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Tap - Advanced
Speed tapping
By glitterfairyPremium member Comments: 12135, member since Tue Oct 01, 2002
On Tue Jan 06, 2009 08:37 AM

Interested to hear about people’s experiences with speed tapping – any specific training or training hurdles, tips, etc. 2-second pieces of advice are welcomed just as much as windy journal logs – my excuse is that I can’t sleep, so I may as well write ;)

A bit of cultural history – over here in Australia there are three ‘main’ forms of tap on the solo eisteddfod circuit – Slow, Waltz, and Fast/Speed (the two are interchangeable, although ‘Fast’ is the more common one for the older eisteddfods), although Tap Improvisation, Ensemble Tap, Song and Tap, and Demi-Character Tap also exist for solo sections. As such, specific training over here for speed tapping is not uncommon, both to better distinguish the difference between Slow and Fast championship routines (two contrasting solos are required), and because tappers are literally racing each other to see who can do the best routine at the fastest speed – normally in the realm of 2:10 – 3:00 mins.

How I define speed tap
Styles of speed tapping are sure to vary across the globe – here in Sydney, a pattery, relaxed-looking and ‘even-sounding’ speed tap is popular and sometimes considered something of a specific style/sub-genre. ‘And’ beats are frequently covered, so it’s possible to say we dance double-time to fast music – although when we’re talking fast dancing to fast music I’d prefer to leave that up to a muso like oz_helen to confirm (I’m not really a ‘counter).

Hops are kept to a minimum in favour of heel beats, footwork is a LOT more articulate (great ankle flexibility and control is necessary), almost all movements are controlled by ankle rather than knee, and pickups are frequently preferred over wings because they are easier to do at speed. Weight transference and strong abdominal lift must be completely natural at this level, for obvious reasons. Turns rotations may or may not be fast, but the footwork must be fast and continued throughout the turns. There may or may not be extensive exploration of rhythm, but with a beat on almost every count it’s very obvious to see how fast a dancer is tapping and it can look quite flashy (our version of flashy anyway – we don’t do tricks and flips like the Americans seem to do, not sure whether they do that kind of thing at speed either).

A proper championship-level speed tap for in my locale for a senior (14+) competitor wanting a chance of placing is about 280-310+ beats per minute. Your average medium-tempo routine is usually 160-180 beats per minute (songs on my iPod for this category include ‘Miss Independent’ by Neyo and ‘Irreplacable’ by Beyonce if you’re after comparisons).

What I perceive to be challenges in speed tap
The biggest challenges for me in speed tapping are to keep things loose, and pretty much everything stamina-related. A good speed tap is like running a 2-minute sprint for me – even though my knees aren’t moving too much if they lock, my ankles have to work harder, making it easier to give in to the natural instinct to tense up the muscles. But once that happens, lactic acid and cramps hit, and once THAT happens you’re more or less forfeit. Even though my Slow and Waltz routines may have contained the more difficult techniques in competition, my warm-up for Speed taps always took far longer to ensure everything was ready to go and wouldn’t lock up on stage.

For other people, it can be a transitional thing. It can be hard enough switching feet normally, but when your routine is faster, switches happen faster too. It’s mastering all these ‘transitions’ and still avoiding that ‘this is really hard step, see how hard I’m working’ expression is part of the challenge too.

How I was trained in speed tap
I wish I could say that I ‘worked up’ to speed tap, but past getting the knack of the technique, I mastered it through diving into the deep end and being thrown into class routines where either you were fast enough and got it, or you missed beats. The advantage of learning speed tap in an advanced group class is that peer motivation spurs you on though… you feel bad not being able to ‘keep up’ so you push yourself ;)

I really noticed a difference in my tap style after learning speed tap. The articulation and abdominal lift required for speed tapping is immense and not easily forgotten – even now, if I’m feeling lazy or having trouble with a step I’ll do a practice speed tap routine, then go back – in this situation it works kind of like a ‘warm up’ exercise to force my body into a lighter, more versatile and lifted position which lends itself easily to more complicated steps.

My advice to those wishing to learn speed tap
Patience. Where I come from, the ground level techniques for speed tap can be taught from a young age (abs, ankle control and flexibility, ‘lightness’) but sinking your teeth into the practical stuff only really happens when you hit intermediate level or above. I guess it’s kind of fun to be able to do toe-heels really fast, but part of the challenge in speed tap is to be able to do EVERYTHING fast, so there’s not much point in learning it until you have a wide technical vocabulary to work from.

Depending on how seriously you want to study it (usually only for high-level exams in SOME syllabi and competition students), you may need to seek out specific training. Some teachers will never have seen speed tap, or not understand what’s required or how to teach it (I still see teachers trying to get their advanced students to do hops in their ‘fast’ routines – but that’s the fastest way to slow someone down!). Some syllabi are stylistically unsuited to speed tap as well - many of the old syllabi, in addition to using hops a lot, promote a much tighter knee that makes speed tapping difficult. There are really steps that are and aren't suited to being done fast (although a good dancer can do them all anyway - some sound better together!).

