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 🙂
  • 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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Just Been

I’ve just been to my lunchtime Rhythm Tap class. I have to say I didn’t leave work early enough to get there with some breathing space, so I was overheated and a bit out of breath. Ah, how I miss the joy of last week when I was on holiday and able to breeze in, all relaxed with plenty of time to spare…

Didn’t really feel like my brain was totally engaged, and I felt like I was second-guessing myself at times. It didn’t help being woken up in the early hours by a cat paw prodding me in the face!

dav
Gimme biscuits!

But anyway…we practised some flaps and co-ordination exercises, and we also learnt an exciting new swung walk, which began with a heel-dig in front and ended with a spring onto the other foot. When I say swung, or swing beat, it means rather than doing a 4 beat step as an even ‘1-2-3-4’, you do it as ‘a-ONE-and-two’.  I’ll try and practice this while it’s fresh.

Then we went through our routine, but as I said, I wasn’t being as deliberate with my steps as I would like.

Chatted to K at the end of the class about doing ballet and contemporary dance.  Our teacher had some amazing new blue Ruben Sanchez tap shoes. I like!

One thing about going back to Weds night ballet and Thurs lunchtime tap is to think about how I am going to co-ordinate kit bags. Need to ponder this when I get home later.

Hope you’ve had a fun dance week?

Book Review

Tap book

Tap! The Greatest Tap Dance Stars and their Stories 1900-1955 by Rusty E. Frank 

I have finally got around to writing this brief review, having finished reading this book back in July!

LA tap dancer Rusty E. Frank has compiled this fabulous book of interviews with all the tap dancing greats of the early to mid twentieth century as a potted history of tap. The book opens with a foreword by tap legend Gregory Hines (one of my faves!) who briefly describes the origins of the Jazz art form and the various styles and rhythms that evolved.

The book is then split into 3 parts:

Part 1: 1900-1929 (includes people such as Willie Covan, Ruby Keeler and Leonard Reed (of the Shim Sham Shimmy))

Part 2: 1930-1939 (includes the Nicholas Brothers (LOVE them!), Shirley Temple, Fred & Gene Kelly and Jeni Legon (known for wearing trouser suits…shocking!)

Part 3: 1940-1955 (includes Gene Nelson and Brenda Bufalino)

Within each section, each chapter covers a different dancer, with some introductory blurb on the historical context of the era and what was happening on the dance and entertainment scene, followed by an autobiographical interview with the dancer. Being an American art form, you can’t ignore the fact that the book covers the era of segregation. The biggest example of this is the separate entertainment circuits of Vaudeville and the TOBA (the African-American version), minstrel shows, and the separate clubs, such as the famous gangster-owned Cotton Club which was for black entertainers and white audiences. There was some cross-over, but mostly for those who were able to “pass” as white, such as Leonard Reed…until he was found out.

It was interesting to read how each dancer had their own style within a style (flash, soft shoe, Buck & Wing, rhythm tap, acrobatic). Some were tapping from childhood, some fell into it and some came from classical dance backgrounds (e.g. Gene Kelly, Ann Miller), which clearly influenced their tap style. It was also amazing how many dancers learnt from, danced with, were influenced by or loved to compete with Bill Bojangles Robinson, the world’s greatest tap dancer. (It is said that he was a tap perfectionist who put hours and hours into his craft).

Helpfully, there is a glossary of terms at the end of the book, which I referred to regularly, followed by a series of Appendices covering all the tap acts, the years they were active and what they were known for, plus a list of tap in film and on record, which is also worth looking at.

Verdict: A fantastic snapshot of tap dance and entertainment through the Jazz Age, the War years and the post-war years, straight from the horse’s mouth, if you will. A MUST-HAVE for any tap dancer if you want to understand where it all began and how it developed. I’m really pleased tap dance is making a come-back 🙂

 

Good things…

…come to those who wait

 

Citylit
Image courtesy of Hotcourses

Last week I got an email with a £10 voucher code to entice me back to Covent Garden’s City Lit. I have been considering booking onto Ballet at the Barre on Wednesday nights, which I absolutely loved and miss the discipline (and conditioning) of, but:

a) last time I tried to do that and tap the day after, I was exhausted and my memory wouldn’t extend to two different routines, even though the ballet one was ridiculously easy.

b) I need to cut back on my spending as the house move approaches and all the (many) expenses that go with that.

I think I might have to delete that email and just wait until next year :(((

I’ll let you know.