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: Ballet Black Double Bill

Photo credit: Bill Cooper

Last Thursday I went to see Ballet Black at the Watford Palace Theatre. I was so burned from work last week that I wasn’t really in the mood until we got there. In their 19th season, Ballet Black were performing a double bill of two very different pieces: Then Or Now and The Waiting Game.

Then Or Now

This muted piece was set to a spoken score, the poetry of American poet Adrienne Rich (1929-2012) from her Dark Fields of the Republic, along with the music of Heinrich Franz von Biber (1644-1704). Being set to poetry made it a series of shorter pieces, with themes of the breakdown of community, selfishness, individualism, politics and violence. For me, Then Or Now was powerful but I found the spoken word difficult to concentrate on after a while (probably because I was really tired), and it was a little abstract for me, but it was danced really beautifully and I enjoyed the variety of Will Tuckett’s choreography.

Photo credit: Bill Cooper

The Waiting Game

Choreographed by Mthuthuzeli November, this was my favourite piece of the evening, on the topic of something almost everyone can relate to: the monotony of the daily grind and the desire to escape! Spoken over and over again were the words (I hope I’ve remembered this correctly) “Wake, shower, eat, work, eat lunch, work, home, dinner, sleep, wake, shower, eat, work….” and it went on and on like that. The main character, the work drone, is ruminating on the meaning of life and death and is trapped in a cycle of constantly trying to leave his life via a mystery door, that seems to be enticing him (through a group of mischievous dancers) to an exciting life…but he keeps being prevented from opening it. He meets his sparky alternate (female) self on his cyclical journey of torment and eventually the door is opened and he joins the party, complete with sequined jacket, dancing with gospel church joy to Etta James’ fabulous song Something’s Got a Hold of Me…before returning to his monotonous old life, and the punchline is delivered. This scene was so uplifting and a visual treat.

Verdict: A really enjoyable contemporary ballet double bill, displaying creativity and contrast. As you’ve probably gathered, The Waiting Game was my favourite piece.

 

5 Things in 5 Pictures

Autumn has definitely arrived

Despite the torrential rain (a hangover of Hurricane Lorenzo), this is still my favourite time of year. Well, apart from the clock change. Coats, scarves, boots, red and orange leaves, bonfires, firework displays, squashes and soups!

I joined a new gym! 

On Wednesday lunchtime I went to the council gym near work. Coming from the familiarity of the neat University gym, I had to have a look around the machines before getting started. They seem a bit more fiddly to load weight to, and some of them were broken. The air con wasn’t working properly. The steam room was CLOSED. But it is a busy gym of heavy usage, so not entirely surprising. I’ll be back on Tuesday, and I might even try the swimming pool. If it doesn’t work out, I may quit and return to the Uni gym in its temporary location.

On Wednesday night I had my second Ukulele class

I realised after the first class that I needed to cut my nails so I could press the strings properly! We had a substitute teacher as our tutor was unable to make it this week. The stand-in was very good and even got us onto strumming. We went over chords C, F, A minor, G7 and we even added C7. Lots of information, but I can see how learning a musical instrument (musicality, rhythm, strumming patterns, reading music, timing etc) feeds into tap dancing. Love it.

Watching Ballet on stage is like being in a dream

At the weekend, my SO and I went to Sheffield to visit his sister. On the Saturday evening, she took us to see Northern Ballet, currently celebrating 50 years, perform Cinderella at The Lyceum. The dancing was high quality, and because the story is so familiar (I loved my Ladybird books LOL), it was intriguing to see how they would stage the story. For example, in this production, the Fairy Godmother is a magician, first introduced at a Moscow winter market among other interesting circus performers.  I particularly enjoyed the crystal lake ice skating scene and the Prince’s winter ball. Enchanting, wintery and wonderful!

 

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I couldn’t quit tap if I tried

Last week I thought I’d made my mind up to take a break from rhythm tap classes once this 6 week block is up next week, and come back to it after Christmas, once my Ukulele classes have finished. I thought maybe I’d go swimming on a Thursday lunchtime instead – something that doesn’t require too much brainpower! But then I went to my class and LOVED EVERY MINUTE. I feel like I’m back ‘in the zone’, as Britney would say and I’m learning loads of new intermediate level things and have lots of fun things to work on…

Qualified

_20180724_161049.JPGLately I’ve been pondering the question of when you are allowed to call yourself a dancer. I keep saying to people that I take dance classes, or I’m learning to tap dance, but hesitate to say I’m a ‘dancer’ probably because in the past people told me I had missed the boat, I was too old etc when I said I wanted to dance and do choreography, plus I don’t perform, I never took any grades in anything, and so on. Yet when I think about it, I’ve actually been dancing for over 15 years.

