Hit it!

Random photo of my cat

This week was the penultimate Rhythm Tap class of the 6 week block. I can’t believe how quickly it’s gone! It was one of those weeks where I was quite tired and it would have been easy to just jump on the tube and head home, but I sucked it up, had a protein-packed salad and a sugary drink and got myself over there!

We were back to the usual crowd this week and we continued learning our Easy routine (I think a few people had exams and other things going on last week when we had a guest teacher). Although I hadn’t really practiced the routine since week 2, it’s not massively complicated and is fairly slow. But… that means that you have to nail every sound at the right moment! Not always easy.

At the weekend I actually got myself down to my little garage dance studio at the end of the garden! Armed with phone and Bluetooth speaker so I could play music, I spent about an hour doing tap drills – shuffles in all directions, paddles, pick-ups, cramp rolls, crawls, riffs, and I even managed to do wings for the first time ever! I also spent a good amount of time stretching afterwards πŸ™‚ Following this I think I saw some improvements in hitting the sounds in the Wednesday class. My left foot is the one that tends to miss the floor every now and then, so I’m trying to even both sides up by spending more time on drilling my left foot. It all helps!

At the end of Wednesday’s class, our teacher encouraged people to speak to her about level and trying level 3 (if it had been suggested)… so I did, as she mentioned it to me months ago. Well, I told her that I’d like to try it, but that it’s just a bit too late for getting home in the middle of the week. So she told me to book the next block of level 2 (done weeks ago!) and to drop in on a level 3 class one week.

We’ll see…

Babs

Had a great class tonight with our stand-in guest tap teacher Babette from Base Dance Studios in Vauxhall (after the original guest teacher had double-booked)! Apart from a few people I know, it seemed to be a completely different set of people! Weird. Maybe some took advantage of the bank holiday and gorgeous weather and took the entire week off. Or you do get that thing where people skip the one where the usual teacher is away.

We did a warm up in a circle to get our feet and ankles ready to some jazz by the legend that is Miles Davis. We were asked what tap steps we know, but I think because it wasn’t most of the usual crowd, it probably came across like we didn’t know much! Argh, we’re level 2! For example, we were asked if we had done a 5 beat paddle and everyone seemed to say no, while I was saying yes. However, I realised later that some had only been learning tap for 3 months (which confused me as to why they are doing level 2…anyway…).

Also, I’ve learnt all sorts of extras at the various tap festivals I’ve been to (plus I’m generally obsessed!), so I probably knew some of the steps Babette mentioned from those occasions (5+ beat riffs and paddles, and slides I learnt at Brighton tap Festival). We are quite a varied class!

We did some travelling exercises consisting of shuffles and flaps and then we learnt 2 cool routines that we did as a round (i.e. half did routine 1 while half did routine 2)! Although we all forgot the beginning of the first routine.

Level 3 keeps popping up in conversation, and I’d love to see what it’s like, but as a regular class, it’s way too late to get home on a school night. I struggle to get up on Thursday mornings as it is! I also think there’s an air of mystery hanging over level 3 where everyone is dying to get there before they’re ready. I know, we all get impatient to be able to do the crazy stuff.

BUT I think, if you’re not practising your steps outside of class, forget it. If you can get into a routine of regular practice, then it’ll happen! It’s like learning to drive a car. Eventually your lessons will get you there, but practising every day will get you there sooner. I know I need to practice more; I have no excuse now with the space we set up in the garage πŸ™‚

On a side note, our trip to see 42nd Street at the weekend was amazing!! If you’ve been reading my blog for a while, you’ll know I saw it with a friend last summer. This time my SO and I took my mum for her birthday, and it was soooo gooood! I think I enjoyed it even more the second time!

Trying a Class for the First Time?

Maybe you’re thinking of trying a dance class for the first time but are feeling a bit nervous. Maybe you’ve never danced before and this is your year for trying something new? Well, I’ve been going to dance classes for several years now, but it’s still scary to turn up at something new where you don’t know anyone, or you’re unsure of your abilities. A friend told me recently that she and her SO want to learn Salsa dance. They went along, got to the door and then chickened out and went home again. I’ve done the same thing myself before, so I’ve put together some tips for getting yourself through the studio door:

Find a class specifically for adults

Mixed age classes are great if you’re feeling confident and already have dance experience, but a class for adults will be understanding of how adults learn and adapt, and you’re less likely to feel daunted. Adult learning colleges are excellent at this! They also tend to run in terms, so there are regular points in the year where there are lots of new people, like you, starting at the same time.

