New Tap Shoes!

OKAY, my first ever pair of customised tap shoes arrived all the way from Madrid last week! They’re handmade by Arte FyL (who specialise in Flamenco shoes) and I ordered them from through Tap Dance UK back in January, after looking through all the available colour swatches and designs on the website. I also had a ‘digital shoe fitting’ one Friday morning on Zoom with Tap Dance UK, where they got me to draw around my feet and read out the measurements, so they could place the order. (They get a special discount with Arte FyL).

I went for the Astaire style Oxford shoe in dark blue leather with aubergine patent and laces. They weren’t cheap, but I put some Christmas money towards them, plus I’m not paying extortionate train fares while I’m working from home. (I noticed a slight imperfection on them when they arrived, so I actually got 10% back). I’m not going to wear them for a full class straight away because I feel they need breaking in a bit. What I will do is wear them to mess around in and for practise and just see how they go. They don’t have the ankle cushioning that my Jason Samuels Smiths have, so I may need to stick some cushioning in the back so I don’t end up with blisters!

Can you tell I’m excited?!

Cancelled

Virtual rhythm tap class got off to a good start last week. Even though there are only two of us enrolled on the online daytime course, the course is NOT cancelled (yay!) so we can carry on. It would be a different if we were physically hogging a studio. The alternative would have been to switch to Wednesday evenings again, but I like tapping at lunchtime 🙂

I was supposed to be starting ukulele ensemble class last Friday evening, and I logged onto MS Teams at 6pm…and nothing happened. There was no meeting taking place, so I emailed and phoned the college, and finally, today I’ve been told that there weren’t enough students enrolled, so it’s cancelled. Boo! Waiting for my refund.

I also got an email earlier this month to say that our beachfront hot-tub break in the South-West is also cancelled, which is no surprise with the current lockdown situation in the UK. We really love a late January/early February break (plus it’s cheaper, being outside of peak holiday season), but it is not to be this time. But I’m thankful that we got to go away in the Summer.

I have enrolled on Tap Dance Festival UK’s online festival in February! I wasn’t actually intending to do this, but then I saw that Robin Passmore will be teaching drills, and I jumped straight onto the registration page (unfortunately missing the early bird registration by a few weeks)! New Jersey-based dancer and studio owner Robin was on the faculty at the very first Tap Dance Festival UK event I attended in Manchester in 2018, and I definitely enjoyed her class the most because she concentrates on drills and precision, which is evident in her extremely clean and accurate tap sounds. Some people find drills boring, but I absolutely LOVE THEM. After all, that’s how you get better.

This Friday I’m having a digital fitting with Tap Dance UK for some Artefyl Zapatos tap shoes from Spain – my first ever pair of customised tap shoes! I had enquired about Miller and Ben tap shoes through a UK based distributor, but there’s been a massive delay in communication between them and New York, so on their advice I cancelled the order, and then the Artefyl opportunity popped up. Hopefully shipping from Spain will be much less complicated!

A New Year’s Whodunit

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Happy New Year! I hope the Christmas holidays treated you well?

For me, there was lots of food and family time, plus half a day at work on New Year’s Eve. But I didn’t let office time spoil the week…my SO and I went to the theatre afterwards to see a matinee performance of Agatha Christie’s The Mousetrap – the longest running show in the world! Yes, the 1950s murder mystery show is now in its 68th year. It was very enjoyable, with lots of humour. I expected it to be more serious, like last year’s Witness for the Prosecution. However, as seems to be the case these days, there was someone behind us rustling a popcorn bag throughout act one, opening fizzy drinks and constantly fidgeting, like we were at the cinema, and not a LIVE STAGE SHOW. Anyway, getting back to The Mousetrap, as is tradition, I’m afraid I am unable to tell you whodunit!

