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 🙂

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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!

Rollin’

This afternoon I spent a bit of time rolling out my calves and Achilles tendons because they’ve been quite tight and achy, having not really stretched properly after Wednesday night’s rhythm tap class. Despite the heatwave, I have been really good and not worn any unsupportive flat shoes or sandals that are everywhere at the moment. Arch support at all times! Because my right foot and ankle tends to swell a bit in the heat (something I was so paranoid about when I was doing ballet), I’ve been travelling to and from work in lace-up tennis shoes to avoid that as much as possible.

Speaking to a classmate on Wednesday, I realised I did actually end up missing a week of our Candy Shop routine after all, but no disaster, I was able to catch up this week (song by Andrew Bird if you’re interested). I feel like this routine is pushing us a lot more, which is great. It seems like there is a lot going on, but at the same time, you can pick it up and the speed and sliding around makes it fun! The triumph of the evening was the fact that I was finally able to get the shuffle-step thing that most of us were struggling with last time – yay! Our teacher got us to do it again and again, and again (and again LOL).

Bumped into K, who I haven’t seen in about 6 months, in the corridor afterwards and she was asking me why I was walking away from the level 3 class! So I said about the timing etc. She’s been doing choir, which she loves, and is getting to perform regularly, but really misses tap and like me and R, wants to try level 3. As she works at the college, she said she’s going to get in our teacher’s ear about a level 3 class that is earlier in the day. We’ll see! I had intended to try level 3 that evening, but decided it would be better at the start of the new term…and not during a heatwave!

I did a crazy thing earlier that day and enrolled onto the ‘Summer Tap Intensive (Improvers/Intermediate)’ at City Lit, which takes place over 3 mornings at the end of July. OH MY DAYZ!!! I have been umming and ahhing over going to the London Tap Dance Intensive at the end of July where there are so many amazing people teaching (like Adam Garcia of Coyote Ugly fame) and I wouldn’t need to take any time off work, but then I saw this tap intensive, which is half the price, likely a smaller class size, and we’ll be learning about different tap styles, artists and history in a more relaxed atmosphere. I’m so excited!

In the mean time there is one week left of term before we head into the ‘Summer Shorts’, where I’ll be doing the Tap Shim Sham Workshop, and possibly the Improv class. August is when I tend to buy a PAYG gym pass and use the University gym opposite work a few lunchtimes a week just to keep up fitness levels.

I also have my eye on a vocal anatomy workshop at City Lit in July because I find I’m losing my voice quite easily lately, and I dread having to speak in public or read things out at the moment. I’d like to learn a bit about vocal projection, which will help in many spheres of life.

What are your plans for the summer? Dance intensives? Taking a break? Learning something new?

R&R

This week I am taking a break. Unintentionally, I ended up missing tap Wednesday night, emailing my teacher to ask if I can go to the Thursday lunchtime class instead…and ended up missing that too (although I got an out of office message from my teacher, so I’m guessing they had a cover teacher and didn’t work on the routine). Apart from working and commuting (and batch cooking) this week, I haven’t done too much else, and I am aiming to keep this weekend free of stuff, after several busy weekends. We’ll see how that goes!

What I probably will do is some tap practice down in the garage on Saturday. I also want to go for a coffee at our local independent coffee shop (We Love Coffee), and finish a Bill Bryson book I’ve been reading for months, as I’ve got some exciting new Tap history and Jazz Age books to move onto!