Afternoon at Pineapple

Exterior of Pineapple StudiosOn Sunday afternoon I went to an advanced beginners/intermediate tap class at the world-famous Pineapple Studios in Covent Garden, led by Kaia Koehler who currently dances with Old Kent Road tap company. Although I’ve been to Pineapple Studios before, it was for a couple of Cats workshops rather than a regular drop-in class, and I’ve never done a tap class there before, so I had no idea what to expect.

Well, I absolutely loved it! It was quite a full class, and we worked with a 7/4 time signature, using the piece of music Unsquare Dance by Dave Brubeck. We had 7 steps to master, and then we did them quicker and quicker. Once we got that, we added another 7 steps…and so on. After that we learnt a different combination. It was so much fun, and I can’t wait to go back!

 

 

More Practice > More Classes

Wall of tap shoesLately, I’ve found myself having conversations encouraging some of my classmates to practise outside of class. Before class people tend to ask each other if they’ve practised the routine, and I find some people are saying they don’t practise and they’re shocked at how much I do (and I really don’t do that much compared to some tap dancers). Now I know I am obsessed with tap, and want to get to a higher skill level, so I do try to practise the class routine at least 3 different days a week (not particularly long sessions), otherwise I find it doesn’t get into my muscle memory… and that’s a separate thing to doing drills etc, which I try to do on weekends, but I haven’t managed much of that since the autumn. I also know some people just want to do tap dance for fun and not really have to do homework – I definitely get that…BUT THEN they get frustrated in the class and sometimes even with the teacher. A lady recently told me she’s been doing tap classes on and off for about 20 years now, and she’s not improving, so her solution was perhaps to enrol in more classes. I asked her how much she practises outside of class – she doesn’t really. AHA. Imagine if we were talking about learning a musical instrument – I’m not improving but I don’t practise outside of my lessons. Unfortunately, it won’t happen by OSMOSIS 🙂

More Practice > More Classes

The Great Gatsby

 

The Great Gatsby

Last Thursday my SO and I went to Sadler’s Wells to see Northern Ballet’s performance of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s Jazz Age novel The Great Gatsby. I was really looking forward to it and I wasn’t disappointed! It was a full house, and we were right at the back of the top tier, so it was pretty warm in there. 

It was ballet, of course, but it was also full of jazz music and authentic jazz dances, such as the Charleston and the Lindy Hop. The sets and costumes were lavish and really captured the feel of the story set on 1920s Long Island, NY. I started reading this novel a few times in the past, but now I have made a commitment to read it all the way through, and then maybe move onto Fitzgerald’s other novels that I own because they’re art deco hardback editions that look nice on my bookshelf…

Tap Class

Tap dance class is going really well. It’s the largest class size I’ve ever known on a Thursday afternoon, but it’s a really lovely group of people. We’re all getting to know each other better as we’re doing a lot of work in pairs, which is great. I’m trying to stand in different parts of the studio so I don’t get stuck in my comfort zone! We now have a break for a week of half-term, and I was wondering whether to take a break from that class until September, but  I ended up telling everyone I’d see them in 2 weeks…

Review: Creature

Front cover of the Creature ballet programme with theatre auditorium in the background

 

Yes, I was at Sadler’s Wells again! Last Saturday my SO and I headed to Islington to see Akram Khan’s English National Ballet production Creature. 

It was a full house that afternoon and there was lots of anticipation and excitement as the lights went down and the show began…

“In a dilapidated former Arctic research station, Creature has been conscripted by a military brigade into a bold new experimental programme. He is being tested for his mental and physical ability to adapt to cold, isolation and homesickness…” (Act I synopsis)

The mission is to colonise space, man’s final frontier.

Creature is based on medical student Georg Buechner’s play Woyzeck (1875), a tragedy where a lonely soldier agrees to take part in medical experiments conducted by a doctor, to earn money – his mental health gradually breaks down and he begins to have apocalyptic visions.

The staging of Creature is a large wood panelled room, where the creature is being kept and tested. He falls in love with Marie (Emily Suzuki), his keeper who spends much of her time mopping the floor, but shows him kindness. She is assaulted by the evil Major (Skylar Martin) who is in charge of this mission and because she has rejected his advances, his rage turns towards her.  A sinister and repetitive voice over from The Lord of the Rings’ Andy Serkis added to the sense of foreboding that was being created by the menacing and jarring music. On and off throughout the show we hear part of a speech by President Nixon congratulating Buzz Aldrin and Neil Armstrong “because of what [they] have done…” which gradually becomes more and more twisted and slurred, where we suddenly realise (if we’re paying attention) that the meaning has morphed into something different.

