June-July Favourites

A Week in Devon

 

My SO and I had a much needed week away in South Devon at the end of June. Although rain was forecast for the ENTIRE WEEK, we had sunshine all week, apart from one evening and one overnight downpour! We got to enjoy lots of seafood, beautiful gardens, a couple of short boat trips, and we even had a cheeky trip to the theatre on the evening it rained to see Agatha Christie’s The Unexpected Guest! To be honest, I could have just stayed in Devon and had our belongings shipped down, but I missed my cat too much!

Anything Goes

 

Last Saturday afternoon, my SO and I went to the Barbican Centre in the City of London to see the fabulous Tony Award winning musical Anything Goes!

The current London run is starring big name actors Bonnie Langford (Cats, 42nd Street, Eastenders), Simon Callow (Four Weddings and a Funeral, Shakespeare in Love), and Denis Lawson (Bleak House, Star Wars, New Tricks), along with award-winning West End star Kerry Ellis (Cats, Wicked, We Will Rock You).

With a fantastic Cole Porter score of many songs you’ve probably heard of, including ‘It’s De-lovely’, ‘I get a Kick out of You’, ‘You’re the Top’ aaaand ‘Anything Goes’ of course, the ocean liner-based farce was absolutely hilarious. The dance numbers were great and even included tap dancing sailors! It was just such an engaging, uplifting and fun afternoon at the theatre.

Dance & Fitness

Sleek Ballet

I’m currently taking a break from weekly tap classes, which is giving me a bit of space to work through some of my video collection on timesteps, technique and classic repertoire – I managed to get down to the garage last Thursday evening, but now we’re in the middle of a heatwave (they’re saying it’s going to be 40 degrees Celsius on Monday – not fun jumping up and down in a stuffy garage!) so I’ve not done much so far. However, I will be attending 2 days of a 3-day tap dance intensive in Covent Garden later this month – I’ve been twice before and I always come away having learnt LOADS. I just need to pace myself, because on the previous occasions I went I felt BATTERED the next day. (Better hydration? More snacks? More breaks? Electrolytes?)

I wasn’t going to continue with the Sleek Ballet membership after the trial, but they enticed me back with a discount, so I cancelled my Rambert Home Studio membership for now and I’m giving it a go! (If you look right now, they’re offering 50% off your first year with code Summer50). So far I’ve done a couple of Lower Body Barre videos and No Jump Cardio – I’m definitely feeling the burn! I also try to continue doing the BOP Jazz workouts after work and I do a daily series of stretches most evenings. I now have access to a really good collection of exercise videos – I just need to get into some sort of routine.

Keep dancing, hydrating and working out!

 

 

 

Review: The Crucible

Seeing as I have this gift membership for Sadler’s Wells theatre, on Tuesday evening after work I went to see Scottish Ballet perform their adaptation of Arthur Miller’s play The Crucible.

The play is inspired by the Salem witch trials of 1692, but was also written as an allegory for the post-war witch-hunt of those with alleged communist ties in Hollywood, leading to many in the industry being blacklisted in the 1940s-50s. Some people were even imprisoned for refusing to testify. Arthur Miller himself was convicted of ‘contempt of congress’ for refusing to identify others who had been at meetings he’d attended…

In a devout Puritan village in Massachusetts, teenager Abigail works for John & Elizabeth Proctor, but ends up having an affair with John, discovered by Elizabeth, and she is fired. Abigail and her friends head into the forest, having followed Tituba, the slave of Revd Parris, and she tries to put a curse on Elizabeth Proctor. Frenzied dancing ensues until Revd Parris discovers them and finds his daughter Betty has collapsed. Betty is carried back to the house and Revd Hale, an expert in witchcraft is summoned to investigate. In the process of trying to exorcise the bewitched Betty, a dark force is unleashed and the group of girls begin to accuse lots people in the village of witchcraft. Tituba is framed for witchcraft and jailed. Abigail is the niece of Revd Parris, so her accusations hold sway in the proceedings that follow. The villagers become suspicious of each other and accusations fly, leading to many court hearings. Abigail plants a poppet (mini-doll stuck with a pin) of herself in the Proctor’s home to frame Elizabeth. The authorities search the house and discover this ‘evidence’ of Elizabeth’s witchcraft. Eventually, the affair between John and Abigail is made public, but Elizabeth’s continued denial of the affair leads to her own condemnation. John is also accused of witchcraft and sentenced.

