Festival Fever

I’ve just returned from Manchester where I attended the amazing Tap Dance Festival UK 2019!

I travelled up on Friday afternoon so I could be there for the 9.30am start on Saturday. This year they had a separate ‘Adult’ level, which made it a lot more approachable for those of us aged 30 plus!

After registration I went to the canteen to wait for the first session and bumped into someone from my Thursday lunchtime rhythm tap class! We didn’t know either one of us were going to the festival, and she had left the class straight away on Thursday, so she didn’t hear me mention I was going. Phew, someone to have lunch with!

We started with an energetic aerobic full body warm-up before being led to our studio for the day. The day ran as follows:

Rudimentals with Liz Carroll (New Jersey Tap Ensemble)

Liz got us learning a Steve Condos combination, which uses a basic crawl (heel, toe, heel, toe), but adds in the heel (or toe) on the other foot, in between each). It got very mind-bending, but it was fun to try and do it! Then she taught us some of Buster Brown’s trademark dance Laura. Loved it!

Musicality & choreography with Sarah Reich (Sourtaps)

Everyone was excited about headliner Sarah Reich’s class! Hailing from Los Angeles, she has performed with the Syncopated Ladies, Postmodern Jukebox, Jason Samuels Smith; she founded her own company Tap Music Project and has just released a tap jazz album called New Change, which I now own. It’s amazing!

In her class we worked on rhythm turns, the basis of which is a cramp roll (toe-toe-heel-heel). We worked on a basic turn and then a travelling one. I managed to get through the class without getting dizzy for once! (My spotting technique for turns is rusty LOL). Then we learned a short routine that included two turns. SO GOOD! I love her style and emphasis on musicality. She is the second tapper I’ve heard say “learn to play drums”… I’m still thinking about it!

Classic repertory with Tony Waag (American Tap Dance Foundation)

Tony Waag is the founder of the ATDF, based in New York, along with the legendary Brenda Bufalino and the late Honi Coles – wow! His class was really good fun! We worked on a short routine that got us working out left and right, and there were a couple of complicated combos, but he emphasised not thinking about it, which is definitely the tip of the week!

Lunch, Intro to faculty & Q&A

We sat in the theatre space to eat lunch and listened to each faculty member introduce themselves and give a bit of their background and then answer our questions. Needless to say, this session overran massively, so the advertised ‘Open Space’ was moved to the end of the day!

A big part of the discussion was (not very technical) British syllabus tap versus (extremely technical) American rhythm tap. We were fortunate to have Alison Forrester on the panel who is a dance examiner and syllabus writer who shed some light on this. Many of the Brits on the panel said they passed all their tap syllabus exams and thought they were accomplished… Until they went to a tap class in the US, and realised they didn’t know anything. Amazing. So they all retrained in the US. And then brought it back to the UK! (Of course syllabus tap has its place in a formalised standard of progression).

Tap Attack (Jo & Kai Scanlan)

In this class Jo asked us what we wanted to work on, and we went with cross-phrasing! We did a slightly complicated exercise that she does with all her students and it got us tapping across the phrase of music as well as on the beat. Then we had a go at pickups/pullbacks travelling forwards and backwards – something to work on! I always enjoy Jo’s classes.

After Tap Attack I met my SO outside to make sure we got on the road to do the journey home.

It was such an amazing day, and if I could have, I would have done the entire 3 days, or maybe add on the evening show, social and tap jam for a bit extra.

It was so great to learn new steps and techniques from some of the masters, who themselves learned from the American greats, many of whom are no longer alive (Gregory Hines, Honi Coles, Jimmy Slyde etc).

It’s funny, I felt so jaded after my class on Thursday (tiredness etc) and was considering taking a 5 week or 1 term break, but the festival has filled me with fresh enthusiasm and a renewed desire to learn more and get better!

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Jump Back

Thursday lunchtime rhythm tap restarted this week and I was really looking forward to getting back in the studio after Christmas! Monday’s Pilates class left me with a bit of DOMS (delayed onset muscle soreness) but by Thursday it had worn off. The 2 day gap between classes was certainly sensible!

