Review: The Crucible

Seeing as I have this gift membership for Sadler’s Wells theatre, on Tuesday evening after work I went to see Scottish Ballet perform their adaptation of Arthur Miller’s play The Crucible.

The play is inspired by the Salem witch trials of 1692, but was also written as an allegory for the post-war witch-hunt of those with alleged communist ties in Hollywood, leading to many in the industry being blacklisted in the 1940s-50s. Some people were even imprisoned for refusing to testify. Arthur Miller himself was convicted of ‘contempt of congress’ for refusing to identify others who had been at meetings he’d attended…

In a devout Puritan village in Massachusetts, teenager Abigail works for John & Elizabeth Proctor, but ends up having an affair with John, discovered by Elizabeth, and she is fired. Abigail and her friends head into the forest, having followed Tituba, the slave of Revd Parris, and she tries to put a curse on Elizabeth Proctor. Frenzied dancing ensues until Revd Parris discovers them and finds his daughter Betty has collapsed. Betty is carried back to the house and Revd Hale, an expert in witchcraft is summoned to investigate. In the process of trying to exorcise the bewitched Betty, a dark force is unleashed and the group of girls begin to accuse lots people in the village of witchcraft. Tituba is framed for witchcraft and jailed. Abigail is the niece of Revd Parris, so her accusations hold sway in the proceedings that follow. The villagers become suspicious of each other and accusations fly, leading to many court hearings. Abigail plants a poppet (mini-doll stuck with a pin) of herself in the Proctor’s home to frame Elizabeth. The authorities search the house and discover this ‘evidence’ of Elizabeth’s witchcraft. Eventually, the affair between John and Abigail is made public, but Elizabeth’s continued denial of the affair leads to her own condemnation. John is also accused of witchcraft and sentenced.

I’ve never seen Scottish Ballet before, so I was very excited to watch a different ballet company on stage. I’ve also never read The Crucible – the only Arthur Miller play I’ve read is A View from the Bridge when I was at school. As you can tell from the storyline and subject matter, the show was quite dark, with a constant sense of menace hanging in the air. With choreography by Helen Pickett, the dancers were fantastic – the dancer playing the role of Abigail performed some very effective jerky, off-kilter movements, visually representing her mental and emotional state. Unusually for a ballet, there was laughter and also screaming from the dancers at various points, which made it even more disconcerting.

I wouldn’t say this was my favourite ballet as it was so dark, but it was very well done and the story kept me gripped until the end.

Time to Tap Tapathon 2022

On Sunday afternoon I once again took part in the annual Roy Castle Lung Cancer Foundation ‘Time to Tap’ virtual Tapathon!

Unfortunately I didn’t really put the time in to learn the routine because I had so many other things going on, so I ended up learning the beginner’s routine as best I could and then I watched the intermediate version and added some of those steps in. To be honest, I wasn’t even sure I was going to be able to take part on the day. However, I spent part of Saturday and the hour before the event working on it and managed to pull something out of the bag!

The event was led by TV presenter Naomi Wilkinson (Countryfile, Milkshake), who choreographed the routines and got everyone energised and pumped up on the day. There were over 100 screens tuned in on Zoom, and it was loads of fun. We performed the routine three times – beginners, intermediate and then all together! I danced all three times (muddling through the intermediate performance LOL). It was so great to take part from my garden on a sunny Sunday afternoon and to see so many tap dancers from all over the UK! 

Afterwards I was absolutely shattered, so I’ve spent a lot of time stretching and rolling out my muscles.

And today…I’ve just gone and signed up for another 5k run for the Roy Castle Lung Cancer Foundation – Roy’s Regal Run, marking the Queen’s Jubilee! Eeek!

Review: Casanova

Casanova programme

Last Saturday I decided, fairly last minute, to take myself into London to Sadler’s Wells to see a matinee of Northern Ballet’s production of Casanova. I was given a gift membership for Sadler’s Wells for my birthday this year, which means I get 20% off tickets, plus priority booking: win-win!

