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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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Tap Happenings

Tap Happenings


(p.198) 8 Tap Happenings
Tap Dancing America

Constance Valis Hill

Oxford University Press

This chapter begins with the tap challenge between Earl “Groundhog” Basie and Chuck Green at the Village Gate, in which drummer Max Roach ousted Jo Jones from the drums as the tap dancers copied and cracked on each other. This contentious battle mirrored the social and political fire of the 1960s, when black rhythm tap takes on the inflections of bebop, with more improvisational exchanges between solo dancer and musicians. The irregular heel beats of Bunny Briggs’s taps were punctuated by silences and broken into a barrage of military-type flam strokes before settling into heel-and-toe beats; Lon Chaney’s bop-inflected paddle-and-roll tapping proved him to be a master of improvisation and momentum by varying and accumulating rhythmic phrases and breaks; and the rhythm-and-blues inflections of Cholly Atkins’s “vocal choreography” carried jazz rhythms from the feet into the body. All these artists demonstrated the inextricable tie between tap dancing and jazz music.

Keywords:   tap challenge, jazz rhythm, bebop, paddle-and-roll, Bunny Briggs, Lon Chaney, Cholly Atkins, jazz music

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