A Tap Dance Weekend

I’m still on furlough from work, but they’re having me back for a couple of weeks from 8th June if it is approved by the business board. Since hearing this news I’ve felt much more upbeat about things. Being the only person furloughed from the team felt a little bit isolating, even though I catch up with them on Zoom socials every Monday morning, and I kind of felt like my job was dispensable. But then I had to focus on the fact I wasn’t just made redundant! (Although I’m aware this could still be a possibility).

I am making a particular point as of TODAY of ignoring the current rhetoric being spun at the moment by certain individuals in society that those on furlough are lazy, work-shy, are on a ‘jolly’, are getting something for nothing, are taking money from tax payers – actually I am a tax payer, and they forget that this was a decision taken by employers on the offer of help from the government to save businesses, and NOT by employees who fancied an extended paid BBQ holiday in the garden. It really didn’t help when the government said a couple of weeks into the scheme that they felt that people were becoming addicted to furlough. Really?! Most people I know want to get back to work and their usual routine and aren’t allowed! Anyway, rant over! Let’s stay positive 🙂

On Monday 25th May the tap community will be marking International Tap Dance Day, which is the birthday of the legendary Bill ‘Bojangles’ Robinson, and there are LOADS of events taking place across social media this weekend that you can take part in from home! (Just look on Instagram for starters).

  • I bought a £20 day pass to Tap Dance UK’s first ever festival this Saturday, where there’ll be classes, panel discussions and a gala to end the day – can’t wait! They’re running it to celebrate International Tap Dance Day, but also to support their dance artists financially. My teacher is one of them, but she’s not teaching my level on this occasion.
  • On Sunday afternoon I am taking part in a sponsored national Tapathon for the Roy Castle Lung Cancer Foundation, celebrating their 30 year anniversary.  Hundreds of people across the UK will be performing a tap dance routine to ‘Happy Feet’ choreographed by Harrison Vaughan, finalist of BBC1’s The Greatest Dancer, echoing the record breaking largest ever tap dance UK legend Roy Castle did with 500 people outside the BBC Television Centre in 1977. My training has just ramped up as the date fast approaches! I’m currently £10 off my £200 fundraising target, but a family member last night pledged an offline donation, so I should be there by Sunday!
  • My tap teacher’s company have asked everyone to film themselves doing the Shim Sham to a slowed down version of ‘It Don’t Mean a Thing if it Ain’t Got That Swing’ and submit it by this weekend so that they can put together a Shim Sham lockdown video mash-up! I was practising out in the garden this morning, but I have to say it’s kind of easy to mess up when doing it slower than I’m used to 🙂
  • Sarah Reich will be on Instagram Live on Monday doing a session on ‘Musicality for Dancers’ and said ‘bring a notepad’. I worked out it will be at 8pm GMT. That will be a pretty useful session for any tap dancer.
  • There’s also the Tap Family Virtual Reunion #quarantineshuffle happening on Instagram over the weekend, featuring Jason Samuels Smith, Derick K. Grant and Dormeshia Sumbry-Edwards. Looks interesting!
  • Tap Dance Festival UK are doing an all day festival on Sunday 24th, but I’m not going to do that one as I think it’s more expensive than the Tap Dance UK one (confusing, I know!), and I’m busy doing the Tapathon at 3pm.

Happy tapping!

International Tap Dance Day!

Today, the 25th of May, is International Tap Dance Day! Love it! To celebrate, I have started reading ‘Tap!’ by Rusty B. Frank, at long last, after saying I was going to read it over the Christmas holidays and write a review…

Yesterday was the hottest day in May since the 1940s I think, and I had my usual level 1 & 2 Rhythm Tap classes at Morley. Well it really was like a sauna! It was the final week of our half-termly course, so after lots of practice exercises (including the (sweaty) 3-beat paddle and 5-beat riff) we worked on the final pieces of our level 1 ‘Let it Shine’ (Take That) and level 2 ‘Mr Bojangles’ routines.

Bill ‘Bojangles’ Robinson (25 May 1878 – 25 Nov 1949) was an African American tap dancer and entertainer, who performed in minstrel shows, and later vaudeville, Broadway and television. His signature was the ‘stair dance’. He is best known for dancing in several films with Shirley Temple, and overcame many racial barriers in his time. You can find loads about him online.

220px-Bill_Robinson

I believe the song ‘Mr Bojangles’ written by Country singer Jerry Jeff Walker was inspired by a tap dancing homeless street performer who called himself Bojangles. A lot of people have sung ‘Mr Bojangles’, and I’m not sure who sang the version we used, but I thought I’d share the lyrics:

I knew a man Bojangles
And he’d dance for you
In worn out shoes

With silver hair a ragged shirt
And baggy pants
He would do the old soft shoe

He would jump so high
Jump so high
Then he lightly touch down

He told me of the time he worked with
Minstrel shows travelling
Throughout the south

He spoke with tears of fifteen years
How his dog and he
They would travel about.

But his dog up and died
He up and died
And after twenty years he still grieved

He said “I dance now
At every chance in the Honky Tonks
For my drinks and tips

But most the time I spend
Behind these country bars
You see on I drinks a bit”

Then he shook his head
Oh lord when he shook his head
I could swear I heard someone say please

Mister Bojangles
Call him Mister Bojangles
Mister Bojangles come back and dance please

Come back and dance again Mr Bojangles

Written by Jerry Jeff Walker • Copyright © Sony/ATV Music Publishing LLC, Warner/Chappell Music, Inc