Happy New Year!

Happy New Year! I hope you had a great Christmas.

Mine was good fun and I really enjoyed the festivities and the break. My SO and I hosted twice, including on Christmas day itself, and all went swimmingly and everyone enjoyed themselves. I have to personally thank Mary Berry for her amazing Christmas cookbook which helped me know what I could prepare in advance, and our local butcher who did an amazing job of preparing the stuffed turkey crown wrapped in bacon plus a gammon!

I actually went to work for a half day on New Year’s Eve and my SO met me afterwards so we could go for Vietnamese food, followed by a trip to the theatre to see Agatha Christie’s Witness for the Prosecution at London’s County Hall, which was brilliant! I love Agatha Christie, and the whole courtroom setting for the play was extremely effective. It was thoroughly engaging from start to finish.

Today was my first day back at work this year, and it was definitely a struggle to prise myself out of bed at 6am and get back into commuting into London after sitting around in tracksuit bottoms for 2 weeks! Nearly everyone I spoke to is harbouring some infection or other, so I’m only breathing through my nose and continuing to dose up on vitamin c!

I also had the first Pilates class of my 11 week course which I booked for the purpose of cross-training for tap dance. I was a bit apprehensive on my way there, but it was a very good and informative class, led by TB who is an experienced dance teacher, specialising in jazz dance and ballet.

There were about 10 of us in the [fully booked] class (not sure where the others were!) and we spent our time working on correct, measured breathing, which we were then able to use to aid our exercises that followed. We were pulled and prodded (with our permission) to correct any misalignment as we did the exercises, and TB actually said I had a very good spine roll when I was rolling up through the vertebrae, which she would expect because I’m young – I’m not as young as she thinks! Previous dance classes made this a familiar exercise. But of course other exercises were more challenging, like judging whether your arms are in line with your shoulders when out in front or out to the sides. Trying to move one arm up and one arm down at the same speed at the same time while lying on your back…

I have 10 sessions left, and my only reservation is that it went on longer than I expected (partly my misreading the course details and partly the teacher starting late) , so my lunchtime was a lot longer than I hoped. This combined with a longer lunch on Thursday when I have tap, and I’m not sure if I should have gone for an after work conditioning course instead. My bad!

Anyway, I hope you have a positive start to the year. I am going to work on crafting some more blog posts to share with you!

Happy Christmas!

 

_20181222_152121.JPGI can’t believe the year is almost over! As Christmas day is almost upon us, I thought I’d share my highlights of 2018:

  • Tap Dance Festival UK Winter Intensive in Salford with amazing workshops
  • MOVE IT 2018 Tap workshop with Chloe and Maud Arnold of the Syncopated Ladies and percussive workshop with cast member from hit show STOMP
  • Cats the Musical Jellicle Ball and Jellicle Songs for Jellicle Cats workshops at Pineapple Studios with cast member Cameron Ball
  • Tap Dance Intensive at City Lit in Covent Garden (although only managed day 1 of 3!)
  • Moving up to Intermediates at Rhythm Tap class
  • Seeing The Tap Pack, 42nd Street (again) and The Play that Goes Wrong at the theatre
  • Trips to the Sky Garden and the Museum of London
  • Finally sorting out my home practice studio with suitable floor
  • Spa day at Sopwell House
  • Completing and passing another module on my course (Cert in HR Practice)DSC_0151.JPG

 

I look forward to continuing with Rhythm tap classes as well as starting Pilates in the new year. I also have a theatre trip (Agatha Christie’s Witness for the Prosecution), a couple of dance festivals and trip to Edinburgh lined up! I want to FINALLY complete my HR Practice Certificate, develop my writing further, learn some techniques for reading aloud and public speaking, plus I am really interested in learning bookbinding…

Anyway, before I get back to watching terrible movies on the ‘True Christmas’ channel:

I’d like to say a BIG THANK YOU for following and reading my blog and I hope you have a fabulous Christmas and a Happy New Year 2019!

 

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Christmas Legs

Poster PicAw, today was our last Rhythm Tap class of the year! I had been contemplating wearing some Christmas leggings and/or sparkly socks, but then I forgot all about it, and to be honest, I don’t actually have a pair of Christmas leggings. I have a Christmas jumper, but if I wore that, they’d be carting me off to St Thomas’ Hospital for overheating!

As you can see from the photograph above, our final class of the year was held in the basement studio ‘A04’ that we usually use on Wednesday nights, rather than our usual theatre rehearsal space ‘C10’, so while it was a familiar studio, it kind of threw some of us to be doing everything we’ve learnt (and more!) in a different space, if you know what I mean (C10 is square, A04 is long).

We had a full turnout today and we did our warm-up in a circle to some Christmas music and I noted that our teacher was wearing Christmas socks! We went straight into working on our Beautiful Tango routine, which is full of twists and turns and weight shifts. I would say it’s actually one of my favourites so far…maybe because I’m actually getting it! But really, there’s a lot of variety in there. We completed our routine, which went on to include slides and two Shirley Temples. I could do with practising these types of traditional steps more because I don’t want to be attending intermediate level classes and still unable to do basic combinations like a Shirley Temple or Suzy Q.

At the end of the class we had to perform the routine in 2 groups, with one group observing the other. I don’t know what it is, but as soon as you become aware that people are watching you, the nerves kick in and you get brain block! Well, I do anyway. I had the first half of the routine down ok, but when venturing into the newer parts, I knew something significant was coming up, but couldn’t remember what! Haha. It really wasn’t that bad.

