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Tap Dancing AmericaA Cultural History$
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Constance Valis Hill

Print publication date: 2009

Print ISBN-13: 9780195390827

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: February 2010

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780195390827.001.0001

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Jumpin’ Jive

Jumpin’ Jive


(p.132) 6 Jumpin’ Jive
Tap Dancing America

Constance Valis Hill

Oxford University Press

This chapter begins with the tap challenge between the Nicholas Brothers in the 1940 musical Down Argentine Way. This three-and-a-half minute jazz-tap routine captured the spirit, tempo, and wildly infectious energy of swing. As dance music, swing had a flowing, streamlined 4/4 beat, which made for a smooth sound. For jazz tap dancers, the steady beat was the base on which one could multiply time and syncopate smooth propulsions, which gave the impression of the beat speeding ahead. The chapter looks at the inflections of swing in the tap dancing of, among others, the Condos Brothers, Ann Miller, Mable Lee, and Eleanor Powell; and at its varying degrees of influence on such Irish American tap dancers as James Cagney, Ray Bolger, George Murphy, Donald O’Connor, and Gene Kelly, whose heritage in Irish-stepping styles had been integrated into a modern American style of jazz dancing.

Keywords:   swing, Nicholas Brothers, Condos Brothers, Ann Miller, Eleanor Powell, Irish American tap dancers, James Cagney, Ray Bolger, Donald O’Connor, Gene Kelly

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