Tap as an American Art Form

Tap as an American Art Form Research Guide

Welcome! This page supports research for tap.

If you need assistance identifying additional resources, search terms or strategies, please schedule a research consultation.

Personal Librarian:
Charlotte Price
108 LeFrak Center

Library tips | Reference | Databases | Streaming Resources | Selected Web Resources

Also helpful: research guide for visual research in the performing arts

Researching tap in libraries

Simply looking up “tap” in a library’s catalog will not give you all of a library’s holdings on tap dance. Look up titles and the names of artists connected with the topic and try the following subject headings. Be creative with your searches, this list is not comprehensive:

Using these subject headings in CLIO and the NYPL can also find more specific results:

  • African American dance history
  • African American dancers
  • Dance History
  • Dance in Motion Pictures
  • Dancers US Biography
  • Jazz dance
  • Jazz dance US History
  • Jazz tap
  • Jazz tap United States
  • Tap dance
  • Tap dancers
  • Tap dancing
  • Tap history

Nearby libraries with collections on Tap

A note on searching the catalog of the NY Public Library Research Branches:

The entire holdings of the Jerome Robbins Dance Division is catalogued in the NYPL online catalog.  But the only part of the holdings of the Billy Rose Theater Division and the Schomberg Center are catalogued online.  If you are looking for their extensive collections of physical materials such as printed archival material, playbills, souvenir programs, photos, personal manuscripts, black dance on video, you must visit the Schomberg Center or Performing Arts Library to physically look through the card or book catalogs for their holdings.  There is a very simple onsite registration process for permission to view items.  Visit the NYPL for guidelines of getting a library card and using the collection.

Encyclopedias & Reference Works

It can be helpful to begin your research by reading a basic overview of your subject. Encyclopedias (almost all of which are online now) provide such basic overviews, and they often provide helpful suggestions for further reading as well.

  • Oxford African American Studies Center (searching multiple encyclopedias)
    • Wide-ranging collection of scholarship focused on the lives and events that have shaped African American and African history and culture. Features biographies and other articles from Oxford's reference works; primary sources; images; maps; timelines; and charts and tables. The core content includes: Africana: The Encyclopedia of the African and African American Experience; the Encyclopedia of African American History 1619-1895; Black Women in America; the Concise Oxford Companion to African American Literature; and the ongoing project African American National Biography.
  • The Oxford Companion to United States History [electronic resource].
    • With over 1,400 entries written by some 900 historians and other scholars, this volume illuminates not only America's political, diplomatic, and military history, but also social, cultural, and intellectual trends; science, technology, and medicine; the arts; and religion.


Databases for facts
  • Tap Dance in America Database: A Twentieth-Century Chronology of
 Tap Performance on Stage, Film, and Media by Constance Valis Hill. Hosted by the Library of Congress. Includes 2800 records of tap performance and 180 biographies of twentieth-century tap dancers. The collection is searchable by the title, date (from 1894-2010), and venue of performance; dancer, choreographer, director, producer; and performance medium (film, television, radio, stage, club); as well as by the names of “tap numbers” and tap choreographies.
  • Internet Movie Database (IMDB). Search for movies and TV shows by title, cast/crew, and character. Information provided includes director, genre, cast overview, rating, year released, runtime, plot outline.
  • Internet Broadway Database (IBDB) was created by the Research Department of The Broadway League, the national trade association for Broadway. IBDB provides a comprehensive database of shows produced on Broadway, including all "title page" information about each production. IBDB also offers historical information about theatres and various statistics and fun facts related to Broadway
  • African American Biographical Database is a full text database containing biographies and narratives of thousands of African Americans, spanning the years 1790-1950. Draws its initial content from the Chadwyck-Healey, Inc. publication: Black Biographical Dictionaries, 1790-1950.

Databases for primary sources

  • African American Historical Serials Collection includes African American periodicals, annuals and reports published from 1829-1922 including materials from African American religious organizations and social service agencies.
  • African American Newspapers, 1827-1998 is a compilation of African American newspapers taken from the America's historical newspapers collection.
  • African American Periodicals, 1825-1995 is based upon James P. Danky's African-American Newspapers and Periodicals: A National Bibliography (Harvard, 1998). Drawn from holdings of the Wisconsin Historical Society, African American Periodicals ranges over more than 150 years of American life, from slavery during the Antebellum Period to the struggles and triumphs of the modern era. Editorial views from the pages of these periodicals include opinions on the abolitionist movement; "Jim Crow" segregation; African American achievements in literature, music, sports and science; the integration of U.S. public schools in 1954; the beginning of the Freedom Movement; the assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr. in 1968; the Million Man March of 1995; and much more.
  • Historical Black Newspapers contains full text and full-image articles from African American newspapers: Atlanta daily world, Los Angeles sentinel, New York Amsterdam news, Pittsburgh courier, and The Chicago defender.
  • NewspaperARCHIVE.com contains tens of millions of searchable newspaper pages, dating as far back as the 1700s. Use the archive to view, save and print full-page newspapers from around the world.
  • New York Times Historical Archive, 1857-1922
  • New Yorker online archives, 1925-present
  • ProQuest Historical Newspapers includes full-text and full-image articles from older issues of major American newspapers
  • ProQuest Newspapers consists of articles from US national newspapers, international English-language newspapers, and/or selected regional/state newspapers. Chronological coverage of individual newspapers varies. Most articles are full text and are searchable by word, topic or newspaper title.

Databases for article searching

  • International Bibliography of Theatre and Dance contains all of the content available in International Bibliography of Theatre and Dance as well as full text for 100 titles.
  • International Index to the Performing Arts  is a multidisciplinary index to the performing arts. Includes full-text.
  • JSTOR includes full-text articles from more than 1200 scholarly journals.
  • Project Muse includes full-text articles from more than 200 scholarly journals in history and the humanities, the social sciences, and the sciences.
  • RILM Abstracts of Music is an extensive collection of bibliographic records and abstracts focused on music reference and other music related fields. Offers international coverage of books, bibliographies, conference proceedings, catalogs, discographies, dissertations, ethnographic recordings, Festschriften, films, iconographies, and videos.


  • Dance in Video I - Searchable database containing streaming video files of dance productions, interviews, coaching sessions, and documentaries by influential performers and companies from around the world. Includes interviews and documentaries on tap
  • Dance in Video II
  • New York Public Library Digital Collections Audio and Moving Image Archive has digitized many unique dance films available online previously only available by visiting the Jerome Robbins Dance Division reading room. Alert - some videos may only be viewed from computers in the Performing Arts Library. These are indicated with a lock symbol. They can be excluded from your results by toggling the "Exclude Location-Restricted Videos" button
  • Jacob's Pillow Dance Interactive is an online exhibit of brief video performance excerpts spanning from 1930s dance pioneers to today's most exciting artists recorded at Jacob's Pillow Dance Festival, Massachusetts.
  • Dance Channel TV  is an online media network dedicated to promoting, preserving and supporting all forms of dance around the world. Much focus on ballet, but also includes a "Meet the Artist" series as well as dance documentaries on tap.

Selected Web Resources