basic tools of tap dancing are good pair of shoes, good hard and even surface and good music. The tapping shoes normally have metal taps screwed on to the toe and heel of the shoes, but it doesn’t have to be. A good pair shoes with hard leather on the heel and toes will do the job nicely. The shoes should fit tightly and comfortably hug your feet. The hard surface can be concrete, tiled or hard timber. Hard timber is the best as it gives you crisp, sweet sound and more gentle on the feet and ankles. Tapping on concrete or tile surface has to be the last resort.
Good music is subjective as long it has the rhythm and beat that move you and your feet. You've got to let the music carry you along and you kinda float with it.
The magic of the Web means that I am able to compile my own musical numbers that I enjoy tapping to The enjoyment is both listening to the music as well as tapping to the music. The old saying of “I hate exercises but I love tapping” is so true. How else can you enjoy listening your favourite music, at the same time exercising and keeping fit as well as playing a musical instrument? You basically can tap to any type or kind of music.
I have music from all countries and types. One of my favourites is an up tempo version of Johann Pachelbel's Canon, especially the Flamenco version. Some tappers prefers to tap without background music, because the tapping sound is the music.
Other advantages of tap dancing are that you can do it anytime, anywhere, you don’t need a dancing partner, and like Jazz, you can improvise, do your own thing and have fun. Tap dancing is not as structured, rigid and formalised as other types of dancing. Like Jazz, you never have to repeat the movements twice. Tap dancing is simply using the feet as a percussive instrument, like a drum, to make sound that is rhymin’ to the music.
Oh, give me the beat, boys, and free my soul
I wanna get lost in your rock and roll and drift away
Oh, give me the beat, boys, and free my soul
I wanna get lost in your rock and roll and drift away”
* Dobie Gray’s Drift Away
Don't stop movin', Can you feel the music,
It got us goin' around, round,
Don't stop movin', Find your own way to it,
Listen to music,
Takin' you to places that you've never been before.
* S Club 7