An Alternative Monday

Autumn Lightbox Pic

I bought myself a mini light box this week to keep me awake and motivated at work in the afternoon during the dark winter months – BOOM! Let’s see if it works…

Speaking of light, my SO and I went to watch the fireworks at a local school on Saturday evening to celebrate Guy Fawkes Night. Last year’s display was so good (way above our expectations of a primary school) so when this year’s display began it seemed a bit lame…but once it got going it was AMAZING! They also had a BBQ, so we enjoyed a burger and some tomato soup, oh and a cup of mulled wine!

Yesterday our systems all went down at work, including internet and phones, so after sitting around for a while and finding out that it could be 4 hours until IT diagnose the problem before even attempting to fix it, we all abandoned ship and went home. I got home by 1pm after a quick stop by the vet to pick up flea treatment for my cat, and had some lunch while seeing if I could log into my work system – nope! (Actually, we couldn’t log in again until gone 4pm). So, what did I do?

  • Topped up a plant in my front ‘garden’ with special compost supplied at the weekend by the inlaws
  • Raked leaves off the lawn ready for Wednesday collection
  • Did a ballet workout dvd which was extremely taxing on the thighs! (Aiming to do this again tonight)
  • Had a relaxing hot bath while watching a couple episodes of Sabrina the Teenage Witch (old Melissa Joan Hart series, not the new Netflix one LOL)
  • Unblocked the gunked up sink plug hole in the bathroom
  • Made a spicy bolognese sauce
  • And then a bit of actual work once I could log into the system again!

I’m going to try and keep up the ballet workout as much as I can to build up the muscles around my knees, which have been suffering a little with my rhythm tap practice. I also need to get my core back in shape too, and ballet is definitely an ALL-OVER body toner. After swimming at the spa last Thursday, I’d quite like to get back into swimming on Friday lunchtimes, but it might be one thing too many at the moment.

In the meantime, roll on Thursday’s advanced beginners tap class!

 

 

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

 

Summer Holiday

Last week my SO and I had a nice week away in North Devon. I love visiting the south-west, and have been to Cornwall many times, but it had been a while since we’d been to Devon, so we decided to stay in the surf capital, Croyde Bay.

Unfortunately, it wasn’t quite warm enough to go swimming, surfing or body-boarding, although many people did! But we got out and about and visited Exmoor Zoo, Lynton and Lynmouth, home of the Cliff Railway, the Victorian seaside town of Ilfracombe, Dartington Crystal to watch glassblowing in action, Westward Ho! for a savoury cream tea (onion chutney and cream cheese instead of jam and clotted cream), and Arlington Court National Trust house and carriage museum.

I did take my Tae Bo and Sleek Ballet dvds with the intention of working out every morning… but it never happened! At least we did a lot of hill walking 🙂

Although we had the rental bungalow until Saturday morning, we decided after dinner on Friday evening to pack up and do the 4 hour drive there and then rather than get caught in crazy motorway queues on Saturday. 👍 👍

Did you get away this Summer, or did you have a staycation? Or did you have to work? (Boo!)

Improvement

Fiat500
You need me…

Hey! How was your weekend?

This weekend just gone my SO and I went to look at a cute pre-loved Fiat 500 that I spotted online after I had been wondering about whether or not to get a slightly better and more reliable make of car in order to bring down my annual repair bills (currently driving the second Ford KA I have owned).

My SO did the test drive because I was too nervous about driving a circuit around town with the car dealer in the car. It was such a smooth drive and the interiors were lovely, and I could have got a good finance deal, but…I decided I don’t really need a new car, I don’t do much mileage at all, the finance deal meant a large deposit upfront, and I remembered my original goal to eventually get rid of my car and use public transport, especially as I pay for an Annual Season Ticket for work which also covers my local buses since moving house. At the moment however, the bus doesn’t quite intercept the train I need to catch in the mornings…

Instead of getting the lovely Fiat, I cleared the trash out of my car, gave it a vacuum, replaced the filthy floor mats with some stylish new ones and put up a new scented garland on the rearview mirror – there you go, new car! LOL).

On a tap dance note, now that the extreme heat has subsided (for now) I got out into the garage and did a bit of practice. I ran through some of the steps we did at the Tap Dance Intensive at City Lit 2 weeks ago, including trying to work on my pullbacks. Still very much a work in progress, but I feel a bit more confident in knowing what I should be doing.

Looking forward to getting back to it in September!

 

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 🙂

Yogatoes.JPG
Check out my tan!

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?

Ah! There You Are

On Monday afternoon I attended a Vocal Anatomy Masterclass at Covent Garden’s City Lit.

Run by a member of the Dance, Drama & Speech department, the class focused on the parts of the anatomy involved in the production of the voice, how we tend to use them, and then how we should use them.

We discussed in pairs or groups of three what brought us to the class and what we hoped to learn or achieve, and then each in turn fed this back to the tutor and wider group.

For me I wanted to know how to use my voice correctly when speaking, how to maintain my voice and also how to project it without straining or causing damage. I would like to feel more confident when speaking publicly!

Key anatomy

  • Pharynx (throat)
  • Larynx (voice box)
  • Vocal folds (aka vocal cords)
  • Diaphragm
  • Tongue
  • Nose
  • Intercostal muscles (ribcage)
  • Soft palate (back of roof of mouth)
  • Hard palate (roof of mouth)

We learnt all about breathing from the diaphragm, which is the thing most of us don’t do. A lot of us fall back to chest breathing. A really useful exercise involved placing a hand on the top of the tummy, just under the sternum, taking a deep breath so that the stomach expands, and relaxing and opening the throat to exhale, saying “Ahhhhh, there you are!” as though to your favourite auntie, thinking about how someone like Prince Charles, Boris Johnson or your other favourite Etonian might say it.

We also played around with different accents, namely nasal New York and East End of London, to notice how we use the different parts of our  vocal tract.

The person we probably all think of in the UK who clearly had vocal training was Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, who lowered her speaking voice to sound more authoritative. However, she almost went to the extreme and sounded quite breathy as well as deep. I definitely don’t want to sound like her, or change my accent!

It was a really informative class with diagrams and handouts and I look forward to applying at least some of what I learnt going forward. I’m thinking particularly of singing several songs in a row and reading aloud at church, and speaking at team meetings at work. We’ll see how that goes!

Take a deep breath and say it with me:

Ahhh! There you arrrrre!