Last Tap Dance in Springfield
"Last Tap Dance in Springfield" is the twentieth episode of the eleventh season of the American animated sitcom The Simpsons. It originally aired on the Fox network in the United States on May 7, 2000. In the episode, Lisa decides to sign up for tap dancing lessons after being inspired by a film about a girl who enters a tango contest and wins. Meanwhile, Bart and Milhouse hide out at the mall to escape going to summer camp. "Last Tap Dance in Springfield" was written by Julie Thacker, who based it on her own experiences with dance classes. The episode has received mixed reception from critics.
On a trip to the mall, Homer sees an optometrist to get his eyes examined and gets laser surgery after rejecting a number of eyeglasses. After the surgery, Homer rejects the optometrist's advice to take eye drops to keep his eyes from crusting over -- and ends up blind from his eyes scabbing over and tricked into driving to the liquor store to buy Jack Daniels and "a carton of smokes" for Dolph, Jimbo, and Kearney (the latter of whom fools Homer into thinking he's Marge).
At the same time, Marge and Lisa find items for a camping trip that Bart is going on. Marge sees a marquee for the film Tango de La Muerte at the mall and she and Lisa decide to see it. Lisa identifies with the main female character, a bookworm named "Lisabella" whom the Tango champion asks to be his partner. This inspires Lisa to take up dance lessons. Lisa enrolls at a dance school, where she takes tap lessons from a former child star named Vicki Valentine. However, her hopes of being a dancer are crushed when she finds that she is by far the worst in the class, even worse than the socially inept Ralph Wiggum. She continues to attend the tap classes after being pressured by Homer and Marge, but when the class plans a dance recital, Lisa finds that she will not be dancing and has been relegated to pulling the curtain to open the show. Lisa states that Homer and Marge will be devastated if they do not see her dancing at the recital. Professor Frink, overhearing, devises a plan to attach a device to her shoes that will make them automatically tap at any percussive sound. This allows her to mimic the other dancers and take part in the recital. She becomes a star at the show, even upstaging Vicki Valentine, but when the audience applauds her, her shoes go out of control. Homer stops the shoes from going haywire by tripping Lisa, and she then confesses that she is not cut out for dancing.
Meanwhile, Bart and Milhouse sneak out of their camping trip after discovering that Nelson Muntz will be there with them. They decide to hide in the mall and spend the night there, having shoe fights and causing havoc once the mall has closed. The next morning, the mall manager and Chief Wiggum see the mess that Bart and Milhouse have created and comes to the conclusion that it was caused by a giant rat, closing the mall as a result. He releases a puma inside the mall to catch the rat, but Bart and Milhouse use a ball of yarn to distract the puma and escape. Chief Wiggum later sees a piece of red yarn hanging from the puma's mouth and thinks it is the rat's tail, which prompts him to declare that the case is closed.
Production and analysis
"Last Tap Dance in Springfield" was written by Julie Thacker and directed by Nancy Kruse as part of the eleventh season of The Simpsons (1999–2000). Thacker came up with the story when she started enrolling her five daughters into dance classes during the summer. In a DVD audio commentary for the episode, she noted that she did not particularly like the teachers' methods and the other children's rude parents. Vicki Valentine, Lisa's tap dance teacher in the episode, is based on the former American child actress Shirley Temple. The character is voiced by regular cast member Tress MacNeille, although the part was originally offered to Temple herself, but she was unable to record the role. According to Pamela Klaffke, author of the 2003 book Spree: A Cultural History of Shopping, the idea of "being trapped inside the walls of a store or mall" had become a "cinematic cliché" by the time this episode aired. She believes this cliché is what prompted the writers to do the story featuring Bart and Milhouse.
The episode originally aired on the Fox network in the United States on May 7, 2000. On October 7, 2008, it was released on DVD as part of the box set The Simpsons – The Complete Eleventh Season. Staff members Mike Scully, George Meyer, Ian Maxtone-Graham, Julie Thacker, Yeardley Smith, and Nancy Kruse participated in the DVD audio commentary for the episode. Deleted scenes from the episode were also included on the box set. "Last Tap Dance in Springfield" has received mixed reception from critics. While reviewing the eleventh season of The Simpsons, DVD Movie Guide's Colin Jacobson commented that neither the plot involving Lisa nor the subplot featuring Bart and Milhouse "excels", but that the latter is "the superior of the two plots". He added that "We get some decent laughs from both of them and that’s about it." Nancy Basile of About.com, on the other hand, listed the episode as one of the episodes she felt "shined in season eleven".
- "Simpsons - Last Tap Dance in Springfield". Yahoo!. Retrieved 2011-10-09.
- Thacker, Julie (2008). Commentary for "Last Tap Dance in Springfield", in The Simpsons: The Complete Eleventh Season [DVD]. 20th Century Fox.
- Groening, Matt (2007). The Trivial Simpsons 2008 366-Day Calendar. Harper Collins Publishers. ISBN 0-06-123130-4.
- Scully, Mike (2008). Commentary for "Last Tap Dance in Springfield", in The Simpsons: The Complete Eleventh Season [DVD]. 20th Century Fox.
- Klaffke, Pamela (2003). Spree: A Cultural History of Shopping. Arsenal Pulp Press. p. 139. ISBN 978-1-55152-143-5.
- "The Simpsons Episode: 'Last Tap Dance in Springfield'". TV Guide. Retrieved 2011-10-08.
- Jacobson, Colin (2008-11-19). "The Simpsons: The Complete Eleventh Season (1999)". DVD Movie Guide. Retrieved 2011-10-02.
- Jane, Ian (2008-11-01). "The Simpsons - The Complete Eleventh Season". DVD Talk. Retrieved 2011-10-02.
- Basile, Nancy. "'The Simpsons' Season Eleven". About.com. Retrieved 2011-10-02.
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- "Last Tap Dance in Springfield" at The Simpsons.com
- "Last Tap Dance in Springfield" episode capsule at The Simpsons Archive
- "Last Tap Dance in Springfield" at the Internet Movie Database