October Happenings

Sorry – I’ve been M.I.A again! I guess I’ve been adjusting to a new life routine, now that I’m going into the office 1-2 times a week and I’m back at TAP CLASS every Thursday (apart from this week as we’re on a break).

On Tap

Tap class has been really great – I mean REALLY great. We’ve done lots of helpful exercises over the last few weeks, travelling across the floor, working in pairs and cementing some trickier combinations. We’ve been learning a routine throughout the 6 week course using Mick Jagger’s Strange Game. I don’t think I’d ever heard the song before, but I like it! The routine allows us to play with the rhythms, switching between the downbeat and cross-phrasing. There are a couple of turns in the middle of the routine (exciting!), and we had the option of doing a turn-and-a-half (540 degrees so they tell me) and landing in the right direction on time(!!) or just doing a half-turn (180). I’m not great with fast turns and dizziness these days, so I stuck with the half. It was for the best!

In other news – my 14 year old niece has recently started tap dance lessons! I think these are tacked on straight after ballet and she’s doing the ISTD syllabus of course. I’ve given her one of my portable tap boards so she can practise at home, and I told her I’m happy to go over anything if she needs any help, because I think she’s finding it quite difficult having started later than the rest of the class. I’m going to make sure I don’t overwhelm her with information!

Mixtape: Celebrating 20 Years of Zoonation: The Kate Prince Company

A few weeks ago my SO and I, being big fans of ZOONATION, went to Sadlers Wells to see their latest offering Mixtape, a 20 year celebration of many of their shows, including the incredible Into the Hoods, Some Like it Hip Hop, Message in a Bottle plus The Mad Hatter’s Tea Party, Tales of the Turntable and Groove on Down the Road. The whole thing was just so uplifting – stunning live music and singers, fantastic hip hop choreography and dance. There was also a wonderful exhibition on one of the floors dedicated to former member Teneisha Bonner who died far too young in 2019 from breast cancer. I remember her as a real stand-out dancer in Into the Hoods when we saw it not once, but twice many moons ago. Wow, I forgot how much I loved that show and the banging soundtrack.  Mixtape was such a great night, didn’t want it to end and yes, the audience clapped on the off-beat!

Back to the Future The Musical

 

 

Last Thursday I met a former colleague after work and after a catch-up at Wahaca with Mexican street food, we went to see Back to the Future The Musical at the Adelphi Theatre on the Strand. Now this was an interesting one. I absolutely LOVE the Back to the Future films – they’re iconic and I can watch them again and again, particularly I and II. So I was interested to see how they’d adapted the first film for a West End musical.

In all honesty, I thought Doc Brown and George McFly were excellent, down to mannerisms, humour, dancing and everything. Marty McFly was pretty good. Not all, but a lot of the dialogue was verbatim, so if you know the film, you know what’s coming. They changed the reason why Marty had to go back in time to save the Doc. The set and especially the DeLorean was AMAZING – five stars! But I had this feeling all the way through that much of the supporting cast were fresh out of musical theatre school and a little inexperienced. I like the fact the show used the original theme music throughout and of course the iconic Huey Lewis & The News songs which popped up here and there, plus Chuck Berry’s Johnny B Goode at the school dance but some of the singing grated in places, such as when the actress playing Marty’s girlfriend Jennifer sang The Power of Love – it was a bit over the top musical theatre voice, if you know what I mean. I’d say good effort on the whole production, but something was missing for me and I don’t think everything can be successfully be made into a musical. Someone at my tap class who saw it last time around suggested it could perhaps have worked better as a play? Maybe. Still, it was a good night out.

Strictly 2022

Fleur Vito Jive Still
Fleur, Vito and Wig © BBC/Kieron McCarron

Strictly Come Dancing is back! I’m not really obsessed with it this year, but I’m still watching the main show, the results show and most of the It Takes Two shows on weekday evenings because it’s fun and positive. It’s really refreshing to not be on Twitter with all the moaners and psychos this year! It’s a great cast of ‘celebrities’ again this year…even if some don’t take to dance as well as others… Last Saturday night celebrated 100 years of the BBC and although the songs were JUST AWFUL for dancing (the Eastenders, Blue Peter  and Casualty theme tunes, anyone?!), I have to say I was in stitches watching Fleur & Vito’s jive to Abba’s Waterloo (celebrating Eurovision) – I mean that WIG on Vito’s head took on a life of its own! HAHAHAA

Anyway, I hope you have a great weekend, and if you’re in the UK, don’t forget the clocks go back tomorrow night!

