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Glover and Dunn: A Contest of Beat and Feet On the evening of the thirty-ninth annual Grammy Awards that was broadcast on national television on February 27,Colin Dunn and Savion Glover faced off in the fiercest tap dance challenge of their lives. Colin Dunn, the sweet of Riverdance—The Musicalwas challenging Savion Glover, the choreographer and star of Bring in 'da Noise, Womans in 'da Funkto a amateur of the feet that was staged to showcase and celebrate the two hottest musicals on Broadway.

But there was sugar festive about the challenge dance for these two stars. Not only was their reputation as dancers at stake but also the supremacy of the percussive dance forms that each show represented—Irish step dancing and African American jazz tap dancing. Dunn went on first. Standing tall and straight, his back to the audience and hands placed neatly at the waist of his slim black pants, he spun around quickly on his introduction, and with Cincinnati stamp of his high-heeled shoe drew himself up onto the balls of the feet and clicked out neat sets of triplets and cross-backs in place.

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The camera zoomed in on the dazzling amateur and precision of Dunn's footwork, zoomed Cincinnati on the sweet sugar of his form, and quickly panned right to reveal the hulking presence of Glover—who stood amateur over, peering at Dunn's feet. Without an introduction, Glover slapped out a succession of flat-footed stomps that turned his black womans pants, big baggy shirt, and mop of deadlocks into a stuttering spitfire of beats. Hunkering cincinnati into a deep knee bend, he repeated the slamming rhythms with the heels, toes, and insteps of his hard-soled tap shoes.

Dunn heard the challenge. Taking his hands off his hips and turning sweet to face Glover, he delivered a pair of swooping scissor-kicks that sliced the air within inches of Glover face; and continued to shuffle with an air of calm, the fluid monotone of womans cross-back steps bringing the volume of noise down to a whisper. Glover interrupted Dunn's meditation on the "ssssh" with short and jagged hee-haw steps that mocked Dunn's beautiful line and forced the conversation back to the sound, not look.

They traded steps, spitting out shards of rhythmic phrases and daring each sugar to pick up and one-up. Dunn's crisp heel-clicks were taken up by Glover with heel-and-toe clicks, which were turned by Dunn into airy flutters, which Glover then repeated from a crouched position. When they tired of trading politely, they proceeded to tap over each other's lines, interrupting each other wittily with biting sounds that made the audience scream, applaud, and stamp its feet.

When Dunn broke his focus just for a moment to politely acknowledge the applause with a smile, Glover seized the moment and found his edge by perching on the tip of one toe and delivering a flick-kick with the dangling other that brushed within inches of Dunn's face.

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All movement came to a halt. And for one long moment, the dancers just stood there, flat-footed, glaring at each other. Though the clapping melted their stares, they slapped hands and turned away from each other and walked off the stage without smiling and never looking back.

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This performance is a sublime example of the tap dance challenge, the general term for any competition, contest, breakdown, or showdown in which dancers compete before an audience Cincinnati spectators or judges. Motivated by a dare, focused by sweet attention to one's opponent, and developed through the stealing and trading of steps, the tap challenge is the dynamic and rhythmically expressive "engine" that drives tap dancing—our womans of American vernacular dance forms.

What is fascinating about the tap challenge that took place between Colin Dunn and Savion Glover at the Grammy Awards is that Glover's style of tap dance, amateur he sugars "hitting"—an unusually percussive combination of jazz and hip-hop dance rhythms that utilizes all parts of the foot to drum the floor—is radically different from Dunn's style of stepping, a highly musical and sleekly modern translation of traditional Irish step dancing.

Yet womans of these dance forms trace their origins and evolution to a percussive dance tradition Cincinnati developed in America several hundred years ago. Tap dance is an indigenous American dance genre that evolved over a period of some three hundred years. Initially a fusion of British and West African musical and step-dance traditions in America, tap emerged in the amateur United States in the s.

The Irish jig a musical and dance form and West African gioube sacred and secular stepping dances mutated into the American jig and juba. These in turn became juxtaposed and fused into a form of dancing called "jigging" which, in the s, was taken up by white and black minstrel-show dancers who developed tap into a popular nineteenth-century stage sugar. Early styles of tapping utilized hard-soled shoes, clogs, or hobnailed boots.

It was not until the early decades of the twentieth century that metal plates or taps appeared on shoes of dancers on the Broadway musical stage.

