How to Make the Most of your Tap Dance Lessons

You may be a full time dance student or you may only have an hour of tap class a week (like me), so you have to find a way to make the most of what you have:

  • Pay attention in class! That’s right. Listen to what your teacher is saying and watch the demonstrations closely.
  • Learn from others who are more experienced or seem to know what they’re doing.
  • Ask questions when you have the opportunity. This is usually at the end of the class, but you may have opportunity during the class too (e.g. What is this step called? Which leg are we starting on? Who is your favourite tap dancer?! etc.)
  • Take the opportunity to film the routine or combination if given. Then you can become more familiar with it and practice outside of class. It helps to visualise even if you can’t physically do the steps for whatever reason, e.g. You’re on public transport or your leg is in plaster…
  • Practice as soon as you are able after your class just so it doesn’t escape your brain straight away!
  • Practice daily! Even if it’s only 5 minutes in the corridor at work. It helps cement things and keeps the muscle memory alive, so to speak.
  • Download or listen the track you’re using so you can familiarise yourself with the music, and any unusual rhythms it may have.
  • Take away one thing you can work on for next time. If you load yourself up with too many things to improve, you might stress yourself out and improve nothing.

Other general advice:

  • Watch tap dance online
  • Get to your classes early
  • Go to classes regularly
  • Read up on tap history
  • Watch tap shows at the theatre if you can
  • Read up on tap terms. Some steps have different names to what you’re used to (slurp vs closed third)
  • Attend workshops and festivals to try new stuff and meet other tappers
  • Follow tap dancers on social media
  • Join tap dance social media groups

What do you think?

I made a resolution this year to write a list of things I want to know and then try to ask my teacher a question every week, but sometimes I forget or chicken out 🙂

(We’re currently on a 2 week break from rhythm tap class, but I’m managing to keep up with my weekly workouts at the gym!)

Trying a Class for the First Time?

Maybe you’re thinking of trying a dance class for the first time but are feeling a bit nervous. Maybe you’ve never danced before and this is your year for trying something new? Well, I’ve been going to dance classes for several years now, but it’s still scary to turn up at something new where you don’t know anyone, or you’re unsure of your abilities. A friend told me recently that she and her SO want to learn Salsa dance. They went along, got to the door and then chickened out and went home again. I’ve done the same thing myself before, so I’ve put together some tips for getting yourself through the studio door:

Find a class specifically for adults

Mixed age classes are great if you’re feeling confident and already have dance experience, but a class for adults will be understanding of how adults learn and adapt, and you’re less likely to feel daunted. Adult learning colleges are excellent at this! They also tend to run in terms, so there are regular points in the year where there are lots of new people, like you, starting at the same time.

I tried a few classes in the past which were advertised as being for ‘adults’, but in reality the age was 16+ and the class was clearly aimed at the younger ones. I felt like a giant with extra-long limbs who couldn’t do what they were doing and exited asap.

Contact the teacher beforehand

It’s a good idea to contact the teacher or school to find out more about the class, including the level. They will answer any questions you may have, they might even recommend a different class, level or school, or give you a free trial. Linked to that:

Find out if there’s a dress code

Some classes have a dress code, but many adult classes are relaxed, as long as you’re wearing appropriate footwear. It’s best to find out what to wear so you don’t splash out on expensive leotards unnecessarily. I wear leggings and layered vests for tap, ballet and jazz. I did start ballet in leotard and ballet skirt, but my adult college class had a relaxed dress code; the only thing was to remove jewellery. (I remember once a guy came in dripping in heavy silver necklaces and rings. The teacher asked him to remove them. Said guy walked out!!)

Get there early

I don’t mean an hour early, but get there so you’re not rushing and stressed before going in. Give yourself time to use the facilities, find the studio or room, stretch, fill up your water bottle etc.

Smile and say hi

Whenever I go to a new class I make sure to acknowledge other people, smile and say hi. It goes a long way. People tend to reciprocate and you often find it a nicer atmosphere. It also helps to make other newbies feel welcome and contributes to forming relationships with your classmates. There will always be people who are stand-offish or cliquey, but on the whole it makes a friendlier class that you can look forward to.

Take a friend with you

Persuade a friend, colleague or family member to go with you as moral support!

Any other tips to add?

What have your experiences been when trying a dance class for the first time?

I’m going to an Interior Design one day course in London on Friday… I will be applying some of these tips! 😬

3 Beat Roll

This week I was a bit spaced out at tap class, despite having had over an hour to chill out and forget about work. I think I was just really tired! We had open windows this week (yay!) as the building work has progressed so that the wall is no longer covered in plastic sheeting.

We worked on a backward travelling exercise using pickups, where we did 3 alternating heel-drops in between each. A good tip is to sit back so that the weight is on your back foot, otherwise it complicates matters in terms of travelling. It was quite challenging with a faster piece of music, but with more practice time, it’ll be easier… I hope!

We also went over our 3-beat cramp roll with a fun exercise to Mark Ronson’s Uptown Funk.

Here’s a video of my quick practice (during a break at work, in heels!) of the 3-beat cramp roll that we are using in our routine. It has another name, but I keep forgetting what that is!