A sinister and repetitive voice…

Rentaro Nakaaki was excellent as Creature and beautifully expressed the many emotions his character went through. The military brigade were very effective as a sinister and faceless troop, following the Major’s orders, and I loved the contemporary style of dance. The story raises many questions about the quest for space, how we treat our planet and at what cost, and of course, how we treat each other.

Creature is an engaging, Frankenstein-esque, edge-of-your-seat ballet and I’m so glad I went to see and experience it!

 

Scottish Ballet Company Class

Last Saturday morning I took myself along to Sadler’s Wells in London to watch  Scottish Ballet’s company class! I have a free membership with Scottish Ballet, which includes invitations to watch company classes. As the company were performing a sold-out run of ‘Coppelia’ at Sadler’s Wells, I thought I would take the opportunity to go along and watch them warm up and rehearse.

I got to Islington early, so I had a wander along Camden Passage and stopped for a cappuccino before heading to Sadler’s Wells. I arrived at the Lilian Baylis Theatre entrance on time and went in to join the others who were waiting. We were met by the lady organising the event and she crossed each of us off the register. Then, at 11.30am we were taken through the stage door, down to the auditorium where everyone spread out across the seats so we all had an uninterrupted view (I think there was about 15 of us altogether). The company class had already started, and I was really excited to see how they get ready for a day of not one, but TWO performances!

The rehearsal director took the dancers through barre class and floor work and then they moved onto rehearsal for Coppelia. It was so interesting to watch everyone and I have to say what we all know already – they are SUCH TALENTED ATHLETES! We watched them for an hour before we were collected. I didn’t have tickets to see the show later on, but I didn’t feel like I was missing out – the company class was fab!

Watching the warm-up gave me the motivation to put more effort into working out, and to persevere with my online ballet classes 🙂

Under Pressure

Yesterday afternoon I went to the last tap class before a week’s break for half term. In the morning we welcomed our new line manager to our team with coffee and cake in the office, as well as catching up with colleagues and doing some WORK!

I’d missed last week’s tap class because my SO and I had a week in Devon as a bolt-on at the end of a weekend conference in Torquay. I didn’t get a chance to practise the fab routine we’ve been learning while we were away, and I came home with a sore throat and feeling a bit off, so I didn’t do anything at the weekend. I did spend some time on Tuesday evening recapping what we’d added on last time I was at the class, but I only got around to learning the choreography I’d missed the night before the class. I went over and over it, but I find it doesn’t go into the body unless I do at least TWO separate practises (three even better!). So I turned up to class yesterday feeling a bit sketchy on the last part.

We did some exercises travelling across the studio in 2 groups, which is always fun, before cracking on with the routine. I gradually picked up the new choreography, which helped build on what I did the night before and then we actually did a section as a canon (also known as a round) with one half of the class (A) dancing to one melody and the other half (B) dancing to another. It was great!

At the end, our teacher asked if I (person A) would be happy to dance with her (person B) so she could film the last part of the routine for a video recap for class. Well, I kept going wrong! I guess it still wasn’t cemented yet, the camera was rolling and I think I just felt under pressure (I could feel the eyes of my classmates on my back…even though they weren’t there)! Still, it was a fun thing to try 🙂

On another note, I have a new colleague who found out that I do tap dance and she was interested in getting back into it herself but couldn’t find a convenient class, so I searched HIGH AND LOW for a class near to where she lives in the ‘burbs and managed to find her a rhythm tap class with a great teacher. She’s a beginner and is visually impaired, so she needs to be taken to the class. Well, she’s been going for 4 weeks now and is LOVING IT! She even gave me a card and a bar of chocolate to say thank you 🙂

My Highlights of 2022

Happy New Year! I meant to write this blog post on New Year’s Eve, but there was a lot going on over the holidays, including a trip to the theatre, so I’m writing it now! Today is actually Epiphany, so we’re still technically in the Christmas season 🙂 

2022 was a better year than the pandemic years, and it was good to be out of the house and fairly ‘back to normal’, but it was still a bit strange with all the crazy politics, the death of the Queen and trying to get into some sort of hybrid work pattern, plus I got rid of my car. Here are my highlights of 2022:

Sadler’s Wells Gift Membership

I was given this amazing gift for my birthday, which gives me priority booking and 20% off tickets, so I made sure I went as often as I could! I saw some great ballets and other dance shows including:

Plus I saw Matthew Bourne’s Sleeping Beauty on New Year’s Eve, which was my first Matthew Bourne experience and I loved it!