Did you have to start dancing as a 2 year old to qualify?

Despite the opportunity I had with my dad supplying dance shoes to all the local dance schools (Ballroom, Latin, Ballet, Jazz) I didn’t take formal dance lessons as a child, and only started with a weekly freestyle jazz class at University, culminating in a show that I invited friends and family to watch. But there’s enough stories out there of professional dancers or dance teachers who started learning late. It’s much harder, but it’s possible.

Is it about how often you dance?

Once working I started doing weekly dance classes at my local theatre, which included street jazz, break dance, and even a bit of Charleston to Amy Winehouse, plus a performance at the end of the Summer term with a work colleague I managed to convince to join me. We were working during the day, so we missed the dress rehearsal – doh!

Since working in London where there are lots if places to dance I’ve pretty much been dancing most weeks with the odd break to like, be ill or move house 🙂

Must you be performing regularly? 

I’m not as bothered about performing these days as I’m just dancing for the love of it, and to learn something new (rhythm tap – yeah!).  When I was still going to classes at the theatre I enjoyed the opportunity to perform a bit and did a street jazz solo at a talent contest two years in a row. If I was learning at a specific dance school I would probably have more opportunity to perform now in end of year or termly shows. Mind you, I believe the advanced level classes at my facility do take part in the end of term shows…

Or is it about your commitment to and passion for dance?

I think it’s a lifestyle. Dancing as regularly as you can, training, learning, improving, trying new things, evolving. Or, you may have been a dancer in the past who stays inspired by watching dance, reading, writing, inspiring others, attending events.

How tap dance differs

I love doing ballet classes, but because it’s a formal style of dance that takes a lot of training and can be elitist, most adult learners [read: beginners] would not call themselves a ballet dancer, and certainly NOT a ballerina/ballerino. However, since throwing myself into rhythm tap, practicing constantly and reading all about its humble beginnings on slave plantations and street corners, where people make up their own steps and styles which they challenge each other with and steal from others, I realise I can call myself a dancer. Tap is informal and everyone is invited to contribute something (hence improvisation). A lot of people who have been dazzled by the showy Broadway version of tap don’t realise it’s actually a social dance, like Salsa or Swing.

I’m starting to feel like I can call myself a tap dancer…but definitely not a Hoofer…just yet 😉

What do you think? Do you call yourself a dancer? Or do you feel like you have a long way to go before you qualify? Maybe you feel like this in some other area of life?

Home Dance Studio

During my week off work I finally got to set up my home dance studio/gym in the garage! Now I have somewhere to practise tap dance 😀👍👍

It is a great space because the people who owned the house before had installed electricity for lights and heating, plus a proper door from the garden and a window, which brings natural light. There is also plenty of light from the transparent roof.

The studio is comprised of the following:

  • Interlocking foam floor tiles (wood effect)
  • 3 over-the-door mirrors (around £14 each from The Range)
  • Cube unit for storing dumbbells etc
  • Foldaway ballet barre
  • Tap board
  • Motivational posters
  • Plants

I had attached some red ‘Dance’ lettering to the wall above the mirrors, but it fell down and broke overnight, so I need to find a way fix it and try to attach it more securely.

The next task is to get rid of the rest of the furniture sitting at the other end of the garage!

I’m so pleased with it because I was getting kind of frustrated with having nowhere to practise other than in the corridors and toilets at work. Yay!

Has anyone done anything similar?

Nominated 

I am chuffed to have been nominated for the Mystery Blogger Award! I have always loved writing, so naturally I ended up starting a blog about my dance pursuits, especially now that I’m learning to tap dance.

The Mystery Blogger Award was created by Okoto Enigma and I love the idea behind it of highlighting all the unknown blogs and creative writers out there: https://www.okotoenigmasblog.com/my-greatest-creation-yet/

I would like to thank Dorky Dancing for nominating me! She writes a great dance blog and is my most enthusiastic follower. I enjoy reading her posts about all the different dance classes she’s doing.

Here is a list of the rules:

  1. Put the award logo/image on your blog
  2. List the rules
  3. Thank whoever nominated you and provide a link to their blog
  4. Mention the creator of the award and provide a link as well
  5. Tell your readers 3 things about yourself
  6. You have to nominate 10 – 20 people
  7. Notify your nominees by commenting on their blog
  8. Ask your nominees any 5 questions of your choice; with one weird or funny question (specify)
  9. Share a link to your best post(s)

Three facts about me:

1.  I work in Human Resources but also make and sell soap in my spare time
2.  I have a degree in English Literature but am also qualified as a fitness instructor
3.  I have a cat from Essex called Ruby who is 3 years old and I believe is a (part?) Norwegian Forest Cat. She has a very fluffy bottom and she pops up in the blog every now and then!

