"When you dance to your own rhythm, life taps its toes to your beat." - Terri Guillemets
In 1989, George H.W. Bush declared May 25 National Tap Dance Day. This particular day was chosen to honor Bill “Bojangles” Robinson since it was his birthday, and he was influential in advancing this dance form.
In the United States, nationwide celebrations take place on May 25, celebrating tap dance. Like all forms of dance, tap dance is beneficial on many levels. It improves cardio-respiratory fitness levels, creates and reinforces neural pathways so that messages are carried efficiently and quickly between the muscles and the brain, and it increases muscular strength and flexibility.
Additionally, tap provides other specific benefits. Tap requires dancers to shift their weight continuously from one foot to the other, improving balance and reactionary skills. The fact that tap is a high impact, weight-bearing dance form also means that it puts additional stress on bones, which encourages bone growth and helps provide insurance against osteoporosis.
Moreover, since tap is rhythmic in nature, it stimulates parts of the brain also stimulated by music. Studies have shown that rhythm stimulates an area of the frontal brain lobe called the inferior frontal gyrus. This area of the brain is called upon each time a tap dancer needs to learn or reproduce a rhythmic phrase and becomes very well-developed. The inferior frontal gyrus is the same area of the brain that is called upon when a person needs to understand spoken language. Those who are exposed to rhythm often have been found to have better phonological awareness. This awareness is the ability to divide words into syllables and detect different sounds at the beginning, middle, and end of words.
So on May 25, we celebrate National Tap Dance Day and remember once again how dance can make a difference. In addition to being fun to do and exciting to watch, tap dance helps develop different areas of the brain, can increase literacy levels, and makes us healthier individuals.