I tried a few classes in the past which were advertised as being for ‘adults’, but in reality the age was 16+ and the class was clearly aimed at the younger ones. I felt like a giant with extra-long limbs who couldn’t do what they were doing and exited asap.

Contact the teacher beforehand

It’s a good idea to contact the teacher or school to find out more about the class, including the level. They will answer any questions you may have, they might even recommend a different class, level or school, or give you a free trial. Linked to that:

Find out if there’s a dress code

Some classes have a dress code, but many adult classes are relaxed, as long as you’re wearing appropriate footwear. It’s best to find out what to wear so you don’t splash out on expensive leotards unnecessarily. I wear leggings and layered vests for tap, ballet and jazz. I did start ballet in leotard and ballet skirt, but my adult college class had a relaxed dress code; the only thing was to remove jewellery. (I remember once a guy came in dripping in heavy silver necklaces and rings. The teacher asked him to remove them. Said guy walked out!!)

Get there early

I don’t mean an hour early, but get there so you’re not rushing and stressed before going in. Give yourself time to use the facilities, find the studio or room, stretch, fill up your water bottle etc.

Smile and say hi

Whenever I go to a new class I make sure to acknowledge other people, smile and say hi. It goes a long way. People tend to reciprocate and you often find it a nicer atmosphere. It also helps to make other newbies feel welcome and contributes to forming relationships with your classmates. There will always be people who are stand-offish or cliquey, but on the whole it makes a friendlier class that you can look forward to.

Take a friend with you

Persuade a friend, colleague or family member to go with you as moral support!

Any other tips to add?

What have your experiences been when trying a dance class for the first time?

I’m going to an Interior Design one day course in London on Friday… I will be applying some of these tips! 😬

Check It Out

I never made it to my tap class last night because I was feeling a bit on the fatigued side and decided to head home and rest, instead of overdoing it and ending up unable to surface for a busy work day in the morning (or passing out in the studio). Sometimes you’ve just got to give in and rest.

As is tradition now, today I had a little practice of a pickup exercise we’ve been doing. Check it out LOL

 

 

I also booked tickets to see The Tap Pack at Sadlers Wells’ Peacock Theatre in Holborn next Thursday evening! I had kind of written it off due to going to 42nd Street this coming Saturday (oh by the way, turns out my brother used to teach the lead actress!) and wanting to calm it down a bit, but I got an email from Sadlers Wells featuring a clip of the show and the tickets are discounted for certain evenings… Cannot wait!

Courtesy of Peacock Theatre

Next Wednesday we have a guest teacher at our tap class so that should be fun!

3 Beat Roll

This week I was a bit spaced out at tap class, despite having had over an hour to chill out and forget about work. I think I was just really tired! We had open windows this week (yay!) as the building work has progressed so that the wall is no longer covered in plastic sheeting.

We worked on a backward travelling exercise using pickups, where we did 3 alternating heel-drops in between each. A good tip is to sit back so that the weight is on your back foot, otherwise it complicates matters in terms of travelling. It was quite challenging with a faster piece of music, but with more practice time, it’ll be easier… I hope!

We also went over our 3-beat cramp roll with a fun exercise to Mark Ronson’s Uptown Funk.

Here’s a video of my quick practice (during a break at work, in heels!) of the 3-beat cramp roll that we are using in our routine. It has another name, but I keep forgetting what that is!

 

 

I’ve seen on social media that booking is open for the London Tap Dance Intensive, which takes place over 3 days at the end of July, using 3 different venues (Base, Danceworks and Pineapple Studios) with an amazing faculty line-up, plus Brighton Tap Festival is also advertising at the moment. I really don’t want to overdo it this year because I’m trying to get my soap business side gig back on track and will be doing a couple of local summer fairs, plus I already went to the amazing Tap Festival UK at the start of the year. I could also do with cutting back a bit on my spending, so I will probably do one day at the London Tap Dance Intensive and let Brighton be because I have been before and it involves a bit more travel. Or, I allow LTDI (and the modern phenomenon of FOMO) and go to Brighton as it’s during my summer holiday fortnight. These events are great for cementing what you’ve been learning in regular classes and also give you new skills and steps. I dunno, I’ll keep you posted!

