Show Me Jericho

Image: BBC Strictly Come Dancing

Hey! Hope you’re ok, hope you’re well? Sorry I’ve been MIA for a while. Things have been a little busy round here, and as you can see from my last post (and the photo above), I’ve also been engulfed in the world of Strictly Come Dancing – or should I say the World of AJ Odudu & Kai Widdrington? At the weekend, they performed an outstanding, champagne-quality Quickstep to Benny Goodman’s Sing, Sing, Sing, followed by a beautiful, sensual Rumba to Maria McKee’s Show Me Heaven. I mean, STUNNING! Anyway, it all comes to an end this weekend with the GRAND FINAL. Unfortunately, I’m hearing news of injury today, but whatever happens, they’re my WINNERS anyway! (Plus, we’re all really hoping they’re more than just good friends 🙂 )

In other news…

  • Tap classes finished last week for the Christmas holidays and I am determined to keep practising the routine we’ve been doing to the swing number Jericho by Hot Sugar Band while I have the space to work on it. I might also try to get back on the exercises I got from the Tap City tap festival this summer.
  • There was a talk by Tap Dance Research Network UK last week on the Whitman Sisters, which I had to miss because I had my class. I was happy to hear they would be sharing the recording with members for a limited time, so I set aside the afternoon to listen to/watch it…but they took it down early! I’ve sent them an email!
  • Here’s a helpful co-ordination exercise we did in one of our classes this month – I only recorded it on one side, but you keep switching sides:

Keep dancing! x

Why Rhythm Tap?

Image from TDRNUK

Last week I spent a lot of time umming and ahhing over whether I was going to join Tap Dance Research Network UK’s lastest Zoom networking event: Tap Café – Open Space.

Because I’m a member, my ticket was automatically booked and I got an email notification to let me know. I’ve only ever attended TDRNUK’s talks on a particular subject where I could just listen and write notes, and up to this point I’d chickened out of attending the networking events. I mean, the word ‘networking’ can make a lot of people run a mile. Well, last Thursday I decided to stop being silly and just GO!

It was a REALLY great session where a couple of questions were put forward and then we discussed them. We actually ran over time because an hour is really not enough to talk about all things tap dance, am I right? There weren’t as many people as at the last event I attended, but numbers have dropped off a bit on all kinds of online events since things have opened up again, and TDRNUK do vary the day of the week and time of day of their events to make sure everyone gets a chance to attend something. We started off by going round and introducing ourselves, something I had prepared myself for in advance. I was the only one there who is not teaching tap, but not the only newbie to the networking events, and can I just say, Jane Goldberg joined us from New York!

Rhythm Tap?

One of the questions that was raised was why we call it ‘rhythm tap’. The class I attend is called ‘Rhythm Tap’ and that name actually drew me in over the ISTD syllabus-led ‘Tap’ that was also available at that particular college (and I’m glad, from what I hear about syllabus tap). There was also ‘American Tap’ at Citylit, which was my other choice, and ‘Jazz Tap’ at Pineapple Studios, which are all the same thing and sound exciting! We kind of came to the same conclusions in our chat – in the UK, most people think of West End/Broadway musicals, like 42nd Street when they think of tap dance, which is all about the aesthetic quality, rather than the ‘rhythm tap’ style which is about sounds, musicality and improvisation.

If you go down the dance school route as a child in the UK, you’ll likely be doing the ISTD tap dance syllabus, which is fairly restrictive in terms of steps and rhythm, but it gives you what you need for a career in musical theatre. I’ve heard people say that by their early teens they’d learnt all there was to learn in tap, had nowhere else to go with it…and quit. This blows my mind because there is SO MUCH TO LEARN! But this made sense when, in our discussion, someone mentioned that when they were learning as a child, it was a case of ‘this is a shuffle, this is the timing for a shuffle and that’s that’. By saying ‘rhythm tap’, we are making the distinction, but I don’t believe this distinction really applies in the US. What do you think?

The Tap Café session really picked me up after a busy and frustrating day at work and I really can’t wait for the next one! 

 

Happy Tap Dance Day!

Happy Tap Dance Day! Today we’re celebrating the birthday of the legendary Bill ‘Bojangles’ Robinson. Actually, across the tap dance community, we’ve been celebrating all weekend!