 

Back to Class!

On my way

Hey, sorry for the radio silence for the last 2 months! I’ve been away for a week on the Isle of Thanet in Kent, followed by a week of painting and wallpapering the living room. And then last Thursday I returned to my weekly tap class IN THE STUDIO!

My workplace has asked that we work from the office 40% of the month, so I’ve chosen Thursday as my main day in…so I can attend tap class in the afternoon. I have to say I was feeling a little nervous going back to the class, having not been there in person since MARCH 2020, but at the same time I was really excited!

Well, I arrived at the college (which has a snazzy new entrance) and asked which studio the class would be in – same one in the basement as usual! Some of my old classmates were sat in the waiting area outside the studio, so I caught up with them, and then some others arrived – including a couple of ladies who I’d never actually met in person but they recognised me from being on-screen in the garage! When the class before ours was done and exiting the studio, us intermediates went in and J and A, who were at the summer tap intensive in July were there already as they’re doing both levels. It was nice to be back there with people I know, and of course it was great to say hello to our teacher in person, after a couple of years on camera!

This half-term we’re dancing to Strange Game by Mick Jagger. I didn’t get any practise in over the weekend, so I ended up running through it about ten times the night before this week’s class. This week we did a few exercises in pairs, including working on spring-shuffles, which we do every week in our warm-up sequence, but a lot of us are either missing the floor a lot and/or not hitting the timing. I did work on this quite a bit in the last year at home, so it went better for me than it used to, but I still missed the floor quite a bit, and then when it came to doing 3x spring-shuffles on a single side…it all went horribly wrong. Oh, and someone fell over – not me, thankfully! I have to say, the new studio floor is VERY slippery…

It’s interesting doing these exercises in the studio again because it’s quite hard to hear yourself when we’re dancing all together. Due to this fact, our teacher had us run through the routine in 2 smaller groups so that she could hear us properly. I think there’s about 12-15 of us in the class – a bit bigger than the Thursday afternoon class was in 2019/20. Now, I had to do a bit of self-talk and tell myself not to think about the people standing there watching! It worked – I didn’t go wrong 🙂 It was much easier to hear the timings of the two groups, and my own steps of course.

After the class last week, I went back to work, showered and then carried on working for another hour, but this week I decided to just head back to work to check if any emails had come in and then headed home straight away to beat the crowds. Then I logged on from home and did another hour or so. I think that will work better for me going forward.

It’s SO good to be back. When I took a break from classes in May, I was feeling quite jaded, probably from being online for so long and not being in a physical class with proper feedback, but now I’m back, I’m absolutely LOVING IT!

 

Why I’ve Cancelled My Gym Membership

Sad news – my SO and I cancelled our gym membership at the retirement village! We’ve been members since November and made quite good use of the gym, swimming pool and sauna, and it gave us a boost in those dark winter months of working from home, but there were a few things that brought us to the decision to end the membership this month:

