Network Session October 2021: Tap Cafe – Open Space

Network Session October 2021: Tap Cafe – Open Space

Thursday 14 October 19:30 BST | 11:30 PDT | 14:30 EST/EDT | 20:30 CEST FREE

Join us in the Tap Cafe – an online open space to come and talk all things tap dance! 

You might have a question, a conversation topic, some news to share, or simply enjoy the opportunity to connect with other tap dancers from around the world. 

We look forward to seeing you there.

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Network Session September 2021: Tap Sounds Series – Building Tap Floors

Network Session September 2021: Tap Sounds Series – Building Tap Floors

Took place online on Thursday 16 Sept

A fantastic session with some great information shared! 

  • Lee Payne from TDRN UK shared his experiences of dancing on different types of pre-made floors and building his own portable performance floors.
  • Susan Filipiak spoke about building a triple sprung studio floor based on the tech specs for the legendary floor at Woodpeckers Studio in New York which was built by Brenda Buffalino and the home of the American Tap Dance Orchestra.
  • Victor Perkins joined to tell us about his recently patented Jaia Board which he created with his daughter and is now retailing.

See below for more information and links…

From Lee Payne:

Some companies that provide portable floors of different sizes—sprung-flooring-for-dance-gyms-fitness-studio-floors

From Susan Filipiak:

“I was inspired by the wonderful floor (= instrument) that Brenda Bufalino had in her NYC Woodpeckers studio from 1989-1995.  What a wonderful sound, full bass notes, high treble and everything in between.  I built my studio in 1995 and have shared the plans with so many dancers (among them, Heather Cornell). Here are some photos and text to explain how I built a “triple-sprung, basketweave” floor.

Here is the original building specs for Brenda and the American Tap Dance Orchestra from 1989

Here’s my notes to Heather Cornell, describing how I built the floor

Here’s photos of my studio floor being built in 1995


Some useful links – 

Tung oil –

“Here are photos of a portable dance floor ‘Step-a-Tune’ made by Angelo Graziano, cabinet maker husband of clogger, Sheila Graziano and his description of his production:  ‘The step-a-tunes are constructed of premium 2×4’s. they are jointed and thickness planned. A rabbet joint is cut (with tadoo blade) on one edge to a 3/4″ depth to accept a 3/4″ thick piece of birch cabinet grade ply. The corners are a 45 degree angle cut with splices added for structural and art form. Sanded 80 grit with boiled linseed oil finish. pricing is based on cost of materials plus labor. Elderly music store does sell them and ships them’”

Step-a-Tune boards used by clog dancers –


From Victor Perkins


“JAIABOARDS are eletronic tap boards that picks up vibrations and connections to an amplifier with out the use of microphones. 

Microphones by nature suppress vibrations and picks up all sounds that travel through the air. As a result when tap dancers put microphones next to their boards they are not only picking up the sound of the taps but the sounds of the band in the background.

Using JAIABOARDS technology vibration sensors are used to to pick up the original tap sound caused by vibrations on the tap board without picking up any other sounds. This will allow the tap dancer to be heard over the band and plug into the sound system just like all the other instruments” (

Instagram link

Network Session August 2021: Tap Sound Series – Shoes and Taps

Network Session August 2021: Tap Sound Series – Shoes and Taps

Thursday 12 August 19:30 BST | 11:30 PDT | 14:30 EST/EDT | 20:30 CEST FREE

For the next few sessions we are getting in to all things tap dance and sound! Shoes, microphones, floors, live sound, recording… These sessions lead by Lee Payne and Annette Walker will share information about suppliers, contacts and resources, as well as opening up the chance to have group conversations and ask questions.

This second session explores all things around shoes, taps and other ways of making sound in percussive dance styles. Learn more about the different kinds of shoes available and what different styes can offer. Have your shoes ready to ‘show and tell’ so you can share your experiences and learn from others. Get some great tips about how to maintain or adjust your shoes to achieve different sounds and fine tune your instrument.

