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!

A New Year’s Whodunit

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Happy New Year! I hope the Christmas holidays treated you well?

For me, there was lots of food and family time, plus half a day at work on New Year’s Eve. But I didn’t let office time spoil the week…my SO and I went to the theatre afterwards to see a matinee performance of Agatha Christie’s The Mousetrap – the longest running show in the world! Yes, the 1950s murder mystery show is now in its 68th year. It was very enjoyable, with lots of humour. I expected it to be more serious, like last year’s Witness for the Prosecution. However, as seems to be the case these days, there was someone behind us rustling a popcorn bag throughout act one, opening fizzy drinks and constantly fidgeting, like we were at the cinema, and not a LIVE STAGE SHOW. Anyway, getting back to The Mousetrap, as is tradition, I’m afraid I am unable to tell you whodunit!

I was back at work properly on Monday after lazing around for the best part of two weeks, and I will be returning to my intermediate rhythm tap class tomorrow after a 2 month break. I had signed up to an 11-week writing class at City Lit in Covent Garden, starting next week, but I changed my mind and got a refund, as I really need to buckle down and get some things finished first. That won’t happen if I’m out every Wednesday evening and my list of commitments is longer than before. I keep saying I want to ‘do less’ this year, so instead of committing to an 11-week course, I’m going to look out for one-off workshops instead, and use my free time to actually sit down and write. And practice ukulele!

On a different note, whilst in Covent Garden on New Year’s Eve, I came across dance wear specialist Bloch’s brand new shop, which had moved from its prior location in Drury Lane. I love checking out the tap shoes, so I went downstairs to the shoe area and found the brand new Jason Samuels Smith patent tap shoes:

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drool!

I already have leather versions in white and black, so I probably would go for a different colour in the patent…if I was splashing out on new shoes.

Which ones you do prefer?

Dorrance Dance Review

Last Thursday evening I went to Sadlers Wells, London’s home of dance, to see Dorrance Dance perform a triple bill: Three to One, Jungle Blues and Myelination. Led by Michelle Dorrance, Dorrance Dance are known for their Rhythm Tap as opposed to the typical theatrical showtap style, which made me jump at the chance to see them.

Jungle Blues

A lighthearted, southern, bluesy piece featuring the whole company. Smiling and laid back, with the gangly and awkward Warren Craft sliding around the stage in a slapstick fashion, it was fun to watch.

Three to One

After a short break, this piece began with 3 pairs of legs illuminated by a rectangle of light. Dorrance was in the middle in tap shoes and two barefoot male dancers were either side, doing exactly the same steps; an interesting concept of sound and silence, light and dark. Eventually they were fully lit and Dorrance is thrust into the darkness.

Myelination

This final, longer piece showcased the entire company, including the two breakdancers. The pint-sized B-girl was mesmerising in her contortions and fluidity of movement, if not slightly disturbing at points. I’m thinking of her frenetic movements on the ground, engulfed by red light as Warren Craft plays an electric guitar behind her, like something from The Exorcist (I’ve never seen the film, but I’ve seen enough trailers and silly gifs).

This show was pure rhythm and every sound was hit like a drum. Each dancer had their time to shine, and my favourite was Christopher Broughton’s old school tap solo, which was a nod to dancers such as the Nicholas Brothers, Bill ‘Bojangles’ Robinson and others. A suited Nicholas Van Young’s quick tapping brought to mind Gregory Hines’ close to the floor tap style.

Can I just mention the live jazz band on stage. The singing was exceptional. The guy on the keyboard and occasionally the drums had a voice like velvet. I’d buy his album!

I give the show 4 out of 5 stars for its innovative 21st century interpretation of rhythm tap dance, but it wasn’t as exciting as I was expecting, after rave reviews of previous shows. It was probably a little ‘out of the box’ for me this time.

5 Things in 5 Pictures

Autumn has definitely arrived

Despite the torrential rain (a hangover of Hurricane Lorenzo), this is still my favourite time of year. Well, apart from the clock change. Coats, scarves, boots, red and orange leaves, bonfires, firework displays, squashes and soups!

I joined a new gym! 

On Wednesday lunchtime I went to the council gym near work. Coming from the familiarity of the neat University gym, I had to have a look around the machines before getting started. They seem a bit more fiddly to load weight to, and some of them were broken. The air con wasn’t working properly. The steam room was CLOSED. But it is a busy gym of heavy usage, so not entirely surprising. I’ll be back on Tuesday, and I might even try the swimming pool. If it doesn’t work out, I may quit and return to the Uni gym in its temporary location.

