11 Reasons Why Gregory Hines Was Awesome

220px-Hines
Gregory Hines (1946-2003)
  1. He revived Rhythm Tap in mainstream culture in the 1980s and 1990s after it had seriously gone out of fashion
  2. He was an amazing improviser (just watch some of his stuff on YouTube for inspiration!)
  3. He started dancing semi-professionally aged 5, with his brother Maurice, and took lessons with Broadway choreographer Henry Le Tang, who taught people such as Bunny Briggs, Eleanor Powell, Sandman Sims and Debbie Allen
  4. He was inspired by some of the tap dance heavyweights, including Sammy Davis Jr and the Nicholas Brothers
  5. He has influenced many, many artists such as Savion Glover, Dianne Walker, Jane Goldberg, Ayodele Casel, Michelle Dorrance
  6. In 1988 he successfully petitioned ‘National Tap Dance Day’ in the US (25th of May, which happens to be Bill ‘Bojangles’ Robinson’s birthday), which has now morphed into International Tap Dance Day!
  7. He starred on Broadway, and in many films, including ‘White Nights’ (1985), ‘The Cotton Club’ (1984) and ‘Tap’ (1989), receiving a Tony Award in 1992 for the musical ‘Jelly’s Last Jam’ plus several other nominations.
  8. He created a fantastic documentary for PBS in 1989 on the history and culture of tap dance, called ‘Tap Dance America
  9. He was a great singer, fronting a rock band in the 70s and later performing with artists such as Luther Vandross
  10. In the late 90s he had his own sitcom ‘The Gregory Hines Show’, plus he had a recurring role on the popular sitcom ‘Will and Grace’
  11. In 2019, 16 years after his untimely death at the age of 57,  the US Postal Service created a Gregory Hines Black Heritage postage stamp

Awesome.

Easy Breakfast Muffins

I’ve gone from leaving home at 7.30am to 6.30am this year just so I can have a better journey to work, and a seat on the train! Because of this I’m struggling to fit breakfast in and often end up buying something on the way to the office. I find a protein based breakfast, such as eggs, keeps me going longer than say, cereal or croissants.

Solution: I decided to make a batch of breakfast Muffins that I can grab on my way out in the morning!

  • 10 whisked eggs
  • Bacon
  • Mushrooms
  • Onions
  • Mature cheddar
  • Cracked black pepper
  • Fresh parsley

Fill a greased muffin tin three-quarters full with whisked seasoned egg and then add the chunky ingredients on top. (I put the bacon in raw as it will cook in the egg).

Put them in the oven on about 180 degrees for about 10 minutes and boom! Delicious.

I’m definitely going to make these again and try some different ingredients too…

Workshop Week

I felt a bit disappointed in myself on Tuesday. For the second year in a row, I enrolled on a 3-day tap dance intensive (2 hours per day) and once again I ended up bailing out after 1 day.

This time I intended to attend days 1-2 and then rest on day 3, but this wasn’t to be. My problem left knee started giving me grief afterwards, and then my right achilles tendon and plantar fascia (arch of foot) followed suit, so I ended up hobbling around at home for the remainder of the course…

…Apart from yesterday when I hobbled into West London to run an important errand and then attend a 3 hour ukulele workshop in Southwark the afternoon! I’ll tell you all about it, but first the tap intensive.

The intermediate tap dance workshop was a lot of fun! The teacher, I’d forgotten, is a little scatty in his teaching style, but I picked up so much in those 2 hours. My usual teacher is fab, but I also enjoy learning with a different teacher every now and then as they will have their own style, choreography and way of teaching. Quite often, you have to absorb a lot very quickly.

We covered shuffles, slurps, the Shim Sham, rhythm turns, riffs, paddles, and a particular favourite for me was when we travelled backwards across the studio doing fast side shuffles:

R-L-R-R, L-R-L-L, R-L-R-L-R-L-R-R, L-R-L-R-L-R-L-L

I’ve never done this travelling backwards before, but I like it! Luckily we got to film the routine we’d put together so far, so I can have a go at this again in my garage once my knee and foot have had adequate rest.

I really enjoyed having the time to go over things in detail when you don’t have to squeeze everything into 45 minutes. I think my next task will be to make an appointment with a podiatrist because I’m pretty sure my knee and foot issue is to do with pronation when I walk and dance, and also having lower arches.

Now onto the ukulele…

I was thinking for a while that I’d like to be able to play a musical instrument at church as we’re short on musicians, and because I like singing, I was thinking about a non-wind instrument. So, rather than the guitar, I decided to go for the Ukulele! It’s apparently one of the easiest instruments to learn, it’s compact and portable, and it’s cute!