Return To In-Person Tap Classes 

It was just so great to be back in the studio with other people, especially some of my old classmates! I include attending the tap intensive in this, because that was the first in-person class I attended after the pandemic and I learnt SO MUCH and surprised myself how I got back into things after being in the garage with a laptop for 2 years. But really good to be back to my weekly class.

Tina Turner the Musical 

A postponed birthday treat from 2021. I mean, it was just AMAZING!

Anything Goes

Once again, another FABULOUS SHOW with an excellent cast, including Simon Callow, Bonnie Langford and Kerry Ellis. It was a lovely Summer’s day at London’s Barbican.

Commonwealth Games

 

Athletics and diving – It was such a fantastic, positive atmosphere in Birmingham! Plus we stayed at a spa hotel outside of Birmingham (got an amazing deal!) and drove in to the designated park & ride car parks as the city hotels were stupidly expensive during the games.

Breaks in Devon and Kent

My SO had a week away in Devon in June, and then a colleague let us have her flat in the Thanet area of Kent for a week in September, so we took my mum with us. We were really fortunate to have great weather (most of the time) on these two weeks away – because you never know!  I wasn’t familiar with Kent, so it was nice to discover a new area.

Living Room Makeover

It hadn’t been changed since we moved in at the end of 2017 and I was sick of the blue walls, plus some of the paper was peeling and bubbling. In our second week off work in September, when we were back from Kent, we stripped wallpaper, filled holes, hung new paper, painted and rehung pictures where we wanted them (rather than where there were already holes)! There’s still an area to sort out in the corner behind the TV which requires replacing guttering outside, but WE LOVE IT NOW. The fireplace now stands out as a feature and I learnt how to do wallpapering properly.

Home Alone with Live Orchestra

In early December my SO and I went to see Home Alone with Live Orchestra at the Birmingham Symphony Hall as part of his birthday gift. It was also at the Royal Albert Hall in London something like a week before that, but it was pretty much sold out, standing room only, so we went for Birmingham…with a seat! There was even a choir onstage for the choral sections and they sang Christmas songs at the end. Those who left during the end-credits missed out! It’s my favourite Christmas film (I watch it every year) and it gave us all the Christmassy feels.

As you can see, I saw A LOT of shows last year, and I haven’t even mentioned all of them in this post. But you know I love the theatre, and when you go off-West End, the ticket prices are SO MUCH more reasonable. 

I usually write my goals for the year ahead, but I don’t think I managed to write anything last year – I was just glad to get out of 2021! This year I’m sharing a simple More & Less list:

More:

  • Quality sleep
  • Tap dance
  • Cardio exercise
  • Reading
  • Stretching
  • Writing

Less:

  • Trying to catch up
  • Things in the diary
  • Spending ££

Let’s see how it goes! How about YOU?

October Happenings

Sorry – I’ve been M.I.A again! I guess I’ve been adjusting to a new life routine, now that I’m going into the office 1-2 times a week and I’m back at TAP CLASS every Thursday (apart from this week as we’re on a break).

On Tap

Tap class has been really great – I mean REALLY great. We’ve done lots of helpful exercises over the last few weeks, travelling across the floor, working in pairs and cementing some trickier combinations. We’ve been learning a routine throughout the 6 week course using Mick Jagger’s Strange Game. I don’t think I’d ever heard the song before, but I like it! The routine allows us to play with the rhythms, switching between the downbeat and cross-phrasing. There are a couple of turns in the middle of the routine (exciting!), and we had the option of doing a turn-and-a-half (540 degrees so they tell me) and landing in the right direction on time(!!) or just doing a half-turn (180). I’m not great with fast turns and dizziness these days, so I stuck with the half. It was for the best!

In other news – my 14 year old niece has recently started tap dance lessons! I think these are tacked on straight after ballet and she’s doing the ISTD syllabus of course. I’ve given her one of my portable tap boards so she can practise at home, and I told her I’m happy to go over anything if she needs any help, because I think she’s finding it quite difficult having started later than the rest of the class. I’m going to make sure I don’t overwhelm her with information!