On Wednesday night I had my second Ukulele class

I realised after the first class that I needed to cut my nails so I could press the strings properly! We had a substitute teacher as our tutor was unable to make it this week. The stand-in was very good and even got us onto strumming. We went over chords C, F, A minor, G7 and we even added C7. Lots of information, but I can see how learning a musical instrument (musicality, rhythm, strumming patterns, reading music, timing etc) feeds into tap dancing. Love it.

Watching Ballet on stage is like being in a dream

At the weekend, my SO and I went to Sheffield to visit his sister. On the Saturday evening, she took us to see Northern Ballet, currently celebrating 50 years, perform Cinderella at The Lyceum. The dancing was high quality, and because the story is so familiar (I loved my Ladybird books LOL), it was intriguing to see how they would stage the story. For example, in this production, the Fairy Godmother is a magician, first introduced at a Moscow winter market among other interesting circus performers.  I particularly enjoyed the crystal lake ice skating scene and the Prince’s winter ball. Enchanting, wintery and wonderful!

 

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I couldn’t quit tap if I tried

Last week I thought I’d made my mind up to take a break from rhythm tap classes once this 6 week block is up next week, and come back to it after Christmas, once my Ukulele classes have finished. I thought maybe I’d go swimming on a Thursday lunchtime instead – something that doesn’t require too much brainpower! But then I went to my class and LOVED EVERY MINUTE. I feel like I’m back ‘in the zone’, as Britney would say and I’m learning loads of new intermediate level things and have lots of fun things to work on…

Heartbeat of Home

I hope you’ve had a great summer? I’m just coming to the end of a relaxing two weeks off work…😭

In our first week, my SO and I went to North Devon for a relaxing week by the coast. We stayed in a little apartment in Lynmouth and did lots of walking and visiting National Trust properties and fishing villages. We also did a boat trip to Lundy Island on our last day. Unfortunately the 2 hour voyage there was extremely choppy, our boat rolling around like you wouldn’t believe, to the point that most of the 150+ passengers were using sick bags. Not nice! I just managed to avoid it by pulling my body up the stairs to the fresh air of the upper deck and trying not to look at the rising and falling water, but my poor SO didn’t 😦

Anyway, it created camaraderie among the passengers and we chatted to people who we kept bumping into later on when wandering around the island. Everyone felt ill! Thankfully the boat trip back to the mainland in the afternoon was so much better (you could eat, talk, take photos and like, walk LOL).

In our second week, we visited Osterley Park National Trust House in West London (making good use of our membership gift!), but the main task of the week was to paint the kitchen walls to finish off our Property Brothers style Farrow and Ball makeover, which began earlier in the summer with painting the cupboards and spraying the handles hammered black. Almost finished! I might do a separate kitchen makeover post at some point.

On Thursday we travelled into London to see the show Heartbeat of Home at the Piccadilly Theatre, to get my latest Irish dance fix! First we had pizza and pasta at Vapiano in Soho, before browsing some of the quirky shops and then heading to the theatre’s top floor bar, for a drink before our matinee performance at 2.30pm.

Heartbeat of Home comes from the producers of the world famous Riverdance, and is a high energy show telling the story of the common ground found by immigrants who travelled to the new world with nothing “but the hopes and histories remembered in the music”, through an amalgamation of dance styles, namely Irish soft shoe and hard shoe dance, Flamenco, Latin, Hip Hop, and Contemporary. I also spotted a bit of tap dance in there! There was an amazing live singer and live musicians on stage, which included the traditional Irish Uilleann Pipes and Bodhran drum. It was fantastic!

The theme of leaving one’s homeland echoed Rhythm of the Dance which I saw at my local theatre recently, but Heartbeat of Home differs with the addition of other dance styles and cultures.

Verdict: Still obsessed with Irish Dance!

The show is at the Piccadilly Theatre, London until 13th October.

Anyway, back to work on Monday – boo!

Rhythm of the Dance

My tap class is now out for the Summer… kind of! We finished our S.O.B routine on Thursday lunchtime with a bang and chatted away afterwards about what we’d be doing over the Summer and so on. Our teacher also advertised the 2 workshop that she’ll be running next Wednesday and Thursday evenings – Tap Improvisation & Choreography (Weds) and Tap Shim Sham (Thurs). I’ll be doing the Improvisation class, but probably not the Shim Sham this year due to another engagement (BBQ!).