It’s compact…portable, and it’s cute!

To see if it was definitely for me, I enrolled the day before on the Wednesday afternoon 3-hour workshop near my work, and then I’d know whether I wanted to enrol on the regular class in the autumn. Well it was so much fun! Taught by an enthusiastic jazz singing, uke playing cabaret artist (who incidentally has a swing group that includes a tap dancer), the 9-strong all-female group introduced ourselves to each other, learnt how to tune our instruments and then learnt to play 4 chords (C, Am, F, G7), plus a couple of strum patterns. For each song that we did, we sang along and it was lovely!

It’s true what they say, learning an instrument really feeds into your understanding of tap dance rhythm, musicality and multitasking.

I think I’m hooked!

2nd Attempt

On Wednesday night I went to my second ever Tap Improvisation and Choreography class! About half an hour beforehand, I felt really nervous and wanted to bottle it, trying to come up with various excuses as to why I couldn’t go (like the heatwave)…but then I got myself together and went for it!

There were 10 of us for this mixed-level class, where we played various improvisation games, working in one large group, smaller groups, pairs and solo to build up our confidence to improvise tap steps. The focus was on rhythm, rather than executing amazing steps. The music was a variety of 60s soul/R&B, Blues and other newer music.

For our first exercise, we just used our hands and one at a time, clapped different rhythms for the group to copy. That was manageable. Next we did the same, but with our feet. A bit more complicated.

We worked in pairs to create something for our partners to copy. We also worked in pairs to create something to a simple song or nursery rhyme which we then performed to the rest of the class. My partner and I used ‘Humpty Dumpty’ and had a lot of fun with it – jazz hands were included! I can say I actually quite enjoyed performing it to those watching. We messed up the first time, but we did it again and got it right.

I also enjoyed the exercise where we travelled as one group along the length of the studio, doing whatever came to mind. At the end of the class, we repeated this exercise, but this time we just walked and allowed space for one person at a time to do some steps. This was very effective.

It was such a fun evening, if not a little nerve wracking in places. We all had a great time and I definitely came away feeling a bit more confident to try stuff. In public.

Common issues in improvisation:

  • Self-consciousness
  • Worrying that everyone else is better/more experienced than you
  • Trying to make your feet actually do the steps that are in your mind
  • Trying to recall all the steps you have built up in your ‘bank’ over the last however many years of learning
  • Staying on the rhythm
  • Counting bars and beats when you’ve been asked to do something for a certain number of counts
  • Going from a single beat to doubles to quadruples..when everyone’s watching
  • Brain freeze!

Next week I have the week off work as I have three 2-hour days at a Tap Dance Intensive in London’s Covent Garden, followed by a few rest/study days.

Have you ever done tap improvisation? If yes, tell me more in the comments….

Rhythm of the Dance

My tap class is now out for the Summer… kind of! We finished our S.O.B routine on Thursday lunchtime with a bang and chatted away afterwards about what we’d be doing over the Summer and so on. Our teacher also advertised the 2 workshop that she’ll be running next Wednesday and Thursday evenings – Tap Improvisation & Choreography (Weds) and Tap Shim Sham (Thurs). I’ll be doing the Improvisation class, but probably not the Shim Sham this year due to another engagement (BBQ!).

In the evening my SO and I went to our local theatre to see Rhythm of the Dance 20th Anniversary Tour, featuring the National Dance Company of Ireland! I was looking forward to it all day and the show did not disappoint!

The show set the scene with a haunting Celtic song, which reminded me of Lord of the Rings and Enya. Then we were introduced to the dancers who took us on a live musical and rhythmic journey through the history of Ireland and the Irish people, including emigration across the pond to the USA.

The dancing was spectacular. There was a mixture of soft shoe dance and hard shoe step dance, which is the forerunner to tap dance. Dancers leaping like gazelles, pounding the floor with shotgun rhythms, legs moving into complicated positions… at speed. As a tap dancer in training, my eyes were glued to their feet, trying to work out just some of what they were doing – impossible at that speed! There was a section where one of main dancers did his steps very slowly, before gradually picking up the speed. Something we do in tap!

The principal male and female leads were incredible, particularly the male lead who commanded huge stage presence. There were live singers and musicians on stage, playing traditional instruments, including the amazing Bodhran (drum), the Irish flute and low whistle, the Uilleann pipes, the fiddle and the banjo. The audience were encouraged to clap along and even sing along at one point.