Mixtape: Celebrating 20 Years of Zoonation: The Kate Prince Company

A few weeks ago my SO and I, being big fans of ZOONATION, went to Sadlers Wells to see their latest offering Mixtape, a 20 year celebration of many of their shows, including the incredible Into the Hoods, Some Like it Hip Hop, Message in a Bottle plus The Mad Hatter’s Tea Party, Tales of the Turntable and Groove on Down the Road. The whole thing was just so uplifting – stunning live music and singers, fantastic hip hop choreography and dance. There was also a wonderful exhibition on one of the floors dedicated to former member Teneisha Bonner who died far too young in 2019 from breast cancer. I remember her as a real stand-out dancer in Into the Hoods when we saw it not once, but twice many moons ago. Wow, I forgot how much I loved that show and the banging soundtrack.  Mixtape was such a great night, didn’t want it to end and yes, the audience clapped on the off-beat!

Back to the Future The Musical

 

 

Last Thursday I met a former colleague after work and after a catch-up at Wahaca with Mexican street food, we went to see Back to the Future The Musical at the Adelphi Theatre on the Strand. Now this was an interesting one. I absolutely LOVE the Back to the Future films – they’re iconic and I can watch them again and again, particularly I and II. So I was interested to see how they’d adapted the first film for a West End musical.

In all honesty, I thought Doc Brown and George McFly were excellent, down to mannerisms, humour, dancing and everything. Marty McFly was pretty good. Not all, but a lot of the dialogue was verbatim, so if you know the film, you know what’s coming. They changed the reason why Marty had to go back in time to save the Doc. The set and especially the DeLorean was AMAZING – five stars! But I had this feeling all the way through that much of the supporting cast were fresh out of musical theatre school and a little inexperienced. I like the fact the show used the original theme music throughout and of course the iconic Huey Lewis & The News songs which popped up here and there, plus Chuck Berry’s Johnny B Goode at the school dance but some of the singing grated in places, such as when the actress playing Marty’s girlfriend Jennifer sang The Power of Love – it was a bit over the top musical theatre voice, if you know what I mean. I’d say good effort on the whole production, but something was missing for me and I don’t think everything can be successfully be made into a musical. Someone at my tap class who saw it last time around suggested it could perhaps have worked better as a play? Maybe. Still, it was a good night out.

Strictly 2022

Fleur Vito Jive Still
Fleur, Vito and Wig © BBC/Kieron McCarron

Strictly Come Dancing is back! I’m not really obsessed with it this year, but I’m still watching the main show, the results show and most of the It Takes Two shows on weekday evenings because it’s fun and positive. It’s really refreshing to not be on Twitter with all the moaners and psychos this year! It’s a great cast of ‘celebrities’ again this year…even if some don’t take to dance as well as others… Last Saturday night celebrated 100 years of the BBC and although the songs were JUST AWFUL for dancing (the Eastenders, Blue Peter  and Casualty theme tunes, anyone?!), I have to say I was in stitches watching Fleur & Vito’s jive to Abba’s Waterloo (celebrating Eurovision) – I mean that WIG on Vito’s head took on a life of its own! HAHAHAA

Anyway, I hope you have a great weekend, and if you’re in the UK, don’t forget the clocks go back tomorrow night!

 

Review: Burn the Floor – The Reunion

I know. I’ve been at the theatre a lot lately. All the way back in December when Strictly Come Dancing was heating up towards a dramatic final, tickets were going on sale for the spin-off touring shows, such as the Live Tour and the Professionals Tour . I couldn’t make the Professionals Tour dates, but instead I jumped in and bought tickets for Burn the Floor – The Reunion: A Celebration of 25 Years at the Symphony Hall in Birmingham.

Well, last Friday night was the night! My SO and I drove up the M40 to Birmingham on Friday morning and as the show was in the evening, we stayed over until Saturday. We parked up at the Mailbox and wandered into the centre to get something to eat. WELL, as we were walking along the road, we were approaching a zebra crossing when we suddenly saw a couple riding a tandem bike towards us. How lovely, you say! Yeah, except they were STARK NAKED. IN THE MIDDLE OF BIRMINGHAM FOR CRYING OUT LOOOUUUD.