 

 

I’ve seen on social media that booking is open for the London Tap Dance Intensive, which takes place over 3 days at the end of July, using 3 different venues (Base, Danceworks and Pineapple Studios) with an amazing faculty line-up, plus Brighton Tap Festival is also advertising at the moment. I really don’t want to overdo it this year because I’m trying to get my soap business side gig back on track and will be doing a couple of local summer fairs, plus I already went to the amazing Tap Festival UK at the start of the year. I could also do with cutting back a bit on my spending, so I will probably do one day at the London Tap Dance Intensive and let Brighton be because I have been before and it involves a bit more travel. Or, I allow LTDI (and the modern phenomenon of FOMO) and go to Brighton as it’s during my summer holiday fortnight. These events are great for cementing what you’ve been learning in regular classes and also give you new skills and steps. I dunno, I’ll keep you posted!

Happy weekend whatever you’re up to! ☀️

Squeezed

Today I was back to the lunchtime tap class which I used to prefer for being smaller and calmer, but find I am increasingly stressed out by squeezing it all in during my (extended) lunch hour (changing, walk there, dance, walk back, shower, change, eat). On top of that, the college is renovating the entrance and reception area to make it more accessible, so you now have to walk round to the back of the building to the temporary reception area. Thankfully Studio C10 is easy enough to find from that location.

The class was bigger than usual, but that was nice in a way, less exposing! I wore my white Jason Samuels Smith shoes, fresh from the amazing weekend in Salford! I was complimented on them by a few classmates and our teacher. One of the guys in the class was wearing the same shoes, which was cool. I didn’t really want to be the standout with the expensive shoes 🙄

I would definitely say that last weekend’s tap festival gave me a bit more confidence today. Maybe it’s the shoes! No, I think as comfy as they are, Saturday’s bootcamp taught me some new steps and helped me go over old ones with extra tips. Amazing what you can pick up (excuse the pun) in a few hours!

Today we went over the basic time step, but as a few of us were already familiar, we got to do the double version (with flaps). I was paired up with the older theatre type lady (leg warmers and everything!) to go over it in a straight way and then a swung way, but she is clearly trained in the classic style rather than heel-heavy Rhythm Tap and the more modern stuff that’s going down these days and she kept telling me off for being turned out. But that’s how I like to do it! Then she was throwing in extra bits that she knows and that went way over my head. Kind of an unhelpful pairing I’m afraid to say. Anyway, I’ll keep doing my thing!

A couple of people are going to hire the studio straight after the class from next week for a practice session – great idea! Unfortunately I have to get back to work – boo!

“Tap is by the people, for the people”

Ever been unequally yoked in a dance class?

Big Fun

I had so much fun at Tap tonight! I mean, it’s fun every week but since I’ve been meditating on not pushing myself so hard (still give 100% physically – can’t help that – but less mental angst about getting it right in that lesson!)

I have been experiencing the freedom of just having a go and enjoying it, regardless of forgetting stuff or missing a step. I mean we did that shuffle-ball-change exercise (travelling forward, shuffle coming round in a D shape) that I don’t particularly enjoy because I struggled with it the first week and got left behind by the rest of the group as we were travelling across the room… but there’s others finding it confusing and all you can do with tap dance is be shown the step, have a go, then take it away as something to work on, which I did! Now not so difficult 😁

What made it really fun was the quick, syncopated steps that we did in the last part of the routine. So good!

Had a conversation with J afterwards, the most senior of the group, while we were all getting our shoes on, and he said he was finding it a bit too detailed. I quite like that! Then he was asking if I’d heard of Savion Glover – yes! He told me that Avalon of London based tap company Old Kent Road had been to seen him loads. Anyway, J said he didn’t enjoy seeing him when he was at Sadlers Wells, as apparently he seemed nervous or wasn’t expressing anything in his face. Er, ok. He then went on to tell me what a great show Michelle Dorrance of Dorrance Dance put on last year (I so wanted to see that!). Interesting chat – but then I had to run for the train!

I can’t believe next week is the final week of this routine already! I tried to book the next block of Wednesday night classes, but they were SOLD OUT! So I’ll be back to Thursday lunchtimes after that.

New Year, New You

I hope everyone had a fun Christmas and is ready and raring to go into 2018? Well, I’d love to say I am, but I’ve been stuck indoors with flu since Boxing Day evening. I was due back at work today, but I still don’t feel well enough to go anywhere. Thankfully I’m over the worst of it, my appetite is returning and I should be on the mend by the end of this week. Not how I wanted to begin the new year.

Anyway, I got the Chloe and Maud Arnold tap shoes I wanted for Christmas! They were a joint present from my SO and his parents. I knew what they were as I’d picked them, but I was still extremely excited to open them on Christmas day.

I enrolled on Rhythm Tap 2 (now sold out!) which starts again next Wednesday evening. Can’t wait to get back into it! I also bought a ticket to the annual MOVE IT dance exhibition in London in March, and I got a class ticket for a tap workshop with London Studio Centre! Should be challenging…

My aim for 2018 is to get better at tap, set up a mini practice studio in the garage with my portable tap board and practice more in between classes. The other thought is whether to try syllabus tap classes to learn from scratch. There’s a 1hour class near home on a Friday morning which I may enquire about…

Another aim is to stretch daily and maintain flexibility!

Have you set any dance goals for 2018?