I was back at work properly on Monday after lazing around for the best part of two weeks, and I will be returning to my intermediate rhythm tap class tomorrow after a 2 month break. I had signed up to an 11-week writing class at City Lit in Covent Garden, starting next week, but I changed my mind and got a refund, as I really need to buckle down and get some things finished first. That won’t happen if I’m out every Wednesday evening and my list of commitments is longer than before. I keep saying I want to ‘do less’ this year, so instead of committing to an 11-week course, I’m going to look out for one-off workshops instead, and use my free time to actually sit down and write. And practice ukulele!

On a different note, whilst in Covent Garden on New Year’s Eve, I came across dance wear specialist Bloch’s brand new shop, which had moved from its prior location in Drury Lane. I love checking out the tap shoes, so I went downstairs to the shoe area and found the brand new Jason Samuels Smith patent tap shoes:

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drool!

I already have leather versions in white and black, so I probably would go for a different colour in the patent…if I was splashing out on new shoes.

Which ones you do prefer?

Bloch Warm-up Booties

Oh my DAYS I am loving these warm up booties from Bloch! I bought them a few months ago, not because I really needed them, but because I’ve become obsessed with dancers’ foot health, I liked them and one of the teachers at the Rambert Contemporary Dance summer school wore them for the warm up session that she led, which made me think: “good idea!” And they were on sale!

They are designed to be worn for warming up and time in between dance classes, particularly ballet, jazz and contemporary. I saw someone wearing them during the lunch break at the Tap Dance UK Festival in February to keep her feet warm and for a bit of comfort in between hours of tapping and I wore mine when I got home from that amazing weekend tap marathon to take the edge off my poor tootsies when trying to walk around the house.

Designed by former American Ballet Theatre (ABT) principal dancers Irina Dvorovenko and Max Beloserkovsky, they have a thick spongy layer on the bottom and cushioned heel, which provides amazing comfort to pummelled feet, plus there’s an adjustable ankle strap and velcro fastening at the top of the boot to provide stability and stop you slipping around in them like some ill-fitting Ugg boots (don’t get me started on Ugg boots).

They also come in loads of different designs. I mean, I really wanted the jungle print ones, but they were sold out. I paid around £25 and as you can see above, I opted for purple!

Verdict: Great for pre-dance warm-ups and post-tap class comfort. LOVE ‘EM!

Note: indoor use only

Have you tried these Bloch Warm-up Booties? What do you think?

High Horse

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Okay, I was naughty a few weeks ago and went and purchased another pair of Jason Samuels Smith tap shoes by Bloch, this time in black. I have to say they’re now retailing about £30 more expensive than when I bought my white ones, but I managed to track this pair down for the original price from a dancewear shop in Edinburgh 🙂 I’ve also just sold an old pair of Bloch Sync tap shoes (as well as a few other things) on Ebay.

I haven’t worn my new Jasons to a class yet, but the beauty of the Jasons is that they are very quick to wear in and I’m thinking I’ll bring these ones out either next half-term or in January. As with other shoes, it’s probably good to have at least 2 pairs of tap shoes on rotation.

On Wednesday evening I went along to week 2 of advanced beginners and intermediate rhythm tap. Both classes were amazing again, and by the end of it my toes were really sore! In the intermediate class (level 3) we had to pair up to work on a double flap exercise (f-f-lap), so I partnered with ‘L’. Talking later on, it turns out she did all the tap dance grades when she was a child and basically tapped for 10 years, stopping when she went to University. Telling her I only started learning in 2014/15, she was amazed at my progress! But then I said I want to learn to do pullbacks, but just haven’t managed it yet.

She said she can do wings and pullbacks all day, but finds the closework we do in rhythm tap (e.g. crawls and other co-ordination beasts!) difficult. This led us onto discussing the differences between **SHOW** tap and rhythm tap. I guess you could say that one focuses on appearance and the other focuses on the sounds. I wonder if I’d struggle with syllabus tap, having only learnt the rhythm style. Interesting, huh?

In level 3 we are using the song (Get off Your) High Horse Lady by Oasis. Although we had the opportunity to film level 2 (but not level 3), I have also written down what I can remember of both routines, so hopefully I won’t get the two mixed up!

