Festival Fever

I’ve just returned from Manchester where I attended the amazing Tap Dance Festival UK 2019!

I travelled up on Friday afternoon so I could be there for the 9.30am start on Saturday. This year they had a separate ‘Adult’ level, which made it a lot more approachable for those of us aged 30 plus!

After registration I went to the canteen to wait for the first session and bumped into someone from my Thursday lunchtime rhythm tap class! We didn’t know either one of us were going to the festival, and she had left the class straight away on Thursday, so she didn’t hear me mention I was going. Phew, someone to have lunch with!

We started with an energetic aerobic full body warm-up before being led to our studio for the day. The day ran as follows:

Rudimentals with Liz Carroll (New Jersey Tap Ensemble)

Liz got us learning a Steve Condos combination, which uses a basic crawl (heel, toe, heel, toe), but adds in the heel (or toe) on the other foot, in between each). It got very mind-bending, but it was fun to try and do it! Then she taught us some of Buster Brown’s trademark dance Laura. Loved it!

Musicality & choreography with Sarah Reich (Sourtaps)

Everyone was excited about headliner Sarah Reich’s class! Hailing from Los Angeles, she has performed with the Syncopated Ladies, Postmodern Jukebox, Jason Samuels Smith; she founded her own company Tap Music Project and has just released a tap jazz album called New Change, which I now own. It’s amazing!

In her class we worked on rhythm turns, the basis of which is a cramp roll (toe-toe-heel-heel). We worked on a basic turn and then a travelling one. I managed to get through the class without getting dizzy for once! (My spotting technique for turns is rusty LOL). Then we learned a short routine that included two turns. SO GOOD! I love her style and emphasis on musicality. She is the second tapper I’ve heard say “learn to play drums”… I’m still thinking about it!

Classic repertory with Tony Waag (American Tap Dance Foundation)

Tony Waag is the founder of the ATDF, based in New York, along with the legendary Brenda Bufalino and the late Honi Coles – wow! His class was really good fun! We worked on a short routine that got us working out left and right, and there were a couple of complicated combos, but he emphasised not thinking about it, which is definitely the tip of the week!

Lunch, Intro to faculty & Q&A

We sat in the theatre space to eat lunch and listened to each faculty member introduce themselves and give a bit of their background and then answer our questions. Needless to say, this session overran massively, so the advertised ‘Open Space’ was moved to the end of the day!

A big part of the discussion was (not very technical) British syllabus tap versus (extremely technical) American rhythm tap. We were fortunate to have Alison Forrester on the panel who is a dance examiner and syllabus writer who shed some light on this. Many of the Brits on the panel said they passed all their tap syllabus exams and thought they were accomplished… Until they went to a tap class in the US, and realised they didn’t know anything. Amazing. So they all retrained in the US. And then brought it back to the UK! (Of course syllabus tap has its place in a formalised standard of progression).

Tap Attack (Jo & Kai Scanlan)

In this class Jo asked us what we wanted to work on, and we went with cross-phrasing! We did a slightly complicated exercise that she does with all her students and it got us tapping across the phrase of music as well as on the beat. Then we had a go at pickups/pullbacks travelling forwards and backwards – something to work on! I always enjoy Jo’s classes.

After Tap Attack I met my SO outside to make sure we got on the road to do the journey home.

It was such an amazing day, and if I could have, I would have done the entire 3 days, or maybe add on the evening show, social and tap jam for a bit extra.

It was so great to learn new steps and techniques from some of the masters, who themselves learned from the American greats, many of whom are no longer alive (Gregory Hines, Honi Coles, Jimmy Slyde etc).

It’s funny, I felt so jaded after my class on Thursday (tiredness etc) and was considering taking a 5 week or 1 term break, but the festival has filled me with fresh enthusiasm and a renewed desire to learn more and get better!

_20190217_145509.JPG

Winter Festival

Oooweee! I am VERY excited to be heading to Tap Dance Festival UK 2019 in Manchester in two weeks’ time! Although it lasts an entire weekend, complete with Friday night showcase and Saturday night tap jam, I’m only doing the Saturday classes. After checking the website nearly every week since I booked, the schedule has finally come through:

tap fest uk 2019

Last year I attended for the first time and had a half day pass, which included 3 amazing classes in the morning. This year’s schedule looks great, and I’m especially looking forward to the Musicality and Choreography class with Sarah Reich, an amazing tap dancer from the US, plus the Tap Attack workshop with the award-winning Jo & Kai Scanlan – I really enjoyed their class last year!

Last year I booked Beginner Level (0-5 years’ experience), but this time I have booked the ‘Adult’ stream, just because the Beginner to Advanced levels are aimed more at teenagers in their teaching style. I probably won’t stay for the Musical Theatre Tap at 15:30 just because we could do with getting on the road for the 3.5 hour drive get home, and I am actually attending her Theatre Tap class at the MOVE IT dance exhibition in March! I will let you know how it all goes. WHOOP!

 

Tap Dance Festival UK Winter Intensive 2018

_20180217_201248.JPG

Wow, what a weekend! Now that I’m back from Manchester and have had 12 hours’ sleep I can tell you all about my experience of the 2nd ever Tap Festival UK Winter Intensive.

