Anna Mae Bullock aka Tina Turner 1939-2023
What a LEGEND!
Anna Mae Bullock aka Tina Turner 1939-2023
What a LEGEND!
The Great Gatsby
Last Thursday my SO and I went to Sadler’s Wells to see Northern Ballet’s performance of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s Jazz Age novel The Great Gatsby. I was really looking forward to it and I wasn’t disappointed! It was a full house, and we were right at the back of the top tier, so it was pretty warm in there.
It was ballet, of course, but it was also full of jazz music and authentic jazz dances, such as the Charleston and the Lindy Hop. The sets and costumes were lavish and really captured the feel of the story set on 1920s Long Island, NY. I started reading this novel a few times in the past, but now I have made a commitment to read it all the way through, and then maybe move onto Fitzgerald’s other novels that I own because they’re art deco hardback editions that look nice on my bookshelf…
Tap dance class is going really well. It’s the largest class size I’ve ever known on a Thursday afternoon, but it’s a really lovely group of people. We’re all getting to know each other better as we’re doing a lot of work in pairs, which is great. I’m trying to stand in different parts of the studio so I don’t get stuck in my comfort zone! We now have a break for a week of half-term, and I was wondering whether to take a break from that class until September, but I ended up telling everyone I’d see them in 2 weeks…
Yes, I was at Sadler’s Wells again! Last Saturday my SO and I headed to Islington to see Akram Khan’s English National Ballet production Creature.
It was a full house that afternoon and there was lots of anticipation and excitement as the lights went down and the show began…
“In a dilapidated former Arctic research station, Creature has been conscripted by a military brigade into a bold new experimental programme. He is being tested for his mental and physical ability to adapt to cold, isolation and homesickness…” (Act I synopsis)
The mission is to colonise space, man’s final frontier.
Creature is based on medical student Georg Buechner’s play Woyzeck (1875), a tragedy where a lonely soldier agrees to take part in medical experiments conducted by a doctor, to earn money – his mental health gradually breaks down and he begins to have apocalyptic visions.
The staging of Creature is a large wood panelled room, where the creature is being kept and tested. He falls in love with Marie (Emily Suzuki), his keeper who spends much of her time mopping the floor, but shows him kindness. She is assaulted by the evil Major (Skylar Martin) who is in charge of this mission and because she has rejected his advances, his rage turns towards her. A sinister and repetitive voice over from The Lord of the Rings’ Andy Serkis added to the sense of foreboding that was being created by the menacing and jarring music. On and off throughout the show we hear part of a speech by President Nixon congratulating Buzz Aldrin and Neil Armstrong “because of what [they] have done…” which gradually becomes more and more twisted and slurred, where we suddenly realise (if we’re paying attention) that the meaning has morphed into something different.
A sinister and repetitive voice…
Rentaro Nakaaki was excellent as Creature and beautifully expressed the many emotions his character went through. The military brigade were very effective as a sinister and faceless troop, following the Major’s orders, and I loved the contemporary style of dance. The story raises many questions about the quest for space, how we treat our planet and at what cost, and of course, how we treat each other.
Creature is an engaging, Frankenstein-esque, edge-of-your-seat ballet and I’m so glad I went to see and experience it!
Last Saturday morning I took myself along to Sadler’s Wells in London to watch Scottish Ballet’s company class! I have a free membership with Scottish Ballet, which includes invitations to watch company classes. As the company were performing a sold-out run of ‘Coppelia’ at Sadler’s Wells, I thought I would take the opportunity to go along and watch them warm up and rehearse.
I got to Islington early, so I had a wander along Camden Passage and stopped for a cappuccino before heading to Sadler’s Wells. I arrived at the Lilian Baylis Theatre entrance on time and went in to join the others who were waiting. We were met by the lady organising the event and she crossed each of us off the register. Then, at 11.30am we were taken through the stage door, down to the auditorium where everyone spread out across the seats so we all had an uninterrupted view (I think there was about 15 of us altogether). The company class had already started, and I was really excited to see how they get ready for a day of not one, but TWO performances!
The rehearsal director took the dancers through barre class and floor work and then they moved onto rehearsal for Coppelia. It was so interesting to watch everyone and I have to say what we all know already – they are SUCH TALENTED ATHLETES! We watched them for an hour before we were collected. I didn’t have tickets to see the show later on, but I didn’t feel like I was missing out – the company class was fab!