I particularly enjoyed the seductive ‘Beat of the Bodhran’ dance, with the male troupe hammering out rhythms as the Bodhran player tries to seduce the female leader, and then the fun ‘Swing Time’ section, featuring the Charleston. But really, I enjoyed the whole thing.

I actually came away from the show full of inspiration and ideas for the upcoming tap improvisation workshop, which I didn’t anticipate at all.

Verdict: Stunning! Spectacular! I’m obsessed!

Round of Applause

 

Vests
Last week’s tap & gym outfits

Tap class is going really well at the moment. We’re doing a fantastic percussive routine to the song SOB by Nathaniel Ratcliffe and the Night Sweats, which includes lots of steps and lots of clapping. The thing with tapping and clapping, it’s a bit like rubbing your tummy and patting your head at the same time…and sometimes we’re stepping on the beat and clapping on the off-beat. It’s amazing, I LOVE IT. It takes a lot of practice to get it right, and I am making sure I do that when I’m at home (and sometimes at work during a break), otherwise I think I’d be struggling every week with the speed of it.

We only have this week and next left of the term, and then we head into the summer break…but not before the ‘Summer Shorts’ workshops! I’ve enrolled on the Tap Improvisation workshop, but this year I’ll be giving the Shim Sham workshop a miss because I have a church BBQ. Then, in the last week of July I will be attending the 3 day Intermediate Tap Intensive at CityLit, along with a couple of my classmates! I can’t wait, but I’m going to make sure I pace myself this time.

In need of a break last weekend after doing lots of summer fairs and things, my SO and I headed to the south coast for a long weekend on the beach. It was so warm and Mediterranean-feeling, that we could have shut our eyes and thought we were in Spain. The beach was looovely, a little shingly, but once we got over that bit and into the (chilly) sea (took me a while!), we found sand!

On a final note, I thought it was high time for a dance show, so next week I’m going to my local theatre to see an Irish dance show called Rhythm of the Dance. I’ll tell you all about it next week!

Beach
Sand…it’s in there somewhere

Staying Motivated

 

After having been really on it and motivated in going to the gym every Tuesday during my lunch hour, I ended up not going for 2 weeks. I am almost 3 weeks into the new rhythm tap term, so I am doing something, but I do want to keep the gym in my weekly routine for fitness, toning and important dancer’s knee maintenance. But, having given in to ‘I can’t be bothered’, it took everything I had to make myself get back to it yesterday.

At midday I went, worked out and felt great afterwards!

How to motivate yourself to hit the gym:

  • Create a manageable routine – my routine is gym every Tuesday at 12pm, tap class every Thursday at 1.30pm, with a rest day in between.
  • Don’t make your sessions so long that you can’t face going again – Because I’m squeezed by my lunch hour, I go for about half an hour to 40 minutes, which includes important stretch time.
  • Don’t set ridiculous goals that you can’t achieve – a six-pack is overrated, unless you’re into competitive bodybuilding… One of my goals was to lose a couple of kilos – done!
  • Include a variety of machines in your repertoire – I started with just a few basic machines and then I’ve been trying to add a new thing every few weeks.
  • Measure your progress – this may be weight (yours or the weights you are able to lift), body measurements, or even blood pressure readings if you’re trying to reduce your BP
  • Reward yourself on your achievements – a massage, a new piece of gym clothing
  • Find a gym buddy and go together – this might be a friend, colleague or family member
  • If you gym in the evening, go straight there from work. DO NOT go home first. You won’t leave!
  • Prep an amazing post-workout meal that you can look forward to afterwards. I make all my lunches for the week – a salad that usually consists of chicken breast, rocket, olives, feta, sweetcorn, pasta with pine nuts and spinach.
  • Create a bangin’ playlist that you look forward to listening to as you work out (as well as modern stuff, mine has a lot of 80s power tracks, which are high-tempo, cheesy and super-motivating – think Maniac by Michael Sembello)

I actually look forward to my shower at work afterwards because it’s like a bit of pampering during my working day with the shower kit I created:

  • Tropical Shower gel
  • Wash mit
  • Coarse body scrub
  • Foot file
  • Razor
  • Shea Body Butter
  • Tea tree foot gel with arnica
  • Mini bath mat
  • Towel
  • Deodorant

Yes, I scrub, shower, shave and moisturise like a mini spa treatment. A shower doesn’t have to just be practical!

What motivates you to get up and go to the gym? Let me know in the comments.