Uke Can Do It

I’m now halfway through a term of ukulele classes! I’m really enjoying it and feel like I’m taking to it quite well. I never enjoyed my school clarinet lessons like this! Learning in a group probably helps, as does the ability to sing along with your instrument, and lack of setting up, cleaning and numb lips that comes with playing woodwind!

Last night we learned that we would be doing an end of term performance at the college on 11th December!! We had a go at one of the songs we’ll be playing, which was written by a student from the improvers class. A kazoo was also played played!

I’ve been thinking this week (yet again) about my writing ambitions and the amount of things I’m doing at the moment. If I really want to be a writer I need to prioritise writing and drop some of the other things off my list…

  • HR Practice studies – 2 modules left
  • Ukulele class
  • Tap dance classes
  • My soap biz
  • Work!

I read a great quote yesterday:

When everything is important, nothing is

My HR studies are progressing again, after I had a moment in September when I was ready to quit. I have an assignment on employment relations that I want to submit this weekend, and then that module will be completed, leaving 2 remaining modules (Recruitment and Learning & Development Activities, incase you were wondering). Then I’ll get my certificate and Associate membership!

I think, going forward that I’m not going to continue this ukulele class next year, and instead try and use what I’ve learnt so far to continue in my own time, using books, and YouTube, perhaps having a jam with the other musicians at church. After all, I started learning so I can play at church. Sometimes you’ve got to just start doing.

You KNOW I love tap dancing, right? (Yep!) But, I’m seriously considering taking a 6-12 week break from my Thursday class in the new year. Shocking, I know! (Only thing, numbers are quite small at this level during the day; I hope it doesn’t disappear from the course list while I’m gone!) This is another hobby that I can practice at home in my own time. I am probably going to attend Tap Dance Festival UK in Manchester again in February, which provides an excellent crash course in EVERYTHING TAP!

I’m going to return to running my soap biz as more of an enjoyable hobby, than pressuring myself to make it my full time career. I still have a monthly wholesale customer and I continue to register for tax on those earnings, but no more businessy career pressure! I want to move from using a base product to making in the cold process method, which my SO and I learnt about 2 years ago. We need time to practice this!

Despite the ups and downs, working 4 days a week in HR for a fantastic social charity continues until I become a freelance writer!

2nd Attempt

On Wednesday night I went to my second ever Tap Improvisation and Choreography class! About half an hour beforehand, I felt really nervous and wanted to bottle it, trying to come up with various excuses as to why I couldn’t go (like the heatwave)…but then I got myself together and went for it!

There were 10 of us for this mixed-level class, where we played various improvisation games, working in one large group, smaller groups, pairs and solo to build up our confidence to improvise tap steps. The focus was on rhythm, rather than executing amazing steps. The music was a variety of 60s soul/R&B, Blues and other newer music.

For our first exercise, we just used our hands and one at a time, clapped different rhythms for the group to copy. That was manageable. Next we did the same, but with our feet. A bit more complicated.

We worked in pairs to create something for our partners to copy. We also worked in pairs to create something to a simple song or nursery rhyme which we then performed to the rest of the class. My partner and I used ‘Humpty Dumpty’ and had a lot of fun with it – jazz hands were included! I can say I actually quite enjoyed performing it to those watching. We messed up the first time, but we did it again and got it right.

I also enjoyed the exercise where we travelled as one group along the length of the studio, doing whatever came to mind. At the end of the class, we repeated this exercise, but this time we just walked and allowed space for one person at a time to do some steps. This was very effective.

It was such a fun evening, if not a little nerve wracking in places. We all had a great time and I definitely came away feeling a bit more confident to try stuff. In public.

Common issues in improvisation:

  • Self-consciousness
  • Worrying that everyone else is better/more experienced than you
  • Trying to make your feet actually do the steps that are in your mind
  • Trying to recall all the steps you have built up in your ‘bank’ over the last however many years of learning
  • Staying on the rhythm
  • Counting bars and beats when you’ve been asked to do something for a certain number of counts
  • Going from a single beat to doubles to quadruples..when everyone’s watching
  • Brain freeze!

Next week I have the week off work as I have three 2-hour days at a Tap Dance Intensive in London’s Covent Garden, followed by a few rest/study days.

Have you ever done tap improvisation? If yes, tell me more in the comments….

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!)

Around The World

After a relaxing break from work over Easter, this week I returned to the day job, my soap side gig and rhythm tap class!

I didn’t make the gym because with the Bank Holiday on Monday, there were only 2 possible days that I could go and I just couldn’t fit it in. I suppose I could have gone Wednesday, but I don’t like to work out the day before a dance class. I will get back to it next week when the schedule is back to normal.

I did do a lot of walking last week, with a weekend in Birmingham and Hughenden Manor National Trust, plus I did a New York City Ballet Workout, so I’m not too concerned about loss of fitness or anything.

Rhythm tap class was amazing as usual! I think everyone was hyped to be back, including our teacher who had been at a tap retreat in Italy over the break. Mountain views, food, wine, day trips and tap classes…So jealous!

There were some new people joining us this term; some who have moved up from beginners and some who want to refresh their steps after years away from it. This week we worked on a travelling shuffle-step exercise, which we did each way sets of eight, four, two and one. Our teacher got me to do it with her double time – that was fun!

