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!

_20190217_145509.JPG

Quick Bio: John W. Bubbles

220px-John_W._Bubbles
Photograph by Carl Van Vechten

Who: John W. Bubbles (born John William Sublett)

Born: 19th February 1902 in Louisville, Kentucky

Died: 18th May 1986 in Baldwin Hills, California

Known as: The Father of Rhythm Tap!

Partnered with: Ford L. “Buck” Washington and performed as ‘Buck & Bubbles’ on the Vaudeville circuit. Buck & Bubbles were the first black artists to perform at the Radio City Music Hall.

Big break: Ziegfeld Follies (1931)

Hollywood Movies: Varsity Show (1937), Cabin in the Sky (1943), A Song is Born (1948), Atlantic City (1944)

Tap Dance Style: percussive heel drops, complicated syncopation, jazz music style improvisation with traditional techniques

Invented: Rhythm Tap and the Cramp Roll (Ball-R, Ball-L, Heel-R, Heel-L done very quickly)

Notable Students: Fred Astaire

Recognition: Received the Life Achievement Award from the American Guild of Variety Artists in 1980, and was inducted into the Tap Hall of Fame in 2002

Catchphrase: “Shoot the liquor to me, John Boy”

Noteworthy quotes about him:

“Before Bubbles, tap was danced primarily on the toes, in the 2/4 feel of early jazz music”

“[There is] no tap dancer today who has not been influenced by Bubbles’s inventions”

“[He] revolutionised tap by cutting the tempo…and extending rhythmic patterns beyond the usual eight bars of music” (Margaret Morrison)

“He could get an extra thud whenever he wanted it” (Honi Coles)

“…a new style of tap dancing…he brought his heel beat into tap dancin’…” (The Nicholas Brothers)

References:

 

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!

 

A Weekend in Edinburgh

Edinburghview.jpgHope you’ve had a good weekend? I’ve just returned from a fun weekend in Edinburgh! My SO and I had some loyalty points to use on travel, so we used them to book a hotel and then bought our train tickets on top. Neither of us had ever been to Scotland before (apart from my coach trip to Stranraer to catch the ferry to Northern Ireland back in 1997 but that doesn’t really count), and a few of my colleagues had been for conferences recently and were raving about it, so we jumped at the chance to visit the compact Scottish capital…on Burns Night! It was just over a 4 hour train journey there, where we stayed in a spa hotel near the Usher Hall. We went for a morning swim in the spa, ate haggis with our breakfast and visited the amazing Edinburgh Castle, which looms over the city. We also saw the Scottish crown jewels and tasted whisky liqueur. LOVE IT! We will definitely go back.

Having attended the first two weeks of the Pilates Mat Work to Music course, I actually skipped last Monday’s class. Monday is usually my day of buying my salad items etc for lunch for the rest of the week, and since starting Pilates, I’m finding my weekly routine a bit off, and I’m chasing my tail to fit everything into a couple of days, plus trying to make up the time at work when taking two longer lunchtimes in four days. TB is an amazing, if not slightly intimidating teacher (!) and the postural work is really helping my achy left knee, but I feel over-committed. So…I’m withdrawing from that course and instead I’m going to try either going to the gym, pay as you go, for 20 mins to half an hour on a Tuesday, or just doing some strengthening stuff at home.

By Thursday last week I felt extremely tired, like I’d been punched in the eyes, but I knew I’d wake up once I got dancing. It’s so tempting to just not go to a class when you feel like that. We worked on the Shirley Temple exercise again, but in pairs where we keep turning 90 degrees. Very confusing, but it was fun to try and actually work out together when we should be facing each other, when we should be passing each other and when our backs should be facing! We also worked again on a heel toe step exercise which travelled across the studio, and we were given the option to try it swung (yes), slower or even faster (er no). Our teacher was showing me the faster version when we were going across the room to music, but I really need to work out the faster rhythm before trying to fit it into the music – I’ve since done this at home!

Our Naughty Little Flea routine practice was good and I’d made an effort to learn and remember all the steps that we’d learned so far, but the next part is quite difficult in that it goes off the beat and changes timing a LOT. I am going to try and go over the steps to first of all learn and remember them. THEN I will try altering the timing by listening to the track and trying it out. Rhythm tap is very taxing!

 

Jump Back

Thursday lunchtime rhythm tap restarted this week and I was really looking forward to getting back in the studio after Christmas! Monday’s Pilates class left me with a bit of DOMS (delayed onset muscle soreness) but by Thursday it had worn off. The 2 day gap between classes was certainly sensible!

