Tap Intensive 2022

At the end of July I  was excited to attend the Improvers/Intermediate tap dance intensive at CityLit in London’s Covent Garden. I was only able to attend 2 of the 3 days because I didn’t have enough spare leave as I had 3 days booked the following week for the Commonwealth Games!

I’ve been to this tap intensive twice before, but on those previous occasions I burned myself out and I don’t think I had my hydration and nutrition quite right, because as I mentioned before, I felt hung over the following day! This time I made sure I drank enough water throughout, was fuelled and hydrated beforehand, had jellybeans I could pop during the class for extra quick energy, and then I had an electrolyte powder to add to my water for the journey home. IT WORKED!

I think what especially helped was that I’m now mainly working from home, so I was starting from a place of rest rather than the cumulative daily commute exhaustion of the past. Arriving on day 1, I was really pleased to see A and J from my pre-pandemic tap classes in Lambeth! It was so nice to be in a studio and dance with other people again after 2+ years!

Over the two days I was there we learnt the BS Chorus and worked on some other routines, timesteps and exercises, including travelling corner-to-corner across the studio. I particularly enjoyed being pushed to do some more advanced stuff and add in those extra sounds, and also to get lots of helpful feedback. It was great after having been dancing at home in the garage with limited feedback – it’s just not the same doing classes online! It was a really fun couple of days and we filmed the routines and exercises at the end of each day to take away for practise. On my last day (day 2) I realised I had been trying to film using my phone on camera mode instead of video (I mean, REALLY!) and then I wasn’t there on the final day, so J was kind enough to send me her video. It was great to learn some new things – like the BS Chorus and what a Maxi Ford is! I’m still not great on wings as I’ve not spent much time on them in classes…but I know what I need to do!

When I got home I put my feet in the air with yoga toe-spreaders for ten minutes, then plunged them into a bowl of water with Epsom salts. The next day while working at my home desk, I had my feet on the heated foot massager, which did the job!

By the way, the Commonwealth Games in Birmingham were AMAZING! Such a positive, exciting atmosphere! We saw Athletics (100m T11/12, 400m, 800m heats and Heptathlon Long Jump – including Katarina Johnson-Thompson) and then we saw Jack Laugher (1m springboard) and Andrea Spendolini-Siriex (10m platform) win GOLD for England in Diving! I mean, these people are so inspiring – the WORK they must have put in. The diving was my favourite part, I guess because I’ve seen a lot of athletics before, and the atmosphere was amazing – everyone in the audience holding their breath as the diver got up into a perfect armstand at the edge of the 10 metre platform…before they threw themselves off into various twists and somersaults, finally hitting the water like a fish. WOW

Did you see any of the games? I didn’t see much of the gymnastics on TV, so I’ll catch up on BBC iPlayer.

I think those two days of intensive tap really geared me up for returning to in-studio classes from September – I think I just need to decide if I’ll return to my usual class or try somewhere else for a change…it would be great to see everyone again after all this time. In the meantime – more practise and Pilates!

Review: Burn the Floor – The Reunion

I know. I’ve been at the theatre a lot lately. All the way back in December when Strictly Come Dancing was heating up towards a dramatic final, tickets were going on sale for the spin-off touring shows, such as the Live Tour and the Professionals Tour . I couldn’t make the Professionals Tour dates, but instead I jumped in and bought tickets for Burn the Floor – The Reunion: A Celebration of 25 Years at the Symphony Hall in Birmingham.

Well, last Friday night was the night! My SO and I drove up the M40 to Birmingham on Friday morning and as the show was in the evening, we stayed over until Saturday. We parked up at the Mailbox and wandered into the centre to get something to eat. WELL, as we were walking along the road, we were approaching a zebra crossing when we suddenly saw a couple riding a tandem bike towards us. How lovely, you say! Yeah, except they were STARK NAKED. IN THE MIDDLE OF BIRMINGHAM FOR CRYING OUT LOOOUUUD.

The middle of Birmingham

Later on (when I was enjoying noodles, egg-fried rice, spicy pork and salt-&-pepper chicken) and had processed what HECK I had witnessed, I wondered if they had been protesting something. When I told my mum about it on the Saturday evening, she asked me if they had a banner. I told her I don’t know –  I didn’t want to look again to find out…HA-HA!

And….now onto the show!