Friday

My SO and I drove up to Salford (Greater Manchester) on Friday, reaching our accommodation in the afternoon. After a rest and a bite to eat, we went to the Festival venue Pendleton College for the Professional Showcase at 7pm. We were all made to wait in the small canteen area until the start, but in the meantime there was a presentation to the amazing Jo Scanlan of Tap Attack and a short tap performance by her very talented son.

_20180217_201435.JPG

Next, we were shown through to the Eccleston Theatre where the Apartment 33 ‘Where Dreams Are Made’ Professional Show was taking place. Written and presented by Maud Arnold, and choreographed by her sister Chloe, the show featured some of the weekend’s faculty members, and shared the story of how tap dancers were able to relocate to Chloe and Maud’s actual Apartment 33 in New York to be able to “pursue their tap dance goals and dreams”. The score included Alicia Keys, John Legend, Beyonce and Rihanna, among others, and the dance was a fantastic blend of tap, crump, contemporary and more. My favourite performance was pocket-rocket Robin Passmore tapping furiously to Destiny’s Child’s Survivor. So good! The Syncopated Ladies’ routine to Beyonce’s Formation was also a big crowd pleaser. Unfortunately, I had someone’s huge hair in my eyeline, but I managed to move a seat along so that I could actually see the performers’ feet!

_20180217_201309.JPG

After the show was a Q&A with the panel of Suzanne Clandon (founder of Tap Dance Festival UK), Maud Arnold (Syncopated Ladies), Robin Passmore, Vikas Arun, Linsey O’Neal, Josh Nixon. There were some good questions from the audience such as “did you ever feel like giving up?” and lots of advice on pursuing your dreams in the performing arts. You have to be a go-getter!

Saturday

Saturday morning my SO dropped me back at Pendleton College and went off to run and then go and see friends near Stockport. I went in with my dance bag, a bit apprehensive because last night seemed to be all teenagers, which made me wonder if there would be ANY ADULTS in the classes on Saturday. I went into the ‘holding area’ as per last night and found some adults (phew!). There turned out to be quite a few there for classes thankfully! I had received an email in the week to say that the classes were geared towards teens, so adults were welcome to attend the ‘Teachers’ Studio’ classes free of charge. I thought I might do that for the final class of the morning, but I didn’t in the end!

Before going to any classes, we were in the sports hall for the AFRO FUNK warm up with Maud. Ok, it was only about 20 minutes long, and I heard someone say “I’ve got a stitch!” Yep. That’s Afro Funk! It’s kind of dance hall style winding and grinding and body isolations. Lots of fun, a real laugh, but OH BOY does it wear you out.

After this we were shown by the respective people where to go for our class levels. I was in the Beginners/Advanced Beginners (0-3 years experience), and we had a very nice studio with mirrors.

_20180217_201207.JPG

10.00-10.55 Tap Attack (Jo Scanlan)

This was a really fun class where we did some warm up exercises at the mirror and across the floor (including travelling on one leg – wow that burns) and then learnt a short routine. I was breaking in my Jason Samuels Smith tap shoes, and they were fab! That was actually my second time learning with the Guinness World Record holder Jo – the first time was at MOVE IT 2017 in London.

11.00-11.55 Technique (Robin Passmore)

A proper tap drills class with a proper drill sergeant! Some people find drills tiresome, but I love it. As was explained to us, that is how you get better and cleaner. Watching Robin on stage the night before, she stood out as someone who was really on it and exceptionally precise, so I was looking forward to learning from her. Her demonstrations were amazing and we were just standing there with our mouths open! We worked on crawls, shuffles in all directions, paddles, riffs, pick-ups, pull-backs AND I had my first ever go at wings! Very exciting. Couldn’t get the sound, but at least I know what I should be doing. Now go home and practice!

12.00-12.55 Choreography (Vikas Arun)

Vikas explained at the beginning that we were going to find the class too difficult. Um, what? But then he said that there was no point him flying all the way from the US and us paying for a class that was too easy. Very true. We were there to be challenged! He also said please ask questions or say if you don’t get something, otherwise he’ll move on.

Now, I thought it was going to be a class where you were encouraged to come up with a bit of your own choreography (have to say I wasn’t especially up for that on a Saturday morning, and was considering beforehand running along to the Teacher’s Studio with Jo Scanlan), but we were actually learning choreography.

We learnt a really cool routine, and I think it moved a little faster than I’m used to, but he threw in useful tips about weight placement and height, which helped me with one particularly tricky step which you’ll see below (toe-heel-f-lap, toe-heel-f-lap). He also said, as had been said throughout the morning that it is better to try and get that one thing right than to just do it fast but get it wrong. Some other sound bites I picked up were ‘don’t practice until you get it right, practice until you can’t do it wrong‘ and ‘learn the drums’. I actually decided to either learn drums or learn to tap, and I went with tap. I should do both!

Here’s what we learnt (slower version first followed by with the music):

 

It was such an amazing day and I’m so glad I went! It was scary to go on my own, but it was fantastic and got me out of my comfort zone…again!

If you have the chance to go to any sort of dance festival or intensive, go for it!