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 :))))

https://www.facebook.com/plugins/video.php?href=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.facebook.com%2Fomgsostagey%2Fvideos%2F1942904485721767%2F&show_text=0&width=560

End of Term

Hope you’re having a good week? Recovered from the Royal Wedding yet? I wasn’t even going to watch it and now I’m obsessed with them LOL

On Wednesday evening I went to the last Rhythm Tap class of the term at Morley College. I’ve included a photo of the college in its mid-renovation state so you can see what I’ve been going on about. Our studio is basically in the basement below the area to the left of all that scaffolding, which means we can’t really open the windows as it’s a building site!

I got there about 10 minutes before the class and the actor couple were there, along with R, chatting about the cost of getting into certain arts exhibitions in London. Then another girl came and sat and started chatting. I think she’s almost as obsessed as I am with everything tap! We had all seen the BBC4 documentary Tap in America at the weekend, so we were gushing about that and all the history and key figures and stuff before we went into the class. We all agreed that it makes us want to do more! As a self-appointed Tap Evangelist, I told them all about the London Tap Dance Intensive coming up at the end of July and how it’s a great opportunity to use what you’ve learnt so far, pick up other things and have a taster of quicker stuff.

The class was really good. We had another go at the drop-shuffle-ball-change exercise where instead of executing the shuffle in front of you, it comes around you as you travel forward, in a D shape (makes me think of a ronde de jambe a terre). I found this really difficult when I first learnt it some months ago and I spent a lot of time practising at home in the kitchen. Well, the piano guy (who played for us one time last term) said he felt so embarrassed that he couldn’t do it last time that he spent a lot of time practising and his improvement was noted!

Our Lionel Richie routine was still amazing! I think this is another of my favourites along with Cornflake Girl, I’m Only Human, and When my Baby Smiles at Me (which I sadly missed too many weeks of), which mean absolutely NOTHING to you! Sorry, I can’t post the class videos – they’re not to be shared on social media.

The routine is slow with sudden quick accents, there is travel, direction changes, a leap, flaps, pressed rolls (realised this week that’s what they are called!), crawls and a great section of heel scuffs, back brushes, toe jabs. It’s all in there! Despite me saying it’s not that complicated, it is actually very challenging, but finally I felt I could just go for it without having to think of what is coming next.

In the Summer our teacher will be running another Shim Sham class and an Improvisation and Choreography workshop. I’ve actually drawn up a timetable for July & August to help me decide what to do and what to miss this year – not decided yet!

What are your dance (or other) plans for the summer?

 

BBC Four – Tap America: How a Nation Found Its Feet

Photo courtesy of BBC4

https://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b0b396jx

Over the weekend, after watching the amazing Royal Wedding (Congrats Harry & Meghan!) I watched Tap America: How a Nation Found Its Feet on BBC4, as part of their dance season. A school friend actually messaged me to tell me it was on, but as I’m all over anything tap, I already knew it was on.

If you are able to, you have to watch this! Tap America is essential viewing if you love tap dance. Presented by Clarke Peters (Five Guys Named Moe), he explores the history of tap dance, meeting with well-known modern and older tap dancers and tap historians.

He interviews Michelle Dorrance of Dorrance Dance (sadly I couldn’t make their workshop at Sadlers Wells last year 😥), Obba Babatunde, Chloe and Maud Arnold (love them!), Maurice Hines, Arthur Duncan, and many more. The documentary also discusses the work of other hoofers, such as the Nicholas Brothers, Baby Lawrence, Bill Robinson, John Bubbles, Sammy Davis Jr, Gregory Hines and Savion Glover.

Peters explores the origins of tap dance in slave drumming and story-telling which led to ‘buck dancing’ along with the influence of Irish indentured workers and their traditions of the jig and clogging. He moves on to looking at minstrel shows, Vaudeville and the Cotton Club, and the inequalities that existed in the US during racial segregation.

I like the fact that the documentary draws out the different styles of tap, specifically the African style, which is down in the ground, bent kneed (ie the Rhythm Tap I’m learning) versus the more upright Hollywood 42nd Street style which was, I guess the sanitised version that went mainstream in the entertainment world.