6 Replies to Speed tapping

re: Speed tapping
By adageacemember has saluted, click to view salute photos Comments: 3982, member since Thu Sep 01, 2005
On Wed Jan 07, 2009 05:18 AM
Edited by adageace (140091) on 2009-01-07 05:20:18
Great post. I'm just about at the level now where speed tapping might be worthwhile :) But so far the closest I've come is the quick jazz amalgamation for my Inter exam, which was probably on the very low end of fast - but it was a challenge for me and faster than anything I've ever done before!

It still had a few hops in it, but many more heel beats. One of the parts I found the hardest was the turning section, which had us making a full turn on a brief sequence that included springs and hops. It was SO hard to get that bit fast enough. Interestingly I didn't have a problem with a few hops in some of the other sections, possibly because they weren't turning and I could make them into the kind of hops that barely clear the floor. I guess if the routine had been faster, I wouldn't have had a hope.

I'll also agree with the feeling of lightness. Whenever we'd done either this quick jazz routine in class, or one of the faster technical exercises, I felt like my tapping in general was lighter and cleaner for anything I did afterwards. I also noticed that I could not get away with sloppiness in ab control or anything like that in the quick jazz, even though I could in any of my slower routines. It just wasn't possible if I wanted to get in the pickups or quick changes of direction. You need that core control to keep you stable during the whole thing. One wobble, and you're behind the music.

Overall, I'm pretty sure it was good for me, even though my school generally emphasises core control and technique right from the very start. I'm looking forward to some more fast tap this term.

I'll come back and add more later, but I'm feeling yucky and ill today and this is the limit of me thinking clearly!
re: Speed tapping
By oz_helenmember has saluted, click to view salute photosPremium member Comments: 11196, member since Sat Aug 10, 2002
On Thu Jan 08, 2009 08:51 AM
In my home syllabus, the bmp for moderate tempo exercises and dances increased with the grade level until speed routines and exercises were introduced at intermediate level. It was always a requirement to have minimum two contrasting dances in each exam from the Elementary (beginning or junior) levels. Solid technique was emphasised from the beginning with a focus on the ankle joint. We also studied theory and learnt which steps used which joints.

Where I came from, there's more variety in rhythm than glitters' patter style, so hops aren't very rare in speed tap routines. However, they are only used for the purpose of creating rhythmic variety and heels are used for the fast patter sections. Pickups are king in speed routines.

When I choreograph speed routines I tend to subdivide the beat into six in order to get enough sounds/steps in to satisfy my ear's definition of speed tapping. That said, not every beat has six sounds in it. I like my rhythmic variety and I'm not adverse to mixing it up to give the audience more variety of visual and auditory stimulus. I also tend to be inspired by the rhythms inherent in the music itself. I guess it's the muso in me. I can't just patter through a whole routine because to me, it's overlooking the musicality.

I could probably write more but it's almost 2am and I should probably go to bed instead.

Helen
re: Speed tapping
By adageacemember has saluted, click to view salute photos Comments: 3982, member since Thu Sep 01, 2005
On Thu Jan 08, 2009 09:45 AM
Ah, I wonder if my syllabus and yours are fairly similar in their approach, Helen? The things you've just mentioned are all sounding quite familiar (especially if I think about the quick jazz routine) so chances are ours aren't so different.

Well, apart from terminology, but what's new ;)
re: Speed tapping
By majeremember has saluted, click to view salute photosPremium member Comments: 5889, member since Sat Sep 29, 2007
On Thu Jan 08, 2009 01:30 PM
I have never done speed tapping...but it sounds fascinating! I would love to try it some day.

For now I'll assume that the reason I haven't is due to the lack of set syllabi in the US etc.
re: Speed tapping
By oz_helenmember has saluted, click to view salute photosPremium member Comments: 11196, member since Sat Aug 10, 2002
On Thu Jan 08, 2009 11:16 PM
adageace wrote:

Ah, I wonder if my syllabus and yours are fairly similar in their approach, Helen? The things you've just mentioned are all sounding quite familiar (especially if I think about the quick jazz routine) so chances are ours aren't so different.

Well, apart from terminology, but what's new ;)


There are a lot of similarities (I taught your syllabus for two years so I know a fair bit of it) but the main difference is that there is a lot less set work in mine - all key elements for each grade are combined into no more than five amalgamations instead of having a different exercise for each set technical element.

/hijack

Helen
re: Speed tapping
By glitterfairyPremium member Comments: 12135, member since Tue Oct 01, 2002
On Thu Jan 08, 2009 11:28 PM
/also hijack
I won't say that I'm interested in converting to Helen's syllabus, but we had a chat about syllabi comparisons some time ago and I've got to say that I quite like the idea of key elements. I've seen a number of occasions where teachers has incorrectly interpreted the technical element of an exercise... :(


One of the syllabi I studied never really worked with 'increasing' tempos (never really got that fast either) - however the one I'm currently working with does. I think you only really "feel it" from about elementary level up, though.

I would also really like to discuss specific training/presentation for slow/waltz tap. New thread, anyone?

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