Tag Archives: how to improve tap dance

Tap Dance Tips: Amazingly Simple Technique To Cleaner Pickups

17 Mar

“The Amazingly Simple Technique To Cleaner Pickups… And Why You Should ERASE What Your Tap Dance Teacher Taught You”

Gettin' ready to tap dance!

Gettin' ready to tap dance!

For most of us, a Pickup (also known as pull backs) is a light, hopping step that has two sounds, done on the ball of the foot. For standard pickups, both feet take off with a brush back. Then you land on the balls of your feet at the same time. With practice, a pickup can also be done standing on one foot.

There are variations of the step of course, just like any step in tap dance. Four count (I’ve also heard them called delayed pickups) happen when one foot makes a brush, followed by the other. You then land on the first foot, and the other quickly lands after it.

However, you’ll discover the above technique has two major flaws.

The first problem? That brush back adds a “scrapey” sound. If you’ve been tap dancing for a while, you know the difference between a clear brush and a scrape. Listen to your shuffles; Your taps should resonate with a crisp sound.

The second problem?

Psychologically speaking, once you brush back, your body wants to put the foot down BEHIND you, instead of landing on your start position. This makes you travel backward (ever learned pickups traveling across the floor?) and makes it much more difficult to stay on the spot.

So how to avoid traveling, and make cleaner pickups? Follow these three steps:

  • FIRST: Take lift off. JUMP. Don’t even think about the brush back. Spring off the balls of your feet, and only jump straight up in the air.
  • SECOND: Once you’re in mid air, quickly tap on the way DOWN. You need to time that split second before gravity pulls you back down. Tap in the space before you land.
  • LASTLY: Land on balls of your feet, making sure to bend your knees. NO HEELS! Always keep your weight on your toes.

This most likely involves reprogramming the physics that you’ve learned from previous teachers. Because tapping on the way DOWN requires a bit more stomach, thigh and shin muscle strength, as well as perfect timing. But it can be done.

Try this today, and make it a habit from now on.

The best way to perfect this is to sit in a chair, lift your feet off the floor by pushing off the balls of your feet, then tap, then land. Repeat. Once you get it, you’ll immediately hear and feel the difference in your technique.

Congratulations!

© 2008 Shawn Byfield

About The Author:

Shawn Byfield (www.ShawnByfield.com) is an award winning choreographer, show director and a leading expert in dance lessons and industry advice. His extremely fun approach to learning is a must for anyone looking to achieve their highest potential through dance.

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Learn To Improve Tapdance Improvisation

3 Dec
Tap dance improv tips

Tap dance improv tips

My friends,

Many people want to learn to tap dance. And many want to learn to improv in tap dance. The first situation is easy: find a tap dance class with a reputable teacher. But how do you do the latter- improvisation?

My suggestion: work at it. No seriously. There’s lots of ways to approach this. Here’s four suggestions:

  • Start with a step you like, and play around with it. Dabble. Add a shuffle.
  • Find a rhythm or groove in your head, and try to recreate that groove with your tap feet.
  • Do your favourite tap step on one foot, then reverse the whole thing.
  • Tap with a buddy, and challenge each other to repeat each others steps in real time. I call this “Monkey See, Monkey Tap”.

There’s lots of ways to get started. Check this tap video out- I use the groove in my head method and embellish on top of that:

The video above, is of me working on my own tap dance improv skills. I wore my Nikes so my neighbours wouldn’t complain… =)

Like everything else in life, you have to go through a learning curve. You won’t just wake up one day and be able to tap dance like a pro. Improv especially doesn’t come naturally.

Tap dance classes help build your VOCABULARY of tap dance. Each tap step is a word. Those words make sentences. Once you understand what the words mean, then you can work on phrasing those tap dance steps together. Ya dig?

This is just a short tap post. I wanted you to know, tap dance improv requires a bit of time. I’ve been hoofin (tap dancing) for years, and I STILL need to work at it. That’s why we put the “E” in “IMPROV…E”. Nobody’s perfect. We ALL need to keep seeking out new tap steps to trade, new music to groove to, and new ideas or inspiration.

Lemme know how it goes. Happy tappin!

About The Author:

Shawn Byfield (www.ShawnByfield.com) is an award winning choreographer, show director and a leading expert in dance lessons and industry advice. His extremely fun approach to learning is a must for anyone looking to achieve their highest potential through dance.

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