Whether it’s a single pair of feet or a whole line of them in perfect unison, a rhythmic, percussive tap-dance number commands attention like little else. Tap was born in mid–19th century America–an amalgam of African tribal dances and Irish and English jigs and clog dancing–and flowered in early 20th century vaudeville. Now this all-American art is enjoying a deserved revival. Savion Glover’s choreography for the short-lived, Tony-nominated musical Shuffle Along pays high-spirited tribute to the great tap-dance tradition, and 2015 MacArthur fellow Michelle Dorrance has expanded the form with tap-inspired works for her acclaimed dance company. Even the humblest show can seem like a Tony Award winner once the clackety-clack-clacking of soles on wood floor starts to reverberate. It’s the sound of pure joy.
This appears in the July 11, 2016 issue of TIME.