Many of the same people were back this term, plus a few new faces. I don’t know if our teacher read my mind (or this blog) but we worked on pullbacks! YAY! And I could actually do them! DOUBLEYAY! I have been obsessed with being able to do them ever since last year’s Tap Dance Festival UK technique class with Robin Passmore where I just wasn’t getting it at all.

A pullback is 2 sound step where you pickup both feet at the same time with elevation. You can also do single ones and keep switching feet. According to Acia Gray in her tap dance guidebook The Souls of Your Feet (1998):

The most difficult action to master is the JUMP action of leaving the floor in order to execute the BACK

AMEN. It was exciting to be able to finally execute them, but then my feet really started to ache 😦 A bit of stretching and Spiky rollerball helped immensely once I was back at my desk.

We also worked on a Shirley Temple exercise which was slightly mind bending (we kept changing direction) and a SuzyQ exercise, which is another basic step I wasn’t entirely confident in, but the practice helped cement things a bit more.

Our routine this half term is to Naughty Little Flea by Miriam Makeba. I’m going to listen to the music over the weekend and also have a go at some of my Pilates exercises before Monday. I was going to start reading Tina Turner’s new autobiography today, but it arrived damaged, so I need to send it back!

Have you started anything new this year?

Christmas Legs

Poster PicAw, today was our last Rhythm Tap class of the year! I had been contemplating wearing some Christmas leggings and/or sparkly socks, but then I forgot all about it, and to be honest, I don’t actually have a pair of Christmas leggings. I have a Christmas jumper, but if I wore that, they’d be carting me off to St Thomas’ Hospital for overheating!

As you can see from the photograph above, our final class of the year was held in the basement studio ‘A04’ that we usually use on Wednesday nights, rather than our usual theatre rehearsal space ‘C10’, so while it was a familiar studio, it kind of threw some of us to be doing everything we’ve learnt (and more!) in a different space, if you know what I mean (C10 is square, A04 is long).

We had a full turnout today and we did our warm-up in a circle to some Christmas music and I noted that our teacher was wearing Christmas socks! We went straight into working on our Beautiful Tango routine, which is full of twists and turns and weight shifts. I would say it’s actually one of my favourites so far…maybe because I’m actually getting it! But really, there’s a lot of variety in there. We completed our routine, which went on to include slides and two Shirley Temples. I could do with practising these types of traditional steps more because I don’t want to be attending intermediate level classes and still unable to do basic combinations like a Shirley Temple or Suzy Q.

At the end of the class we had to perform the routine in 2 groups, with one group observing the other. I don’t know what it is, but as soon as you become aware that people are watching you, the nerves kick in and you get brain block! Well, I do anyway. I had the first half of the routine down ok, but when venturing into the newer parts, I knew something significant was coming up, but couldn’t remember what! Haha. It really wasn’t that bad.

Tip of the week: Keep your eyes forward and off the teacher!

It’s okay to watch the teacher when she’s demonstrating the steps, but when performing it try and do it as you remember it, rather than watching the teacher’s every move with the belief that you don’t know it.

Believe and commit!

 

Winter Plans

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Best foot forward

After wondering all weekend whether to do a half day or full day, I have gone and booked a one-day pass to the Tap Dance Festival UK Winter Intensive 2019! The festival takes place in February in Salford, Greater Manchester, and you may remember that I went along for the first time last Winter for the Saturday morning only, which included 3 classes. They haven’t released half day passes yet, and seeing as there were very few adult spaces left, I bit the bullet to make sure I don’t miss out… Apparently the teaching faculty will include American Tap Dance Foundation! Can’t wait!

At the last festival I learnt so much in just a few hours of tapping and got to learn different things from different people who teach in their own unique style. It was a bit scary going on my own, but really, I’m used to it. I thought about not bothering and just doing the summer ones (London Tap Dance Intensive and Brighton Tap Festival) but considering the heatwave this Summer just gone and the fact I overheat massively at these things, I decided the WINTER would be best!

Christmassy

Happy belated Thanksgiving to all my American followers! Hope you had a good one!

