A Brief History of the Soft Shoes Dance

Soft shoes dance” is a dance that originated from tap dancing. This type of dance is usually performed in shoes that have soft soles. People in Vaudeville are known to be the most popular when performing the soft shoes dance.

A Brief History of the Tap Dance

The tap dance started first in the U.S. when the African tribal dances and Scottish, hornpipes, Irish, and some other ethnic dances came and formed a fusion. In the 20th century, the Irish servants and African slaves took a cue from their dance steps and started the tap dance.

A group of researchers in the late 20th century made some observations and, in turn, gave a few suggestions as regards the tap dance. They thought that the dance is groomed in an urban environment such as New York City. That’s because the city had different ethnic groups that lived close to each other and loved to listen to urban rhythms that came with the new age.

Fast forward to the 1920s; tap dance became a dance people always wanted to watch. Nightclubs, events, and parties had different tap dance acts come to perform in their venues. At a point, a single nightclub show may have about 20 tap dancers in attendance. That also caused people to visit the clubs often as that served as an avenue to watch their favorites perform.

The Soft Shoe Dance

During the mid/late 1800s, the people quickly began to recognize dancing as a form of entertainment. In a short time, dance contests began between different dancers, and it gave room for modern talents to get noticed.

In 1844, William Henry (Master Juba) and John Diamond took part in one of the earliest dance challenges. It was a type where many dancers derived a lot of joy from learning different dance techniques from one another. Between 1850 to 1870, some of the dance styles had gone through evolutions and were merged. It was during this time that the Vaudeville dance that’s been done in soft-soled shoes came to light; people named it the soft shoes dance.

Tap dance became famous as the soft shoe dance continued to make waves. To improve the audibility of the dance rhythms, metal plates are usually attached to the toe of the shoes. The sound that comes from the leather soles of the shoes makes it for people to recognize it.

Between 1852 and 1919, the soft shoe dance was consistently performed by George Primrose, the black minstrel who continued his career up to the 20th century in Vaudeville. The “Old Folks at Home” was known as one of the minstrel’s soft shoe dance routines that he performed. Primrose also influenced some of the dancers, such as Jack Wiggins, Greenlee, Drayton, Willie Covan, and Eddie Rector, etc. They are all pioneers and inarguably the masters of soft shoe dance.

During the early days of the soft shoe, a lot of teams were formed of which Harland Dixon and Jimmy Doyle became one of the earliest most popular soft shoe performers in the show, “Broadway in Paris.” Their partnership was a very successful one.