Home Improvement

The clocks have gone back an hour, it’s dark early, we’ve just had 2 weeks break from Rhythm Tap and I stuck to my word and DID NOT DANCE in the break! However, I did do an aerobics video a couple of evenings when I got home from work, but no intense dance workshops or anything! I’ve also just got back from an afternoon tea and spa experience, which was just what I needed.

A few weeks ago I decided to change my practice tap board for something less loud and echoey and with more space to move around and not fall off the edge, so I ordered a snap-together dance floor and I find it to be a massive improvement! Plus I can use it for other dance styles. Now to sell the portable tap board…

Looking forward to getting back to class next week ☺

Keep Dancing!

Here’s a run-down of my week in a series of bullet points:

  • Finally got back to making salads for lunch – BOOM!
  • Randomly ended up having lunch with my tap teacher and her sister
  • Nailed the advanced beginners tap routine
  • Had another go at improvisation (one at a time, call & response, in a circle – argh!)
  • Intermediate tap was extremely challenging, but I loved it!
  • Switched to advanced beginners daytime class for next half term (starting 8th Nov)
  • Booked an Afternoon Tea & Spa for 1st Nov…can’t wait!

We now have a two week break from tap, and I am not going to do any dancing in that break. Last year I booked a place on a La La Land Tap workshop at the Arts Ed school in Chiswick (West London) and then didn’t go because I’d had a bad day at work and I was DONE. My natural leaning is always to do more, but I am trying to do less – any dancing that I do will be in my garage! In the meantime, I am getting ready as early as possible for the 4 Christmas fairs I’ll be doing with my soap business.

Do you watch Strictly Come Dancing? Maybe you watch Dancing with the Stars if you’re in the US or elsewhere. My favourite couple is Ashley Roberts (from the Pussycat Dolls) and her professional partner Pasha Kovalev (Pashley hahaha). She did an amazing cha cha and I LOVED their Dirty Dancing salsa routine! All the routines are on the BBC Strictly YouTube channel. I really want to learn to cha cha, but I’m going to park that ambition for now…

BBC Ashley Pasha
Image from BBC

 

Dancing Feet

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Learning rhythm tap dance, I find that my feet really take a pounding so I make sure I spend some time caring for them so that they’re in tip-top shape. This obviously applies to all areas of dance or sport where you are primarily on your feet.

Here are some of my foot care tips:

Use a foot roller immediately after dancing to give your feet a bit of a massage to relieve aches and prevent aching the next day. There are many different types. I like a spiky ball roller, but you can even use a golf ball if you have one handy.

Stretch your feet and toes before and after class. Resistance bands are great for this.

Soak tired feet in warm water with a good sprinkling of Epsom salts, and maybe a few drops of your favourite essential oil. I LOVE lavender oil and sweet orange oil. Peppermint, tea tree or eucalyptus are also good choices. You may want to follow up with a dip into some lukewarm water.

Hard Skin is inevitable, and you’ll want to make sure you remove some of it with a pumice stone or foot file…but not too much. If you go too baby soft with your feet, you may find you are more susceptible to blisters, especially if you dance barefoot. Being someone who is prone to eczema (thankfully eczema-free for maybe 2 years now), I have naturally parched skin, so I need to use a pumice stone quite often.

Moisturise moisturise moisturise – I say this again as someone with Sahara Desert dry skin. These days I only use natural butters and oils (e.g. shea butter, cocoa butter, coconut oil) which are full of essential fatty acids, because synthetic petroleum based-moisturisers tend to sit on top of the skin rather than soak into it.

Keep Toenails Trimmed so that they don’t injure your other toes when dancing or press into the ends of your shoes. Always cut straight across rather than round and file off any sharp edges. (Make sure they’re not too short but have a bit of white tip left as nails are there to protect the toes from injury). I used to paint my toenails for class when I was doing the Contemporary and Jazz Workshop at City Lit because we danced barefoot, but it’s probably better to stick to no polish or clear polish just so you can monitor the health of your nails when you’re dancing a lot. (This applies to runners too!)