Unfortunately, the Northern Line wasn’t running Euston to Angel, so the plan was to get the 214 bus from King’s Cross. HOWEVER, I accidentally got on the bus going the other direction, so I ended up in Kentish Town! OOPS. So I jumped off the bus, crossed the road…and then caught the bus back to the Angel. Honestly, I could have just walked from King’s Cross in that time.

Anyway, onto the performance!

We’ve all heard of the name and the legend of Casanova being a ‘ladies’ man’ but this ballet drew from the real story of Casanova – trainee priest, writer, philosopher, polymath, violinist and professional gambler. Of course, his reputation wasn’t for nothing and he did indeed have many love affairs, as according to his memoirs, and so the story was a little suggestive in places, hence being for age 12+! The Saturday matinee featured talented first soloist Lorenzo Trossello as Giacomo Casanova. The dance was mesmerising, the costumes were authentically 18th century Venice, the set was atmospheric and the orchestra was spectacular. This is my third Northern Ballet show and I just love the way they tell a story. I would say on this one, because I didn’t know the story, I had to refer to the synopsis in the programme before the show began and also during the interval.

External view of theatre

The second circle where I sat wasn’t completely full, so I had most of row G to myself and a few people shifted closer to the front after the interval for a better view and more space. I really love Sadler’s Wells theatre at Angel because unlike many of the theatres in London, it’s a large, spacious and modern theatre, and the view is pretty good wherever you sit. I have been to their Peacock Theatre venue in Holborn many times and exciting news – next year they will be opening a new venue, Sadler’s Wells East at the Queen Elizabeth Park in Stratford!

Verdict: Fantastic storytelling and what a talented bunch!

Fitness Friday

Still not sure how I feel about toe socks…

Hey! Hope you’re well? Guess what? I’ve started going to Pilates on a Monday evening with my SO at his running club! I’m really trying to get my fitness (and core muscles) back after having been mainly home-based for the last 2 years, and so what better than a Pilates class after a day at the desk! I do get out for a short walk every lunchtime, but I no longer do the daily power walk commute, I quit the gym in March and what with the rigours of tap dance, I really need the lengthening and strengthening. So many back problems can be traced back to lack of core stability, sitting down all day and bad posture.

Studio at Birmingham Royal Ballet

 

I’m also trialling a membership of the Sleek Ballet Fitness app this week. Sleek Technique is the creation of professional ballet dancers Victoria Marr and Flik Swan. If you’ve been reading my blog for a while, you’ll know I had their DVDs and wrote reviews of their Sleek Ballet Bootcamp and Sleek Barre Technique workouts – there were 3 DVDs in the boxset, but I never got around to the third one! Membership gives you access to over 200 workouts, plus livestreamed interactive classes. The workouts are challenging and they really do get you sweating straight away. The settings vary from ballet school studio to warehouse-style brick studio to garden room to stunning beachside! They definitely sell you the lifestyle of the woman who sculpts her ballet body in affluent Thameside West London (think Chiswick or Kew) while wearing stunning Bloch leotards and shopping at Sweaty Betty

The ladies

I’ve only had a go at 2 full-body workouts so far, but I think I’m finding the same issue I found back in 2016 – the speed at which some of the exercises are carried out means I’m finding it difficult to maintain form, and I’m slightly concerned about pulling something – I’m happy operating at half-time! I think I need to have a go at some of the other types of workout before I decide. Perhaps I’ll concentrate on the lower body barre, stretch and mat exercises. Membership is £22.49 a month, and if I did go with it, I’d pause my £8.99 Rambert Home Studio membership (ballet, contemporary, Indian, street, yoga, Pilates, warm-ups, plus playlists, podcasts and other goodies) for now. However, as slick as Sleek Technique is… I’m thinking I should probably stick with Rambert, not only for financial reasons, but also because they’ve extended their offering since I first joined during the pandemic. We’ll see – I think I just need a bit of a change of routine right now.

I’m also taking a break from my Thursday rhythm tap classes once this block finishes later this month, with hopefully a return to the in-studio class in September. I’d like to spend a bit of time doing some of the many, many practise videos I’ve accumulated on things like technique, musicality, timesteps and rudiments, without having to spend that time practising a routine for weekly classes. I’m signed up for another Roy Castle Lung Cancer Foundation tapathon next weekend, which I haven’t yet learnt the routine for, and I have a 3-day tap dance intensive in London lined up for July 🙂

Enjoy your weekend!

ps. hope this blog post came out ok. This laptop has become very temperamental. My space bar suddenly stopped working at one point, and every now and then while I’m typing, the cursor jumps to a different line!