I’ve never seen Scottish Ballet before, so I was very excited to watch a different ballet company on stage. I’ve also never read The Crucible – the only Arthur Miller play I’ve read is A View from the Bridge when I was at school. As you can tell from the storyline and subject matter, the show was quite dark, with a constant sense of menace hanging in the air. With choreography by Helen Pickett, the dancers were fantastic – the dancer playing the role of Abigail performed some very effective jerky, off-kilter movements, visually representing her mental and emotional state. Unusually for a ballet, there was laughter and also screaming from the dancers at various points, which made it even more disconcerting.

I wouldn’t say this was my favourite ballet as it was so dark, but it was very well done and the story kept me gripped until the end.

Review: Casanova

Casanova programme

Last Saturday I decided, fairly last minute, to take myself into London to Sadler’s Wells to see a matinee of Northern Ballet’s production of Casanova. I was given a gift membership for Sadler’s Wells for my birthday this year, which means I get 20% off tickets, plus priority booking: win-win!

Unfortunately, the Northern Line wasn’t running Euston to Angel, so the plan was to get the 214 bus from King’s Cross. HOWEVER, I accidentally got on the bus going the other direction, so I ended up in Kentish Town! OOPS. So I jumped off the bus, crossed the road…and then caught the bus back to the Angel. Honestly, I could have just walked from King’s Cross in that time.

Anyway, onto the performance!

We’ve all heard of the name and the legend of Casanova being a ‘ladies’ man’ but this ballet drew from the real story of Casanova – trainee priest, writer, philosopher, polymath, violinist and professional gambler. Of course, his reputation wasn’t for nothing and he did indeed have many love affairs, as according to his memoirs, and so the story was a little suggestive in places, hence being for age 12+! The Saturday matinee featured talented first soloist Lorenzo Trossello as Giacomo Casanova. The dance was mesmerising, the costumes were authentically 18th century Venice, the set was atmospheric and the orchestra was spectacular. This is my third Northern Ballet show and I just love the way they tell a story. I would say on this one, because I didn’t know the story, I had to refer to the synopsis in the programme before the show began and also during the interval.

External view of theatre

The second circle where I sat wasn’t completely full, so I had most of row G to myself and a few people shifted closer to the front after the interval for a better view and more space. I really love Sadler’s Wells theatre at Angel because unlike many of the theatres in London, it’s a large, spacious and modern theatre, and the view is pretty good wherever you sit. I have been to their Peacock Theatre venue in Holborn many times and exciting news – next year they will be opening a new venue, Sadler’s Wells East at the Queen Elizabeth Park in Stratford!

Verdict: Fantastic storytelling and what a talented bunch!

Fitness Friday

Still not sure how I feel about toe socks…

Hey! Hope you’re well? Guess what? I’ve started going to Pilates on a Monday evening with my SO at his running club! I’m really trying to get my fitness (and core muscles) back after having been mainly home-based for the last 2 years, and so what better than a Pilates class after a day at the desk! I do get out for a short walk every lunchtime, but I no longer do the daily power walk commute, I quit the gym in March and what with the rigours of tap dance, I really need the lengthening and strengthening. So many back problems can be traced back to lack of core stability, sitting down all day and bad posture.