Wear supportive footwear when you’re not dancing. Unfortunately, a lot of shoes aimed at women are completely flat with no arch support, which can lead to plantar fasciitis (had this!) and ankle problems, or at the other end of the spectrum you have sky high stilettos that put stress on the balls of the feet and toes and can lead to bunions and other problems. I wear a pair of Skechers slip-on trainers with arch support and extra thick soles for my commute.

Dry thoroughly between your toes after bathing. I cannot stress this enough. I tend to use a bit of talc between the toes too, just to be sure. And make sure you wash your feet and change your socks as soon as you can after your class…

Get a foot massage every now and then if you can – I recently went to my local salon for a full body aromatherapy massage because my shoulders are so tight at the moment. This included a foot massage – amazing! Just what I needed.

And if you have any foot problems – please visit a chiropodist/podiatrist!

I was half-considering retraining as a podiatrist, because I like working with people…but I don’t think I have the stomach for other people’s feet LOL

My foot care kit:

  • Nail clippers
  • Pumice stone
  • Foot file
  • Nail files
  • Plasters
  • Blister plasters
  • Peppermint foot spray
  • A good moisturiser
  • Spiky ball roller
  • Anti-fungal foot powder
  • Gel toe separators
  • Bamboo Compression socks

Anything to add? How do you keep your feet in tip-top condition? I’m sure the Ballet dancers out there will have much more in their kit! Let me know in the comments below.

**I have a confession to make. Last year, my lunchtime tap class re-started while I was still on 2 weeks’ Summer holiday, so my SO and I travelled in especially so I could go, and then we planned to go for lunch afterwards and then meet his sister for a catch up. Well, the day ended up being a lot longer than I thought it would be, and silly me, although I changed clothes at the restaurant, I didn’t end up showering until I got home after 7pm that evening, and I ended up with athletes foot. Yuk. Thankfully a course of Daktarin spray sorted it out. NEVER AGAIN**

High Horse

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Okay, I was naughty a few weeks ago and went and purchased another pair of Jason Samuels Smith tap shoes by Bloch, this time in black. I have to say they’re now retailing about £30 more expensive than when I bought my white ones, but I managed to track this pair down for the original price from a dancewear shop in Edinburgh 🙂 I’ve also just sold an old pair of Bloch Sync tap shoes (as well as a few other things) on Ebay.

I haven’t worn my new Jasons to a class yet, but the beauty of the Jasons is that they are very quick to wear in and I’m thinking I’ll bring these ones out either next half-term or in January. As with other shoes, it’s probably good to have at least 2 pairs of tap shoes on rotation.

On Wednesday evening I went along to week 2 of advanced beginners and intermediate rhythm tap. Both classes were amazing again, and by the end of it my toes were really sore! In the intermediate class (level 3) we had to pair up to work on a double flap exercise (f-f-lap), so I partnered with ‘L’. Talking later on, it turns out she did all the tap dance grades when she was a child and basically tapped for 10 years, stopping when she went to University. Telling her I only started learning in 2014/15, she was amazed at my progress! But then I said I want to learn to do pullbacks, but just haven’t managed it yet.

She said she can do wings and pullbacks all day, but finds the closework we do in rhythm tap (e.g. crawls and other co-ordination beasts!) difficult. This led us onto discussing the differences between **SHOW** tap and rhythm tap. I guess you could say that one focuses on appearance and the other focuses on the sounds. I wonder if I’d struggle with syllabus tap, having only learnt the rhythm style. Interesting, huh?

In level 3 we are using the song (Get off Your) High Horse Lady by Oasis. Although we had the opportunity to film level 2 (but not level 3), I have also written down what I can remember of both routines, so hopefully I won’t get the two mixed up!

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On the train home I ate a Goji Goodness raw flapjack and drank a load of water. Unfortunately I forgot to grab a banana to have as well. I got home around 9.45pm and had tiny bit of food that I’d prepared the night before and a swig of Green Smoothie.

