Defense Date


Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Fine Arts



First Advisor

Noreen Barnes, Ph.D.

Second Advisor

Tawnya Pettiford-Wates, Ph.D.

Third Advisor

Justin Amellio, M.F.A.


This paper examines the dialects of the language that is tap dance. Unlike more codified forms of dance such as ballet, which utilize a universally-accepted technique system, the evolution of tap dance has been largely rooted in oral tradition. During Broadway’s early years, entrepreneurs in the dance training business published manuals and dictionaries on tap, as did several self-styled experts in the 1990s; because many of these books are self-published, referring to them requires educated discrimination. Drawing on my own experience as a dance student, performer, choreographer, and educator, I have observed the preferred verbal language, dance styles, and technical applications of professional and amateur dancers in the Midwest, Mid-Atlantic, New England, and the Pacific Northwest. This research combined with a comparative analysis of tap dance as portrayed in commercial theatre as well as concert dance lays the groundwork for future study in tap dance pedagogy.


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Available for download on Friday, March 22, 2216