Happy International Dance Day!

Friends! Today is International Dance Day, so I thought I would take the opportunity to wish you a happy one! 

I’m not dancing today because I seem to have done something to my left foot and it feels uncomfortable when I walk in shoes. In fact, I had to miss my tap class last night for this very reason. Maybe I overdid it in my Wednesday evening practise. But I hope you are able to spend some time celebrating dance today. I’ve been working my way through some online talks related to tap dance, such as this one, and this one. Oh, and this one.

But why is April 29th International Dance Day? Well, it was started in 1982 by the Dance Committee of the International Theatre Institute, for dance to be celebrated on the birthday of the creator of modern ballet, Jean-Georges Noverre (1727-1810), particularly celebrating the fact that dance breaks down  barriers and brings people together under one common language… dance.

Enjoy the day!

Review: Tina The Musical

Two years ago I was supposed to see Tina The Musical for my birthday, and then the pandemic happened…but I finally got to go and see it last week!

I am a BIG Tina Turner fan and this musical was an AMAZING, high-energy telling of the story of Tina Turner’s rollercoaster life and career, beginning with her difficult childhood in Nutbush, Tennessee, and journeying through the beginnings of her singing career, her volatile relationship with Ike Turner and subsequent escape, her wildly successful career comeback and how she met her husband Erwin Bach. The show told the story through her most well-known songs, including hits River Deep Mountain High, Simply the Best, We Don’t Need Another Hero, Nutbush City Limits, Private Dancer and a personal favourite, Better be Good to Me.

On the day I saw the show, Tina was played by Chanel Haynes of gospel music trio Trinitee 5:7, and I was so impressed with how much she sounded like Tina! She had a very powerful voice and great Tina mannerisms. The show took us through all the emotions and even though we were all in tears by the interval, there was lots of humour, (particularly in the scenes with her Australian manager, Roger Davies) and the show ended with an explosive performance.

We were advised not to sing along during the show, but to leave it to the professionals and wait until the encore, where we could sing, dance and clap as much as we wanted to! (I heard that experiences were ruined for some by certain audience members singing along badly throughout – eek!)

The music was incredible, the singing was incredible, the dancing was HIGH ENERGY, the story was engrossing and I didn’t want it to end. I’m sad I didn’t get to see Tina Turner in concert when she was still touring and throwing it down, but this is the closest I’ll get and it did NOT disappoint!

Verdict: See it NOW!

 

Why I’ve Cancelled My Gym Membership

Sad news – my SO and I cancelled our gym membership at the retirement village! We’ve been members since November and made quite good use of the gym, swimming pool and sauna, and it gave us a boost in those dark winter months of working from home, but there were a few things that brought us to the decision to end the membership this month:

  • The gym room and swimming pool are very small. Any more than 4 people would be a squeeze. Now that covid restrictions are gone, it’s getting busier.
  • Although there is a booking system via an app, people seem to be ignoring this and turning up when they feel like it – not great in a small gym!
  • There’s always a shortage of towels and shower gel in the changing rooms in the evening – not a major thing, but when they’re provided as part of your membership, you don’t want to have to bring your own.
  • Following on from the lack of towels and shower gel, the staff don’t seem to be checking the changing rooms and poolside often enough, so nearly every time I’ve been, the rubbish bin is overflowing, someone’s left their bra on the dressing counter, there’s talcum powder all over the floor and there’s often a wet towel or two left on the recliners by the pool from earlier in the day.
  • The cost of living is rocketing here in the UK for various reasons and we could do with chopping unnecessary spends. We have our own equipment we can use for free in the garage and I still have a Rambert Home Studio subscription that I’m using to do Pilates, dance cardio, contemporary and ballet classes.
  • We’ve been very busy recently with church prep and other things, so we haven’t been able to get there much as we would have liked in recent weeks.
  • My workplace is asking us to return to working in the office at least 40% of the week (at some point soon), so I may try and go back to the university gym. It’s currently £10pm as the building renovations are still ongoing, but it’ll soon be reopening in the former sports centre and then I’ll probably do pay-as-you-go via the Hussle app. (Although I don’t miss commuting, I do miss the gym-Tuesday, tap class-Thursday lunchtime routine I was in.)
  • On a side note – I also cancelled my Spotify membership last month. I mainly used it to listen to the track for my tap dance class routine, various podcasts, and maybe a jazz mix for improvisation. BUT I wasn’t using it enough to justify the spend. If I do use Spotify now, I’ll have to live with the adverts and random shuffling! I’ve basically gone back to downloading the tracks for tap class as I used to, because it works out about £1-2 every 6 weeks or so, and I own the track and have a great collection of songs that work for practise. (I originally had a Spotify membership deal of 3 months for £9.99, but when that finished it flipped to the usual £9.99 per month and I just don’t think it’s worth it for me.)