After a shower, I ran through my super-quick routine to roll out the muscles in my feet and legs, then I went to bed around 11pm. On Thursdays I have agreed to start work at 9.30am so that I can have a lie in and recover (except this Thursday there was a signal failure on the tube, so after going all round the houses, I didn’t get to my desk until 10am). It’s a long day and I’m still not sure it’s sustainable for the long term, but I’ll enjoy it for now…until our teacher creates a level 3 class at around 5pm on a Thursday…PLEEEEEASE

Do you struggle to remember more than one dance routine?

What are your go-to post-exercise recovery snacks?

New Term

Last night was the start of the new term of Rhythm Tap at Morley College. I was really excited about it, but with the usual nervous butterfly stomach just beforehand!

I am enrolled on level 2 (advanced beginners) but for the first week back I decided I was finally going to also try out level 3 (intermediates) straight afterwards. I didn’t tell my teacher this beforehand, just incase I ended up shattered at the end of level 2 and couldn’t do any more LOL. So:

Level 2 

Level 2 was a BIG class. The warm-up circle took up the whole studio! But this always happens at the start of term, and apparently the class was sold out again. The acting couple were there and a few other regulars, but no R or K this time – boo! We worked on a toe-tip, heel-dig exercise, which would form part of our routine. At the end of the class there was some homework! We were asked to note down the music we are using for the routine so that we can go away and listen to it to get into the rhythm (I tend to download the tracks anyway). We’re using Come by Jain. The other task was to think of a question you would like to answer or something you would like to learn by the end of the 6 weeks to either share with her, or keep for yourself.

I went up to my teacher at the end and she asked “are you staying?”, and I said YAASSSSS!

Level 3

Level 3 which lasts an hour, rather than 45 minutes, was a lot smaller, a much better size. I chatted to the Swing dance girl who it turns out also sings in a band! She told me to come down to Soho on Sunday and check them out. I meet so many creative people!

The warm up was a call-and-response exercise, which is something I LOVE doing. I remember when I went from level 1 to level 2 that I found the transition to the speed of warm-up the first challenge, but I didn’t have that this time. It helps that I have been going to intermediate level workshops and intensives when I can.

We learnt the double-flap (f-f-lap), which creates 3 sounds, as opposed to a flap which creates 2 (f-lap). Quite hard to be accurate at first, but I was told to keep my head forward and not look down! Helped.

We also learnt a new timestep – yes! I don’t know many, so it was great to learn another one. I think that’s 6 on my list now…not that I remember 2 of them – doh! We were paired up to check in on each other and make sure we weren’t missing something. That was cool. I paired up with a lady who said she did grades years ago, but hasn’t done anything for years and doesn’t practice. We got there in the end!

Our next exercise was a tap turn, which our teacher stole from US Hoofer Derrick Grant who she took a World Dance class with at the Brighton Tap Festival. I was gutted to miss it this year, but I was on holiday, and this summer I decided not to over-do it and burn myself out. Technically, I could have gone on the way home from a week in Devon, but seriously! Toe-toe-heel-heel-toe-toe, travelling along the studio while turning 360 degrees-ish. The music was amazing and it was so much fun and we all ended up dizzy!

Our routine was amazing. I picked up the beginning quickly, but then we spent a while on the next bit and then I forgot the beginning LOL. I know it starts with flaps.

Anyway, at the end when I was changing my shoes my teacher said I should definitely change over to level 3, but I had to say I really enjoyed it…but it’s just too late on a school night with my commute. Knowing I would be staying on that evening and getting home around 10pm, I told work I would be in later just so I could have a lie-in and catch the 8.30am train, as opposed to the 7.13am. I could probably manage it for a couple of weeks, but it’s not sustainable long-term as I’d be burning the candle at both ends.

I said out of the side of my mouth “do an earlier level 3 class. Do one on a Thursday.” A few others said they have a lot of hanging around to do before the class starts and so on. Anyway, it depends on funding and our teacher is looking at what she can do. A difficult one. I LOVED IT.

Anyway, thanks for reading my essay!