On Saturday I ‘attended’ the Tap Dance UK festival (proceeds going to the tap artists), and did an amazing Body Percussion workshop with Helen Duffy at 10am, watched the lunchtime panel discussion on ‘Creating work: Process, Development & Funding’ and got some great insight into how they put a show together, and then at 3pm I did Jamie Spall’s challenging tap workshop. We did have some sound issues with Jamie’s workshop, that were resolved part way through, but she’s recorded some additional footage for us to practice from.

Sunday was the day of the National Tapathon for the Roy Castle Lung Cancer Foundation, so I spent some time rehearsing the routine after church, before joining the action on Facebook Live at 3pm! My SO filmed me doing the routine indoors with the live streamed tapathon led by Harrison Vaughan of The Greatest Dancer, and then he filmed me again outside in the garden so that I’d have a decent video to share with the people that sponsored me. Participants were supposed to have a run-through of the routine with Harrison before the BIG event, but it never happened, so there ended up being a few subtle changes in the live performance that threw me off slightly. If I’d have spent more time on it, I would have done some improvisation in the pauses. However, I did throw in a double pull-back at the end, just for my sponsors!

Sunday was also the day of Tap Dance Festival UK’s online benefit for the National Health Service (NHS), so despite saying I wouldn’t be doing it, they twisted my arm and I bought a pass. I joined in with the welcome and warm up at 1pm and then the faculty panel Q&A hosted by TDFUK’s organiser Suze Clandon, and joined by Tony Waag (ATDF), Harriet Spence (Theatre Tap London), Vikas Arun (ATDF/Project Convergence) and Jess Murray (Tap Dance Research Network UK), plus special guest Sarah Reich. It was both Sarah & Suze’s birthday, so we sang Stevie Wonder’s Happy Birthday to them and wished them many happy returns! At the end of the panel discussion Sarah led us in a Shim Sham Shimmy, which was so much fun! But after that I was DONE. I totally over-did it this weekend…

Today I am enjoying the Bank Holiday by chilling out on the sofa with my feet up in front of the TV.

(I have a load of tap workshop content to catch up on from this Tap Dance weekend, plus an intermediate class I purchased from Old Kent Road Tap Company, but I’m parking physical exertion for a few days!)

Tap & Tea Thursdays

Yesterday I signed up to Theatre Tap London’s Tap and Tea study sessions taking place every Thursday at 4pm on Zoom for the next six weeks! They have a different tap pro scheduled to talk each week about tap history, context, technique and so on, followed by a Q&A.

I attended the first one this afternoon, (along with 48 others!) with special guest Nathan James, who spoke passionately about his PhD research into the big MGM musicals, concentrating particularly on Ann Miller and Eleanor Powell.

Some interesting facts of note:

  • A lot of the Dance Directors in those big movie musicals couldn’t actually dance. It was more about staging. Those that could dance tended to have a ballet background and tappers like Ann Miller did a lot of their own choreography…without acknowledgement.
  • Female tap dancers never got a lead role. They weren’t considered the romantic lead type with all that aggressive hoofing!
  • The dancers didn’t actually wear tap shoes in the movies. The tap sounds in the movies were recorded and added in later.

I’m looking forward to next week, where we’ll be learning from American Tap Dance Foundation’s Tony Waag, who I was lucky enough to take a class with at Tap Dance Festival UK back in January 2019.

Keep dancing!

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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Winter Festival

Oooweee! I am VERY excited to be heading to Tap Dance Festival UK 2019 in Manchester in two weeks’ time! Although it lasts an entire weekend, complete with Friday night showcase and Saturday night tap jam, I’m only doing the Saturday classes. After checking the website nearly every week since I booked, the schedule has finally come through:

tap fest uk 2019

Last year I attended for the first time and had a half day pass, which included 3 amazing classes in the morning. This year’s schedule looks great, and I’m especially looking forward to the Musicality and Choreography class with Sarah Reich, an amazing tap dancer from the US, plus the Tap Attack workshop with the award-winning Jo & Kai Scanlan – I really enjoyed their class last year!

Last year I booked Beginner Level (0-5 years’ experience), but this time I have booked the ‘Adult’ stream, just because the Beginner to Advanced levels are aimed more at teenagers in their teaching style. I probably won’t stay for the Musical Theatre Tap at 15:30 just because we could do with getting on the road for the 3.5 hour drive get home, and I am actually attending her Theatre Tap class at the MOVE IT dance exhibition in March! I will let you know how it all goes. WHOOP!

 

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!

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!

 

 

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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! ☀️

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.

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…