Birmingham Symphony Hall

The show kicked off at 7.30pm and the auditorium was pretty much full, apart from the row in front of us (as usually happens, that row suddenly populated after the interval). The award-winning Broadway show Burn the Floor is the show from which most of the Strictly pros are scouted. The Reunion starred our favourite former and current pros: Robin Windsor, Aliaz Skorjanec, Janette Manrara, Trent Whiddon, Karen Hauer, Kai Widdrington, Dianne Buswell, Luba Mushtuk and sibs Kevin and Joanne Clifton, as well as other BTF dancers I hadn’t necessary heard of, but some of whom have been Strictly/Dancing with the Stars pros in other countries.

I don’t know what I was expecting, but the show was a much bigger production than I imagined! At the beginning, director and choreographer Jason Gilkison came out to introduce the show and talk about its beginnings and evolution. We gave a huge round of applause, and it was quite emotional for him and the dancers as it was the final time they would probably all perform together. Then the lights lowered and it began. These amazing dancers took us through a variety of incredible ballroom, Latin, contemporary and jazz routines to a fantastic set of songs, led by incredible singers Rietta Austin and Patrick Smyth, with plenty of light and shade. There was Charleston, cha-cha, samba, paso doble, rumba, waltz and bit of Fosse I believe. The colourful lighting effects were exciting and atmospheric, and the whole thing was really quite “wow” in that size of auditorium. We sat in the Grand Tier but if you were lucky enough to be in the stalls, the dancers performed and strutted in the aisles around you on several occasions.

I have to say that although everyone was fantastic, my stand-outs of the show were Karen and Janette – just fabulous and so much precision. Towards the finale the show blew up with an explosive jive to Tina Turner’s ‘Proud Mary’, which I LOVED of course!!

You know that big wheel keep on turning
Proud Mary keep on burning
And we’re rolling, rolling
Rolling on the river

And just when you thought it was over, they came back out to a really apt musical number – ‘Ballroom Blitz’! As you can imagine the applause went on for AGES! At the end the show’s creators came onto the stage at the end to a round of applause and the dancers were all hugging each other and some had their phones out filming the audience and capturing the electric atmosphere. The whole thing was so uplifting!

Verdict: An exciting, energetic, exuberant Strictly Spectacular! 

June-July Favourites

A Week in Devon

 

My SO and I had a much needed week away in South Devon at the end of June. Although rain was forecast for the ENTIRE WEEK, we had sunshine all week, apart from one evening and one overnight downpour! We got to enjoy lots of seafood, beautiful gardens, a couple of short boat trips, and we even had a cheeky trip to the theatre on the evening it rained to see Agatha Christie’s The Unexpected Guest! To be honest, I could have just stayed in Devon and had our belongings shipped down, but I missed my cat too much!

Anything Goes

 

Last Saturday afternoon, my SO and I went to the Barbican Centre in the City of London to see the fabulous Tony Award winning musical Anything Goes!

The current London run is starring big name actors Bonnie Langford (Cats, 42nd Street, Eastenders), Simon Callow (Four Weddings and a Funeral, Shakespeare in Love), and Denis Lawson (Bleak House, Star Wars, New Tricks), along with award-winning West End star Kerry Ellis (Cats, Wicked, We Will Rock You).

With a fantastic Cole Porter score of many songs you’ve probably heard of, including ‘It’s De-lovely’, ‘I get a Kick out of You’, ‘You’re the Top’ aaaand ‘Anything Goes’ of course, the ocean liner-based farce was absolutely hilarious. The dance numbers were great and even included tap dancing sailors! It was just such an engaging, uplifting and fun afternoon at the theatre.

Dance & Fitness

Sleek Ballet

I’m currently taking a break from weekly tap classes, which is giving me a bit of space to work through some of my video collection on timesteps, technique and classic repertoire – I managed to get down to the garage last Thursday evening, but now we’re in the middle of a heatwave (they’re saying it’s going to be 40 degrees Celsius on Monday – not fun jumping up and down in a stuffy garage!) so I’ve not done much so far. However, I will be attending 2 days of a 3-day tap dance intensive in Covent Garden later this month – I’ve been twice before and I always come away having learnt LOADS. I just need to pace myself, because on the previous occasions I went I felt BATTERED the next day. (Better hydration? More snacks? More breaks? Electrolytes?)

I wasn’t going to continue with the Sleek Ballet membership after the trial, but they enticed me back with a discount, so I cancelled my Rambert Home Studio membership for now and I’m giving it a go! (If you look right now, they’re offering 50% off your first year with code Summer50). So far I’ve done a couple of Lower Body Barre videos and No Jump Cardio – I’m definitely feeling the burn! I also try to continue doing the BOP Jazz workouts after work and I do a daily series of stretches most evenings. I now have access to a really good collection of exercise videos – I just need to get into some sort of routine.

Keep dancing, hydrating and working out!

 

 

 

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.