I had the privilege of spending some time on the phone with my teacher, Barbara Swanson, earlier today, and the observation was made that teachers don’t have a system for teaching tap the way that they used to have. When I was learning, Barbara made sure to take us through a natural progression from single to double to triple sounds, to make sure that weight transfer was correct and that we weren’t faking our way through our tap terminology.

Now, it seems as if the students (and their parents) are so intent on seeing results that teachers are sacrificing the learning process in order to “wow” everyone with flashy steps at a young age. The problem with this is what we see at so many competitions today – the quality of movement, the lack of tone, and the gaps in a dancer’s education are all dreadful.

My approach has always been to have a loose syllabus that allows for plenty of flexibility, but underlying my teaching there has been that same progression from simple to complex.

In ballet, we wouldn’t dream of teaching a fouette turn without first ensuring that a student understood the mechanics of a proper double pirouette. So why would we teach a paradiddle before we taught a dig? A time step before a flap? Just doesn’t make sense to me.

What are your thoughts? How do you approach your classes? I’d love to hear everyone’s take on the state of affairs!

Pirouettes and paradiddles,

Sarah Mason

Sarah Mason

Looking for a more comprehensive group study in improvisation? Maybe you’re a studio owner looking for training for your tap teachers? Or perhaps you have a fantastic ensemble that wants to venture into the realm of improvisational choreography.

Sarah Mason, Certified Dance Educator and master tap teacher for the past 25 years, is now available for onsite master classes, teacher workshops and guided “improvography” sessions to help you stretch those improvisation skills to the next level.

For booking information and availability, you can email Sarah directly at

Check out my new post on Dance Advantage today!

After years of slightly embarrassing moments in front of peers and master teachers, I decided the time had come to develop a thorough tap improvisation syllabus based on advice from as many great hoofers as possible. I’ll be sharing some of that work with you. Here are the first exercises I present to my, Teaching Tap Improvisation: Exercises for Beginners, Mar 2010

I’d love to hear your thoughts!