The other main exercise was an ‘around the world roll’. This is like a cramp roll, but in a different order:

E.g. Starting on the right

R-Toe L-Toe L-Heel R-Toe

And you end with the left foot off the ground ready to start the left side:

Our routine is to a high energy Bollywood track and I’m loving it!

Bloch Warm-up Booties

Oh my DAYS I am loving these warm up booties from Bloch! I bought them a few months ago, not because I really needed them, but because I’ve become obsessed with dancers’ foot health, I liked them and one of the teachers at the Rambert Contemporary Dance summer school wore them for the warm up session that she led, which made me think: “good idea!” And they were on sale!

They are designed to be worn for warming up and time in between dance classes, particularly ballet, jazz and contemporary. I saw someone wearing them during the lunch break at the Tap Dance UK Festival in February to keep her feet warm and for a bit of comfort in between hours of tapping and I wore mine when I got home from that amazing weekend tap marathon to take the edge off my poor tootsies when trying to walk around the house.

Designed by former American Ballet Theatre (ABT) principal dancers Irina Dvorovenko and Max Beloserkovsky, they have a thick spongy layer on the bottom and cushioned heel, which provides amazing comfort to pummelled feet, plus there’s an adjustable ankle strap and velcro fastening at the top of the boot to provide stability and stop you slipping around in them like some ill-fitting Ugg boots (don’t get me started on Ugg boots).

They also come in loads of different designs. I mean, I really wanted the jungle print ones, but they were sold out. I paid around £25 and as you can see above, I opted for purple!

Verdict: Great for pre-dance warm-ups and post-tap class comfort. LOVE ‘EM!

Note: indoor use only

Have you tried these Bloch Warm-up Booties? What do you think?

Tea and Creativity

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According to recent reports drinking tea focuses the mind and increases creativity.* Well I LOVE TEA, but my tea of choice is herbal and fruit-based, rather than ordinary tea. So I was very excited to receive my latest order of exotic loose leaf teas from Tugboat in Cornwall yesterday!

This year I have decided to stop procrastinating and making lists and start DOING.  Next month I have the first two days of a 4 day course in Essential Oils for Non-Therapists course. I’ve been thinking a lot about winding up my soap and skincare side-gig, but I thought I’d get some further training to improve my knowledge of essential oils and their benefits and properties, and see where I am after that.

Another thing I am hoping to do is to work on my public reading nerves. I’ve accessed an online course on Udemy on reading the Bible aloud, so that I can actually do Bible readings at church without feeling like my throat is closing up and people are staring up my nose. I’m asked to read a lot, but I usually decline. (For some reason, I can do dramatic dialogue readings fine, I guess because I’m acting).

I’ll also be attending a one day workshop on Copywriting in July. I’ve always wanted to be a writer. I got my degree in English Literature. While I was at University I tried to get as much writing experience as possible by doing regular music reviews and articles for various student publications. I was also writing my own novel in my spare time (nope, not finished…yet!). But then after that, life happened and that ambition was parked as I navigated the job market.

Well, now I am in that place of having been in my current job with a well-known charity for 8 years. Being a bit fed up of it and keeping an eye on what else is out there, I am coming back to my original ambitions and doing something about it! Copywriting is a really useful skill to have, whether it be for writing articles for this blog, my soap biz website, a new job in web content writing (hmmm?), church publicity, having another stab at freelance writing, it will be well worth it.

After all, why sit there pining when you can do something about it?

Dance News:

  • Rhythm Tap classes restart this week!
  • I’ve been informed that photos and videos of our Adult classes at Tap Dance Festival UK 2019 will be released shortly!
  • I’ve had my tickets through for MOVE IT 2019!

Don’t forget, there’s still time to enter my 42nd Street giveaway competition! Closes at Midnight (GMT) on Monday 4th March. 

*https://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2018/01/16/suffering-writers-block-simple-cup-tea-gets-creative-juices/

Big Giveaway!

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I’ve never done this before, but I have decided to run a little giveaway competition! I saw 42nd Street twice while it was on in London recently and absolutely LOVED IT and then I recently watched the 1933 movie to see the original story and compare the two.

“The story follows the lives and careers of numerous individuals involved with a big-budget Broadway musical. The director, Julian Marsh (played by Warner Baxter), is desperate for success, having lost his fortune when the stock market crashed. When the star (played by Dorothy Brock) suffers an injured ankle, ingenue Peggy Sawyer (played by Ruby Keeler) is chosen to take the musical’s lead role and becomes a breakout success.” (Britannica.com)

For your chance to win a DVD copy of the original 42nd Street movie (1933), starring Ruby Keeler, Ginger Rogers and Dick Powell, follow this blog (if you’re not already following) and then post a comment below telling me what you love about dance!

T&Cs: Only open to people in UK & Europe on this occasion (sorry international friends!). The competition will close at midnight (GMT) Monday 4th March, and I will pick the person with the best answer. I’ll then ask the winner to email me their name and an address for the purpose of sending the prize.

GDPR notice: I will ask for your name and address only for the purpose of posting your prize. Once the prize has been sent I will delete your personal information. Your information will not be shared with any third parties. I’m really hot on this data protection stuff.

Competition closed