Tap Dance Festival UK Winter Intensive 2018

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Wow, what a weekend! Now that I’m back from Manchester and have had 12 hours’ sleep I can tell you all about my experience of the 2nd ever Tap Festival UK Winter Intensive.

Friday

My SO and I drove up to Salford (Greater Manchester) on Friday, reaching our accommodation in the afternoon. After a rest and a bite to eat, we went to the Festival venue Pendleton College for the Professional Showcase at 7pm. We were all made to wait in the small canteen area until the start, but in the meantime there was a presentation to the amazing Jo Scanlan of Tap Attack and a short tap performance by her very talented son.

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Next, we were shown through to the Eccleston Theatre where the Apartment 33 ‘Where Dreams Are Made’ Professional Show was taking place. Written and presented by Maud Arnold, and choreographed by her sister Chloe, the show featured some of the weekend’s faculty members, and shared the story of how tap dancers were able to relocate to Chloe and Maud’s actual Apartment 33 in New York to be able to “pursue their tap dance goals and dreams”. The score included Alicia Keys, John Legend, Beyonce and Rihanna, among others, and the dance was a fantastic blend of tap, crump, contemporary and more. My favourite performance was pocket-rocket Robin Passmore tapping furiously to Destiny’s Child’s Survivor. So good! The Syncopated Ladies’ routine to Beyonce’s Formation was also a big crowd pleaser. Unfortunately, I had someone’s huge hair in my eyeline, but I managed to move a seat along so that I could actually see the performers’ feet!

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After the show was a Q&A with the panel of Suzanne Clandon (founder of Tap Dance Festival UK), Maud Arnold (Syncopated Ladies), Robin Passmore, Vikas Arun, Linsey O’Neal, Josh Nixon. There were some good questions from the audience such as “did you ever feel like giving up?” and lots of advice on pursuing your dreams in the performing arts. You have to be a go-getter!

Saturday

Saturday morning my SO dropped me back at Pendleton College and went off to run and then go and see friends near Stockport. I went in with my dance bag, a bit apprehensive because last night seemed to be all teenagers, which made me wonder if there would be ANY ADULTS in the classes on Saturday. I went into the ‘holding area’ as per last night and found some adults (phew!). There turned out to be quite a few there for classes thankfully! I had received an email in the week to say that the classes were geared towards teens, so adults were welcome to attend the ‘Teachers’ Studio’ classes free of charge. I thought I might do that for the final class of the morning, but I didn’t in the end!

Before going to any classes, we were in the sports hall for the AFRO FUNK warm up with Maud. Ok, it was only about 20 minutes long, and I heard someone say “I’ve got a stitch!” Yep. That’s Afro Funk! It’s kind of dance hall style winding and grinding and body isolations. Lots of fun, a real laugh, but OH BOY does it wear you out.

After this we were shown by the respective people where to go for our class levels. I was in the Beginners/Advanced Beginners (0-3 years experience), and we had a very nice studio with mirrors.

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10.00-10.55 Tap Attack (Jo Scanlan)

This was a really fun class where we did some warm up exercises at the mirror and across the floor (including travelling on one leg – wow that burns) and then learnt a short routine. I was breaking in my Jason Samuels Smith tap shoes, and they were fab! That was actually my second time learning with the Guinness World Record holder Jo – the first time was at MOVE IT 2017 in London.

11.00-11.55 Technique (Robin Passmore)

A proper tap drills class with a proper drill sergeant! Some people find drills tiresome, but I love it. As was explained to us, that is how you get better and cleaner. Watching Robin on stage the night before, she stood out as someone who was really on it and exceptionally precise, so I was looking forward to learning from her. Her demonstrations were amazing and we were just standing there with our mouths open! We worked on crawls, shuffles in all directions, paddles, riffs, pick-ups, pull-backs AND I had my first ever go at wings! Very exciting. Couldn’t get the sound, but at least I know what I should be doing. Now go home and practice!

12.00-12.55 Choreography (Vikas Arun)

Vikas explained at the beginning that we were going to find the class too difficult. Um, what? But then he said that there was no point him flying all the way from the US and us paying for a class that was too easy. Very true. We were there to be challenged! He also said please ask questions or say if you don’t get something, otherwise he’ll move on.

Now, I thought it was going to be a class where you were encouraged to come up with a bit of your own choreography (have to say I wasn’t especially up for that on a Saturday morning, and was considering beforehand running along to the Teacher’s Studio with Jo Scanlan), but we were actually learning choreography.

We learnt a really cool routine, and I think it moved a little faster than I’m used to, but he threw in useful tips about weight placement and height, which helped me with one particularly tricky step which you’ll see below (toe-heel-f-lap, toe-heel-f-lap). He also said, as had been said throughout the morning that it is better to try and get that one thing right than to just do it fast but get it wrong. Some other sound bites I picked up were ‘don’t practice until you get it right, practice until you can’t do it wrong‘ and ‘learn the drums’. I actually decided to either learn drums or learn to tap, and I went with tap. I should do both!

Here’s what we learnt (slower version first followed by with the music):

 

It was such an amazing day and I’m so glad I went! It was scary to go on my own, but it was fantastic and got me out of my comfort zone…again!

If you have the chance to go to any sort of dance festival or intensive, go for it!

