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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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Beat, Bebop, Birth of the Cool

Beat, Bebop, Birth of the Cool


(p.164) 7 Beat, Bebop, Birth of the Cool
Tap Dancing America

Constance Valis Hill

Oxford University Press

This chapter begins with the tap challenge between the Peg Leg Bates and Hal LeRoy on The Ed Sullivan Show and ends with a challenge between dancers Bob Fosse and Tommy Raal in My Sister Eileen. The 1950s, beginning with the death of Bill Robinson, has been commonly referred to as the decade of tap dance’s decline, when tap dance waned in popularity as the number of live performances diminished. Tap dancers found themselves out of jobs; and venues for tap performances shifted from the stage to television. As the steady rhythms of 1940s swing gave way to the dissonant harmonics and frenzied rhythmic shifts of bebop, big bands downsized into jazz combos, which further diminished work for tap dancers. As the decade laid to rest the half-century jigging tradition represented by Robinson, tap dance was regenerated and transfigured by bebop, thus to be resurrected into a modern jazz expression.

Keywords:   tap challenge, Bill Robinson, Bob Fosse, bebop, rhythm tap, television, modern jazz

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