Tap & Tea with Jenny Thomas

At last week’s ‘Tap & Tea’ we were joined by Strictly Come Dancing choreographer Jenny Thomas!

Jenny specialises in Lindy Hop and Charleston, but is firstly an accomplished tap dancer. She started tapping aged 4, trained at Doreen Bird College and later partnered Wayne Sleep on various show tours. The eye opener for her was seeing Gregory Hines’ 1989 film Tap.

Jenny shared loads of stories from her dance and choreography career, tap and audition advice and she even did a quick demo. She is such a positive person!

  • She invited us to think about how we can learn from other dance styles e.g. Jazz, Lindy Hop. Quite often other styles can influence your presentation of tap. Tap dancers from the past were all about presentation! (Watch the challenge scene from the Tap movie)
  • Her approach to teaching is about technique before steps. She gave the example of teaching professionals, who are able to pick up the steps of a routine, but it’s important to get the nuances of technique right first. The dance always looks better!
  • Tap is about constant weight change. It can end up like a boring monologue if it all sounds the same. Therefore it needs accents and syncopation, like a conversation.
  • She talked about expanding your musicality by listening to big band, boogie woogie, swing piano, blues etc. These genres tend to be easier to relate to tap, and allow the space for creativity.
  • She talked about tap dance being a street dance and the fact it is returning to its roots, having been refined by Hollywood, but today’s street dance tap revival is no longer being looked down upon as it once was.

I was interested in her tips on improvisation, because I find it a bit nerve-wracking in a group setting:

  • Listen to lots of music and the different instruments
  • Listen to a piece, stop the music and then emulate the rhythm. Play with it!
  • Check out books on improv by Barbara Duffy and Rusty Frank.

The next day, my laptop completely gave up and refused to charge, so I’ve had to order a new battery! Thankfully I’d finished my working week before going on furlough. What timing!

This week we’ll be hearing from Stephen Mear CBE…

(This post was typed on my phone, so apologies if the layout is funny)

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