Many of the same people were back this term, plus a few new faces. I don’t know if our teacher read my mind (or this blog) but we worked on pullbacks! YAY! And I could actually do them! DOUBLEYAY! I have been obsessed with being able to do them ever since last year’s Tap Dance Festival UK technique class with Robin Passmore where I just wasn’t getting it at all.

A pullback is 2 sound step where you pickup both feet at the same time with elevation. You can also do single ones and keep switching feet. According to Acia Gray in her tap dance guidebook The Souls of Your Feet (1998):

The most difficult action to master is the JUMP action of leaving the floor in order to execute the BACK

AMEN. It was exciting to be able to finally execute them, but then my feet really started to ache 😦 A bit of stretching and Spiky rollerball helped immensely once I was back at my desk.

We also worked on a Shirley Temple exercise which was slightly mind bending (we kept changing direction) and a SuzyQ exercise, which is another basic step I wasn’t entirely confident in, but the practice helped cement things a bit more.

Our routine this half term is to Naughty Little Flea by Miriam Makeba. I’m going to listen to the music over the weekend and also have a go at some of my Pilates exercises before Monday. I was going to start reading Tina Turner’s new autobiography today, but it arrived damaged, so I need to send it back!

Have you started anything new this year?

Happy Christmas!

 

_20181222_152121.JPGI can’t believe the year is almost over! As Christmas day is almost upon us, I thought I’d share my highlights of 2018:

  • Tap Dance Festival UK Winter Intensive in Salford with amazing workshops
  • MOVE IT 2018 Tap workshop with Chloe and Maud Arnold of the Syncopated Ladies and percussive workshop with cast member from hit show STOMP
  • Cats the Musical Jellicle Ball and Jellicle Songs for Jellicle Cats workshops at Pineapple Studios with cast member Cameron Ball
  • Tap Dance Intensive at City Lit in Covent Garden (although only managed day 1 of 3!)
  • Moving up to Intermediates at Rhythm Tap class
  • Seeing The Tap Pack, 42nd Street (again) and The Play that Goes Wrong at the theatre
  • Trips to the Sky Garden and the Museum of London
  • Finally sorting out my home practice studio with suitable floor
  • Spa day at Sopwell House
  • Completing and passing another module on my course (Cert in HR Practice)DSC_0151.JPG

 

I look forward to continuing with Rhythm tap classes as well as starting Pilates in the new year. I also have a theatre trip (Agatha Christie’s Witness for the Prosecution), a couple of dance festivals and trip to Edinburgh lined up! I want to FINALLY complete my HR Practice Certificate, develop my writing further, learn some techniques for reading aloud and public speaking, plus I am really interested in learning bookbinding…

Anyway, before I get back to watching terrible movies on the ‘True Christmas’ channel:

I’d like to say a BIG THANK YOU for following and reading my blog and I hope you have a fabulous Christmas and a Happy New Year 2019!

 

DSC_0130.JPG

Christmas Legs

Poster PicAw, today was our last Rhythm Tap class of the year! I had been contemplating wearing some Christmas leggings and/or sparkly socks, but then I forgot all about it, and to be honest, I don’t actually have a pair of Christmas leggings. I have a Christmas jumper, but if I wore that, they’d be carting me off to St Thomas’ Hospital for overheating!

As you can see from the photograph above, our final class of the year was held in the basement studio ‘A04’ that we usually use on Wednesday nights, rather than our usual theatre rehearsal space ‘C10’, so while it was a familiar studio, it kind of threw some of us to be doing everything we’ve learnt (and more!) in a different space, if you know what I mean (C10 is square, A04 is long).

We had a full turnout today and we did our warm-up in a circle to some Christmas music and I noted that our teacher was wearing Christmas socks! We went straight into working on our Beautiful Tango routine, which is full of twists and turns and weight shifts. I would say it’s actually one of my favourites so far…maybe because I’m actually getting it! But really, there’s a lot of variety in there. We completed our routine, which went on to include slides and two Shirley Temples. I could do with practising these types of traditional steps more because I don’t want to be attending intermediate level classes and still unable to do basic combinations like a Shirley Temple or Suzy Q.

At the end of the class we had to perform the routine in 2 groups, with one group observing the other. I don’t know what it is, but as soon as you become aware that people are watching you, the nerves kick in and you get brain block! Well, I do anyway. I had the first half of the routine down ok, but when venturing into the newer parts, I knew something significant was coming up, but couldn’t remember what! Haha. It really wasn’t that bad.

Tip of the week: Keep your eyes forward and off the teacher!

It’s okay to watch the teacher when she’s demonstrating the steps, but when performing it try and do it as you remember it, rather than watching the teacher’s every move with the belief that you don’t know it.

Believe and commit!