Watching the warm-up gave me the motivation to put more effort into working out, and to persevere with my online ballet classes 🙂
There was no tap class this week, so most days after work I’ve been doing an on-demand online ballet class with English National Ballet with the aim of making it a habit. The site is called BalletActive and is part of their ‘ENB At Home’ offering, which I think they set up during the Covid lockdown. You can download their ENB At Home app to do the classes from your phone or to cast onto your TV with a Google Chromecast or just play it from your laptop as I am. It costs £9.99 a month, and you can try it out with a free 7 day trial. At the moment I’m doing the classes in my bedroom – unfortunately, I don’t have much space there, so I did hit the back of my heel on my bed on Wednesday evening 🙁 I really should get back to the garage now the weather is milder…
I’m currently working my way through the ‘Bitesize Ballet’ classes for beginners/improvers with Richard Bermange (Creative Director of ENBYouthCo), beginning with the barre class and then moving on to centre. I’m really enjoying it, and I like the fact there’s another dancer demonstrating, so it’s really helpful that the teacher gives him corrections and feedback during and after a sequence. It has definitely reignited my passion for doing ballet (and not just watching!), which is great, because I’ve felt very much like I can’t be bothered recently – HELP! I actually got onto this because I was signed up to ENB’s newsletter and they were promoting their Sofa2Studio programme after Christmas, which I signed up to (a bit like Couch to 5k) but never actually did! I used to do ‘Ballet at the Barre’ classes at City Lit in Covent Garden, but I find it hard to do that as well as tap classes in my working week. I think timetables and travel make it harder – doing an on-demand class at home cuts that part out, but of course you need to be disciplined.
With this in mind, here is my list of the best on-demand ballet classes I’ve come across this year:
Speaking of ballet, I’ve just bought tickets to see Akram Khan’s Creature next month and Northern Ballet’s The Great Gatsby in May, both at Sadler’s Wells – can’t wait! 🙂
Yesterday afternoon I went to the last tap class before a week’s break for half term. In the morning we welcomed our new line manager to our team with coffee and cake in the office, as well as catching up with colleagues and doing some WORK!
I’d missed last week’s tap class because my SO and I had a week in Devon as a bolt-on at the end of a weekend conference in Torquay. I didn’t get a chance to practise the fab routine we’ve been learning while we were away, and I came home with a sore throat and feeling a bit off, so I didn’t do anything at the weekend. I did spend some time on Tuesday evening recapping what we’d added on last time I was at the class, but I only got around to learning the choreography I’d missed the night before the class. I went over and over it, but I find it doesn’t go into the body unless I do at least TWO separate practises (three even better!). So I turned up to class yesterday feeling a bit sketchy on the last part.
We did some exercises travelling across the studio in 2 groups, which is always fun, before cracking on with the routine. I gradually picked up the new choreography, which helped build on what I did the night before and then we actually did a section as a canon (also known as a round) with one half of the class (A) dancing to one melody and the other half (B) dancing to another. It was great!
At the end, our teacher asked if I (person A) would be happy to dance with her (person B) so she could film the last part of the routine for a video recap for class. Well, I kept going wrong! I guess it still wasn’t cemented yet, the camera was rolling and I think I just felt under pressure (I could feel the eyes of my classmates on my back…even though they weren’t there)! Still, it was a fun thing to try 🙂
On another note, I have a new colleague who found out that I do tap dance and she was interested in getting back into it herself but couldn’t find a convenient class, so I searched HIGH AND LOW for a class near to where she lives in the ‘burbs and managed to find her a rhythm tap class with a great teacher. She’s a beginner and is visually impaired, so she needs to be taken to the class. Well, she’s been going for 4 weeks now and is LOVING IT! She even gave me a card and a bar of chocolate to say thank you 🙂
Happy New Year! I meant to write this blog post on New Year’s Eve, but there was a lot going on over the holidays, including a trip to the theatre, so I’m writing it now! Today is actually Epiphany, so we’re still technically in the Christmas season 🙂
2022 was a better year than the pandemic years, and it was good to be out of the house and fairly ‘back to normal’, but it was still a bit strange with all the crazy politics, the death of the Queen and trying to get into some sort of hybrid work pattern, plus I got rid of my car. Here are my highlights of 2022:
Sadler’s Wells Gift Membership
I was given this amazing gift for my birthday, which gives me priority booking and 20% off tickets, so I made sure I went as often as I could! I saw some great ballets and other dance shows including:
Plus I saw Matthew Bourne’s Sleeping Beauty on New Year’s Eve, which was my first Matthew Bourne experience and I loved it!
Return To In-Person Tap Classes
It was just so great to be back in the studio with other people, especially some of my old classmates! I include attending the tap intensive in this, because that was the first in-person class I attended after the pandemic and I learnt SO MUCH and surprised myself how I got back into things after being in the garage with a laptop for 2 years. But really good to be back to my weekly class.
Tina Turner the Musical
A postponed birthday treat from 2021. I mean, it was just AMAZING!
Once again, another FABULOUS SHOW with an excellent cast, including Simon Callow, Bonnie Langford and Kerry Ellis. It was a lovely Summer’s day at London’s Barbican.
