Soft-shoe Shuffle

Dating from the first decades of the 20th century and originating in vaudeville and the music hall, the soft-shoe shuffle was danced by tap dancers, wearing soft-shoes instead of their normal tap shoes. In this usually-comic dance, the shoes were rubbed on the surface of the stage (sometimes covered with a layer of sand, to amplify the sound) producing a characteristic ‘swish’.

As the result was much quieter than tap dancing, the accompanying music was usually soft, with many silent moments so the sound of the dancer could easily be heard. One of the finest examples of the dance in the history of the cinema happens in Laurel and Hardy’s 1937 film Way Out West, when the heroes do a soft-shoe shuffle outside a saloon as the Avalon Boys sing 'At the Ball'.

CONDUCTOR’S NOTE

Soft-shoe Shuffle can be made into a percussion feature by bringing the sandpaper blocks to the front of the stage – with added choreography, if required! As many players as possible should be allocated to this part.

From the band’s point of view, it can provide a good lesson in tight ensemble and good articulation, as well as the accuracy of counting rests. Larger bands may wish to cut their numbers in places so that the sandpaper blocks can be heard throughout.