Studio at Birmingham Royal Ballet

 

I’m also trialling a membership of the Sleek Ballet Fitness app this week. Sleek Technique is the creation of professional ballet dancers Victoria Marr and Flik Swan. If you’ve been reading my blog for a while, you’ll know I had their DVDs and wrote reviews of their Sleek Ballet Bootcamp and Sleek Barre Technique workouts – there were 3 DVDs in the boxset, but I never got around to the third one! Membership gives you access to over 200 workouts, plus livestreamed interactive classes. The workouts are challenging and they really do get you sweating straight away. The settings vary from ballet school studio to warehouse-style brick studio to garden room to stunning beachside! They definitely sell you the lifestyle of the woman who sculpts her ballet body in affluent Thameside West London (think Chiswick or Kew) while wearing stunning Bloch leotards and shopping at Sweaty Betty

The ladies

I’ve only had a go at 2 full-body workouts so far, but I think I’m finding the same issue I found back in 2016 – the speed at which some of the exercises are carried out means I’m finding it difficult to maintain form, and I’m slightly concerned about pulling something – I’m happy operating at half-time! I think I need to have a go at some of the other types of workout before I decide. Perhaps I’ll concentrate on the lower body barre, stretch and mat exercises. Membership is £22.49 a month, and if I did go with it, I’d pause my £8.99 Rambert Home Studio membership (ballet, contemporary, Indian, street, yoga, Pilates, warm-ups, plus playlists, podcasts and other goodies) for now. However, as slick as Sleek Technique is… I’m thinking I should probably stick with Rambert, not only for financial reasons, but also because they’ve extended their offering since I first joined during the pandemic. We’ll see – I think I just need a bit of a change of routine right now.

I’m also taking a break from my Thursday rhythm tap classes once this block finishes later this month, with hopefully a return to the in-studio class in September. I’d like to spend a bit of time doing some of the many, many practise videos I’ve accumulated on things like technique, musicality, timesteps and rudiments, without having to spend that time practising a routine for weekly classes. I’m signed up for another Roy Castle Lung Cancer Foundation tapathon next weekend, which I haven’t yet learnt the routine for, and I have a 3-day tap dance intensive in London lined up for July 🙂

Enjoy your weekend!

ps. hope this blog post came out ok. This laptop has become very temperamental. My space bar suddenly stopped working at one point, and every now and then while I’m typing, the cursor jumps to a different line!

Review: Ballet Black Double Bill

Photo credit: Bill Cooper

Last Thursday I went to see Ballet Black at the Watford Palace Theatre. I was so burned from work last week that I wasn’t really in the mood until we got there. In their 19th season, Ballet Black were performing a double bill of two very different pieces: Then Or Now and The Waiting Game.

Then Or Now

This muted piece was set to a spoken score, the poetry of American poet Adrienne Rich (1929-2012) from her Dark Fields of the Republic, along with the music of Heinrich Franz von Biber (1644-1704). Being set to poetry made it a series of shorter pieces, with themes of the breakdown of community, selfishness, individualism, politics and violence. For me, Then Or Now was powerful but I found the spoken word difficult to concentrate on after a while (probably because I was really tired), and it was a little abstract for me, but it was danced really beautifully and I enjoyed the variety of Will Tuckett’s choreography.

Photo credit: Bill Cooper

The Waiting Game

Choreographed by Mthuthuzeli November, this was my favourite piece of the evening, on the topic of something almost everyone can relate to: the monotony of the daily grind and the desire to escape! Spoken over and over again were the words (I hope I’ve remembered this correctly) “Wake, shower, eat, work, eat lunch, work, home, dinner, sleep, wake, shower, eat, work….” and it went on and on like that. The main character, the work drone, is ruminating on the meaning of life and death and is trapped in a cycle of constantly trying to leave his life via a mystery door, that seems to be enticing him (through a group of mischievous dancers) to an exciting life…but he keeps being prevented from opening it. He meets his sparky alternate (female) self on his cyclical journey of torment and eventually the door is opened and he joins the party, complete with sequined jacket, dancing with gospel church joy to Etta James’ fabulous song Something’s Got a Hold of Me…before returning to his monotonous old life, and the punchline is delivered. This scene was so uplifting and a visual treat.

Verdict: A really enjoyable contemporary ballet double bill, displaying creativity and contrast. As you’ve probably gathered, The Waiting Game was my favourite piece.

