Tap Dance Festival UK Winter Intensive 2018

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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.

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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!

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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.

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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!

Be on Time!

Today I was an idiot. Actually, no, it was 4 of us and a misunderstanding. I left work with plenty of time to get to my tap class, then saw my friend R from Wednesday evening tap class was waiting to go in. We hadn’t seen each other since July, so we were chatting away catching up on things. It turns out she did get to go to the Rambert workshop in July, but she went to day 2 of 2 (I went to day 1). I think she must have danced with most of the people I danced with on the Monday as most of them were doing both days. She enjoyed it as much as I did and also felt, as I did, that the yoga at the end of the day was a bit too advanced! Anyway, after a while I tuned into the fact music had been playing for a little while, looked in and realised the class had started! Two other girls from the class had been chatting as well, so we all scurried in together and realised we had missed 10 minutes!!!

Anyway, our teacher explained that everyone who was in level 1 had stayed on for level 2, so I guess the four of us outside the studio were waiting for people to exit, alerting us to the fact we could go in, but no-one did! So we missed the warmup 😬 She also said it felt like a strange atmosphere. I think because of that weirdness at the beginning. I think we soon shook that off.

We did a couple of exercises and got straight into the Cornflake Girl routine, which I have been practicing and studying all week. I have come to the conclusion that I work better under pressure in dance. I actually felt like I was ON IT today! No lazy hesitant left foot. Did some quick alternating side shuffles which feature in our routine and I think it was the first time I’ve actually done them evenly! But my teacher did pull me up on my cat claw toes, which is my trademark. I think it helped doing the shuffles with the two newer girls who tapped as kids. They knew what they were doing so I just went with their speed. Fun!

Learnt a rhythm turn which seemed complicated, but it’s really not. Not until you try to do it on the left… It just takes practice.

The routine is brilliant, probably my favourite so far after the heel drop heavy I’m only Human After All routine. Challenging, complex, creative!

This weekend I’m going to start reading my new book about the Jazz Tap of the  Nicholas Brothers!

Tap Thursday

I am so annoyed that I had bail out and go home early last night instead of going to my final Wednesday evening Tap 1&2 classes. Basically, I was kept awake most of the night by a neighbour and was like the walking dead most of the day, just surviving a day at work on Lattes. But, I am also glad I listened to my body (and hollow dead eyes) and went home, had homemade Goan prawn & egg curry with rice, broccoli and kale, stretched, showered and rested so that I could drag myself into London today and go to my lunchtime level 2 class.

A colleague of mine was talking non-stop and I ended up being pushed for time, so I literally got to the college with about 5 minutes to spare and was puffing and panting and quite warm from power-walking and sunshine, with no time to stretch or really cool down. Then my teacher came out of the studio and said “it’s really hot in there”. Oh great!

Yes friends, it was like a sauna. Someone even called it ‘Bikram Tap’…

We did some co-ordination and pick-up exercises, which are always good to get your teeth into, got some posture correction and noticed the shift in weight placement which is always good, and then we spent the last 15 minutes on our Rag n’ Bone Man routine, which I’m loving. For some reason I can remember every step; usually I struggle to remember anything!

It is quite hard to do really even shuffles when you’ve been enjoying the swingbeat. On a positive note, I am no longer clawing my toes when I do pick-ups!

Next week is the last Thursday lunchtime class before Easter. Then we’re back the week of the 24th April. I haven’t booked onto Thursday lunchtime next term, even though I prefer it. It’s a bit of a squeeze to fit everything in during the lunch hour, so I’ll stick to Wednesday after the hols.

I also have the week of Easter Monday off work. Yay!

Keep Calm and Carry On…Tapping

Yesterday afternoon, just before I left work to head for a coffee before Tap, I heard from a colleague that something bad was going down on Westminster Bridge. We checked out BBC News website and saw that something really bad had happened on the bridge and by the Houses of Parliament. I can see Big Ben from my desk, and looking out I realised there were lots of helicopters in the air. I was a bit concerned about heading down to Morley College…which is on Westminster Bridge Road…but not too close, and I went anyway. The walk down from the Elephant to Lambeth North was disconcerting because there were so many ambulance and police vehicle sirens as they tried to get through the traffic towards the incident site. There was a police cordon right outside the coffee shop I normally go to, and police were redirecting traffic, so I gave up trying to cross the road and just went into Morley College early and had a breather. The presence of so many visible police officers was reassuring, despite the alarming circumstances.

It had also been pretty chilly outside, so I was doubly glad to get indoors (as usual, the college was a bit too warm).

Both level 1 and level 2 classes were down on numbers unsurprisingly, but it was still a fun evening. We did some exercises with flaps, shunts, and cramp rolls, which really made my feet ache! We also did an exercise with a four-beat paddle with an extra heel in-between and then we changed it for an extra toe tap in-between (uh-oh). At first I was thrown as my natural inclination was to do the heel when I was supposed to be doing the toe tap, but then I realised it was all about where your weight is placed. This is a common theme in tap!

We seemed to have an issue with rhythm in the 2nd class. It was as though everyone kept speeding up and getting louder! ARGH

Anyway, it was great to perform the routines a few times all the way through. We have a week left to add a tiny bit more on, I believe!

I also went to level 2 at lunchtime today to get extra practice, SO glad that I trimmed my toenails last night…

I’m really glad that those of us who could, kept on tapping and didn’t let evil win.

I also want to ‘big-up’ the amazing emergency services.

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End of Term

Ballet_MemorizeBalletBarreCombos_02Yesterday I schlepped along to Covent Garden to my final class of the 12 week Ballet at the Barre course. I was so tired and a bit stressed from a lot of restructure chaos at work that I wasn’t in the mood for physical exertion, concentration or recalling stuff from last week, but I got there and REALLY ENJOYED IT. There were only 6 or 7 of us, plus our teacher and it was a great class! I decided on my way there to throw myself into it. Remember turnout, engaged core, toes pointed, use the floor, pull up….Dance!

Along with a fellow classmate, I got to perform a sequence on demi-pointe! OMG.

At the end we had time to stretch and fill out our course evaluations. I spoke to my teacher individually and he asked what I was intending to do next. He recommended Ballet Improvers, which I would love to do, but it finishes too late for my one hour journey home to the suburbs afterwards. He also asked if I’ve ever done any Jazz! A little bit, but I’d LOVE to do more. Anyway, he said I can try out the brand new Street Jazz course for free in July if I’m interested, and then that will run properly in September.

I’m really confused because I promised myself I would return to Rhythm Tap at Morley in September (and I’m obsessing over getting those Jason Samuels Smith shoes), but now I don’t want to stop Ballet, but Improvers Ballet at City Lit is too late, and then there’s a new Afro-Contemporary course starting (WOW!!!). What to do?!?!?

In the meantime I start Floor Barre in July for 5 weeks with a one-off Rhythm Tap General class in the middle! 🙂