In the evening my SO and I went to our local theatre to see Rhythm of the Dance 20th Anniversary Tour, featuring the National Dance Company of Ireland! I was looking forward to it all day and the show did not disappoint!

The show set the scene with a haunting Celtic song, which reminded me of Lord of the Rings and Enya. Then we were introduced to the dancers who took us on a live musical and rhythmic journey through the history of Ireland and the Irish people, including emigration across the pond to the USA.

The dancing was spectacular. There was a mixture of soft shoe dance and hard shoe step dance, which is the forerunner to tap dance. Dancers leaping like gazelles, pounding the floor with shotgun rhythms, legs moving into complicated positions… at speed. As a tap dancer in training, my eyes were glued to their feet, trying to work out just some of what they were doing – impossible at that speed! There was a section where one of main dancers did his steps very slowly, before gradually picking up the speed. Something we do in tap!

The principal male and female leads were incredible, particularly the male lead who commanded huge stage presence. There were live singers and musicians on stage, playing traditional instruments, including the amazing Bodhran (drum), the Irish flute and low whistle, the Uilleann pipes, the fiddle and the banjo. The audience were encouraged to clap along and even sing along at one point.

I particularly enjoyed the seductive ‘Beat of the Bodhran’ dance, with the male troupe hammering out rhythms as the Bodhran player tries to seduce the female leader, and then the fun ‘Swing Time’ section, featuring the Charleston. But really, I enjoyed the whole thing.

I actually came away from the show full of inspiration and ideas for the upcoming tap improvisation workshop, which I didn’t anticipate at all.

Verdict: Stunning! Spectacular! I’m obsessed!

Happy New Year!

Happy New Year! I hope you had a great Christmas.

Mine was good fun and I really enjoyed the festivities and the break. My SO and I hosted twice, including on Christmas day itself, and all went swimmingly and everyone enjoyed themselves. I have to personally thank Mary Berry for her amazing Christmas cookbook which helped me know what I could prepare in advance, and our local butcher who did an amazing job of preparing the stuffed turkey crown wrapped in bacon plus a gammon!

I actually went to work for a half day on New Year’s Eve and my SO met me afterwards so we could go for Vietnamese food, followed by a trip to the theatre to see Agatha Christie’s Witness for the Prosecution at London’s County Hall, which was brilliant! I love Agatha Christie, and the whole courtroom setting for the play was extremely effective. It was thoroughly engaging from start to finish.

Today was my first day back at work this year, and it was definitely a struggle to prise myself out of bed at 6am and get back into commuting into London after sitting around in tracksuit bottoms for 2 weeks! Nearly everyone I spoke to is harbouring some infection or other, so I’m only breathing through my nose and continuing to dose up on vitamin c!

I also had the first Pilates class of my 11 week course which I booked for the purpose of cross-training for tap dance. I was a bit apprehensive on my way there, but it was a very good and informative class, led by TB who is an experienced dance teacher, specialising in jazz dance and ballet.

There were about 10 of us in the [fully booked] class (not sure where the others were!) and we spent our time working on correct, measured breathing, which we were then able to use to aid our exercises that followed. We were pulled and prodded (with our permission) to correct any misalignment as we did the exercises, and TB actually said I had a very good spine roll when I was rolling up through the vertebrae, which she would expect because I’m young – I’m not as young as she thinks! Previous dance classes made this a familiar exercise. But of course other exercises were more challenging, like judging whether your arms are in line with your shoulders when out in front or out to the sides. Trying to move one arm up and one arm down at the same speed at the same time while lying on your back…

I have 10 sessions left, and my only reservation is that it went on longer than I expected (partly my misreading the course details and partly the teacher starting late) , so my lunchtime was a lot longer than I hoped. This combined with a longer lunch on Thursday when I have tap, and I’m not sure if I should have gone for an after work conditioning course instead. My bad!

Anyway, I hope you have a positive start to the year. I am going to work on crafting some more blog posts to share with you!

Jellicle Cats

Yesterday afternoon I went to the second Cats the Musical Workshop at Pineapple Studios in Covent Garden, organised by OMG So Stagey and led by Cameron Ball aka Macavity.

It was a hot and humid day in the Capital, but having seen the note that we’d be in a larger studio than last time, I was hopeful of some sort of air conditioning.

I got there and after paying the £2 day fee (as I’m not a member) I was buzzed in to climb to the top floor (puff, pant) where I found studio 79 and had time to change footwear and stretch.