The middle of Birmingham

Later on (when I was enjoying noodles, egg-fried rice, spicy pork and salt-&-pepper chicken) and had processed what HECK I had witnessed, I wondered if they had been protesting something. When I told my mum about it on the Saturday evening, she asked me if they had a banner. I told her I don’t know –  I didn’t want to look again to find out…HA-HA!

And….now onto the show!

Birmingham Symphony Hall

The show kicked off at 7.30pm and the auditorium was pretty much full, apart from the row in front of us (as usually happens, that row suddenly populated after the interval). The award-winning Broadway show Burn the Floor is the show from which most of the Strictly pros are scouted. The Reunion starred our favourite former and current pros: Robin Windsor, Aliaz Skorjanec, Janette Manrara, Trent Whiddon, Karen Hauer, Kai Widdrington, Dianne Buswell, Luba Mushtuk and sibs Kevin and Joanne Clifton, as well as other BTF dancers I hadn’t necessary heard of, but some of whom have been Strictly/Dancing with the Stars pros in other countries.

I don’t know what I was expecting, but the show was a much bigger production than I imagined! At the beginning, director and choreographer Jason Gilkison came out to introduce the show and talk about its beginnings and evolution. We gave a huge round of applause, and it was quite emotional for him and the dancers as it was the final time they would probably all perform together. Then the lights lowered and it began. These amazing dancers took us through a variety of incredible ballroom, Latin, contemporary and jazz routines to a fantastic set of songs, led by incredible singers Rietta Austin and Patrick Smyth, with plenty of light and shade. There was Charleston, cha-cha, samba, paso doble, rumba, waltz and bit of Fosse I believe. The colourful lighting effects were exciting and atmospheric, and the whole thing was really quite “wow” in that size of auditorium. We sat in the Grand Tier but if you were lucky enough to be in the stalls, the dancers performed and strutted in the aisles around you on several occasions.

I have to say that although everyone was fantastic, my stand-outs of the show were Karen and Janette – just fabulous and so much precision. Towards the finale the show blew up with an explosive jive to Tina Turner’s ‘Proud Mary’, which I LOVED of course!!

You know that big wheel keep on turning
Proud Mary keep on burning
And we’re rolling, rolling
Rolling on the river

And just when you thought it was over, they came back out to a really apt musical number – ‘Ballroom Blitz’! As you can imagine the applause went on for AGES! At the end the show’s creators came onto the stage at the end to a round of applause and the dancers were all hugging each other and some had their phones out filming the audience and capturing the electric atmosphere. The whole thing was so uplifting!

Verdict: An exciting, energetic, exuberant Strictly Spectacular! 

My Highlights of 2021

Happy New Year! I do hope you had a good Christmas. Unfortunately my SO and I both had COVID-19! We’re both vaccinated and I’d just had my booster, but by then my SO was already ill and he then passed it on to me. Being vaccinated at least meant we weren’t seriously ill, but it was like a type of flu for about 5 or so days (headache, eye ache, body ache, sore throat, altered taste and smell, high temperature etc) followed by feeling very, very tired. Our next door neighbour got us some supplies and my family dropped off Christmas dinner and nibbles on Christmas Eve, which was MUCH APPRECIATED (although I had no appetite for a while).

Because we felt rubbish and couldn’t leave the house, we watched A LOT of Law and Order. We made a point of watching a carol concert from the Royal Albert Hall, and the Royal Opera House’s Nutcracker online for all the Christmassy feels, and we also watched several movies…

My COVID Christmas Movies:

  • Back to the Future (1985)
  • Uncle Buck (1989)
  • Mrs Doubtfire (1993)
  • Hercule Poirot’s Christmas (1994) 
  • Mission Impossible: Fallout (2018)
  • Lady in the Van (2015)
  • The Fugitive (1993)
  • US Marshals (1998)
  • K-19: The Widowmaker (2002)

I had some actual Christmas movies, like Home Alone, lined up, but we haven’t got around to watching those yet. We did get to see family properly later on in the week after Christmas, including a lovely (yet windy!) walk along the beach at Bexhill-on-Sea in Sussex.

 

Thinking about the craziness of 2021, I struggled to recall what stood out to me as highlights of the year, even though I know there were many. Here’s the list I came up with…

My Highlights of 2021:

I’m now having a think about my goals for 2022, but I’m not putting myself under any pressure right now. The main things on the list are a bookbinding course, improving my tap dancing, more writing… but I’ll come back to my 2022 goals in another post 🙂

What were your highlights of 2021?