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What the Eye Hears: A History of Tap Dancing by Brian Seibert

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Joan Acocella has an in-depth review of Seibert's book on Tap dancing in the latest New Yorker.

http://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2015/11/30/up-from-the-hold

It sounds like a good read.

One job Seibert gave himself was to trace a clear historical arc, and he does that. Through the meeting of Irish and West African people trying to enjoy themselves on a Saturday night—often together, in the same dance halls—the thing we call tap dance emerged, with its special technique and, as it grew alongside jazz, its special rhythmic qualities. At its high tide, the nineteen-twenties through the fifties, tap was everywhere: in movies, in musicals, in vaudeville, and above all in clubs. Then something happened. People in the field speak of an actual moment when the change occurred: the death of Bill Robinson. On the day of Robinson’s funeral, in 1949, the schools in Harlem closed at noon. Three thousand people crowded into the Abyssinian Baptist Church, and thousands more stood outside. Mayor William O’Dwyer gave the eulogy. After that, as the speed tapper Buster Brown (1913-2002) put it, “Bang. No more jobs.”

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Thanks for posting this, pherank, I had not heard about this book. It does sound like a good read.

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i have not read the book and probably will not have time to get to it. Did anyone see the musical Bring On Da Noise Bring on Da Funk during the 1990s? It was on Broadway and related the history of tap dancing to the African American experience. That musical indicated that tap was initially used as a form of communication among Africans on slave ships being transported to the United States.

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Noise/Funk toured a couple of times, and so I got to see it here in Seattle. It was a stunning production, not only because of Glover's skills (though I'm always thrilled to see him work)

Africans abducted by the slave industry came from cultures that used dance as an integral part of their socialization -- like Native Americans, they danced to honor their gods and entertain themselves, but also to teach skills and manners to their youth. Any dancing that they did on the slave ships would come from that tradition.

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