Rambert Adult Summer Dance Intensive

I have just got home from Day 1 of the Adult Summer Dance Intensive hosted by the Rambert Dance Company in their lovely modern studios by Waterloo Station. What a day!

I was a little apprehensive because I was going on my own and I haven’t done any contemporary dance since 2013… Anyway, I got there in plenty of time so I didn’t have to stress about being late.

The classes ran as follows:

10am Contemporary (Carolyn Bolton)

This was our warm up class, which got us doing typical ballet warm-up exercises, such as plies, releve, degage, grande battement etc. Aw, I’ve missed these! Then we moved into doing some contemporary exercises, including travelling corner to corner, jumps and a short routine. This was a lot of fun, but not being used to dancing bare foot lately, my achilles tendons did play up a bit on the jumps section. After this we had a 15 minute break to use the facilities, refill water bottles, grab a healthy snack and stretch.

11.30am Choreography (Stephen Quildan)

I had a feeling we would be creating our own choreography, and that’s exactly what we did! We had six words to interpret through movement: Spiral, Drop, Stab, Blue, Explode, Relax. Then we had to perform these in 2 separate groups in silence, then to a piece of music. The observing group then had to answer questions about the differences they noticed between say, music and silence, making eye contact with your partner or looking straight ahead or at the ceiling. Then we did some silly things at the end, including a dance Chinese Whispers game i.e. pass the move along the line… It really didn’t seem that scary to be performing in front of an audience. Definitely found it easier to come up with choreography in this workshop than I did at the Tap workshop the other day…

12.30pm Lunch break

1.30pm Repertoire Workshop: Tomorrow (Simone Damburg)

We were supposed to be learning the piece ‘Ghost Dances’, but they swapped the repertoire programme for the 2 days around, so we were learning ‘Tomorrow’, which is basically the story of Macbeth backwards. We were learning part of what is performed by the ‘witches’ on one half of the stage. It was so much fun! Lots of jagged movements, fast, slow, pauses, pulsing, shudder, shake! We ended up performing it in one big group with the teacher, Simone, then we performed it without her, then in two groups, then in four small groups (about 6 of us)! SO GOOD! Followed by a much appreciated 15 minute break.

3pm Stretch/Yoga 

For this class we had a cover teacher, so it took a while to get yoga mats and music sorted, but once we got started the relaxation could begin! My favourite bits were the child’s pose and lying on the mat! We were doing Yin yoga, which meant holding poses for around 4 minutes at a time for ‘deep tissue’ work. Some of it was a bit advanced for me, like even using a foam block didn’t help LOL. I also found my lower back was kind of jarred by it, so I will have to stretch and roll out the muscles this evening.

4pm Home time!

But not before filling out a feedback form and buying a T-Shirt!

Verdict: A good mixture of ages and abilities (from student to retired), and I didn’t once feel intimidated, even though some people were clearly more experienced dancers. Everyone was very friendly and the teachers who are all Rambert dancers made it a fun and relaxed environment. Being a relatively new building, the facilities are fantastic. Although contemporary dance is done bare foot, some wore socks for the whole day (I did on and off to avoid blisters when turning) and some wore foot thongs. I would thoroughly recommend the dance intensive or any of Rambert’s regular classes if you’re in London. I’m really glad I booked it and I enjoyed the chance to learn from the professionals (and other students) and to dance with such expression. BOOM!

www.rambert.org.uk

Tap Workshop: Improvisation & Choreography

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Last night I went to the final Tap workshop as part of Morley College’s ‘Summer Shorts’…Improvisation and Choreography. There were less people than last week, but still plenty of us there for the 2 hour workshop.

We warmed up in a circle, then we went round the circle (like last week) and had to fill 4 bars with something using heels & toes only… ARGH! We did this a few times, and then we did some exercises in rows facing the mirror, such as playing with crawls, we refreshed our memories on some steps, did some call and response (i.e. respond to the teacher’s combination with something different, but to the same beat) and made up our own time step. We also made up some of our own choreography in pairs, and did some improvisation in smaller groups where one person danced in the middle and then signalled to someone that they were going to swap with them.

It was so much fun! But it was also kind of scary to come up with something on the spot when the spotlight is on you. I think it got easier as the time went on, but there is always that feeling of butterflies when you know you’re next! Everyone was in the same boat and really supportive of each other, and our teacher is very encouraging. I have done improvisation before in other styles of dance, but trying to make my feet do what I wanted them to do was another story! I’d love to drop into the splits and slide back up to standing like the Nicholas Brothers, or Prince, but it ain’t happening.

Great tips I picked up for improvisation:

  • Don’t plan ahead
  • Steal steps from other people!
  • Keep it simple

One I would add for me is to repetitively practice steps over the summer using your new tap board! We are DEFINITELY going to be moving to a house over the next few months (YAY!) so I will be able to utilise this resource more fully LOL.

Side note: I have been suffering a bit the last few weeks with tender Achilles tendons, but I didn’t want to miss this class, having missed three weeks of the last term of classes. I am wondering if my Achilles tendons are inflamed from over-use, plus I’ve had swollen ankles from the humid heat, which has thankfully cooled. I will rest after this…I promise (Rest, Ice, Compression, Elevation)! I have one more summer workshop coming up – the Adult Summer Intensive at Rambert, Waterloo, which one of my Tap friends might be joining me at. I need to see how I go. Might have to wear ankle supports.

Prince Splits