Book your place for this FREE event

Network Session July 2021: Tap Sound Series – Floors and Mics

Network Session July 2021: Tap Sound Series – Floors and Mics

Thursday 8 July 19:30 BST | 11:30 PDT | 14:30 EST/EDT | 20:30 CEST

This first session of the series looked at floors and mics. Annette and Lee will talked about how to get set up with a portable tap floor and microphone for solo performance, as well as how to approach creating larger floors for group performances and mixing live sound for a tap ensemble and live music.

Lee and Annette shared their experiences of designing and building portable tap floors and working with sound engineers to achieve good quality live sound with a band. We then opened up a Q&A session followed up by conversations in breakout rooms so that we could get further into conversations about key topics.

Lee and Annette shared lots of links to help us navigate how to achieve our own performance set-up. We have shared these below. Annette also recommended this book which can be obtained through contacting One Dance UK- 

A handbook for dance floors by Mark Foley

First published 1991, Dance UK

The next Network Session on August 12th will be looking at different shoes and taps. But we will be coming back to the topic of flooring and microphones in the September session from the view of larger staging and ensemble tap sound in live performance. 

If you would like to contact Annette or Lee for further information or to arrange some consultancy, you can find their contact information here:

Lee Payne 

Annette Walker 



Annette’s blog about creating your own tap floor 

DIY Guides 

Andrew Nemr Gig board 

Stagestep Encore floor panels. Specs are here 

Stage Step Flooring

Recommended foam to use under tap floors


My tap flooring research led me to use “closed cell foam”. Check out the tech specs of other portable sprung dance flooring systems for comparison. For my latest tap floor experiment floor (still in progress) I ordered a sheet of 10mm thick Platazote LD45 Black ( 2m x 1m and cut it to the batten sizes I needed for a similar floor construction to this:

Network Session May 2021: Tap Dance and Vernacular Dance

Network Session May 2021: Tap Dance and Vernacular Dance

Following our session about tap dance and vernacular dance, this session explored what the benefits and challenges are of viewing tap dance from the perspective of ‘vernacular dance’.

We discussed the way in which scholars define ‘vernacular’ differently, focussing on different aspects depending on their area of interest. Some examples of this include:

“In describing the black vernacular tradition, which has been crucial to the story of American social dance, dance scholar Jacqui Malone sees it as “an evolving tradition and a vital process of cultural production”. She quotes Ralph Ellison…He refers to it as “a dynamic process in which the most refined styles from the past are continually merged with the play-it-by-eye-and-ear improvisations” (Malnig 2009, 4).

“Popular dance is also identified according to a specific process by which local, vernacular, and social dance traditions become popularized in the public sphere” (Malnig 2009, 5).

“In social dancing, a sense of community often derives less from preexisting groups brought together by shared social and cultural interests than from a community created as a result of the dancing” (Malnig 2009, 4).

“Crease (2000, p. 110) is consistent in his use of the term ‘vernacular dance’ which he describes as ‘the kind in which people dance amongst themselves, spontaneously, without professional training, in ordinary spaces without sharp borders between participants and spectators” (Dodds 2011, 47).

The Stearns define vernacular as “in the sense of native and homegrown” (Stearns and Stearns 1979, xvi).

 “It’s hallmarks are improvisation and spontaneity, propulsive rhythm, call-and-response patterns, self-expression, elegance, and control” (Malone 1996, 2).

In groups we went on to consider our own descriptions of what vernacular dance is by contrast and comparison with ‘social dance’ and ‘popular dance’ by thinking about what is the dance like? Who dances? Why do they dance? How, the and where does the dance happen? How is the dance accessed by those who do it and those who witness it?

This discussion highlighted some key issues such as:

Who gets to decide what is ‘vernacular’, ‘popular’ and ‘social’ dance and what is the motivation for naming dance practices in this way? Is this empowering or disempowering for those that doing the dance, especially if they are doing so on a professional basis?

