Qualified

_20180724_161049.JPGLately I’ve been pondering the question of when you are allowed to call yourself a dancer. I keep saying to people that I take dance classes, or I’m learning to tap dance, but hesitate to say I’m a ‘dancer’ probably because in the past people told me I had missed the boat, I was too old etc when I said I wanted to dance and do choreography, plus I don’t perform, I never took any grades in anything, and so on. Yet when I think about it, I’ve actually been dancing for over 15 years.

Did you have to start dancing as a 2 year old to qualify?

Despite the opportunity I had with my dad supplying dance shoes to all the local dance schools (Ballroom, Latin, Ballet, Jazz) I didn’t take formal dance lessons as a child, and only started with a weekly freestyle jazz class at University, culminating in a show that I invited friends and family to watch. But there’s enough stories out there of professional dancers or dance teachers who started learning late. It’s much harder, but it’s possible.

Is it about how often you dance?

Once working I started doing weekly dance classes at my local theatre, which included street jazz, break dance, and even a bit of Charleston to Amy Winehouse, plus a performance at the end of the Summer term with a work colleague I managed to convince to join me. We were working during the day, so we missed the dress rehearsal – doh!

Since working in London where there are lots if places to dance I’ve pretty much been dancing most weeks with the odd break to like, be ill or move house πŸ™‚

Must you be performing regularly?Β 

I’m not as bothered about performing these days as I’m just dancing for the love of it, and to learn something new (rhythm tap – yeah!).Β  When I was still going to classes at the theatre I enjoyed the opportunity to perform a bit and did a street jazz solo at a talent contest two years in a row. If I was learning at a specific dance school I would probably have more opportunity to perform now in end of year or termly shows. Mind you, I believe the advanced level classes at my facility do take part in the end of term shows…

Or is it about your commitment to and passion for dance?

I think it’s a lifestyle. Dancing as regularly as you can, training, learning, improving, trying new things, evolving. Or, you may have been a dancer in the past who stays inspired by watching dance, reading, writing, inspiring others, attending events.

How tap dance differs

I love doing ballet classes, but because it’s a formal style of dance that takes a lot of training and can be elitist, most adult learners [read: beginners] would not call themselves a ballet dancer, and certainly NOT a ballerina/ballerino. However, since throwing myself intoΒ rhythm tap, practicing constantly and reading all about its humble beginnings on slave plantations and street corners, where people make up their own steps and styles which they challenge each other with and steal from others, I realise I can call myself a dancer. Tap is informal and everyone is invited to contribute something (hence improvisation). A lot of people who have been dazzled by the showy Broadway version of tap don’t realise it’s actually a social dance, like Salsa or Swing.

I’m starting to feel like I can call myself a tap dancer…but definitely not aΒ Hoofer…just yet πŸ˜‰

What do you think? Do you call yourself a dancer? Or do you feel like you have a long way to go before you qualify? Maybe you feel like this in some other area of life?

Catch Up

Happy Easter!

On Thursday we had a catch up tap class, as the final class of term was cancelled. My colleagues were going to be in a board meeting when I’d be due back from the class so I wasn’t too worried about rushing back this time πŸ™‚

There were 5 of us this time plus our teacher and we had a really nice, laid back class! (Made me think twice about returning to the busy evening slot after Easter 😭)

We learnt a really cool timestep which reminds me a bit of the Shim Sham, although I think the only similarity is the pickups…but still! We did this on the right side and the left to the music from The Pink Panther. Our teacher was just going to leave us with the one side and move on to our routine, but we wanted more! Yes, we were very demanding this week.

Then we went on to finish off the routine we’d been learning over the 5 weeks to George Ezra’s What You Waiting For’. Despite missing 2 weeks out of the 5, I remembered the start and picked up the rest pretty well! This didn’t happen last year when I was stressed out of my mind, sleep deprived by noisy neighbours and topped up on caffeine! I’m really noticing the difference in memory recall and brain power since moving house.

Afterwards we hung around and chatted for a while. There was debate over whether a certain step was the Manhattan or the Cincinnati. Tap is quite fluid and not as formal as ballet, so different people call steps different things! Helpful, right?

I filled our teacher in on MOVE IT 2018 and the Stomp and Syncopated Ladies workshops and she was asking which tap people were there etc, i.e. Tap Attack, London Tap Jam etc. There is a quite a big tap scene and lots of people know each other or know of each other. Turns out she had once auditioned for Stomp!

