A New Year’s Whodunit

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Happy New Year! I hope the Christmas holidays treated you well?

For me, there was lots of food and family time, plus half a day at work on New Year’s Eve. But I didn’t let office time spoil the week…my SO and I went to the theatre afterwards to see a matinee performance of Agatha Christie’s The Mousetrap – the longest running show in the world! Yes, the 1950s murder mystery show is now in its 68th year. It was very enjoyable, with lots of humour. I expected it to be more serious, like last year’s Witness for the Prosecution. However, as seems to be the case these days, there was someone behind us rustling a popcorn bag throughout act one, opening fizzy drinks and constantly fidgeting, like we were at the cinema, and not a LIVE STAGE SHOW. Anyway, getting back to The Mousetrap, as is tradition, I’m afraid I am unable to tell you whodunit!

I was back at work properly on Monday after lazing around for the best part of two weeks, and I will be returning to my intermediate rhythm tap class tomorrow after a 2 month break. I had signed up to an 11-week writing class at City Lit in Covent Garden, starting next week, but I changed my mind and got a refund, as I really need to buckle down and get some things finished first. That won’t happen if I’m out every Wednesday evening and my list of commitments is longer than before. I keep saying I want to ‘do less’ this year, so instead of committing to an 11-week course, I’m going to look out for one-off workshops instead, and use my free time to actually sit down and write. And practice ukulele!

On a different note, whilst in Covent Garden on New Year’s Eve, I came across dance wear specialist Bloch’s brand new shop, which had moved from its prior location in Drury Lane. I love checking out the tap shoes, so I went downstairs to the shoe area and found the brand new Jason Samuels Smith patent tap shoes:

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drool!

I already have leather versions in white and black, so I probably would go for a different colour in the patent…if I was splashing out on new shoes.

Which ones you do prefer?

12 Highlights of 2019

As we near the end of 2019, I thought I would share with you my list of 12 highlights of the year:

  1. Amazing trip to Edinburgh in January, my first time in Scotland (not counting a coach trip to the port of Stranraer to catch a ferry to Northern Ireland)
  2. My second Tap Dance Festival UK Winter Intensive in Salford in February – learnt loads and hung at lunchtime with a pal from my London class.
  3. Realising that I need to get back into writing!
  4. Sucking up my nerves to attend another tap improvisation workshop
  5. Summer tap dance intensive in Covent Garden in July…although I only managed one day of three
  6. A relaxing sunny beach weekend in Dorset, with delicious Thai food!
  7. Northern Ballet’s Cinderella at the Sheffield Lyceum, also my first time in Sheffield
  8. Being able to replace our horrible carpets at home with new carpet and wood-like flooring
  9. DIY Farrow & Ball kitchen makeover
  10. Rhythm of the Dance and Heartbeat of Home (Irish Dance shows)
  11. Learning to play beginner’s level ukulele and performing at the end of term Christmas concert
  12. Completing and passing 2 more modules of my HR course

Next year I would really like to attend some writing workshops and maybe try to get something submitted and published again (e.g. articles, reviews) like I did when I was a student. I’d also like to get a new job…

What were your highlights of 2019? What are your hopes for 2020?

Showtime!

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Last night was the night of my debut ukulele performance!

The end of term performance was made up of beginners, improvers, and two ukulele song groups that meet during the day. We performed songs in our own groups as well as all together. After half an hour of drinks, nibbles and mingling with our guests (one of my colleagues, plus my SO came to watch), we kicked off the evening with a song written by someone in the improvers class, which included a kazoo piece… As beginners, we performed ‘Teenage Kicks’ and ‘YMCA’, joined at the front by a guy who volunteered to lead the actions! The other groups played songs including Leonard Cohen’s ‘Hallelujah’, ‘Fairytale of New York’, George Formby’s ‘Leaning on a Lamp Post’ and Maroon 5’s ‘Memories’. We all came together at the end to perform ‘Santa Baby’. 

It was so much fun! I did feel a little nervous during the rehearsal, and I even wondered if I was going to get the giggles when I saw my friend and SO in the audience, but that was all gone by the main event. I wore a Christmas jumper! Everyone sang along! 

I spoke to the tutor afterwards about the next steps in learning and I mentioned that I’m returning to tap dance in January, which led to her and a guy from my class talking about their experience of learning or having a go at tap dance and wanting to try it again…so I gave my recommendations!

It has been quite a week for coming out of my comfort zone, actually. On Sunday my SO and I led the second Sunday in Advent service at church, and I really hate standing up the front and reading aloud. I get really nervous, a dry mouth and a scratchy voice. I think people are surprised when you can dance in public, but dislike speaking or reading. Two very different things! I really need to be more Alan**.As it was Advent, we arranged the chairs in a circle with the advent candles on a table in the middle as a focal point, which was lovely, but also made it easier in terms of nerves! I actually read out a Bible passage, a prayer and finished with a fairly long poem…and I enjoyed it! The next one is in late January. Who knows, I might even play my ukulele.

**Alan is a guy from a local running shop who has the gift of the gab; he’s an outward processor!

4 Wins Last Week

I made myself go to the gym

In fact, I actually tried out a different gym just to check it out as another option, seeing as my current gym is fairly restricted and lacking natural light during this 2 year refurb. I didn’t do any upper body resistance work this time, just to save the shoulder that I pulled a few weeks ago. It was a bright and airy facility with decent space for stretching (in fact, the girl on the mat beside me kept standing on her head) but it is a 5-7 minute walk beyond my current gym….

