Tap America: How A Nation Found Its Feet

Confirmed for BBC Four at 8pm to 9.20pm on 18 May

Friday 18 May



Actor Clarke Peters embarks on a personal journey to discover the origins, development and contemporary significance of the art form he has loved since childhood - Tap Dancing.

Clarke first learned to tap dance as a child in the kitchen of his home in New Jersey, when his mother showed him the "Flat Foot Floogie (with a Floy-Floy)". He has been fascinated by tap ever since, performing it himself in numerous stage productions such as Bubbling Brown Sugar.

Clarke has always been curious about the origins of this uniquely vernacular form of American dance and goes on a journey to discover its beginnings and development that reveals an art form as American - and Afro-American - as hip-hop; from the 19th century conflict between Irish and African-American dancers through to the troubled Hollywood heyday of tap in the 1930s and 40s.

Clarke discovers that Hollywood greats such as Fred Astaire and Gene Kelly were indebted to and inspired by the great Afro-American tap dancers who were routinely excluded from significant roles in the movies. It’s those performers who are by far the biggest influence on today’s generation of tap dancers.

In addition to exploring the history of the dance, Clark looks at tap in the twenty first century. He had assumed that the art form had died out, but encounters with the up-and-coming stars of modern Tap - such as Michelle Dorrance and Beyoncé-collaborator Chloe Arnold - reveal to him that today Tap is in fact very much alive and thriving.

Part of BBC Four's Dance Season

  • Producer/Director: David Upshal for BBC Studios
  • Executive Producer: Mark Cooper for BBC Studios
  • Commissioning Editor: Emma Cahusac for BBC Arts