Flap, slap, lazy shuffle, spank—all names for the same tap step. Such a varied list, by no means exhaustive, could be made for most steps. Some names convey a step's sound, others what it looks like or who gets credit for inventing it. But which name you use, if you use a name at all, usually depends on who taught it to you and where. This looseness isn't a problem if you can demonstrate what you mean, but it is if you want to compile a dictionary. In Tapworks, Beverly Fletcher's new dictionary, she ranks name variations by how frequently she found them in other books. By contrast, Mark Knowles, in his 1998 Tap Dance Dictionary, includes and cross-references every name he discovered—not just in books but by interviewing dancers. Knowles's work, accordingly, is both more comprehensive and truer to tap's person-to-person tradition. Where Fletcher can be snooty (terms that aren't hers are "old"), Knowles is refreshingly modest. His system of notation is easier to follow than Fletcher's, but he admits that it, like all such systems, leaves out the most important part, the subtleties of style. To get that, you have to do what Knowles did—seek out real dancers. Still, these dictionaries can be useful, not because they're complete or correct (both display a West Coast bias), but as grab bags of ideas, systematic samplings of a vitally unsystematic art, or simply collections of funny-sounding names: bambalina, slurp, four-tap flam, riffle triple, rattle... More >>>