I completed and passed another module of my HR course

Yes! After all that reading and writing about redundancy and employment law, I wrote 3 assignments and passed them! I’ve taken so long over this qualification, that at this stage, rather than aiming for merit, ‘good enough’ is good enough! Four modules complete, two to go…On to recruitment!

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Had a relaxing spa day

For my SO’s birthday this weekend I took him for afternoon tea and spa day! It’s so nice during these dark and germ-ridden months to get away from it all (i.e. London) for the day and chill out in calm, steamy surroundings in Hertfordshire! Delightful hand-cut sandwiches, mini cakes and other sweet treats made it even better.

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I fell in love with the Ukulele

On Wednesday evening we chose the songs we are going to perform at the end of term concert. It dawned on me that there are only two weeks of beginners ukulele classes left and then it’s all over!
I love learning to play and the class is so much fun, but I need to return to RHYTHM TAP in January (already enrolled!) and I will struggle to do both, especially as the improvers uke class is 7.15-8.45pm, plus my 1 hour plus journey home – I’ll be dead by Thursday lunchtime tap! What to do? ARGH (Either way, I will keep playing). I think it may be time to suggest an informal music group with the other musicians I know of at church who don’t currently play their instruments in public. Perhaps we can muddle along together?

Have a good week, all!

Dorrance Dance Review

Last Thursday evening I went to Sadlers Wells, London’s home of dance, to see Dorrance Dance perform a triple bill: Three to One, Jungle Blues and Myelination. Led by Michelle Dorrance, Dorrance Dance are known for their Rhythm Tap as opposed to the typical theatrical showtap style, which made me jump at the chance to see them.

Jungle Blues

A lighthearted, southern, bluesy piece featuring the whole company. Smiling and laid back, with the gangly and awkward Warren Craft sliding around the stage in a slapstick fashion, it was fun to watch.

Three to One

After a short break, this piece began with 3 pairs of legs illuminated by a rectangle of light. Dorrance was in the middle in tap shoes and two barefoot male dancers were either side, doing exactly the same steps; an interesting concept of sound and silence, light and dark. Eventually they were fully lit and Dorrance is thrust into the darkness.

Myelination

This final, longer piece showcased the entire company, including the two breakdancers. The pint-sized B-girl was mesmerising in her contortions and fluidity of movement, if not slightly disturbing at points. I’m thinking of her frenetic movements on the ground, engulfed by red light as Warren Craft plays an electric guitar behind her, like something from The Exorcist (I’ve never seen the film, but I’ve seen enough trailers and silly gifs).

This show was pure rhythm and every sound was hit like a drum. Each dancer had their time to shine, and my favourite was Christopher Broughton’s old school tap solo, which was a nod to dancers such as the Nicholas Brothers, Bill ‘Bojangles’ Robinson and others. A suited Nicholas Van Young’s quick tapping brought to mind Gregory Hines’ close to the floor tap style.

Can I just mention the live jazz band on stage. The singing was exceptional. The guy on the keyboard and occasionally the drums had a voice like velvet. I’d buy his album!

I give the show 4 out of 5 stars for its innovative 21st century interpretation of rhythm tap dance, but it wasn’t as exciting as I was expecting, after rave reviews of previous shows. It was probably a little ‘out of the box’ for me this time.

What I Did This Week

I only went and pulled my left shoulder while pumping iron in the gym this week! Unfortunately I was trying to even up both sides by letting my least dominant side initiate pushing (or pulling) the weights, and ended up straining the muscles and making my weaker side even worse! Anyone else done this?

Thankfully I was OK to play my ukulele at the class this week – just no playing overhead 🙂 We had a go at one of the songs we’re going to play for the end of term show in December, and also I Have a Dream by ABBA, including the finger-picking bits in the middle and end of the song – hilarious! There were only 6 out of the usual 11 of us, but it felt like those of us who were there bonded a bit more this week. (I also sat in a slightly different seat to usual, just to mix it up a bit). We played I Have A Dream again all the way through so that our teacher could record it for us to practice with at home.

There’s so many people coughing and spluttering at work and on public transport, and then I wasn’t feeling 100% the afternoon of the class, but rather than slinking off home, I made myself go along…and I had a blast!

*Shocker* – today I would have been back at Rhythm Tap Intermediates, but I emailed my teacher this morning and asked her to cancel me off this half-term. I really need to rest my troublesome left knee, and as I said in my last post, I took on ukulele lessons without dropping anything from my list of commitments. Sad face, but needs (knees) must!

Even though I won’t be dancing this term, I’m going to see the game-changing NYC tap dancer Michelle Dorrance’s company Dorrance Dance perform at Sadlers Wells next Thursday evening. SO EXCITED! I’ll will give you the full breakdown next weekend!

I have to say, since the clocks went back I’ve been dosing up on vitamin D (Vitabiotics ULTRA D), along with C plus Zinc and scoffing all kinds of fruit. I actually found the time transition a lot easier this year – how about you? I’m also wearing earplugs at night to make sure I sleep through any potentially interruptive sounds (like heavy rainfall, revving motorbikes, screeching foxes and so on). Hoping this all helps keep the germs at bay. Actually, the best thing is to just AVOID LONDON!