The Tap Drought section of the documentary is very interesting. Tap went out of fashion in the 1940s, tap dancers struggled to get work, but there were a few keeping it alive, still going when it wasn’t cool, and those who revived it, a bit like the revival that’s happening right now!

Some noteable quotes about tap:

“a form of musical expression”

“communication… sound… a drum”

“a universal language”

“American identity”

“a percussive dance form”

I really hope this becomes available on DVD because I will definitely buy it! I’m going to try and watch it again as it’s available on BBC iplayer for 28 days. A must-see!

Hit it!

This week was the penultimate Rhythm Tap class of the 6 week block. I can’t believe how quickly it’s gone! It was one of those weeks where I was quite tired and it would have been easy to just jump on the tube and head home, but I sucked it up, had a protein-packed salad and a sugary drink and got myself over there!

We were back to the usual crowd this week and we continued learning our Easy routine (I think a few people had exams and other things going on last week when we had a guest teacher). Although I hadn’t really practiced the routine since week 2, it’s not massively complicated and is fairly slow. But… that means that you have to nail every sound at the right moment! Not always easy.

At the weekend I actually got myself down to my little garage dance studio at the end of the garden! Armed with phone and Bluetooth speaker so I could play music, I spent about an hour doing tap drills – shuffles in all directions, paddles, pick-ups, cramp rolls, crawls, riffs, and I even managed to do wings for the first time ever! I also spent a good amount of time stretching afterwards 🙂 Following this I think I saw some improvements in hitting the sounds in the Wednesday class. My left foot is the one that tends to miss the floor every now and then, so I’m trying to even both sides up by spending more time on drilling my left foot. It all helps!

At the end of Wednesday’s class, our teacher encouraged people to speak to her about level and trying level 3 (if it had been suggested)… so I did, as she mentioned it to me months ago. Well, I told her that I’d like to try it, but that it’s just a bit too late for getting home in the middle of the week. So she told me to book the next block of level 2 (done weeks ago!) and to drop in on a level 3 class one week.

We’ll see…

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 5 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 Rasmussen 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 J Egan’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/

Babs

Had a great class tonight with our stand-in guest tap teacher Babette from Base Dance Studios in Vauxhall (after the original guest teacher had double-booked)! Apart from a few people I know, it seemed to be a completely different set of people! Weird. Maybe some took advantage of the bank holiday and gorgeous weather and took the entire week off. Or you do get that thing where people skip the one where the usual teacher is away.

We did a warm up in a circle to get our feet and ankles ready to some jazz by the legend that is Miles Davis. We were asked what tap steps we know, but I think because it wasn’t most of the usual crowd, it probably came across like we didn’t know much! Argh, we’re level 2! For example, we were asked if we had done a 5 beat paddle and everyone seemed to say no, while I was saying yes. However, I realised later that some had only been learning tap for 3 months (which confused me as to why they are doing level 2…anyway…).

Also, I’ve learnt all sorts of extras at the various tap festivals I’ve been to (plus I’m generally obsessed!), so I probably knew some of the steps Babette mentioned from those occasions (5+ beat riffs and paddles, and slides I learnt at Brighton tap Festival). We are quite a varied class!

We did some travelling exercises consisting of shuffles and flaps and then we learnt 2 cool routines that we did as a round (i.e. half did routine 1 while half did routine 2)! Although we all forgot the beginning of the first routine.

Level 3 keeps popping up in conversation, and I’d love to see what it’s like, but as a regular class, it’s way too late to get home on a school night. I struggle to get up on Thursday mornings as it is! I also think there’s an air of mystery hanging over level 3 where everyone is dying to get there before they’re ready. I know, we all get impatient to be able to do the crazy stuff.

BUT I think, if you’re not practising your steps outside of class, forget it. If you can get into a routine of regular practice, then it’ll happen! It’s like learning to drive a car. Eventually your lessons will get you there, but practising every day will get you there sooner. I know I need to practice more; I have no excuse now with the space we set up in the garage 🙂

On a side note, our trip to see 42nd Street at the weekend was amazing!! If you’ve been reading my blog for a while, you’ll know I saw it with a friend last summer. This time my SO and I took my mum for her birthday, and it was soooo gooood! I think I enjoyed it even more the second time!