Cancelled

Virtual rhythm tap class got off to a good start last week. Even though there are only two of us enrolled on the online daytime course, the course is NOT cancelled (yay!) so we can carry on. It would be a different if we were physically hogging a studio. The alternative would have been to switch to Wednesday evenings again, but I like tapping at lunchtime 🙂

I was supposed to be starting ukulele ensemble class last Friday evening, and I logged onto MS Teams at 6pm…and nothing happened. There was no meeting taking place, so I emailed and phoned the college, and finally, today I’ve been told that there weren’t enough students enrolled, so it’s cancelled. Boo! Waiting for my refund.

I also got an email earlier this month to say that our beachfront hot-tub break in the South-West is also cancelled, which is no surprise with the current lockdown situation in the UK. We really love a late January/early February break (plus it’s cheaper, being outside of peak holiday season), but it is not to be this time. But I’m thankful that we got to go away in the Summer.

I have enrolled on Tap Dance Festival UK’s online festival in February! I wasn’t actually intending to do this, but then I saw that Robin Passmore will be teaching drills, and I jumped straight onto the registration page (unfortunately missing the early bird registration by a few weeks)! New Jersey-based dancer and studio owner Robin was on the faculty at the very first Tap Dance Festival UK event I attended in Manchester in 2018, and I definitely enjoyed her class the most because she concentrates on drills and precision, which is evident in her extremely clean and accurate tap sounds. Some people find drills boring, but I absolutely LOVE THEM. After all, that’s how you get better.

This Friday I’m having a digital fitting with Tap Dance UK for some Artefyl Zapatos tap shoes from Spain – my first ever pair of customised tap shoes! I had enquired about Miller and Ben tap shoes through a UK based distributor, but there’s been a massive delay in communication between them and New York, so on their advice I cancelled the order, and then the Artefyl opportunity popped up. Hopefully shipping from Spain will be much less complicated!

Happy New Year

Hello and Happy New Year to you! Well, we’re actually 8 days in now, and things in the world seem crazy at the moment, what with Covid and Trump and Brexit…but I hope the start of the year is going okay for you.

Christmas was very different this time around because we weren’t allowed to meet with other households, so on Christmas day afternoon, after our online church service, a sunshine walk and a massive gammon dinner with all the trimmings, we ended up hosting a 3 and a half hour quiz with my family on Zoom which included rounds on country flags, Strictly Come Dancing and a (particularly difficult) music round, and then we video called my SO’s family straight after. We managed to do lots of walks in the evenings to see the amazing Christmas light displays that people had done on their houses, and we walked around the village in the daytime to try and get some vitamin D. I completed a very tricky 500 piece jigsaw and a couple of books I’ve had on the go. My SO painted the bathroom in Cooking Apple Green (Farrow & Ball) and made chocolate fondants, a baked cheesecake and pastel de natas (Portuguese custard tarts) – I also worked (from home) on the 30th, but who wants to hear about that?

Usually in the run up to Christmas, many of us like going to the theatre (if the bank account allows!) to see a pantomime or another show. Last Winter we saw The Mousetrap in London and the Northern Ballet’s The Nutcracker in Sheffield. This Winter, the theatres are closed, but we were able to get tickets to watch the film It’s a Wonderful Life (1946) at a drive-in in North London (complete with burger…and fries!), and we also got tickets for the Barbican’s live streamed performance of A Dickensian Christmas, which featured beautifully sung Christmas carols and dramatic excerpts from A Christmas Carol, read by actor Kevin Whately (of Inspector Morse, Lewis, etc). Definitely gave us all the Christmas feels.

We made a point of watching movies over the holidays, including Running on Empty (1988), Planes, Trains and Automobiles (1987), North by Northwest (1959), Die Hard (1988), Hercule Poirot’s Christmas (1994) (technically a TV episode, but hey ho) – we did have more Christmassy/wintery movies on the list (Uncle Buck, Home Alone, National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation, Miracle of 34th Street) but we haven’t got around to those yet!

Another thing I did was to spend a little bit of time in the garage working on specific tap steps, something I’ve been trying to do since the summer. This time I concentrated on my ‘Shirley Temple’. A very well-known combination, but one that you can trip up on, or add too many extra bits to. To make it even better, I had some Christmas Jazz songs on in the background! I’m back to tap class next week, and because we’re on lockdown and therefore online-only again, I’m able to join the Thursday afternoon class – a welcome break in the working day. I also start ukulele class online next Friday – I’ll let you know how that goes 🙂

Have a great weekend x

4 Points from Last Week

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1. I completed a 5km run for charity (in stages) to a 90’s music playlist! The longest distance I ran in one go was 1km, which I was really pleased with. My SO is a proper runner, so he did a great job coaching this reluctant jogger. Now I’m waiting for my ‘I Love the 90s’ medal and t-shirt, and even though I said I was done with running…I’m wondering whether to sign up for the ‘I Love the 80s’ run…

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2. I quit Twitter. Well, my personal account anyway. I’ve kept my side biz account for now. I mainly used my personal Twitter for keeping up with London travel, news stuff, dance, cute animals and reading funny comments about TV shows. BUT, I’m just DONE with all the negativity and bigotry and politics that is oozing from it at the moment. It’s not even that I follow these accounts, but you know, you get drawn into reading the comments underneath. I really do have better things to do with my life!