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On the train home I ate a Goji Goodness raw flapjack and drank a load of water. Unfortunately I forgot to grab a banana to have as well. I got home around 9.45pm and had tiny bit of food that I’d prepared the night before and a swig of Green Smoothie.

After a shower, I ran through my super-quick routine to roll out the muscles in my feet and legs, then I went to bed around 11pm. On Thursdays I have agreed to start work at 9.30am so that I can have a lie in and recover (except this Thursday there was a signal failure on the tube, so after going all round the houses, I didn’t get to my desk until 10am). It’s a long day and I’m still not sure it’s sustainable for the long term, but I’ll enjoy it for now…until our teacher creates a level 3 class at around 5pm on a Thursday…PLEEEEEASE

Do you struggle to remember more than one dance routine?

What are your go-to post-exercise recovery snacks?

End of Summer Sort-Out

Hey, Happy Friday!

As I said in my Summer Holiday post, I had the second of the two weeks off work as a staycation. My SO and I visited the Museum of London, which was great! Worth a visit if you want to know a bit of the history of the city, from Neanderthal to now.

At home I ended up doing a lot of sorting out because my wardrobe, drawers and washing pile seemed to be overflowing with clothing, and I felt like I haven’t done as much sorting as I would have liked since moving house last year. (I know, it’s such a first world problem). I had also been gradually replacing older work wear (like worn-out cardigans etc) with better quality items. I don’t know if it’s the thing of working in Central London, but every Summer feels like a fashion show and there’s the pressure to look on point. (This is on the commute, rather than at my workplace). I love the Autumn when I can get my coat and hat back on!

There is so much advice out there about decluttering, which is really helpful, and I’ve got a couple of home organisation books* that I’m really impressed with. Well, with their help I managed to get rid of 5 carrier bags full of stuff!

In order to pare my clothing and footwear down for the charity shop, recycling and Ebay, I used the following get-rid principles:

  • Ill fitting items
  • Colour doesn’t suit (for me, this is anything in mustard)
  • Have multiples of the same or similar (I really did have more belts and woolly hats than necessary)
  • No longer your style
  • You don’t really wear dresses/skirts that much or at all
  • Cheap and nasty (keep the better quality and stop buying throwaway clothing)
  • Doesn’t suit your lifestyle
  • You no longer do that sport
  • You don’t swim or visit the beach often enough to warrant 6 pieces of swimwear!
  • You’re just not a bikini person (I prefer a tankini or full halterneck cozzie)
  • Needs repairs you’ll never get around to
  • How many pairs of legwarmers do you need?!
  • You just never reach for it, ever

For the record, I stopped buying cheap, throwaway clothing quite a while ago because the ethical side of it is questionable. Instead I buy something classic, slightly more expensive, better quality and less often… therefore less of it. Plus I follow the one-in-one-out principle as much as I can. Sadly, it’s really hard to find British-made clothing, and if you can, it tends to be very expensive. Well, who knows what will happen after Brexit? (Don’t want to open that can of worms!)

I am also giving my clothing a double purpose so that I don’t need different clothing for each thing I do. So for example, I have smart-ish and casual work wear which can double up for going out, plus a couple pairs of jeans and casual trousers and then dance/gym wear (plus cold weather items). So at weekends, instead of having specific casual weekend wear, I combine jeans, casual trousers or dance leggings with dance/exercise tops or t-shirts and cardigans, rather than having to have separate weekend wear. Obviously, I have enough of those tops not to leave myself short when it comes to dance classes!

I hope you catch my drift. Had a sort-out recently? What are you up to this weekend?

*Organized Simplicity by Tsh Oxenreider and The Complete Book of Home Organization by Toni Hammersley.

Review: Yoga Toe Spreaders

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Doing tap dance (or any dance!) every week really pounds your feet, so it’s important to have a good foot-care regime. After class I tend to roll my feet with a spiky ball roller, stretch my toes and so on. However, while browsing the internet, I came across these gel yoga toe spreaders which are supposed to help relieve bunions and plantar fasciitis, realign wayward toes and hammer toes and generally relax aching feet. Well, I need help with all of the above, so I ordered a set.

