American Tap traces tap dancing from its origins, through its evolution to the current form. It is a uniquely American story that illustrates the vibrant and powerful nature of our cultural melting pot. The examination reveals and informs many of the very basic concepts and current themes of American cultural consciousness.
At a time when America is struggling with its cultural identity, we are compelled to look inward to unpack what it means to be American.
We uncover the co-evolution that tap dance shares with jazz music - back to the African slaves and the “ring shout”.
We follow and substantiate the importance of the Irish immigrants and their particular form of percussive dance, the Jig. The story carries us through the distorted world of the minstrel show, Vaudeville and onto Broadway at a time when tap was the dominant dance form in American culture. That height of popularity is followed by collapse during the Second World War and then rebirth with Gregory Hines and Savion Glover.
Through conversations with luminaries including Cornel West and Debbie Allen, we frame the importance of the arts and specifically tap dance.
Interviews with leading scholars provide the interconnecting road map for the film: Professor Constance Valis Hill (fmr. professor of dance his- tory at Hampshire College and author of the definitive anthology Tap Dancing America: A Cultural History), Mark Knowles (author of Tap Roots and The Dictionary of Tap), and Brian Siebert (New York Times dance critic and author of What the Eye Hears). With these experts, as well as original re- search, we identify the historical points when the development of the form changed significantly.
In addition to the aforementioned interviews, we profile rising stars in the field today.
Including: Michelle Dorrance, Michela Marino Lerman and Nicholas Young. Each of these world-class dancers are exploring uniquely varied aspects of the form: Michelle Dorrance is today’s preëminent tap choreographer and a recent recipient of the MacArthur Genius Grant. Michela works with the great- est names in jazz, including Wynton Marsalis and Jon Batiste. Nicholas is an innovator and educator developing cutting-edge technological techniques and advancing the boundaries of the craft.
Throughout the film, we reveal themes which resonate in the American psyche.
The power of multi- culturalism, the impact of plantation slavery and its consequent racism, and the democratic values at the core of the American consciousness.