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3. Tap class was cancelled on Thursday because our teacher (and most of London’s Virgin Media customers) had broadband problems. To be honest, I didn’t actually mind because I was quite hot and bothered in the humidity. I had practised quite a bit on previous days, and I had another Tap & Tea history talk in the afternoon, with repeat-guest Andrew Black, who this time took us through the history of tap dance in New York City, so it certainly wasn’t a tap-free week by any means 🙂

Writing Handbook

4. I set up a Writing Handbook. I think I mentioned on here last year that I wanted to return to my original teenage goal of becoming a professional writer (but often life and lack of confidence gets in the way and you end up just getting ‘a job’). Over the lockdown period I’ve been doing an online writing course, and last week I set up my Writing Handbook to gather all the helpful writing tips I’ve discovered into one place. Progress may be slow right now, but it’s still progress!

Today:

I’m still trying my best not to put myself under pressure to achieve loads during this period of being on furlough and stuck at home, because let’s face it, it’s difficult to stay motivated at the moment, despite having lots of free time! I am still writing myself a to-do list every week, but it’s much shorter than usual, and if I don’t complete a task, so what? The list is there for structure and motivation, rather than to create pressure to DO DO DO. Plus I love lists!

Work has said, sensibly, that everyone should be using their annual leave (pro-rata) just so we’re not all trying to take it at the same time later in the year. I’ve booked a week of annual leave (yes, leave from furlough) just so I have some days where I won’t be wondering if work is going to call me, or if I’m going to be called back to work at short notice. I was in touch with a friend (and former colleague) over the weekend who was made redundant from her job recently, and she said that at the moment she’s not putting herself under pressure to get another job straight away, but she’s using the time to enjoy the break and top up her tan after a sustained period of work stress. Now that’s the spirit!

A Tap Dance Weekend

I’m still on furlough from work, but they’re having me back for a couple of weeks from 8th June if it is approved by the business board. Since hearing this news I’ve felt much more upbeat about things. Being the only person furloughed from the team felt a little bit isolating, even though I catch up with them on Zoom socials every Monday morning, and I kind of felt like my job was dispensable. But then I had to focus on the fact I wasn’t just made redundant! (Although I’m aware this could still be a possibility).

I am making a particular point as of TODAY of ignoring the current rhetoric being spun at the moment by certain individuals in society that those on furlough are lazy, work-shy, are on a ‘jolly’, are getting something for nothing, are taking money from tax payers – actually I am a tax payer, and they forget that this was a decision taken by employers on the offer of help from the government to save businesses, and NOT by employees who fancied an extended paid BBQ holiday in the garden. It really didn’t help when the government said a couple of weeks into the scheme that they felt that people were becoming addicted to furlough. Really?! Most people I know want to get back to work and their usual routine and aren’t allowed! Anyway, rant over! Let’s stay positive 🙂

On Monday 25th May the tap community will be marking International Tap Dance Day, which is the birthday of the legendary Bill ‘Bojangles’ Robinson, and there are LOADS of events taking place across social media this weekend that you can take part in from home! (Just look on Instagram for starters).

  • I bought a £20 day pass to Tap Dance UK’s first ever festival this Saturday, where there’ll be classes, panel discussions and a gala to end the day – can’t wait! They’re running it to celebrate International Tap Dance Day, but also to support their dance artists financially. My teacher is one of them, but she’s not teaching my level on this occasion.
  • On Sunday afternoon I am taking part in a sponsored national Tapathon for the Roy Castle Lung Cancer Foundation, celebrating their 30 year anniversary.  Hundreds of people across the UK will be performing a tap dance routine to ‘Happy Feet’ choreographed by Harrison Vaughan, finalist of BBC1’s The Greatest Dancer, echoing the record breaking largest ever tap dance UK legend Roy Castle did with 500 people outside the BBC Television Centre in 1977. My training has just ramped up as the date fast approaches! I’m currently £10 off my £200 fundraising target, but a family member last night pledged an offline donation, so I should be there by Sunday!
  • My tap teacher’s company have asked everyone to film themselves doing the Shim Sham to a slowed down version of ‘It Don’t Mean a Thing if it Ain’t Got That Swing’ and submit it by this weekend so that they can put together a Shim Sham lockdown video mash-up! I was practising out in the garden this morning, but I have to say it’s kind of easy to mess up when doing it slower than I’m used to 🙂
  • Sarah Reich will be on Instagram Live on Monday doing a session on ‘Musicality for Dancers’ and said ‘bring a notepad’. I worked out it will be at 8pm GMT. That will be a pretty useful session for any tap dancer.
  • There’s also the Tap Family Virtual Reunion #quarantineshuffle happening on Instagram over the weekend, featuring Jason Samuels Smith, Derick K. Grant and Dormeshia Sumbry-Edwards. Looks interesting!
  • Tap Dance Festival UK are doing an all day festival on Sunday 24th, but I’m not going to do that one as I think it’s more expensive than the Tap Dance UK one (confusing, I know!), and I’m busy doing the Tapathon at 3pm.