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Claws ready

I was a tiny bit nervous beforehand, but not like last time when I’d never attended a class at Pineapple before. A girl asked me if I knew anyone, I said no and neither did she! Quite a few people had come along in pairs or small groups. I had forwarded the details to a couple of dance friends who had expressed interest, but they didn’t go for it in the end.

We started with an aerobic warm-up, followed by some stretches to limber up. Then we did as per the previous Cats Workshop and did some actions to get into the character of a cat (intense staring, movement on all fours, holding our hands like paws, awareness of whiskers, ears, tail etc).

Next we moved onto the choreography for the opening scene of the musical, which is the Jellicle Songs for Jellicle Cats section. Having seen the musical several times and having studied the DVD, I am familiar with the movements, but obviously in a workshop you are learning what they actually are, rather than what you think they are.

We were put into 8 different groups. I went with another girl, and then she ended putting her hand up to be brave enough to go on her own, so I ended up on my own too! ARGHHH. Okay, it was a bit scary, but it ended up being absolutely fine. The groups were numbered 1-8 and then each group (or individual in my case) had to come on stage in a particular way of your choosing. We also had to come up with another movement for another point in the song (you’ll get the idea if you watch it on Youtube).

In the end we learnt all the choreography for the song, albeit a slightly abridged version, performed the entire thing twice through (once being filmed) and it was SO MUCH FUN!!! I particularly enjoyed the acting aspect of it, which I hadn’t really anticipated. There was more acting in this workshop than in the Jellicle Ball workshop as we were introducing ourselves and playing up to the audience.

When I got home I watched the scene from the DVD (and some other performances, including one in French on a TV show), ate piri piri chicken wings, rice, corn and salad, had a shower, stretched and made good use of my foam roller. Not feeling too bad today! In fact, I’m still slightly hyper!!

Here is the video of our class on Facebook…Don’t laugh at me :))))

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The Tap Pack

After a busy day at work on Thursday (helping cater and host a lunchtime leaving do for 60+ for our department head :-}), I met my SO at Holborn station as we were going to see The Tap Pack at the Peacock Theatre! Exciting! Before the show we went to the Meat Market, which sits above Covent Garden’s Jubilee Market Hall, and enjoyed a ‘healthy’ dinner of wings, hippie fries (topped with onions and hippie sauce) and slaw. I think I’d pass on their wings next time because they tasted like they were deep fried.

The show began at 7.30pm and I went for tickets in the back, end of row seats in the stalls as the view is always good, being a modern theatre. A bonus was that we had the row to ourselves so we could move along to the middle 🙂

The Tap Pack are some guys from Australia and as you can guess from the name, the show takes its inspiration from the Rat Pack (ie. Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin, Sammy Davis Jr are the members you will have heard of). The show was full of all kinds of music, both modern and classic Rat Pack, plus plenty of humour and amazing tap dance! I wasn’t expecting the guys to sing as well as dance, but they sang throughout the show, accompanied by live band. The audience was introduced to each member of the pack and their skills in turn, and you really saw each member come alive.

My favourite parts were:

a) when founding member Jesse alternated between sitting and drumming on a wooden box and tapping…sometimes tapping while sitting down. He has some fast hands and feet!

b) his tribute to some of the tap dance greats

c) the showy song and dance piece to Bruno Mars’ Runaway Baby

d) Thomas’s improv section – AMAZING. Like whaaa??!

e) the section of audience participation with clapping call and response (I love a bit of call and response!!)

These acts stood out to me, but there was plenty to enjoy. It was a fabulous show!

The show runs at the Peacock Theatre until 19th May, and then will be touring the UK before heading back to Australia.

https://www.thetappack.com/

Check It Out

I never made it to my tap class last night because I was feeling a bit on the fatigued side and decided to head home and rest, instead of overdoing it and ending up unable to surface for a busy work day in the morning (or passing out in the studio). Sometimes you’ve just got to give in and rest.

As is tradition now, today I had a little practice of a pickup exercise we’ve been doing. Check it out LOL

 

 

I also booked tickets to see The Tap Pack at Sadlers Wells’ Peacock Theatre in Holborn next Thursday evening! I had kind of written it off due to going to 42nd Street this coming Saturday (oh by the way, turns out my brother used to teach the lead actress!) and wanting to calm it down a bit, but I got an email from Sadlers Wells featuring a clip of the show and the tickets are discounted for certain evenings… Cannot wait!

Courtesy of Peacock Theatre

Next Wednesday we have a guest teacher at our tap class so that should be fun!