Athletics and diving – It was such a fantastic, positive atmosphere in Birmingham! Plus we stayed at a spa hotel outside of Birmingham (got an amazing deal!) and drove in to the designated park & ride car parks as the city hotels were stupidly expensive during the games.
Breaks in Devon and Kent
My SO had a week away in Devon in June, and then a colleague let us have her flat in the Thanet area of Kent for a week in September, so we took my mum with us. We were really fortunate to have great weather (most of the time) on these two weeks away – because you never know! I wasn’t familiar with Kent, so it was nice to discover a new area.
Living Room Makeover
It hadn’t been changed since we moved in at the end of 2017 and I was sick of the blue walls, plus some of the paper was peeling and bubbling. In our second week off work in September, when we were back from Kent, we stripped wallpaper, filled holes, hung new paper, painted and rehung pictures where we wanted them (rather than where there were already holes)! There’s still an area to sort out in the corner behind the TV which requires replacing guttering outside, but WE LOVE IT NOW. The fireplace now stands out as a feature and I learnt how to do wallpapering properly.
Home Alone with Live Orchestra
In early December my SO and I went to see Home Alone with Live Orchestra at the Birmingham Symphony Hall as part of his birthday gift. It was also at the Royal Albert Hall in London something like a week before that, but it was pretty much sold out, standing room only, so we went for Birmingham…with a seat! There was even a choir onstage for the choral sections and they sang Christmas songs at the end. Those who left during the end-credits missed out! It’s my favourite Christmas film (I watch it every year) and it gave us all the Christmassy feels.
As you can see, I saw A LOT of shows last year, and I haven’t even mentioned all of them in this post. But you know I love the theatre, and when you go off-West End, the ticket prices are SO MUCH more reasonable.
I usually write my goals for the year ahead, but I don’t think I managed to write anything last year – I was just glad to get out of 2021! This year I’m sharing a simple More & Less list:
Let’s see how it goes! How about YOU?
This is a really helpful cross-phrasing exercise that we’ve used in our tap class recently, using an Eddie Brown step:
I found it a challenge to keep the rhythm going!
Guys, I have just returned from having a FULL BODY massage plus complimentary facial this afternoon and I FEEL GREAT. I’ve had a really annoying ache at the base of my neck and around the shoulder blades and upper spine area, likely from how I’m working at my home desk and the height of my laptop. Although I’m trying to do lots of stretching, movement and strength work, it hasn’t improved much, so I decided to get a massage. I used to get a massage every 2-3 months at a therapy clinic near my workplace, but the lady I was going to has ceased to operate from that central London location because she wasn’t getting enough customers with the way a lot of people’s work patterns have changed – I mean I’m only there 1-2 times a week now). I did a quick search on Google and managed to find two massage clinics near home – the first one I tried I got no answer when I phoned both numbers listed. The other one answered, so I went with them – plus they have fantastic reviews. I feel SO REFRESHED and I have to say my neck and shoulder blades are feeling a lot better already, and the surprise complimentary facial and scalp massage were an added bonus. As I told the therapist – IT WAS JUST WHAT I NEEDED!
Tap class is going really well. I had to miss the first two weeks of this 6-week block due to feeling under the weather and then the train/tube strikes, but I made sure to use the practise videos that are shared every week to catch up. The combination we’re learning is a little tricky at first, with loads of direction changes, so I made sure to go over and over and over it. We’re also working on a section of the BS Chorus and playing around with it, which is great, because I learnt it at the summer tap intensive! It’s November and my garage is now officially freezing, so I’ve not really been in there to use my floor recently. I’ve been staying in the warm and practising in socks on carpet! We’re dancing to I Like it Like That by Pete Rodriguez – I can’t believe we only have 2 weeks left until we break for the holidays!
Last week Tap Dance Research Network hosted a talk on Zoom entitled ‘Sportin’ Life’ on John W. Bubbles, aka the Father of Rhythm Tap, with author and jazz scholar Brian Harker (Brigham Young University, Utah), who has written a book all about him, and tap dancer and historian Jane Goldberg (Changing Times Tap Co), who actually knew John. It was a really interesting talk, hearing about his life and Vaudeville career as one half of ‘Buck & Bubbles’ and later as a solo act, and how he took tap dance and made the steps more complex, adding more heel drops, swing time and improvisation. He even had a come-back career in the 1960’s appearing on many tv shows, USO tours (with Bob Hope, Judy Garland, Barbra Streisand etc) and in the nightclubs (this was before nightclubs became sticky-floored meat markets!). Apparently he gave Fred Astaire a tap lesson, but Astaire never admitted this. It was kind of sad to hear how Bubbles had become slightly embittered by how he was treated as a black American, but I mean, who could blame him? It was another enlightening evening and Jane Goldberg even shared some footage, including some of her and John. Someone asked how many people on the call had Brian Harker’s book, and honestly, I hadn’t even heard of it until that night…so I ordered myself a copy the next day and I’ve added it to my list of Must Reads! I’ve got so many books lined up, I’m actually overwhelmed.