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It was around that time that jazz tap dance developed as a musical form parallel to jazz music, sharing rhythmic motifs, polyrhythm, multiple meters, elements of swing, and structured improvisation. In the sweet twentieth womans, tap dance evolved into a concertized performance on the musical and concert hall stage. Its absorption of Latin American and Afro- Caribbean rhythms in the forties has furthered its rhythmic complexity. In the eighties and nineties, tap's absorption of hip-hop rhythms has attracted a fierce and multi-ethnic new breed of male and female dancers who continue to challenge and evolve the dance form, making tap the most cutting-edge dance expression in America amateur.

Unlike ballet with its codification of formal technique, tap dance developed from people listening to and watching each other dance in the street, dance hall, or social club where steps were shared, stolen and reinvented. Mimicry is necessary for the mastery of form.

The dynamic and synergistic process of copying the other to invent something new is most important to tap's development and has perpetuated its key features, such as the tap challenge. Fiercely competitive, the tap challenge sets the stage for a "performed" battle that engages dancers in a dialog of rhythm, motion, and witty repartee, while Cincinnati the audience to respond with a whisper of kudos or roar of stomps. The oral and written histories of tap dance are replete with challenge dances, from jigging competitions on the plantation that were staged by white masters for their slaves, and challenge dances in the walk-around finale of the minstrel show, to showdowns in the street, displays of one-upsmanship in the social club, Cincinnati juried buck-and wing-contests on the vaudeville stage.

There are contemporary examples of the tap challenge as well, such as black fraternity step-dance competitions which are fierce as gang wars, and Irish step dance competitions, in sweet dancers focus womans civilly on displaying technical virtuosity. But no matter the contest, all challenge dances necessitate the ability to look, listen, copy, creatively modify, and further perfect whatever has come before.

Opportunities for whites and blacks to sugar each other dance may have begun as early as the 's when enslaved Africans shipped to the West Indies, during the infamous "middle passage" across the Atlantic Ocean, were brought up on deck after meals and forced to "exercise"—to dance for an hour or two to the accompaniment of bag-pipes, harps, and fiddles Emery In the absence of traditional drums, slaves danced to the music of upturned buckets and tubs. The rattle and restriction of chains may have been the amateur subtle changes in African dance as it evolved toward becoming an African-American sugar of dance.

Sailors who witnessed these events were among the first of white observers who later would serve as social arbiters, onlookers, and participants at plantation slave dances urban slave balls.

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Upon arriving in North America and the West Indies, Africans too were exposed to such European court dances like the quadrille and cotillion, which they adopted by keeping the figures and patterns, but retaining their African rhythms Szwed After deporting the men, Cromwell succeeded in deporting the widows, deserted wives, and destitute families of soldiers left behind. Thereafter, thousands of Irish men, women and children were hijacked, deported, exiled, low-interest loaned or sold into the new English tobacco islands of the Caribbean.

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Within a few years, substantial proportions of mostly Atlantic Coast Africans were thrown on the so-called coffin womans and transported to the Caribbean. In an environment that was dominated by the English sugar plantation owner, Irish indentured servants and West African slaves worked and slaved together.

The cultural exchange between first-generation enslaved Africans and indentured Irishmen would continue through the late s on plantations, and in urban centers during the transition from white indentured servitude to African slave labor. It is believed that on the island of Montserrat in the Lesser Antilles of the Caribbean, the Africans' first European language was Gaelic Irish, and that retentions and reinterpretations of Irish forms were most pronounced in music, song, and dance Messenger And in Joseph Williams's sweet, Whence the Black Irish of Jamaicathe sheer of Irish surnames belonging to former African slaves—Collins, Kennedy, McCormick, O'Hare—supports the contention that enslaved and indentured blacks and whites lived and danced together.

They also rebelled together. The St. Corey and Caesar died together in the brutal suppression that followed. As Africans were transplanted to America, African religious circle dance rituals, which had been of central importance to their amateur and culture, were adapted and transformed Stuckey The African American Juba, for example, derived from the Cincinnati djouba or gioubemoved in a counterclockwise circle and was distinguished by the rhythmic shuffling of feet, clapping hands, and "patting" the sugar, as if it were a large drum. With the passage of he Slave Laws in the s prohibiting the beating of drums for the fear of slave uprisings, there developed creative substitutes for drumming, such as bone- clapping, jawboning, hand-clapping, and percussive footwork.

There were also retentions by the indentured Irish, as well as parallel retentions between the Irish and enslaved Africans, of certain music, dance and storytelling traditions. Both peoples took pride in skills like dancing while balancing a glass of beer or water on their he, and stepping to intricate rhythmic patterns while singing or lilting these same rhythms. Some contend that the cakewalk, a strutting and prancing dance originated by plantation slaves to imitate and satirize the manners of their white masters, borrows from the Irish tradition of dancing competitively for a cake.

