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Capezio Tap Master Mat | Advertising Collectible, ca. 1930's

Tap Dancing | Waltz Clog
Aranged Simplified and Routined by Johnny Mack

Tap Dancing: Waltz Clog Arranged, Simplified and Routined by Johnny Mack, 1933

This is just a little booklet, 20 pages, about 18 x 13 cm, no pictures or illustrations except the cover. The copy I have is in mint condition and it's hard to believe this book is more than 70 years old. I haven't found any indication that it has ever been reprinted.

This neat little volume is so specifically focused. I wonder if perhaps it was part of a series, where each book spotlighted one type of dance routine. It opens with a preface by the author, Johnny Mack. There's some general information about tap dancing, discussing shoes and the importance of practice, how to maintain balance, hold your head, place your arms, fingers and feet. Following that there's a sort of definition of terms used to describe the steps of the waltz clog routine: tap, a one sound step, shuffle, hop, spring or leap, jump, triple (meaning shuffle-step), stamp and finally brush.

Now we get into the main subject of this book, the Waltz Clog. A complete choreography is presented for a waltz clog routine with seven different waltz steps and a break step that comes at the end of each step. Tap Dance choreography by Johnny MackThis picture shows a sample of these steps as they are written out. It's a typical waltz clog step which today we might describe as "step-shuffle-ball change" but here it's written as "tap, shuffle, tap, tap". Breaking the step down further we are given the ABC's of the step through Terms (actually the name of the step), Feet (R or L), and the Count, where a hyphen between numbers means "quickly" and the 1 2-3 4-5 count can be thought of as 1 & 2 & 3. After you've learned all seven steps, you are supposed to be able to dance a 3-chorus waltz clog routine.

In his final Remarks", Johnny Mack reminds us that, "The ambitious amateur, however, must not imagine because he can do a few steps and is told by his friends he is clever, that he can step upon a stage and immediately become famous." Could be a stretch, yes.

I didn't learn much about Johnny Mack from this book, except that he was living in Massachusetts and he traveled the US performing in Vaudeville circuits. But, I am left with a bit more of a mystery because around the same time that our author should have been touring in Vaudeville, there was another performer named Johnny Mack (aka Johnny Mack Brown) who went to Hollywood as a well known Bowery Tap dancer and appeared with Joan Crawford in "Our Dancing Daughters" , then went on to become a B-movie Western hero and more. I am not sure if these two "Johnny Macks" were one and the same person. It seems so unlikely that two Johnny Macks were known for tap dancing at the same time, but perhaps that is why one decided to make more use of the last name Brown. This charming little book ends with a poem.

— Shinichi Matsumoto

 

Dancing, by J.W. Palfy - Dancing Master. May, 1928

It isn't just the movement of the feet
In Graceful rhythm to the music's beat.
It's not the unity of step and glide and turn
(Though some would have it thus implied)
It isn't just a recreation nor is it just a pleasure.
It is something more.
It really is an admirable art,
That holds sweet happiness for every heart
And whose charms appeal to young and old
It cannot be too eloquently told
It is a joy - soft, wonderful and sweet
Without it, life seems dull and incomplete
And folks who dance will all agree to this
It's very near to being perfect bliss!