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.

 

 

Writer’s Block

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A few months ago I decided to make 2019 my year of getting back into writing. I’ve been writing this blog, plus small amounts of content for my soap biz website and social media, and I update web pages for church and work…but now I want to concentrate on improving my writing and future prospects by developing skills in particular types of writing such as:

  • copywriting
  • copy editing & proofreading
  • digital content writing
  • report writing

I have begun my ‘journey’ by enrolling on a copywriting introductory workshop, which takes place in London at the end of July, and I have been reading a great book called ‘May I Have Your Attention Please?’ by copywriting whizz Mish Slade. It’s funny – since stating my intentions a few months ago and saving off a load of writing exercises to have a go at, I suddenly find I am writing less than before!

I was going to write a blog post on one of America’s tap dance legends at the weekend and then I had a mental block. Maybe I’ve been overthinking it and getting too concerned with putting out a FANTASTIC AWARD-WINNING blog post. To be honest, it’s probably more because I’ve been doing a lot at the weekends with my soap biz now that Spring and Summer fete season is upon us! Well, as I am now 2 events down, with 2 to go (a small one this Saturday and a BIG event 22nd June), I can look forward to setting aside some time this summer to do some writing practice exercises. There are also various free creative writing workshops around my borough in the autumn as part of a local literary festival.

In other news, rhythm tap classes resume this Thursday lunchtime and I am VERY excited! I was feeling a little jaded yesterday and wondering if I need a break, but GIRL, you’ve just had a 2 week break and it’s the final stretch before the summer break (and our teacher asked me for a song suggestion)! I have also been keeping up with weekly gym sessions at the university and I feel a lot fitter. I’ve even lost about 2kg since I started training – BOOM! I’m hoping to fit a session in tomorrow as I met an ex-colleague for lunch today (Gym Tuesday). Because it’s a bit too close to tap day, I’ll probably just go easy….

:))

How to Make the Most of your Tap Dance Lessons

You may be a full time dance student or you may only have an hour of tap class a week (like me), so you have to find a way to make the most of what you have:

  • Pay attention in class! That’s right. Listen to what your teacher is saying and watch the demonstrations closely.
  • Learn from others who are more experienced or seem to know what they’re doing.
  • Ask questions when you have the opportunity. This is usually at the end of the class, but you may have opportunity during the class too (e.g. What is this step called? Which leg are we starting on? Who is your favourite tap dancer?! etc.)
  • Take the opportunity to film the routine or combination if given. Then you can become more familiar with it and practice outside of class. It helps to visualise even if you can’t physically do the steps for whatever reason, e.g. You’re on public transport or your leg is in plaster…
  • Practice as soon as you are able after your class just so it doesn’t escape your brain straight away!
  • Practice daily! Even if it’s only 5 minutes in the corridor at work. It helps cement things and keeps the muscle memory alive, so to speak.
  • Download or listen the track you’re using so you can familiarise yourself with the music, and any unusual rhythms it may have.
  • Take away one thing you can work on for next time. If you load yourself up with too many things to improve, you might stress yourself out and improve nothing.

Other general advice:

  • Watch tap dance online
  • Get to your classes early
  • Go to classes regularly
  • Read up on tap history
  • Watch tap shows at the theatre if you can
  • Read up on tap terms. Some steps have different names to what you’re used to (slurp vs closed third)
  • Attend workshops and festivals to try new stuff and meet other tappers
  • Follow tap dancers on social media
  • Join tap dance social media groups

What do you think?

I made a resolution this year to write a list of things I want to know and then try to ask my teacher a question every week, but sometimes I forget or chicken out 🙂

(We’re currently on a 2 week break from rhythm tap class, but I’m managing to keep up with my weekly workouts at the gym!)

Cottage Pie

I really fancied a hearty Sunday dinner this weekend, so I decided to make a British classic – Cottage Pie!

Ingredients

  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 500g lean minced beef
  • 1 onion, finely chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
  • 1 tbsp tomato puree
  • 500ml beef stock
  • Glug of Red wine
  • 2 tsp mixed herbs
  • 2 tsp all purpose seasoning
  • Dash of cayenne pepper
  • 500g potatoes, peeled and cut into chunks
  • 10g butter
  • 50ml milk
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Method

  1. Heat oil in pan and add mince and onions. Season with salt, ground black pepper and all purpose seasoning. Fry until minced is browned and drain any excess fat.
  2. Add garlic, tomato puree, beef stock, herbs, cayenne, red wine. Bring to the boil and simmer gently for about 20 minutes.
  3. Preheat the oven to 180C/gas mark 4. Put potatoes into a pan of cold water and bring to the boil. Cook for around 15 mins until soft enough for mashing. Drain well.
  4. Mash potatoes in the saucepan. Add butter, milk and salt and pepper to taste. Transfer meat mixture to an ovenproof dish.
  5. Pipe or spread mashed potato on top. Grind pepper over the top and cook in the oven for 35-40 mins until golden brown and bubbling.
  6. Voilà!

I have to say I didn’t have enough potatoes in the house, but hey ho, it was still delicious! You can also add carrots to further enhance this dish.

(Adapted from a recipe for Shepherd’s Pie in the OXO Cookbook, Quadrille, London, 2015)