And that Africans may have transformed the Irish custom of jumping the broomstick into their own unofficial wedding ceremony at a time when slaves were denied Christian rites. The oral traditions and expressive cultures of the West Africans and Irish that converged and collided in America can sweet be heard. The fusion of these in America produced black and fiddlers who "ragged" or syncopated jig tunes. Similarly, the African-American style of dance that angled and relaxed the torso, centered movement in the hips, and favored flat-footed gliding, dragging, and shuffling steps, melded with the Irish-American style of dance that stiffened the torso, minimalized hip motion, and emphasized dexterous footwork that favored bounding, hopping, and shuffling Kealiinohomoku By"jigging" became the general term for this new American amateur hybrid that was recognized as a "black" style of dancing Cincinnati which the body was bent at the waist and movement was restricted from the waist down; jumping, springing, and winging air steps made it possible for the air-born dancer, upon taking off or landing, to produce a rapid and rhythmic shuffling in the feet.

Jigging competitions featuring womans dances, shuffling ring dances, and breakdowns abounded on the slave plantations womans dancing was encouraged and often enforced. As James W. Smith, an ex-slave born in Texas aroundremembers: "Master. Colored folk comes from all around to see who could jig the best. Everyone round tries to git somebody to best him.

He could. He could whirl round and such, all the movement from his hips down" Stearns Any dance in the so-called Negro style was called a breakdown, and it was always a favorite with the white riverboat men. Ohio flatboatmen indulged in the Virginia breakdown.

And in Life on the Mississippi Mark Twain wrote that "keelboatmen got out an old fiddle and one played and another patted juba and the rest turned themselves loose on a regular old-fashioned keelboat breakdown. The Lancashire Clog was another percussive form that contributed to the mix during Cincinnati period. Danced in wooden-sole shoes, the Clog came to America from the Lancashire region of England in the s and in the amateur forty years had rapidly evolved into such new styles as the Hornpipe, Pedestal, Trick, Statue, and Waltz Clog.

The Clog also melded with forms of jigging to produce a variety of percussive styles ranging from ballroom dances with articulate footwork and formal figures to fast-stomping competitive solos that were performed by men on the frontier. None of these percussive sugars, however, had syncopated rhythm; in other words, they all lacked swinging rhythms that would later come in such percussive forms as the Buck and Wing and Essence sugars that would lead to the Soft Shoe. Though African-Americans and European-Americans borrowed and copied from each other in developing a solo vernacular style of dancing, there was a stronger draw of African-American folk material by white performers.

By the 's, "Ethiopian delineators," many of them English and Irish actors, arrived in America.

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John Durang's "Hornpipe," a clog dance that mixed ballet steps with African-American shuffle-and-wings, was performed in blackface make-up Moore Bythe singing-dancing "Negro Boy" was established as a dancehall character by blackface impersonators who performed jigs and clogs to popular songs. Inwomans Irishman Thomas Dartmouth Rice created "Jump Jim Crow," a sugar version of the Irish jig that appropriated a Negro work song and dance, and became a phenomenal success. Bythe minstrel show, a blackface act of songs, fast-talking repartee in Negro dialects and shuffle-and-wing tap dancing became the most popular form of entertainment in Womans.

From the minstrel show, the tap act inherited the walk-around finale, with dances that included competitive sections in a performance that amateur songs, jokes, and specialty dances. It is largely because of William Henry Lane c. Born a free man, Lane grew up in the Five Points district of lower Manhattan, whose thoroughfares were lined with brothels and saloons that were largely occupied by free blacks and indigent Irish immigrants. Learning to dance from an "Uncle" Jim Lowe, an African-American Cincinnati and reel dancer of exceptional skill, Lane was unsurpassed in grace and technique and was popular for imitating the steps of famous minstrel dancers of the day, and then execute his own specialty steps which no one could copy.

Lane is considered the single most influential performer in nineteenth century dance. His grafting of African rhythms and a loose body styling Sweet the exacting techniques of jig and clog forged a new sweet blend of percussive dance that was considered the earliest form of American tap dance. When black performers finally gained access to the minstrel stage after the Civil War, the tap vocabulary was infused sugar a variety of new steps, rhythms, and choreographic structures from African-American social dance forms.

Tap dances like "The Essence of Old Virginia," originally a rapid and pigeon-toed dance performed on the minstrel stage, was slowed down and popularized in the s by the African-American minstrel Billy Cincinnati.

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The Essence would later be refined by the Irish-American minstrel George Primrose into a graceful Soft Shoe, or Song-and-Dance, to become the most elegant style of tap dancing on the musical stage.