I had a very Christmassy weekend last weekend with a trip to Waddesdon Manor near Aylesbury in Bucks on Friday with my SO for the Christmas Market, with the hope of getting most of our Christmas gifts in one go. Despite it being very festive, most of the stalls were selling the same sorts of things – chutneys, gin, craft beers, jewellery, scarves and sausages! The National Trust shop was lovely, but not really the sort of items we were looking for.

On the Friday night we took my mum to see ‘Walk Like a Man’, a Jersey Boys tribute at our local theatre. Heavy hit after heavy hit! So good.

On Saturday we went to a local garden centre which has an amazing gift and homewear shop and even more AMAZING Christmas shop! It’s like a winter wonderland full of decorations, lights, trees, and lots of Santas in all different sizes and outfits (and cute fluffy boots!) OK, I had to buy one!

Wednesday night I had a stall with my soap and skincare biz at a local prep school for their festive shopping evening and was absolutely shattered by Thursday… But the tap must go on!

Thursday’s Advanced Beginners class was a lot of fun. I was wondering if I would have any coordination with being quite tired, but I was alright! Good times. We worked on our slurps (closed thirds), 5-beat paddles and 5-beat riffs in pairs, plus a crazy quick flap-flap-flap-ball-change travelling across the studio at high speed to music which had us all laughing!
I really love the routine and of course all our exercises feed into it. K and I discussed the merits of stretching afterwards. MUST DO MORE!

Looking forward to next week! ☺

Have you started your Christmas shopping? Prefer to leave it until Christmas Eve? Or do you hibernate until the new year?!

Beautiful Tango

_20181107_123555.JPGLast week I went back to Thursday lunchtime rhythm tap! I’ve gone back to dancing Level 2 (advanced beginners) just so I can ditch the late evenings of Level 3 (intermediates) in the busy run up to Christmas. I discussed with K how we can make level 3 work when we currently finish work at around 5pm and the class doesn’t start until 7.45pm. Doing levels 2 & 3 back to back to fill the time are great, but quite taxing, so I suggested the beginners gentle yoga class which runs 6-7.30pm on the same night, so that might work for January… Honestly, as I was walking to the college I was thinking about taking a break in January -yeah RIGHT!

Thursday’s class was really good fun. We worked on our 6-beat riff, a crawl exercise and the good ol’ paddle and roll which we worked on in pairs. Then we moved onto our routine, which involves travelling in a box shape and the track Beautiful Tango by Wakakura, which I’ve been listening to to get into the groove. I actually felt like I was taking the steps in, despite being too hot (as usual) and probably a little dehydrated beforehand.  It’s so much easier only having to remember one routine!

To enhance my learning, I acquired a new book at the weekend, which I’ve been dipping into every evening – Beginning Tap Dance by Lisa Lewis. When I’ve finished going through it, I’ll sit down with a latte and write a review for you!

Have a good week 🙂

Keep Dancing!

Here’s a run-down of my week in a series of bullet points:

  • Finally got back to making salads for lunch – BOOM!
  • Randomly ended up having lunch with my tap teacher and her sister
  • Nailed the advanced beginners tap routine
  • Had another go at improvisation (one at a time, call & response, in a circle – argh!)
  • Intermediate tap was extremely challenging, but I loved it!
  • Switched to advanced beginners daytime class for next half term (starting 8th Nov)
  • Booked an Afternoon Tea & Spa for 1st Nov…can’t wait!

We now have a two week break from tap, and I am not going to do any dancing in that break. Last year I booked a place on a La La Land Tap workshop at the Arts Ed school in Chiswick (West London) and then didn’t go because I’d had a bad day at work and I was DONE. My natural leaning is always to do more, but I am trying to do less – any dancing that I do will be in my garage! In the meantime, I am getting ready as early as possible for the 4 Christmas fairs I’ll be doing with my soap business.

Do you watch Strictly Come Dancing? Maybe you watch Dancing with the Stars if you’re in the US or elsewhere. My favourite couple is Ashley Roberts (from the Pussycat Dolls) and her professional partner Pasha Kovalev (Pashley hahaha). She did an amazing cha cha and I LOVED their Dirty Dancing salsa routine! All the routines are on the BBC Strictly YouTube channel. I really want to learn to cha cha, but I’m going to park that ambition for now…

BBC Ashley Pasha
Image from BBC