Right, I must go – I’m going to a winter fayre in a local high street this evening, my hair’s still a mess from my scalp massage and I don’t want to miss the hot dogs!
Sorry – I’ve been M.I.A again! I guess I’ve been adjusting to a new life routine, now that I’m going into the office 1-2 times a week and I’m back at TAP CLASS every Thursday (apart from this week as we’re on a break).
Tap class has been really great – I mean REALLY great. We’ve done lots of helpful exercises over the last few weeks, travelling across the floor, working in pairs and cementing some trickier combinations. We’ve been learning a routine throughout the 6 week course using Mick Jagger’s Strange Game. I don’t think I’d ever heard the song before, but I like it! The routine allows us to play with the rhythms, switching between the downbeat and cross-phrasing. There are a couple of turns in the middle of the routine (exciting!), and we had the option of doing a turn-and-a-half (540 degrees so they tell me) and landing in the right direction on time(!!) or just doing a half-turn (180). I’m not great with fast turns and dizziness these days, so I stuck with the half. It was for the best!
In other news – my 14 year old niece has recently started tap dance lessons! I think these are tacked on straight after ballet and she’s doing the ISTD syllabus of course. I’ve given her one of my portable tap boards so she can practise at home, and I told her I’m happy to go over anything if she needs any help, because I think she’s finding it quite difficult having started later than the rest of the class. I’m going to make sure I don’t overwhelm her with information!
Mixtape: Celebrating 20 Years of Zoonation: The Kate Prince Company
A few weeks ago my SO and I, being big fans of ZOONATION, went to Sadlers Wells to see their latest offering Mixtape, a 20 year celebration of many of their shows, including the incredible Into the Hoods, Some Like it Hip Hop, Message in a Bottle plus The Mad Hatter’s Tea Party, Tales of the Turntable and Groove on Down the Road. The whole thing was just so uplifting – stunning live music and singers, fantastic hip hop choreography and dance. There was also a wonderful exhibition on one of the floors dedicated to former member Teneisha Bonner who died far too young in 2019 from breast cancer. I remember her as a real stand-out dancer in Into the Hoods when we saw it not once, but twice many moons ago. Wow, I forgot how much I loved that show and the banging soundtrack. Mixtape was such a great night, didn’t want it to end and yes, the audience clapped on the off-beat!
Back to the Future The Musical
Last Thursday I met a former colleague after work and after a catch-up at Wahaca with Mexican street food, we went to see Back to the Future The Musical at the Adelphi Theatre on the Strand. Now this was an interesting one. I absolutely LOVE the Back to the Future films – they’re iconic and I can watch them again and again, particularly I and II. So I was interested to see how they’d adapted the first film for a West End musical.
In all honesty, I thought Doc Brown and George McFly were excellent, down to mannerisms, humour, dancing and everything. Marty McFly was pretty good. Not all, but a lot of the dialogue was verbatim, so if you know the film, you know what’s coming. They changed the reason why Marty had to go back in time to save the Doc. The set and especially the DeLorean was AMAZING – five stars! But I had this feeling all the way through that much of the supporting cast were fresh out of musical theatre school and a little inexperienced. I like the fact the show used the original theme music throughout and of course the iconic Huey Lewis & The News songs which popped up here and there, plus Chuck Berry’s Johnny B Goode at the school dance but some of the singing grated in places, such as when the actress playing Marty’s girlfriend Jennifer sang The Power of Love – it was a bit over the top musical theatre voice, if you know what I mean. I’d say good effort on the whole production, but something was missing for me and I don’t think everything can be successfully be made into a musical. Someone at my tap class who saw it last time around suggested it could perhaps have worked better as a play? Maybe. Still, it was a good night out.
Strictly Come Dancing is back! I’m not really obsessed with it this year, but I’m still watching the main show, the results show and most of the It Takes Two shows on weekday evenings because it’s fun and positive. It’s really refreshing to not be on Twitter with all the moaners and psychos this year! It’s a great cast of ‘celebrities’ again this year…even if some don’t take to dance as well as others… Last Saturday night celebrated 100 years of the BBC and although the songs were JUST AWFUL for dancing (the Eastenders, Blue Peter and Casualty theme tunes, anyone?!), I have to say I was in stitches watching Fleur & Vito’s jive to Abba’s Waterloo (celebrating Eurovision) – I mean that WIG on Vito’s head took on a life of its own! HAHAHAA
Anyway, I hope you have a great weekend, and if you’re in the UK, don’t forget the clocks go back tomorrow night!