Your Questions Answered:

1. If you were a soup, which flavour of soup would you be? Spicy pumpkin – I’ve been told I’m warm and comforting

2. What causes you to doubt yourself? Overthinking – just do it!

3. If time, money, distance, relationships and education were not an issue, what would be your dream job? I would be an interior designer, like Kelly Hoppen. Other than that
I would love to run my handmade soap business full time. Beach-side. In a warm climate.

4. What does your dream house look like? It sounds extremely cheesy but I feel like I moved into my dream house when I moved in November. It’s a Victorian terraced house; old and wonky, but I love it. Other than that, it would be house with a verandah and a dance studio!

Verandah
That’ll do

5. What dance move or style would you like to master? I would LOVE to master tap dance – it’s quite hard, especially beginning in adulthood and there’s so much to learn! Another thing would be a pirouette – so far I’ve only really ever done the preparation steps.

Pay it Forward

I don’t follow too many blogs, but here are the ones who I enjoy reading and also deserve this accolade of nomination:

  • Dorky Dancing – she was very kind to nominate me and I really enjoy reading her posts about her dancing and the classes she attends. She has a great sense of humour too!
  • Adult Ballerina Project – the first ballet blog I started reading when I was trying Ballet classes for the first time. She hasn’t posted in a long time because I think she decided to stop writing it, but there’s loads to read about the ballet journey as an adult beginner. Inspired me to start a dance blog.
  • On The Way to the Barre – loads of ballet chat and tips, and nice photos. She also has a cat.
  • Ballet.to – a very honest ballet blog written by May to inspire others having a go at Ballet.
  • Dance your Buns Off – another ballet blog. Lots of  helpful tips and I like reading the interviews with professional dancers.
  • Tweed and the Beard – a non-dance blog all about food and meal prepping! I love food and cooking, so I enjoy reading her posts, especially when it comes to lunchbox ideas. She started following me fairly recently.

5 questions for my nominees:

  1. What made you start blogging?
  2. What would you most like to achieve in 2018?
  3. What is your favourite song, like ever?
  4. What is your favourite dance step or move?
  5. Which animal would be your Harry Potter Patronus? (Mine is a cat obvs)

And finally, check out my post about my day at Rambert’s Adult Contemporary Summer Intensive 2017! 

 

Reflections on 2017

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I have finally had a chance this weekend to think back over the last year and my various dance pursuits. Some of the highlights:

  • Rambert Contemporary Dance Summer School – such a good day and I managed to keep up with the full time dance students, even with painful achilles tendons 🙂
  • Move It Dance 2017 – I go to this exhibition in London’s Docklands every year, but in 2017 I pushed the boat out and took a tap class with the Guinness World Record breaking tap dancer Jo Scanlan of Tap Attack!
  • Learnt the Shim Sham and had a go at Tap improvisation
  • Did ballet (barre only) course at improvers level at City Lit after pining for ballet for some time
  • Got my Maud & Chloe Arnold tap shoes for Christmas

I look forward to continuing my tap dance training and attending some more festivals and workshops in 2018!

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LCBC (Last class before Christmas) 

I am just on my way home from my last ballet class of the year. To warm up I walked from Waterloo Bridge to Citylit and then just did some stretches at the barre once I was changed (I had intended to change before leaving work and leave a bulky cardigan there, but there’s a girl who won’t stop talking and I literally had to just grab ‘n’ go LOL).

I hadn’t been since moving house, so I felt a bit unsure of myself, but it was ok! We were challenged with some longer sequences including battement glisses, battement piques en croix, attitudes in front and behind, pas de bouree, and more! I had another one of those moments where 2 of us were asked to demonstrate the pas de bouree exercise and I was literally blank until the moment I began! ‘Adult Learner After Work Brain’ or ALAWB syndrome, I call it 😁

We ended the class in the centre (ooh!)  with reverence which we never usually do as it’s a barre only class. I thought id never done it, but part way through, I realised this is what we did every week at Aviv when I was doing their 8 week adult ballet beginners course. Anyway, I enjoyed it.  Made me think about doing Classical Ballet beginners or improvers, but I’ll have to see as I’m all psyched up for returning to RHYTHM TAP in January!

What are your dance plans for the new year?