How did they fare?

After a bit of a fight to get the thing between my toes and the initial weird feeling of my toes being spread out beyond what they were used to, I really noticed just how relaxed my feet and toes started to feel. We spend so much time running around in shoes, or scrunching our toes up that it feels almost weird to feel truly relaxed feet where each toe is an individual. I guess it’s a bit like going from running trainers to those bare-foot five-finger running things where there is a space for each individual toe. You eventually get used to the realignment of your toes and feet.

The toe spreaders were definitely easier to put on each time and I could wear them for longer, which suggests perhaps a subtle correction of alignment, or that my toes were getting used to wearing them each time.

Verdict: I love them!

  • Very good value for money at £3 a pair
  • Any post-class ache in my feet and toes was reduced
  • You can wear them and put your feet up to relax in front of the TV or with a book
  • Made of silicone, they’re easy to manipulate and to wash (I would advise washing with soap & water and dusting them with talc before next use)

They’re not going to vanish your bunion or hammer toes overnight, but they are a good stretch for the toes 🙂

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Check out my tan!

So Stagey

Tap was cancelled last week but I actually didn’t mind because I was quite tired anyway, but at the same time it was a shame to not tap for two weeks. Actually, MOVE IT 2018 made up for it so I really only went one week without tapping!

This week our teacher is running a catch up class, so I’ll be going along to that tomorrow lunchtime, armed with new top and microfibre sweat towel, both bargains I picked up from Decathlon which has just opened nearby 🙂

Sooo glad I have a week off work next week! However, I will still be dancing. Not tap, as that class will be taking a break over Easter. Being the keen person that I am, I have only gone and signed up to take part in OMG So Stagey CATS WORKSHOP at Pineapple Studios! Cats is my favourite musical ever and I must have seen it at the theatre least 6 times. So when I got a newsletter through from Pineapple and saw that a recent cast member was running this workshop, I was like “I’M THERE!”

It’s next Sunday afternoon and I will fill you in on the goss afterwards. Not sure if we need to dress up…

Merch

Yay – my sweater has arrived for MOVE IT 2018, which is in a matter of weeks!

Taking place at London’s ExCel, there’ll be performances, special guests, dance classes, workshops, and loads of stands to browse…Can’t wait!

This year I’ll be doing the following classes:

  • 42nd Street tap workshop with London Studio Centre
  • Tap class with Chloe and Maud Arnold of Syncopated Ladies

Got to get some learning in where you can!

The Beast

snowy streetSadly I’m missing my lunchtime tap class today because the UK has been experiencing wintry weather from Siberia, dubbed the ‘beast from the east’. Rather than join the chaos of road, rail and tube travel, plus this ‘Storm Emma’ that is about to take hold later today, I just decided to stay put and work from home, seeing as I can. Still, I do love a snowy scene!

This weekend we’re off to Birmingham (yes, another weekend away) to watch the World Indoor Athletics Championships at the NIA! Hopefully.

I’ve been practising the first part of our tap routine that we learnt last week, which strangely enough, I have been able to remember! All of it! I actually think the quick-fire method of learning at Tap Dance Festival UK a few weeks ago might have something to do with it because you’re forced you to pick things up quickly and not think about it but just do it.

Dance Bag

Added to this I’m also trying to clear my schedule, slow down, make life a bit simpler and have the head space to remember things like routines! I’ve had my finger in too many pies lately, so I decided to make a list of all the things I’m doing or am involved in (work, commuting, my soap biz, HR studies, dancing, blogging, church, redecorating…) and then see what I can cut out, reduce or change. So far I’ve closed a blog (on Interior Design), am only doing one dance class a week rather than 2 back-to-back, and I’ve decided not to pursue Interior Design as a career (however, I will be going to a one off Interior Design Experience Day in May, where a delicious lunch will be provided ;-))

Anyone else have the tendency to over-commit? Too many classes? Too many ideas?

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Always helps 🙂