Tap, also known as claqué, is an American dance style in which the feet are moved rhythmically while executing a musical percussion. Tap originated as a fusion of Irish, English and Scottish clogging dance, combined with the dances practiced by the African Americans, such as Juba, between the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries.
In 1739, the black slaves were prohibited from using percussion instruments. This motivated them to create percussion with their feet and hands. Danced at first by the slaves, it moved into the U.S. after its war of secession. The dancers, immigrants of diverse groups, met up to compete and demonstrate their best abilities and moves. In this way, while the the dances mixed, a new style of dance was born: American tap. The dancers relaxed the rigid Irish postures, used arms and shoulders to indicate this, and added new steps. Improvisation was a primordial aspect of this dance.
After its boom during the 1930s-40s, when it gained great popularity through its presence in various Hollywood musicals, and with artists like Fred Astaire, tap receded from the North American scene until it resurged in the 1970s.
The percussive dance style was always more common in “show business” than the “serious dance” circuit. However, nowadays large companies exist that do seasons in theaters that would have never held tap performances in the past, and their shows are solely dedicated to this dance.