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The 5 Fundamentals of Tap Dance

Published on October 3rd 2019 by Hillary-Marie

Today, we’re talking about what I like to call, The 5 Fundamentals of Tap Dance.

A thriving tap dance program always incorporates all aspects of the five fundamentals. The best tap programs out there truly recognize this and harness it, so that each and every single one of the five fundamentals is fully present in every single class, and throughout the entire tap program.

I’m going to walk you guys through each of my five fundamentals, in no specific order. Please know that each and every single one is super important, just as important as the other.


I always tell my students that if their toes, heels, flaps, shuffles, cramprolls, paradiddles and all other basic steps are clean, that the crazy steps that they dream of doing are SO easy. As a teacher, I focus heavily on providing my students with a solid technical foundation that they can build upon. And I truly mean straight technical training, I don’t look at choreography as an opportunity to provide technical training, choreography is choreography, I’m talking true technical exercises. I have TONS of technique exercises in the iTapOnline Member Center, but if you’re looking for some free content, check out my free warm-up exercises on the 10+ Free Tap Dance Resources.


Tap dance is a percussive dance form and I always say that this means that we are governed by the laws of both music and dance. A solid understanding of music theory goes a long way in a tap dancer’s education. If you haven’t received a copy of my Rhythm Tree for Tap Dancers poster, go ahead and download it for free. There’s also a great 3-part Rhythm Training for Tap Dancers video series that goes with it, also for FREE, click here.


Improvisation is a HUGE aspect of Tap Dance culture and our approach to improvisation as tap dancers is heavily related to our hand-in-hand relationship with Jazz Music culture, and the musical nature of tap dance as a percussive dance style. I have a lot of great improv exercises in the iTapOnline Member Center you can use to introduce improvisation to your students for the first time, and more advanced exercises for those of you whose students are already very comfortable with it. At my studio, Grooves Unlimited, we have an entirely separate improvisation class, so we’re able to spend an entire class focusing on the art of improvisation rather than just 5 minutes during class.


History is SUPER important! And I’m not talking about being stuck in history, right? Of course, we’re all still moving forward in this beautiful art form, but to truly understand tap dance, you have to have an understanding of its roots, and its development over time. To truly understand the culture of tap dance, you have to dive deep into its history. If you’re looking for a great way to start incorporating tap history into your classes, check out my free Shim Sham Shimmy breakdown video, I share the history of this beautiful dance which is known as the tap dancer’s national anthem, and a solid, easy to follow break down. I also have a free breakdown of the BS Chorus as well. I have a series of other historical repertoire and steps in the iTapOnline Member Center well, which is accessible 24/7 by iTapOnline Members.


This one here, this 5th fundamental is my secret sauce. When I combine this 5th fundamental with Technique, Music Theory, Improvisation, and History, the results are amazing. It leaves me with a SUPER passionate, excited, and energized group of students. I’m sorry to leave you hanging, but if you want to know the fifth of my Five Fundamentals of Tap Dance, you’ll have to join the iTapOnline Teacher Training Program to find out.

During the iTapOnline Teacher Training Program, we dive SO deep into these Five Fundamentals. During this training program, I help teachers fill in the gaps of their knowledge, but I also give them the tools they need to be able to expand their student’s knowledge. We work together in weekly sessions and the results come graduation time are amazing.  If you choose to join us for this program, to join the iTap Teacher Journey, you’ll walk away with new knowledge, fresh inspiration, an amazing support system, accountability, a well-rounded understanding of tap dance and therefore a well-rounded tap program. Your students will be excited, you’ll be re-energized, and I promise you, it’ll be everything you’ve been looking for as a tap teacher.

Want more info on the iTap Teacher Training Program? Email me at [email protected] to learn more. 

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