NEW YORK CITY | Feel free to pull out those dancing shoes, then head over to Pier 45. There you can tap dance your heart away. What’s the occasion? It’s National Tap Dance Day, of course.

Get Ready for a Free, Outdoor Tap-spectacular

Tap Attack is a free, public, outdoor event presented by the American Tap Dance Foundation (ATDF). This annual event welcomes everyone of all ages and all levels of dance skills. It takes place this year at Hudson River Park (Christopher Street and the Hudson River) to celebrate the 28th anniversary of National Tap Dance Day.

Tap Attack 2017 will take place on Sunday, May 21 from 1-2pm. A picnic lunch and blanket are suggested. I’m sure loaner tap shoes are available for anyone who wants to give tap dance a try.

Over 100 tappers - young and old, student and professional - will dance together in riffs and open jams in this yearly celebration of tap dance as an American art form and national treasure. The ATDF’s Tap City Youth Ensemble, Tap City Junior Ensemble and tappers of all ages will join special guests from the tap dance community at this year’s event. Master of ceremonies: ATDF artistic director Tony Waag.

National Tap Dance Day falls on May 25 of each year, selected to mark the birthday of tap dance legend Bill “Bojangles” Robinson (1878-1949). National Tap Dance Day is celebrated throughout the United States, but holds special resonance in New York City, the birthplace of American tap dance. President George W. Bush signed National Tap Dance Day into law in November 1989.

WHAT: On Sunday, May 21, over 100 tap dancers of all ages will gather for Tap Attack
to celebrate National Tap Dance Day, which falls on May 25 of each year.
WHO: Top tappers will perform in open jam sessions – students join with the pros!
American Tap Dance Foundation artistic/executive director, Tony Waag, will lead Tap Attack.
WHEN: Sunday, May 21, 2023 - 1-2pm
WHERE: Hudson River Park, Pier 45 - Christopher Street/Hudson River

When Tap Was the Rage | Bill “Bojangles” Robinson

November 1989 saw the declaration of May 25th as National Tap Dance Day: as Representative John Conyers of Michigan said, “there ought to be a law to make everyone love tap dancing.” National Tap Dance Day for the US has since become more widely known, and is celebrated as far away as Japan, Australia, India and Iceland, with tap shoes tapping far and wide.

Celebrated on the agreed-upon birthday of legendary tap pioneer Bill “Bojangles” Robinson, National Tap Dance Day became a symbol for African American tap, as historically many were unaware of its specific contribution to tap recognized today. National Tap Dance Day was a result of Carol Vaughn, Nicola Daval, and Linda Christensen’s passion for all things tap.

After much discussion, the three picked Bill Robinson’s birthday because he was a tap dancer known and loved worldwide for his work onstage and in films. To tap insiders, Robinson was renowned for dancing on the ball of the foot, in split wooden soles, and in perfect time. Tap has evolved considerably since then, and tap shoe brands such as Capezio and Bloch have built up their images as a result.

Bill “Bojangles” Robinson teaches Shirley Temple the stair dance in The Little Colonel (1935)

Carol Vaughn was one of tap’s great impresarios from the 1970s tap revival and once tapped up and down the steps of the Washington Monument in “I Ain’t A’Fred A’staires”. In a 1994 article for the International Tap Dance Association’s newsletter, Vaughn and Daval emphasized that although “tap dance was experiencing renewed popularity, there was still little public awareness of tap beyond a few Broadway shows, old Fred Astaire movies, and the occasional concert or TV special featuring several of the great master tappers”. They felt there had to be a way to increase recognition of tap’s contribution to cultural and artistic heritage, to bring its special appeal to everyone.

Here’s a video of Bill “Bojangles” Robinson hoofin’ it up with Shirley Temple in The Little Colonel