Happy weekend whatever you’re up to! β˜€οΈ

Easy

Yay, the sun is out and we have warm weather! I was celebrating this fact yesterday until I suddenly thought, oh no, I bet the tap class will be in the usual evening studio A04. This studio is in the basement and is usually quite warm. Last time I was there the windows were pretty much sealed up due to ongoing building works to make the reception area more accessible. Well, last night there was plastic sheeting over the entire wall of windows… But we had 2 fans!

Anyway, enough about that. It was GREAT to be back at the Wednesday evening class! It was busy but not crazy big as it usually is. Caught up with my pal R who I haven’t seen in a while and I told her about the Cats Workshop at Pineapple Studios so hopefully she’ll come to the next one in June. I’ve been gushing about it so much I should get some commission (or a free t-shirt)! We also spent a while talking about tap shoes because it was the first time I’d worn my white Jason Samuel Smiths to the evening class. Once in a warm-up circle, I felt slightly self conscious because everyone else was in standard black taps.

We learnt a travelling pickup step which moves in a triangular formation – a lot of crossing your legs and trying not to get tangled while still making all the sounds! Our teacher asked if I was doing it without thinking. Me: “er, yes”. Then she got me to go a bit faster. Fun!

We also learnt a different sort of cramp roll, where the toe of one foot stays on the ground, so you get 3 sounds instead of 4. Both this and the previous exercise fed into our **routine**, which is a slow one to Lionel Richie and the Commodores’ Easy.

It was a really fun evening, and despite saying that I wanted to swap to Thursday lunchtimes, I think I’m going to stick with Wednesday night.

Which reminds me, I’d better book the next one before it sells out 😯

OMG Cats Workshop

Pineapple Studios

So yesterday afternoon I went into London and took part in the OMG So Stagey Cats (The Musical) Workshop at Pineapple Studios, Covent Garden, taught by cast member Cameron Ball (Macavity/Admetus).

It was AMAZINGGGGGGG!!!

It was a packed studio as expected, and extremely hot until someone found the air con switch! We did a quick aerobic warm up consisting of jogging with various arm circles, plus some stretches and some cat-like movements and mannerisms to get us into character and ready for the routine we’d be learning…. The Jellicle Ball! OMG Yes, everyone was very excited!

If you know the Andrew Lloyd-Webber musical, you will know it’s the bit everyone gets excited about. It’s a 12 minute full on dance piece, but we were only learning the first few minutes. Apparently the full piece is notoriously a killer! The part we learnt is an audition piece – ooh!

The choreography by Gillian Lynne is amazing. Formerly a ballet soloist, she is now 94 and apparently still does the splits, every day. Wow.

I’ve been to see the show several times, including once at its original home, the New London Theatre in Covent Garden’s Drury Lane. I also have the show on DVD, which I used to dance along to a bit here and there, so I kind of know the part we were learning very well, but obviously we were learning the intricacies that you don’t pick up from a DVD, i.e. the particular steps, and the bits when the camera pans away to something else! But this prior knowledge definitely helped me remember where I supposed to be going because there are a lot of changes of direction. We performed the piece various times as a whole group, in 2 groups and even in 3 groups while the others watched. There were also people watching from outside the studio – all adds to the exhilaration of performing!

After learning the routine, we were then taught the bit at the very start very start of the Jellicle Ball, where we all begin by lying on the floor and then different cats pop up as they sense that someone is there (Grizabella, a fallen glamour cat). We were all labelled number 1, 2 or 3 and then each number had a different thing to do once the music kicked in. I was a number 1, so I was tapping on the floor with my claws 6 times, then I had to come up to standing, bring my hands up in front and behind my midriff with knees bent and then do a kind of jazz-hands, head shake, body shake. Others were shoulder shimmying and or shaking their booty. So much fun! This then led into our main routine, which we then performed all the way through in groups and all together!

I have to say I felt my back pinch the last time through, but, the show must go on! I was ok, I had just over-rotated when I was on the floor.

Watch the Jellicle Ball here (we ended at 1:18):

It was such a fun afternoon and I finally got to learn some of the Cats choreography, which I’ve wanted to do since I first saw the show in the 90’s.

p.s. Only one person was dressed up head to toe in costume, plus makeup! No, it wasn’t me 😁

OMG So Stagey do other West End Workshops at Pineapple (Kinky Boots, Les Miserables etc), so check them out if you’re in the London area.