Happy tapping!

Staying Occupied

_20200421_123856.JPGI’ve been working from home for a month now, but from Monday I will officially be on ‘furlough’ for a minimum of 3 weeks, under the UK government’s Job Retention Scheme.

It’s my 10th anniversary of working for this charity, and I had been thinking a few months ago that I could really do with a sabbatical…but these circumstances aren’t exactly what I had in mind. The reduction in pay is thankfully cancelled out by having stopped my travel season ticket payments. Shows just how expensive train travel is!

I’ve been asked by a couple of people what I’m going to do with the time. ANYONE who knows me knows that I ALWAYS have projects on the go! I won’t go crazy trying to do all of this list, but I have some of the following to keep me occupied:

  • My soap biz – I want to practice the cold process some more, continue to sell off old stock online and do some social media posts, as well as getting online orders out.
  • Jobs around the house – spring cleaning, replacing peeling wallpaper in our bedroom, decluttering.
  • The garden – keeping it tidy and watered. I’m also trying to grow tomatoes and propagate plants from cuttings! I was given a Garden Design online short course for my birthday, which I might have a crack at.
  • Tap dance – weekly rhythm tap classes continue from the first week of May, plus I’ll keep practising in my garage. Tap & Tea Thursdays on Zoom continue for at least another 3 weeks.
  • Exercise – I’ve been doing 80s aerobics plus some ballet barre exercises and stretching in the garage every week day around 5pm. This must continue!
  • Study – I have the final 2 modules of my HR Practice studies to complete, both of which include a filmed skills test. I’m more used to speaking to the camera since the lock-down!
  • Writing – I love to write! And obviously I’ll keep writing this blog 🙂

There are also downtime things like reading books and magazines, chatting on the phone and messaging friends and family, quiz nights, jigsaws and games, catching up on TV shows and my mindfulness interior design colouring book :)) Plus we have church online at the moment. 

For continuity and so I don’t feel weird when I go back to work, I plan to continue joining my team’s daily catch-ups online, but just on Monday mornings.

 

Smokin’

On Thursday we had our final tap class of the term. About 15 minutes before it was about to start, I suddenly remembered we needed to move the broadband router to the back of the house again so that I could get WiFi in the garage, where I can use my tap board. It didn’t work! And the broadband refused to work altogether… Until there was literally 4 minutes to go, and it came back on.

I RAN back into the house with the laptop and ended up joining the class from my living room, wearing plimsolls on a hard floor. Not ideal, but it was fine as a one off! (In amongst all this drama, my SO decided to make a batch of biscotti using a recipe from one of my colleagues, and burnt them, creating a load of smoke in the kitchen, which was about to set the smoke alarm off in the LIVING ROOM at any minute! I shut the door. Disaster averted!)

I was really pleased to hear that we will (hopefully) be continuing online tap classes after the Easter holidays, so we have that to look forward to. Our teacher sent us a video of our entire routine to work on during the break, and she asked us to send her videos of us doing it if we’d like to – (it doesn’t need to be perfect… and I assure you, it won’t be!) along with a video of the choreography homework she set us last time, which I’ve done already.

How has the past week been for you?

I had some wins with work, did a few workouts in the garage and enjoyed catching up with colleagues on Lifesize every morning and family and friends by WhatsApp, phone call and Zoom. I also made a delicious Chicken, leek & celery soup, topped with crispy bacon, which I’ll try and share with you later.

Hope you’re able to get outside and enjoy the sunshine ☀

Friday Favourites

Theatre

Last night my colleagues and I went to see the brand new West End production of Prince of Egypt! It lasted an epic 2.5 hours and I didn’t get home until 11.30pm, but the singing was amazing and the staging was atmospheric and effective. Can I just mention that the dancers were fantastic? I didn’t expect that amount of dance, but it featured throughout the storytelling and the top-rate choreography definitely deserves a round of applause. The song When you Believe was a particular highlight, having been made famous by Whitney and Mariah. I would recommend!

Long Weekend

Earlier this month, my SO and I had a long weekend away, Friday to Monday, at a hot tub beach hut retreat by the sea in Devon. We walked the coast path, relaxed in the outdoor hot tub, read books, binge-watched US crime drama and chilled. There was a huge storm raging around us towards the end of the weekend, but we were fairly sheltered. We’ll definitely go back!

Garage Workout

Now that we’ve added to our home workout equipment and reorganised the garage space, my SO and I got out into the garage on Sunday afternoon and did a weight training session. Bluetooth speaker, banging playlist, aerobic warm-up, barbell, kettlebells, dumbbells and stretching. To improve my conditioning for tap dance, I would ideally like to exercise 3 times a week. Let’s see if we can make the weights session a regular thing!

Have a great weekend, whatever you’re doing!