By Constance Valis Hill




Here is the vibrant, colorful, high-stepping story of tap--the first comprehensive, fully documented history of a uniquely American art form, exploring all aspects of the intricate musical and social exchange that evolved from Afro-Irish percussive step dances like the jig, gioube, buck-and-wing, and juba to the work of such contemporary tap luminaries as Gregory Hines, Brenda Bufalino, Dianne Walker, and Savion Glover.


In Tap Dancing America , Constance Valis Hill, herself an accomplished jazz tap dancer, choreographer, and performance scholar, begins with a dramatic account of a buck dance challenge between Bill "Bojangles" Robinson and Harry Swinton at Brooklyn's Bijou Theatre, on March 30, 1900, and proceeds decade by decade through the 20th century to the present day. She vividly describes tap's musical styles and steps--from buck-and-wing and ragtime stepping at the turn of the century; jazz tapping to the rhythms of hot jazz, swing, and bebop in the '20s, '30s and '40s; to hip-hop-inflected hitting and hoofing in heels (high and low) from the 1990s right up to today. Tap was long considered "a man's game," and Hill's is the first history to highlight such outstanding female dancers as Ada Overton Walker, Kitty O'Neill, and Alice Whitman, at the turn of the 20th century, as well as the pioneering women composers of the tap renaissance, in the 70s and 80s, and the hard-hitting rhythm-tapping women of the millennium such as Chloe Arnold, Ayodele Casel, Michelle Dorrance, and Dormeshia Sumbry Edwards. 


Written with all the verve and grace of tap itself, drawing on eye-witness accounts of early performances as well as interviews with today's greatest tappers, and richly illustrated with over ninety images, Tap Dancing America fills a major gap in American dance history and places tap firmly center stage.



the first comprehensive (and only up-to-date) history of tap dancing in its three-hundred-year evolution in America

Meticulously researched on the basis of a bevy of primary and secondary sources over 20 years by an author who is herself a tap dancer

Challenges the notion that tap "died" in the 1950s and 1960s

Foregrounds the contributions of women in tap dance, the history of which has otherwise privileged male soloists.


"A great source of reference for Tap Dance culture and history, Tap Dancing America accumulates stories and articles in attempts to capture the essence of this elusive oral tradition. An important read. I highly recommend it!"-Jason Samuels Smith


"With breath that is bated we all have awaited the arrival of this book. Spanning the gaps and the taps across the ages and the stages of time, covering the various aspects of the art of this American dance form, Ms. Valis Hill has guided us through a definitive full-of-life exploration into the world of Terpsichore. It's a hard book to put down and calls out to you with its inclusion and accuracy whether it be about the dance patterns, the personal or the historical dates and times. With his love of dance and dancers my grandfather would have been most proud to be included within these pages."--Mercedes Ellington, President & CEO of The Duke Ellington Center for The Arts

"Comprehensive and compelling, Tap Dancing America places race, gender, individual innovation, and rhythm at the center of American dance history. Carefully researched and eminently readable, this landmark volume will inspire generations to explore a legacy of tap dancing as corporeal evidence of Afro-Irish fusion. Constance Valis Hill brings intellectual breadth and an abiding love for the dance and its dancers to this invaluable and definitive project."-Thomas F. DeFrantz, Professor, Music and Theater Arts, MIT and author of Dancing Revelations: Alvin Ailey's Embodiment of African American Culture.


"Tap Dancing America casts new light on the hurly burly of class, culture, race and gender that fused into one of America's most original and popular arts. An indispensible resource for anyone interested in American culture." - Sali Ann Kriegsman, Modern Dance in America: The Bennington Years


"This handy source for tap history and personalities packs in lots of info." - Library Journal



Constance Valis Hill is a jazz tap dancer, choreographer, and highly respected scholar of performance studies whose writings have appeared in Dance Magazine, Village Voice, Dance Research Journal, Studies in Dance History , and Discourses in Dance . She studied tap dance with Charles "Cookie" Cook and various members of the Copasetics; performed as one member of the tap-dancing Doilie Sisters; and directed "Sole Sisters" for the Changing Times Tap Company. Her book, Brotherhood in Rhythm: The Jazz Tap Dancing of the Nicholas Brothers (2000), received the ASCAP Deems Taylor Award. She is a Five College Professor of Dance at Hampshire College in Amherst, Massachusetts.


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