 

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…

An Alternative Monday

Autumn Lightbox Pic

I bought myself a mini light box this week to keep me awake and motivated at work in the afternoon during the dark winter months – BOOM! Let’s see if it works…

Speaking of light, my SO and I went to watch the fireworks at a local school on Saturday evening to celebrate Guy Fawkes Night. Last year’s display was so good (way above our expectations of a primary school) so when this year’s display began it seemed a bit lame…but once it got going it was AMAZING! They also had a BBQ, so we enjoyed a burger and some tomato soup, oh and a cup of mulled wine!

Yesterday our systems all went down at work, including internet and phones, so after sitting around for a while and finding out that it could be 4 hours until IT diagnose the problem before even attempting to fix it, we all abandoned ship and went home. I got home by 1pm after a quick stop by the vet to pick up flea treatment for my cat, and had some lunch while seeing if I could log into my work system – nope! (Actually, we couldn’t log in again until gone 4pm). So, what did I do?

  • Topped up a plant in my front ‘garden’ with special compost supplied at the weekend by the inlaws
  • Raked leaves off the lawn ready for Wednesday collection
  • Did a ballet workout dvd which was extremely taxing on the thighs! (Aiming to do this again tonight)
  • Had a relaxing hot bath while watching a couple episodes of Sabrina the Teenage Witch (old Melissa Joan Hart series, not the new Netflix one LOL)
  • Unblocked the gunked up sink plug hole in the bathroom
  • Made a spicy bolognese sauce
  • And then a bit of actual work once I could log into the system again!

I’m going to try and keep up the ballet workout as much as I can to build up the muscles around my knees, which have been suffering a little with my rhythm tap practice. I also need to get my core back in shape too, and ballet is definitely an ALL-OVER body toner. After swimming at the spa last Thursday, I’d quite like to get back into swimming on Friday lunchtimes, but it might be one thing too many at the moment.

In the meantime, roll on Thursday’s advanced beginners tap class!

 

 

Nominated 

I am chuffed to have been nominated for the Mystery Blogger Award! I have always loved writing, so naturally I ended up starting a blog about my dance pursuits, especially now that I’m learning to tap dance.

The Mystery Blogger Award was created by Okoto Enigma and I love the idea behind it of highlighting all the unknown blogs and creative writers out there: https://www.okotoenigmasblog.com/my-greatest-creation-yet/

I would like to thank Dorky Dancing for nominating me! She writes a great dance blog and is my most enthusiastic follower. I enjoy reading her posts about all the different dance classes she’s doing.

Here is a list of the rules:

  1. Put the award logo/image on your blog
  2. List the rules
  3. Thank whoever nominated you and provide a link to their blog
  4. Mention the creator of the award and provide a link as well
  5. Tell your readers 3 things about yourself
  6. You have to nominate 10 – 20 people
  7. Notify your nominees by commenting on their blog
  8. Ask your nominees any 5 questions of your choice; with one weird or funny question (specify)
  9. Share a link to your best post(s)

Three facts about me:

1.  I work in Human Resources but also make and sell soap in my spare time
2.  I have a degree in English Literature but am also qualified as a fitness instructor
3.  I have a cat from Essex called Ruby who is 3 years old and I believe is a (part?) Norwegian Forest Cat. She has a very fluffy bottom and she pops up in the blog every now and then!

Your Questions Answered:

1. If you were a soup, which flavour of soup would you be? Spicy pumpkin – I’ve been told I’m warm and comforting

2. What causes you to doubt yourself? Overthinking – just do it!

3. If time, money, distance, relationships and education were not an issue, what would be your dream job? I would be an interior designer, like Kelly Hoppen. Other than that
I would love to run my handmade soap business full time. Beach-side. In a warm climate.

4. What does your dream house look like? It sounds extremely cheesy but I feel like I moved into my dream house when I moved in November. It’s a Victorian terraced house; old and wonky, but I love it. Other than that, it would be house with a verandah and a dance studio!

Verandah
That’ll do

5. What dance move or style would you like to master? I would LOVE to master tap dance – it’s quite hard, especially beginning in adulthood and there’s so much to learn! Another thing would be a pirouette – so far I’ve only really ever done the preparation steps.