Tip of the week: Keep your eyes forward and off the teacher!

It’s okay to watch the teacher when she’s demonstrating the steps, but when performing it try and do it as you remember it, rather than watching the teacher’s every move with the belief that you don’t know it.

Believe and commit!

 

Tips for Surviving The Winter Months

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Having an outdoor chai n’ cupcake

When I was a teenager, I used to get Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) and would find I would get home from school in the dark Autumn and Winter months, lie down on the sofa and have ZERO energy to even get up to answer the phone, let alone tackle homework. I would dread the clock change every year.

Because of this, I made sure pretty much from then on to exercise or dance regularly during these darker months to keep my energy levels up and to just generally feel better and not let it get the better of me.

What is SAD? Also known as ‘Winter Depression’, the symptoms, according to the NHS include:

  • a persistent low mood
  • a loss of pleasure or interest in normal everyday activities
  • irritability
  • feelings of despair, guilt and worthlessness
  • feeling lethargic (lacking in energy) and sleepy during the day
  • sleeping for longer than normal and finding it hard to get up in the morning
  • craving carbohydrates and gaining weight

https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/seasonal-affective-disorder-sad/

To help others out there who find this time of year sapping, I’ve put together some survival tips:

  • If you work indoors, get outside into the daylight at lunchtimes or breaks as often as you can
  • Invest in a sunrise wake-up alarm clock to simulate a natural wake-up with warm, gradual light
  • Invest in a SAD lamp or light box
  • Take part in regular group exercise (e.g. tap dance, Zumba, spinning, running group). Group exercise will add a fun social element to your workout. Go, even when you don’t want to.
  • Try to eat plenty of fruit and dark green vegetables to boost your immune system. I’m also taking Vitamin C & Zinc supplements to ward off colds at the moment (especially with commuting on public transport!) I tried taking Vitamin D (the sunshine vitamin) last winter, but I didn’t really notice any effects. That might be different for you.
  • Stay hydrated – there’s so much heating on at the moment which can make you feel drowsy and dry
  • While it may be tempting to cosy up in candlelight when you get home in the evenings, if you want to get anything done, put the lights on full until nearer bedtime. Don’t let early sunset steal your day! (I have to say I am very sensitive to lighting and have many lamps and candles about the house).
  • Go for walks in the evenings – yes, even though it’s dark (don’t let the dark win!)
  • Have a regular bedtime
  • Put some things in the diary to look forward to – theatre trip, spa day, coffee with friends, family meet-ups, Christmas markets, carol concert, museum trip. On Saturday my SO, his sister and I went to see The Play That Goes Wrong in the West End, and I honestly haven’t laughed that hard in ages.

Let me know if you find these tips useful.

Do you have anything to add? What keeps you buoyed during the darker months?

 

Winter Plans

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Best foot forward

After wondering all weekend whether to do a half day or full day, I have gone and booked a one-day pass to the Tap Dance Festival UK Winter Intensive 2019! The festival takes place in February in Salford, Greater Manchester, and you may remember that I went along for the first time last Winter for the Saturday morning only, which included 3 classes. They haven’t released half day passes yet, and seeing as there were very few adult spaces left, I bit the bullet to make sure I don’t miss out… Apparently the teaching faculty will include American Tap Dance Foundation! Can’t wait!

At the last festival I learnt so much in just a few hours of tapping and got to learn different things from different people who teach in their own unique style. It was a bit scary going on my own, but really, I’m used to it. I thought about not bothering and just doing the summer ones (London Tap Dance Intensive and Brighton Tap Festival) but considering the heatwave this Summer just gone and the fact I overheat massively at these things, I decided the WINTER would be best!

Christmassy

Happy belated Thanksgiving to all my American followers! Hope you had a good one!

I had a very Christmassy weekend last weekend with a trip to Waddesdon Manor near Aylesbury in Bucks on Friday with my SO for the Christmas Market, with the hope of getting most of our Christmas gifts in one go. Despite it being very festive, most of the stalls were selling the same sorts of things – chutneys, gin, craft beers, jewellery, scarves and sausages! The National Trust shop was lovely, but not really the sort of items we were looking for.

On the Friday night we took my mum to see ‘Walk Like a Man’, a Jersey Boys tribute at our local theatre. Heavy hit after heavy hit! So good.

On Saturday we went to a local garden centre which has an amazing gift and homewear shop and even more AMAZING Christmas shop! It’s like a winter wonderland full of decorations, lights, trees, and lots of Santas in all different sizes and outfits (and cute fluffy boots!) OK, I had to buy one!

Wednesday night I had a stall with my soap and skincare biz at a local prep school for their festive shopping evening and was absolutely shattered by Thursday… But the tap must go on!

Thursday’s Advanced Beginners class was a lot of fun. I was wondering if I would have any coordination with being quite tired, but I was alright! Good times. We worked on our slurps (closed thirds), 5-beat paddles and 5-beat riffs in pairs, plus a crazy quick flap-flap-flap-ball-change travelling across the studio at high speed to music which had us all laughing!
I really love the routine and of course all our exercises feed into it. K and I discussed the merits of stretching afterwards. MUST DO MORE!

Looking forward to next week! ☺

Have you started your Christmas shopping? Prefer to leave it until Christmas Eve? Or do you hibernate until the new year?!

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?