One of the girls was talking about going to see The Tap Pack at the Peacock Theatre in London in May. I’ve had this on my radar, but I’m taking my mum to see 42nd Street in May and my SO and I hope to visit the London Tap Jam in Hoxton at the end of May, so I think I’ll have to give it a miss!

Anyway, we were chatting away when I suddenly realised I needed to GET BACK TO WORK! Oops. The rest of the group tend to stay on for a practice time that two class members had arranged, or don’t need to be anywhere immediately after the class, so no one else was in a hurry to leave…

Anyway, my work colleagues were in a meeting when I got back to my desk about 15 minutes later than usual so I didn’t feel like anyone was clock watching when I returned (not that they really do) and had my shower. (Anyway, I usually make up the time by staying late either that day or the day before).

Enjoy the long Easter weekend (if you have one) and remember to stretch!

Love this!

Tomoz

Sadly I didn’t make it to Tap this lunchtime, but fear not, tomorrow I’m off to MOVE IT 2018!

I will be doing the following workshops while I’m there:

13.45 Percussive Hands & Feet with Stomp OR Tap Workshop with London Studio Centre

15.30 Tap with Chloe and Maud Arnold of the Syncopated Ladies

Now, I had originally said I was doing the Tap workshop with London Studio Centre, but I got that confused when booking with a Musical Theatre Tap workshop taking place at 10.30 in the morning and double booked the 13.45 slot – oops! So I think I’m gonna go with Percussive Hands and Feet to pick up a new skill which will help with my tap massively.

I will share all about the day (with pics) over the weekend!

I’ve also started a Tap Notebook. I love notebooks and writing and tap, so it was bound to happen! Here I am jotting down all the terms, tips, corrections, steps to practice and other relevant stuff from my tap learning. I got the idea from a Dancer’s Journal that I bought at Bloch over a year ago. It’s lovely, but unfortunately I found it too structured to fill out with what I’m doing. I think it’s more suited to full time dance students. If you don’t fit the mould, make your own!

Closed Third

This afternoon during a quick break at work I did a bit of work on the ‘closed third’. This is where you (try to) create three sounds: toe-heel-toe but rather than picking up the foot again (a la open third), you end with a flat foot. I even filmed it this time! It’s a bit hit and miss as you’ll see below πŸ˜‚

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.

It’s Tap Wednesday!

This evening I managed to stay at work until 5pm. Doesn’t sound late, but it’s at least an hour after all my colleagues have left! But that’s another story. Went to Rhythm Tap II (tried to hydrate as much as possible beforehand) and caught up briefly with R. No sign of K this term – maybe she’s doing something else.

Once again the basement studio was like a SAUNA. I actually missed an opportunity to use a sauna at a hotel we stayed at in Birmingham at the weekend for the National Running Show, so maybe I shouldn’t complain LOL

It was a full studio as is the way on Wednesday nights and you could sense everyone’s energy – KABOOM!It’s funny how different it feels to a Thursday lunchtime which is smaller, calm and laid back. We warmed up in a circle as usual and then did some more 3 beat exercises as per last week. One exercise travelling backwards, one crawling to the side another on the spot. The one I’ve been practicing constantly because it’s in the routine! Just doing that I was sweating.

We then moved on to our routine which, you guessed it, is in 3/4 beats. I remembered the beginning and then there was lots of new stuff to learn. Some parts a little tricky, but I’ll get ’em. Loved the quick jump in the air with double-flap at the end! (jump-f-lap-f-lap!)

Class finished with the group split into 2 to perform it while the other half watched. I felt a little self conscious in the sense that my mind went blank just as we were about to start (!) BUT I trusted that I would just go with it, and I actually did better than when we were all dancing together. I think it’s that thing of doing better under pressure again, which I don’t get. Or maybe it’s because I’ve been meditating on this:

Reflections on 2017

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I have finally had a chance this weekend to think back over the last year and my various dance pursuits. Some of the highlights:

  • Rambert Contemporary Dance Summer School – such a good day and I managed to keep up with the full time dance students, even with painful achilles tendons πŸ™‚
  • Move It Dance 2017 – I go to this exhibition in London’s Docklands every year, but in 2017 I pushed the boat out and took a tap class with the Guinness World Record breaking tap dancer Jo Scanlan of Tap Attack!
  • Learnt the Shim Sham and had a go at Tap improvisation
  • Did ballet (barre only) course at improvers level at City Lit after pining for ballet for some time
  • Got my Maud & Chloe Arnold tap shoes for Christmas

I look forward to continuing my tap dance training and attending some more festivals and workshops in 2018!

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