In 1989, George H.W. Bush officially declared May 25 National Tap Dance Day. (This date was chosen because it was the birthday of famous tapper Bill “Bojangles” Robinson.) So, 25 years later, we’d like to continue celebrating this art form with a look back at some of the best tap dance sequences in movies, from quiet, simple performances to grandiose, show-stopping numbers.
1. Tap, 1989
It would be pretty disappointing if a movie called Tap lacked some high-quality tap dancing scenes, wouldn’t it? Watch this “Challenge” scene to get a taste — the dialogue helps provide some context, but the actual dancing begins around a minute and 45 seconds in.
2. Stormy Weather, 1943
Fred Astaire once called this performance by the Nicholas brothers — which features their many impressive signature moves — “the greatest dance number ever filmed.”
3. Chicago, 2002
To shoot this scene, Richard Gere took tap dance lessons for three months.
4. The Artist, 2011
This spirited dance sequence became one of the most memorable scenes from the 2011 Best Picture winner.
5. The Little Colonel, 1935
In this iconic staircase number, Bill “Bojangles” Robinson tutors Shirley Temple in the art of tap.
6. Blue Valentine, 2010
This scene is less about showcasing tap dance as an art form, and more about showcasing two people falling in love.
7. Garden State, 2004
This scene is also less about showcasing tap dance as an art form, and more about showcasing two people falling in love.
8. Swing Time, 1936
In this musical film, Fred Astaire performed a tap sequence called “Bojangles of Harlem.” Though clearly an impressive dance number, it sparked controversy as it was the only scene in which Astaire appeared in blackface.
9. Singin’ in the Rain, 1952
You might notice that the sounds of Gene Kelly’s taps in this classic scene appear to be out of sync. That’s because the tap sounds were dubbed in post-production.
10. Billy Elliot, 2000
The titular character taps his way out of his house and out onto the street, using dance as a way to cope with his frustration and pain.