Pay it Forward

I don’t follow too many blogs, but here are the ones who I enjoy reading and also deserve this accolade of nomination:

  • Dorky Dancing – she was very kind to nominate me and I really enjoy reading her posts about her dancing and the classes she attends. She has a great sense of humour too!
  • Adult Ballerina Project – the first ballet blog I started reading when I was trying Ballet classes for the first time. She hasn’t posted in a long time because I think she decided to stop writing it, but there’s loads to read about the ballet journey as an adult beginner. Inspired me to start a dance blog.
  • On The Way to the Barre – loads of ballet chat and tips, and nice photos. She also has a cat.
  • Ballet.to – a very honest ballet blog written by May to inspire others having a go at Ballet.
  • Dance your Buns Off – another ballet blog. Lots of  helpful tips and I like reading the interviews with professional dancers.
  • Tweed and the Beard – a non-dance blog all about food and meal prepping! I love food and cooking, so I enjoy reading her posts, especially when it comes to lunchbox ideas. She started following me fairly recently.

5 questions for my nominees:

  1. What made you start blogging?
  2. What would you most like to achieve in 2018?
  3. What is your favourite song, like ever?
  4. What is your favourite dance step or move?
  5. Which animal would be your Harry Potter Patronus? (Mine is a cat obvs)

And finally, check out my post about my day at Rambert’s Adult Contemporary Summer Intensive 2017! 

 

Knees Up

Last night I went to my ballet class with knee support in tow. Bumped into my teacher on the stairs, so I explained that I have a dodgy left knee, and he told me to take it easy.  I managed it until performing a fondue derriere, using the weaker left leg as the supporting leg. I didn’t fondue as far as when performing it on the other leg, but the very action upset my knee. Thankfully we weren’t working on jumps this week!

Besides that, it was another great class. We did some exercises using 4th position (where I had to be a bit careful and reduce the turnout), battement glisses, and I particularly enjoyed the sequence of attitude avant, through 1st position to attitude derriere and back again, fairly quickly. With speed, it was a challenge to control the working leg! This was part of a longer sequence that began facing the barre and rolling the knee in, passing the working leg through first position and sweeping the foot out behind in a figure of 8, if that makes any sense. Then on the 8th time of doing it we turned to the side with a sweep of the leg into a grande battement forward and HOLD.

My pint-sized Italian class colleague told me when I get home to get some olive oil and rub it into the knee. Good advice! In the end I didn’t use olive oil, but an aromatic massage oil from Neal’s Yard.

I have to say the walk back to Charing Cross station after the class was a bit on the achy side, but I will probably be taking a break next week…to hopefully move house!

Ballet ‘n’ Beans

This evening I left work early to prepare myself for Ballet at City Lit…by stopping at Grind in Covent Garden to wake myself up with a coffee LOL.
Once I got to the college I layered up with black vest and smoky blue t-shirt, plus black leggings and cool netted socks with rose detail 🌹…

It was a full house this week so I was glad to get there early enough to get a space on the barre by the window because I always get too hot.

We ran through the usual exercises but with added content, creating longer sequences. It must have been the caffeine because I pretty much remembered everything! Well, apart from the retire-passe at the very end of the class. But you know how it is, you just style it out! 😉

My left knee gave me a bit of trouble again because I realised a while ago that it is weaker and I find it hard to keep that leg straight when doing, say, the grand battement exercise. Still, I really enjoyed the class tonight and really worked on my arms and hands this week. I think because I’ve been watching Strictly and loving the expression you get in Latin-style arms and fingers. I’ve never thought about putting that into my ballet practice before, but it has actually helped me to understand expression in the fingers a lot more, and placing. Obviously you don’t want to put the arms behind your shoulders when in second position, or have a straight arm in fifth, but I was able to apply the expression in the hands as we are doing a lot more port de bras than I’ve done before. Still, I mustn’t go crazy and exaggerate…

Image courtesy of Dancing with the Stars

So much fun –  looking forward to next week 🙂