Buck and Wing

Buck and Wing dancing is one of the first recognizable forms of tap dancing.

Buck dancing, also known as flat footing, is a reference to the style of dancing done by slaves during the slave trade. Ship captains required captive “bucks” to dance to keep spirits up and for exercise.

The term buck comes from the Tupi Indians in the West Indies for smoked meat. The buccaneers, or po bockarau, ate this meat like the Indians. The word became a idiom for the Irish sailors who immigrated and danced the Jig known as “the buck.

Performed later on Vaudeville, buck dancing stressed the downbeat, which is a traditional characteristic of African dancing. Buck dancing is where basic tap steps such as the shuffle, chug, and ball change were produced. It stressed the syncopated rhythm found in modern tap dancing.

Wing dancing began as simply shaking a leg in the air. Wings started as a small hop on one leg and kicking the other leg out in a flashy way. The Pigeon Wing was common in the Can-Can where girls would kick one leg out to the side while hopping on the other. The modern version was made famous by Michael Jackson.

The invention of double wings modified this step into an “air step,” which means there is a split second when the dancer is completely airborne. Wings now require up to five clicks before a tapper lands.

When these two styles of dancing merged it produced the Buck and Wing style known for its fast pace, straight style, that is done on the toes. Master Juba, King Rastus Brown, and Willie Covan were famous performers of this genre.

Though still important, it became less relevant and began to be replaced in the 1920’s by the more sophisticated soft shoes and time steps.

More tap dances like the buck and wing