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Tap Dancing in 12 Easy Lessons | Rosalind Wade

Tap Dancing in 12 Easy Lessons
Rosalind Wade | The BBC Dancing Daughters

Rosalind Wade, “World's Champion Tap Dancer and Director of The BBC Dancing Daughters”, is the author of this wonderful book, published by David McKay Company of Philadelphia, in 1936. It's a small hard cover book with 62 pages, 64 photos depicting steps, 2 full-page photographic plates and numerous bits and pieces of music. Steps are explained, the rhythm is illustrated with a bit of written music and pictures are supposed to help you learn the proper positrons of your feet. As is often the case with books like this one, if you were really a beginner, it would be very hard to understand what it all means.

Tap instruction from Rosalind Wade

You don't see typical tap step vocabulary in this book either, like shuffle, flap, ball change, etc. It introduces "Shuffle - Step" for example but without the actual term. Instead "Shuffle - Step" is described as "Brush right leg forward, brush right leg back and stamp right foot." So it could be when this book was published standard terminology had not quite settled in.

Perhaps the most interesting chapter in the book is Wade's version of the history of tap dancing. I guess like any presentation of history, a reader can find out as much about the time in which the book was written as they do about history. Wade describes tap dancing as a career, as a social accomplishment and as a safe way to a slim and perfect figure. Of course in 1936, Wade mentions Bill Robinson, Shirley Temple and the movie The Little Colonel, released in 1935. And then there is this effort at explaining the growing popularity of tap in America and beyond: "Gradually these dances spread further to North America, until they reached the now familiar Harlem, the coloured quarter of New York, called the 'Negro's Paradise.' At night after the Shows were over, the many cafes of Harlem would be thronged with darkies, whose voices harmonised with the accompaniment of saxophones, and whose feet improvised new steps which they could not repeat if they had been asked to do so. Just as their religious fervours take hold of them and inspire the inimitable music of the Spirituals, so the zest and enthusiasm of the dance caused them to vie one with another in executing the most intricate and fascinating of dance steps on the spur of the moment.." A foreigners perspective, British spelling and so very indicative of the times.

The BBC Dancing Daughters

There is a dearth of information on the Web about the BBC Dancing Daughters. Plug the phrase into Google and you get only four responses, all referring to copies of this book. But look at this picture! Apparently, Ms. Wade was known well enough to have her book published in the US. Is there any connection between the BBC Dancing Daughters and the 1928 film, Our Dancing Daughters that starred Joan Crawford? I hope some knowledgeable British tap dancer will find this page and contact me.

 

— Shinichi Matsumoto