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I just wanted to tap. But in the mid-Eighties and early Nineties, in the well-to-do suburbs of New Jersey, the price of flapping, winging, and shuffling off to Buffalo was the end-of-year recital, an orgy of hair spray, ruffles, armbands, and glitter that clocked in at more than four hours; I was onstage for four minutes. That’s show business for you. I tapped as a milkmaid. I tapped as a miniskirted cowboy. I tapped in a bowler hat festooned with flowers. Most memorably, I tapped in a hot-pink spandex onesie with shredded capri legs and patches of gingham sewn across the chest and thigh. What were we supposed to be? Sharecroppers? Now that I’ve read Brian Seibert’s 600-page doorstop, WHAT THE EYE HEARS: A HISTORY OF TAP DANCING (Farrar, Straus and Giroux, $35, fsgbooks.com), that poor-farmer getup has come to seem eerie — the torn legs and patches like sartorial ghosts that could not be exorcised, only expressed in unknowing pastiche.

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