 

Today’s Workout

This rainy afternoon I finally got out into my garage/dance studio and did a bit of tap! ☔ I played music from my phone through the Bluetooth speaker and had a go at some drills, including flaps and lots of shuffles, especially on the left hand side which seems to miss the floor a LOT when I use my tap board. I dunno, it’s a bit slippery and I guess being confined to a square compared to using a whole studio makes it difficult. Still, it was good!

Next I did some ankle strengthening using a balance board. It’s really hard to keep it even and centred, which makes it ideal for working those ankles!

Next I did some 5kg weights, lifting them above my head, out front, behind, to the sides, and then some squats. I followed this up with crunches – it has been a while!

I finished up my sweatfest with some stretching. Maybe I’m motivated because I’ve now got 2 weeks off work 🙂

My (eclectic) Playlist:

  • My Same – Adele
  • California Soul – Marlena Shaw
  • Get Off – Foxy
  • Hanky Panky – Madonna
  • Cornflake Girl – Tori Amos
  • Candy Shop – Andrew Bird
  • These Days – Take That
  • Changing – Sigma feat. Paloma Faith
  • Forget – Lianne La Havas
  • When My Baby – Bing Crosby

Summer Tap Dance Intensive 2018

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On Monday I attended day 1 of the Summer Tap Dance Intensive for improver/intermediate level at Covent Garden’s City Lit. Term ended a few weeks ago at my usual rhythm tap class, and although it doesn’t seem like that long until September 12th, it’s enough time to get a little rusty. I’m a big fan of tap intensives and dance summer schools for the fact that they are a chance to learn new steps, pick up extra tips, try something a bit more challenging than you’re used to, and to experience a different style of teaching.

The 3-day intensive was intended to develop “tap technique, posture and musicality as well as incorporating some performance based exercises”. I was excited because it would be covering time steps, which I haven’t spent much time on, turning steps, and tap dance history, which I’m reading loads about at the moment.

After some trouble with cancelled trains, I managed to get there in plenty of time as I was intending to arrive about an hour early anyway. I had a handful of vegetable gyoza at Itsu and then made my way to the college. I made sure to down a bottle of water before going into the studio because I know that I sweat half my body weight every time I dance, so I wanted to make sure I was properly hydrated!

There were about 12 of us in the class, a mixture of ages and abilities. The tutor (BB) asked what shoes I was wearing, and it turned out he was wearing the black version of my Jason Samuels Smiths (J-Sams)! I can testify to them being a very sturdy and supportive shoe. Quite a few of the class were part of BB’s regular classes, but I actually recognised one retired lady from the daytime class at Morley – caught up with her briefly, which was nice!MOV_0788_000158.jpg

We ran through some warm up steps, and then went over the basics, particularly shuffles and then 3-beat shuffles (or open and closed thirds). Then we went straight into learning the longest routine I’ve ever done in tap, which included pick-ups, riffs, shuffles, turns, slides, paddles, cramp rolls, Suzy Q’s (need to practice these more!), pull-backs (ditto), and a time step. Because I’d told the tutor that I’d been learning tap for almost 3 years, I think he assumed I would know how to do pull-backs, and the time-step we were using, but I guess because I’m learning non-syllabus rhythm tap, and classes are 45 minutes as opposed to an hour and a half, I’ve not spent so much time on those things. Anyway, I blagged my way through! (My Suzy Q was OK heading right, but not so good to the left…until the last run-through :-/ )

Because the class was 2 hours long, we had plenty of time to go over and over the steps and do drills and things which you never normally have time to do in class. I really enjoyed this! The tutor was really passionate and knowledgeable about tap dance, and talked about some of the dancers of the past that he was inspired by, including Jimmy Slyde and Chuck Green.

We got to film the tutor doing the entire routine slightly slowed down at the end, which would make practising at home for the next day easier. However…

Dancing for 2 hours straight wiped me out and I woke up the next day with a headache and feeling really under the weather, so I ended up missing the other 2 days – gutted! :((( Yep, overdid it again. But, the one day I did attend was brilliant, fun and really challenging, and I can have a go at what I learnt in my garage studio at the weekend.