Tap Factory 

On Friday evening my SO, his sister and I went to see Tap Factory at the Watford Colosseum! There were loads of young dancers in the audience eagerly awaiting the start.

The show was not what I expected at all! All the dialogue was in that kind of mime speak (think Tony Hart’s plasticine figure Morph, if you used to watch that), coupled with exaggerated facial expressions and physicality that made it so funny and captivating.

The setting was an industrial chemical factory, with scaffolding, ladders and oil drums, which served as just some of the percussive instruments. The guys (the workers) were wearing overalls and the boss and supervisor wore army camouflage trousers – the star of the show was a comedic little guy (Small Joe) who arrived late for the first day of work and had to prove himself amongst the others and their strength and masculinity.

The show was a mixture of amazing tap dance, incredible acrobatics (from a very smooth smiley guy who popped up every now and then), contemporary, break and street dance, flute playing, singing, and some audience participation with some call-and-response clapping…There was so much variety! My SO said it reminded him of Stomp if you’ve ever seen that show.

A great night out!

Shim Sham Shimmy 

Last night I went to the Tap Shim Sham workshop at Morley College. It was SO MUCH FUN! It was a much larger class due to there being people from levels 1, 2 and 3 present. I knew a lot of them, but not the level three-ers. Caught up with a few pals to explain my 3 week absence!

So what is the Shim Sham? It’s a simple routine that is known by tap dancers the world over, like the tap national anthem. It was developed by tap legends Leonard Reed and Willy Bryant back in the 1920s while touring the African American version of the Vaudeville circuit (TOBA).

Here is a clip of Gregory Hines doing the Shim Sham:

We started with a warm up and stretch  in a circle and then, working in 3 rows we started learning the steps, all done in a swing beat. We rotated rows just so that everyone got a chance to work in front of the mirror. For some reason my left ankle was hurting when I tried to shake it out, but it seem didn’t bother me while dancing. We learnt the dance to a slower track and then a fast one which was amazing!

We also did a short improvisation exercise back in a circle where every time there was a pause the next person in the circle had to fill 4 beats. Argh, scary when you know you’re next! This then fed back into the dance when we were free to improvise in the gaps. Several people did lots of taps when it was their turn, particularly the advanced people. I kept it simple with a cramp roll and three crawl beats but threw my whole body into it. This exercise plus the book I’m reading (The Greatest Tap Dance Stars & their Stories 19001955) has actually made me realise that it’s ok to have my own style and it’s not necessarily about hundreds of intricate taps but feeling the music, working within the rhythm and doing your thing!

Afterwards there was lots of chat about who’s coming next week, what are you doing in the Autumn, the Dorrance Dance and Old Kent Road workshops that some people attended on Sunday and Monday plus the Dorrance Dance show that’s currently on at Sadlers Wells. My teacher said I’d really enjoy it, but I really can’t fit it in this week or justify going to the theatre 4 times in the space of 4 weeks (2 performances were featuring relatives or people I know) 😩 I told my teacher that I did see 42nd Street a few weeks ago and she was saying how that style of tap is not necessarily as technical…

Got home at 9.30pm and my Tap Board had arrived!!! I have Thursday off work, so I can get stuck in 😊 Maybe I can prepare for next week’s two hour Improvisation & Composition workshop…

 

42nd Street 

Last night a dance friend and I went to watch 42nd Street at the Theatre Royal in Covent Garden’s Drury Lane, which I believe is the West End’s largest stage. On arrival we just HAD to take a photo opportunity with the chorus girls before going into the theatre! We originally had tickets for the upper circle, but we were *upgraded* to the grand circle a tier below where we got an amazing view of the entire stage! I don’t know if this is because the theatre wasn’t full or because of the heatwave (those old theatres can be saunas), but heat rises, and they seemed to have some sort of of aircon going where we were, thankfully.

Programme

The show was absolutely amazing! The sets were brilliant, the costumes captured the 1930s Hollywood golden age and I loved the chorus girls’ colourful tap shoes! The songs were great, with a few you would recognise (such as We’re in the money, and Keep young and beautiful) but the choreography and dance was spectacular! Of course I was watching the Tap Dance from a tap student’s perspective where you are trying to recognise steps…  and it was just amazing how talented these people are! Of course they’ve been tapping since they could walk, so there’s no point comparing starting to learn as an adult!

I was also keen to see the show because a couple of dancers who were involved with the Brighton Tap Festival last year are in it (plus I also spotted the sister of a former school friend in the programme).

My verdict: A visual spectacular! If you love musicals, dance, the Hollywood golden age or just want a great night out, go and see it!

Denied

Found out last week that there will be NO Brighton Tap Festival this year! Noooo! It was so good last year. The organisers said it is due to personal circumstances and venues being refurbished. However, they will be back in 2018 bigger and better! Looking forward to that.

In the meantime I have joined Associated Tap Dancers (ATD) who organise tap events throughout the year, so I can be in the loop on all of their Dancer’s Days Out and festivals, which take place all over the UK! I am quite interested in the DDO taking place in Surrey soonish. There is also a festival in Torquay at the end of June, but I’m not sure I want to travel that far as I may be moving house this Summer. I’m trying to have a go at other tap workshops just to put what I’ve been  learning into practice.

Another thing I saw was a Tap Show UK tour from September to November by TAP FACTORY! The promo looks amazing and they will be coming to Watford and South Bucks which aren’t far from home at all. Must get tickets!

42nd Street

The amazing 42nd Street is now on in the West End and I would love to see it! I’m sure I heard that Kate Ivory Jordan (whose Beginner’s Tap Workshop I did in Brighton) is in it.

Anyway, I caught a clip of the cast performing on BBC1’s The One Show recently, and I don’t know why, but the first bit really makes me laugh. Watch for yourself!

Fallout 

Went to the glamorous and quirky neighbourhood of Notting Hill to see Old Kent Road’s tap show ‘Fallout’ on Thursday evening after work. 

OMG these people are so talented! If you get a chance to see some of their work… Do it! 

A totally engaging show, amazing tap skills and musicality. Founder Avalon Rathgeb is mesmerising to watch and the live band was fantastic. There was a half hour Q&A at the end where I was kind of poised to ask a question but kind of missed my chance… Or chickened out. 

What I really wanted to know was how they look after their feet! I mean, I’m only doing 1.5 hours a week and I get foot fatigue, aching toenails, blisters… 

Despite Storm Doris wreaking havoc during the day, Clive and I got there and back to the burbs no problem. 

Was great to see a few people from our Rhythm Tap classes at Morley in the audience as our teacher is Old Kent Road’s company manager. 

Watching these amazing dancers gave me renewed enthusiasm for Wednesday nights and left me wondering how I can put more hours in. 

An amazing evening all for only £15!