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Dance with the person next to you, not just next to them.

When dancing in an ensemble, the goal is to look uniform and sound harmonious. And especially when tap dancing, it is critical to be in sync with your fellow ensemble dancers. To achieve musical harmony with your ensemble hoofers, focus on listening for their feet more than your own, and adjust your tone and tempo accordingly. Remember, you are creating music and dance together, not competing to finish first or to be heard the loudest.

Listen to the music, not your feet.

When tap dancing to live or recorded music, the goal for the hoofer is to become another instrument in the song. To do this, you'll need tune into the music and the musicians you're collaborating with, and not just the sound of your taps. The skillful tap dancer can adjust the practiced tempo, & even the rhythm, to fit with the music being played.  

Tap soft. Tap small. Tap fast.

Believe it or not, loud tapping is not always best. Loud tap dancing is typically coupled with excessively heavy stomping of the feet against the floor, which can have significant impact on a dancer's knees, hips & legs, as well as, make the body heavier and more difficult to move quickly. Additionally, keeping a large amount of space between your feet while dancing (which is recommended for beginner dancers), will slow your foot movements.  Keeping your feet closer together will make it easier to increase the speed f your steps. So, if you want to increase your tap dance speed and save your knees and hips in the process, practice your dancing a little bit softer and a little bit smaller.

Let your feet land where they may.

Many dancers learned tap dance at the same time they learned ballet. As a result, many tap dancers look like they're dancing ballet. And, if you've ever seen tap master Sam Webster doing his thing, you know there's certainly nothing wrong with that! That said, I encourage less experienced hoofers to break the rules & get those feet out of position! Keeping your feet spaced apart while dancing teaches the skill of "weight changes/shifts" between phrases. So... let your feet land where they may, and dance with your whole body. There's no rule that says a tap dancer's feet must dance in turn out or parallel, or return to a particular position.

The most important step in tap dance is the BREATH.

Many beginner tap dancers tend to inhale just before they start dancing, and then exhale at the end of the dance. Dancing while holding your breath can cause you to stiffen your body. In tap dance, a stiff body makes a heavy body, making it difficult to execute clean tap rhythms. So, before beginning to dance...4-3-2-exhale! Then remember to continue breathing throughout the dance. You can check to ensure you're not holding your breath while dancing by randomly saying your name (or other word) out loud while dancing. If you can talk, you're breathing.

Perfect the recovery, not the step.

When you're learning someone else's choreography, it may take some time to perfect the steps and have them feel & look natural on you/your body. So, instead of needing to perfect the steps from the beginning, focus on recovering from any missteps with perfection. Maybe you miss the last 4 counts of a phrase, but you start the next phrase perfectly.

Give your feet some elbow room.

I have noticed a tendency in many tap dancers to dance with their feet close together. While it is important to have the feet closer together for speed, maintaining balance while dancing on a small circumference of the floor is much more difficult. As a beginning tap dancer, I encourage you to "take up space". Give each of your feet more floor to dance on throughout the entire dance. You'll be surprised at how much easier, cleaner and more stable your tap dance will become! 

Don't go back for steps.

Tap dancers are also musicians, and the music must go on. When a musician misses a note, they keep playing the song. They do not start the song (or even the phrase) over again. That same rule applies in tap dance. If you miss a step, leave it behind and catch the next one. Besides, the audience's minds & ears will fill in any minor rhythmic gaps, as long as the overall groove remains steady.

Start with "small bites" and build.

Trying to keep up with a newly rehearsed routine in a class can sometimes be frustrating if you haven't mastered all of the steps yet. One of the best ways to master new choreography is to breakdown the steps in bite-sized pieces. Identify the 2, 4, 6 or 8 counts that you will attempt every time until you master them.  Once you master those steps, add on another 2, 4, 6 or 8 counts until you master those...and so forth. Eventually, you'll find yourself dancing like you choreographed the piece yourself!

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