What are the processes by which a dance form moves from being considered ‘vernacular’ to be understood as something else such as ‘popular’, ‘commercial’ or event professional art practice?

These issues are echoed in further quotes from scholars:

“We need to do away with the labels that separate popular and so-called art culture. In the case of the Lindy and so-called modern dance, these labels serve the function of racism by separating the realms of endeavor that have traditionally been reserved for blacks— that is, vernacular or pop culture— from those that are the exclusive property of whites— namely, the world of ‘art’” (Gottschild, 2000 P215). 

Dodds references dance scholar Theresa Buckland’s definition of popular dance as a “fashionable dance form: can be associated with popular music recordings. Tends to be transmitted through fashionable centres for dancing, including schools of dance, or nowadays through television. Tendency to innovation (Buckland 1983, 326)’. This brief description is part of a triadic paradigm in which the popular is set in contrast to an extended consideration of a ‘classical’ and ‘folk’ dance bianary; hence ‘the popular’ is both marginalized and defined through what it is not” (Dodds 2011, 47). 

“In jazz dance, too often that missing link is African-American vernacular dance. Acknowledging the entirety of the genre allows us to establish historical, cultural, social, and kinetic continuity, which I call a continuum” (Cohen in Oliver & Guarino, 2014 P.3). 

“I firmly hold to the view that pop music is not the future for jazz dance. It is important that jazz dance not limit itself to commercial trends and instead embrace its ability to generate new modes of movement invention through play and improvisation” (Wray in Oliver & Guarino, 2014 P.15). 

“In black vernacular dancing, improvisation means the creative structuring, or the choreographing, of human movement in the moment of ritual performance” (Jackson 2001, 44).

“Black vernacular dance aesthetics force us to rethink dualistic Platonic- Cartesian notions and the sometimes ethnocentric divisions between improvisation and so- called set choreography” (Jackson 2001, 49).

Following this discussion, we broke into smaller groups to discuss how this topic relates to key areas of our tap dance practice; teaching, musicianship and industry contexts. 

Teaching and working in educational settings – This group discussed how history, culture and musicality specific learning is largely missing in dance studio practice. The group identified a need for this to be better integrated into environments where competitions and syllabus are often the dominant approach. The group also explored the need to allow tradition to sit alongside innovation in teaching and creative work with learners.

Musicianship – This group discussed different aspects of musicianship available to tap dancers such as the tonality of the taps, and the musical role of tap dance when combined with other instruments.

Industry contexts – This group discussed the difficulties experienced by tap dance artists navigating funding and arts institutions that frame dance and music as separate disciplines. Resistance by industry ‘gatekeepers’ to accepting tap dance as being simultaneously dance, music and theatre led the group to consider the possible need to re-label tap dance in a way that reflects its roots in Africanist aesthetics.


Dodds, S. (2011) Dancing on the Canon: Embodiments of Value in Popular Dance. Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan.

Gottschild, B, D. (2000) Waltzing In The Dark : African American Vaudeville and Race Politics in the Swing Era, Palgrave Macmillan,

Jackson, J “Improvisation in African-American Vernacular Dancing” Dance Research Journal, Winter, 2001, Vol. 33, No. 2, Social and Popular Dance (Winter, 2001), pp. 40-53 Published by: Congress on Research in Dance

Malnig, J. (ed.) (2009) Ballroom, Boogie, Shimmy Sham, Shake: A Social and Popular Dance Reader. Chicago: University of Illinois Press.

Malone, J. (1996) Steppin on the Blues: The Visible Rhythms of African American Dance. Chicago: The University of Illinois Press.

Stearns, M. and Stearns, J. (1968) Jazz Dance: The Story of American Vernacular Dance. New York: Da Capo.

Wells, C. (2021) Between Beats: The Jazz Tradition and Black Vernacular Dance. New York: Oxford University Press.

Wray, S. “A Twenty-First-Centry Jazz Dance Manifesto” Oliver, W & Guarino, L (2014) Jazz dance: a history of the roots and branches. Gainesville, Florida: University Press of Florida.