I am not entirely sure why this step has beginner tapper’s feeling frustrated, like their brain and body can’t communicate with each other BUT it does!
The thing is this step is used so much in beginner tap! It is a great step for many reasons. The running flap is clearly “running” and for that reason a wonderful traveling step. It sounds fun and looks interesting especially when many dancers are doing it.
The rhythm of the running flap is even and consistent. This is great because the dancer only has to figure out the movement and can relax on the rhythm. With that said once the running flap has been learn’t it’s very easy to create variations on rhythm for example one could do 3 running flaps and then pause.
Oh heavens this happens almost like clock work with new students when I teach them a running flap. They seem like they can barely get their feet off the ground. The movement sounds really heavy and clumsy. It is almost ALWAYS because they are sending their weight into their heels.
Having their weight in their heels means it is so much harder to shift from side to side in the running flap. The running flap actually doesn’t fully lower the heels on the ground. That is right you are mainly on your toes the whole time. The brush forward is on the toe tap and them you jump the weight onto the toe that just brushed forward without fully lowering the whole heel down.
The running flap is a fantastic workout for your calf muscles!!!
Actually this is often the root to many tap dancing problems. The are very few instances when you would need straight knees in tap dancing. Your knees are basically your spring that allows you to yield into the floor and bounce out of it.
You may think you are bending your knees when you perform the running flap BUT if you video yourself you will actually see what is happening. If your running flaps feel stiff and off balance then I wouldn’t be surprised if you found out that your knees are straight or barely bending.
Video yourself and check the bend in your knees. If you want to see fantastic examples of tap dancers whose knees are always bending google Fred Astair because he is AMAZING and every video you watch of him you will see ample examples of bending knees.
Here is the thing a running flap is simple in nature – there are two steps to it. THAT IS IT! Two steps! Brush forward and jump onto the toe that just bushed forward. BOOM! Easy two steps!
Now, the human in general like to complicate thing and tap dancing in no exception to this common problem. In order to know if you are trying to over complicate the running flap you can… wait for it… video yourself (yes, this is a really helpful tool and I will constantly encourage you to . video yourself) and then watch how many steps you are trying to do.
To help you just do the two steps on each side for the running flap say them why you dance the running flap. If you were to talk your steps it might sound like this-
“Right brush forward, right step. Left brush forward, left step” or if you are going faster “right brush forward, right jump. Left brush forward, left jump”