Cover image for Tap roots : the early history of tap dancing
Tap roots : the early history of tap dancing
Knowles, Mark, 1954-
Personal Author:
Publication Information:
Jefferson, N.C. : McFarland & Co., [2002]

Physical Description:
xiii, 269 pages : illustrations ; 26 cm
Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Item Holds
GV1794 .K67 2002 Adult Non-Fiction Non-Fiction Area

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Tracing the development of tap dancing from ancient India to the Broadway stage in 1903, when the word ""Tap"" was first used in publicity to describe this new American style of dance, this text separately addresses the cultural, societal and historical events that influenced the development of Tap dancing. Section One covers primary influences such as Irish step dancing, English clog dancing and African dancing. Section Two covers theatrical influences (early theatrical developments, ""Daddy"" Rice, the Virginia Minstrels) and Section Three covers various other influences (Native American, German, Shaker). Also included are accounts of the people present at tap's inception and how various styles of dance were mixed to create a new art form.

Author Notes

Mark Knowles, choreographer of over 300 theatrical productions, is currently on the faculty of the American Academy of Dramatic Arts in Los Angeles, California

Reviews 2

Library Journal Review

Having conducted extensive research on the origins of tap, choreographer Knowles (American Acad. of Dramatic Arts, Los Angeles; The Tap Dance Dictionary) here discusses this art form in terms of three broad influences: primary, theatrical, and "other." Primary influences includes Irish (clog), English, African, West Indian, and Plantation styles, while theatrical influences incorporate the worlds of minstrel, vaudeville, and music hall. Other influences include Indian, Gypsy, German, Shaker, Native American, and American country quite a variety. Knowles successfully interweaves the immigrant and slave influences on the dance that slowly evolved into early tap and adds a bit of early theatrical history when profiling the careers of "Daddy" Rice, Master Juba, and others. He concludes that the development of any dance form is linked to climatic, geographical, and economic factors, as well as costume. Basically an academic text for dance and theater history courses, this book includes reproductions of sheet music covers, photos, and playbills that reflect the times. Recommended for academic libraries. Barbara Kundanis, Batavia P.L., IL (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Choice Review

Set in the style of a late-19th-century newspaper, in double columns with liberal inclusion of visual information throughout, this lively and engaging book embodies the vitality, energy, and syncopated rhythm of the dance form it discusses. By emphasizing the early years in the development of tap dance, Knowles (American Academy of Dramatic Arts, Los Angeles) provides a much-needed source of information on the history that shaped the evolution of 20th-century tap dance. Earlier books--e.g., Alvin Yudkoff's Gene Kelly: A Life of Dance and Dreams (CH, Sep'00), Constance Valis Hill's Brotherhood in Rhythm: The Jazz Tap Dancing of the Nicholas Brothers (CH, Nov'00), Rusty Frank's Tap! The Greatest Tap Dance Stars and Their Stories, 1900-1955 (CH, Mar'91)--emphasized the lives of individual performing artists in the context of 20th-century tap dance. By contrast, Knowles concludes his discussion in 1903, the year in which publicity for Ned Wayburn's Minstrel Misses provided the first official use of the word "tap" in reference to percussive American show dancing. The detailed table of contents, thorough list of illustrations, extensive notes, bibliography, and index combine to make this an excellent research resource for any collection supporting the study of popular dance. C. W. Sherman emerita, College of William and Mary

Table of Contents

Acknowledgmentsp. vii
List of Illustrationsp. xi
Prefacep. 1
Part I. Primary Influences
Chapter 1. Irish Influencesp. 7
Chapter 2. English Influencesp. 15
Chapter 3. African Influencesp. 22
Chapter 4. Dance in the West Indiesp. 27
Chapter 5. Dance in New Orleansp. 34
Chapter 6. Dance on the Plantationp. 38
Chapter 7. Slave Religion and the Ring Shoutp. 55
Chapter 8. Dispersion of African-American Dancesp. 63
Part II. Theatrical Influences
Chapter 9. Early Theatrical Developmentsp. 73
Chapter 10. "Daddy" Ricep. 78
Chapter 11. The King of Diamonds and Master Jubap. 86
Chapter 12. The Virginia Minstrelsp. 93
Chapter 13. The Development of the Minstrel Showp. 100
Chapter 14. Black Minstrelsy and Musical Theatrep. 117
Chapter 15. Other Forms of Entertainmentp. 127
Chapter 16. Vaudevillep. 135
Chapter 17. English Music Hallp. 150
Chapter 18. Women on the Stagep. 156
Part III. Other Influences
Chapter 19. Indian, Gypsy, and Spanish Influencesp. 167
Chapter 20. German and Shaker Influencesp. 174
Chapter 21. Native American Influencesp. 182
Chapter 22. American Country Dancep. 190
Chapter 23. Conclusionsp. 200
Notesp. 211
Bibliographyp. 249
Indexp. 259