Anyway, thanks for reading, and happy weekend! Any plans? As well as chores and getting out for some walks in the sun, I’ll be attending a tap history talk on Zoom this Sunday evening with Lisa La Touche, so I’ll be sure to make some notes and give you the lowdown in the next few weeks.

Review: Fatal Attraction

On Saturday afternoon I went to see Fatal Attraction on stage at the Alexandra Theatre in Birmingham, known locally as ‘the Alex’. I actually got wind of the show being on after having seen a TV interview with a member of the cast. 

I’ve never seen the 1987 Oscar-nominated movie starring Michael Douglas and Glenn Close, so I had no expectations of the play. In case you don’t know, the story is of a supposedly happily married man who ends up having a one-night stand, but this one-night stand comes back to haunt him and starts to stalk him and his family, making his life very difficult…One particular incident that takes place in the story gave rise to the term ‘bunny boiler’.

The play starred Kym Marsh (Hear’Say, Coronation Street, The Syndicate) as Alex Forrest, along with Oliver Farnworth (Coronation Street) as Dan Gallagher and Susie Amy (Footballers’ Wives) as Beth Gallagher. The audience were on the edge of their seats the entire time, and the sense of foreboding was constantly hanging in the air. The staging was effective, with scenes set in various homes, Dan’s workplace and the bar where Dan and Alex meet. Kym Marsh was excellent as the desperate Alex and the British cast did a convincing job with their American accents!

The Alexandra Theatre, Birmingham

The ending to the play is different to the movie, but on reading around, I believe this was the intention of the original screenplay, and also it was the ending that actress Glenn Close would have preferred. But of course, Hollywood had other ideas. You get more of a sense that Alex has mental health issues, rather than her being framed as the ‘crazy stalker woman’, and with all of his lame excuses, we actually wanted Dan to face the consequences of his actions.

Fatal Attraction continues to tour the UK, with Susie Amy taking over as Alex Forrest and Louise Redknapp (Eternal, Cabaret, Strictly Come Dancing) joining the cast this week as Beth Gallagher.

Why I’m Not Attending TDFUK This Year

I’ve been going to Tap Dance Festival UK for a couple of years now, including the virtual-only event during the last 2 years of the coronavirus pandemic, and I absolutely love it. They always have an amazing international faculty of teachers and I always get HEAPS out of it. This year the festival is once again taking place online, but (very unlike me) I’ve decided not to take part this time. BUT WHY? 

  • I’m actually busy that weekend with a trip to Kew Gardens amongst other things, so I won’t be able to join live
  • I’ve got SO MANY tap and musicality workshop recordings to catch up on that I really don’t want to add even more to the list (you know how you can end up stacking up videos to catch up on, and never actually get around to it??)
  • Although the class recordings will be available for a month after the festival has taken place, last time I just didn’t manage to find the time to do them before they expired
  • I’m happy to wait until I can go to the physical event, which will hopefully return next year

I recently purchased the recordings of two really helpful TDFUK classes that I attended last year (with no expiry!), ‘Rudiments’ with Adele Joel and ‘Drills’ with Robin Passmore and I’m going to set aside some time this month to go through them…I promise!

The virtual Tap Dance Festival UK takes place 26th-27th February 2022