  • The gym room and swimming pool are very small. Any more than 4 people would be a squeeze. Now that covid restrictions are gone, it’s getting busier.
  • Although there is a booking system via an app, people seem to be ignoring this and turning up when they feel like it – not great in a small gym!
  • There’s always a shortage of towels and shower gel in the changing rooms in the evening – not a major thing, but when they’re provided as part of your membership, you don’t want to have to bring your own.
  • Following on from the lack of towels and shower gel, the staff don’t seem to be checking the changing rooms and poolside often enough, so nearly every time I’ve been, the rubbish bin is overflowing, someone’s left their bra on the dressing counter, there’s talcum powder all over the floor and there’s often a wet towel or two left on the recliners by the pool from earlier in the day.
  • The cost of living is rocketing here in the UK for various reasons and we could do with chopping unnecessary spends. We have our own equipment we can use for free in the garage and I still have a Rambert Home Studio subscription that I’m using to do Pilates, dance cardio, contemporary and ballet classes.
  • We’ve been very busy recently with church prep and other things, so we haven’t been able to get there much as we would have liked in recent weeks.
  • My workplace is asking us to return to working in the office at least 40% of the week (at some point soon), so I may try and go back to the university gym. It’s currently £10pm as the building renovations are still ongoing, but it’ll soon be reopening in the former sports centre and then I’ll probably do pay-as-you-go via the Hussle app. (Although I don’t miss commuting, I do miss the gym-Tuesday, tap class-Thursday lunchtime routine I was in.)
  • On a side note – I also cancelled my Spotify membership last month. I mainly used it to listen to the track for my tap dance class routine, various podcasts, and maybe a jazz mix for improvisation. BUT I wasn’t using it enough to justify the spend. If I do use Spotify now, I’ll have to live with the adverts and random shuffling! I’ve basically gone back to downloading the tracks for tap class as I used to, because it works out about £1-2 every 6 weeks or so, and I own the track and have a great collection of songs that work for practise. (I originally had a Spotify membership deal of 3 months for £9.99, but when that finished it flipped to the usual £9.99 per month and I just don’t think it’s worth it for me.)

Anyway, thanks for reading, and happy weekend! Any plans? As well as chores and getting out for some walks in the sun, I’ll be attending a tap history talk on Zoom this Sunday evening with Lisa La Touche, so I’ll be sure to make some notes and give you the lowdown in the next few weeks.

What You Waiting for?

_20180308_162106.JPGHad my tap class this lunchtime, and all the way there I was wondering if I’d be paired up to practice with the theatre lady. Silly, right? She’s a nice lady, but as I was saying the other day, her style of tap is very different to how we’re learning and I got a bit lost when she was showing me her version of the timestep two weeks ago.

Speaking of getting lost, in this block of classes we’re dancing to George Ezra’s What you Waiting For. Unfortunately I had to miss last week’s class due to the Beast from the East (i.e. the snow) so I had missed a week of routine. However, some of the other students were saying they had to miss last week and couldn’t remember anything from the week before. I remembered the first section and then tried to pick up the next bit. It’s really not that complicated, but I couldn’t for the life of me do it. I knew what to do, but when the music came on, nah. Too quick, brain wouldn’t keep up! (R scuff-L heel-R spank-spring onto R toe & L-toe, then repeat on the left).

I have been focussing recently on not worrying  about getting things wrong, even repeatedly. I love learning and realise I am a bit achievement-driven as a person, so I’ve been trying to calm that down a bit lately and just ‘be’. Today was one of those days of getting it wrong repeatedly, perhaps more pronounced because I was in the front row and conscious our teacher could see me! I just went with it, and it was a good thing. Thankfully we got to film our teacher doing the routine a bit slower so we can practice at home (or the supermarket LOL).

Prior to working on our routine, we did some other fun things:

Six-beat Riff – like the 5, but with an(other) extra heel. We then did it double time to music! It was quite hard to stay on the beat of the music, but it helps to keep the movement smaller. It should look like you’re just out for a stroll!

Paddle & Roll – So as opposed to doing a regular paddle (heel dig-pickup-ball-heel down & repeat other side) we began with a heel drop, say on the left, and to change to the other foot after the paddle, we did R heel-L heel-R heel in an almost rocking motion). I like!

Elevation – we did a very energetic step (L drop-R side shuffle-L pickup-Land on R-change-change, repeat on other side). Was absolutely SWEATING!

Lots of good stuff to take away this week, and I must watch the video and practice loads where I can 🙂

Hope it’s been a good (dance) week for you! What will you be working on this weekend? Or are you just going to chill out and ‘be’?

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):

 

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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!

The Mind Boggles 

Tonight we were back to Rhythm Tap level 1 and 2 classes! As usual it felt a bit alien after a week’s break, but I got back into the swing of things pretty quickly. I find it’s best to just calm down and enjoy it… Especially the 1930s jazzzzz…

Both classes were quite large as is usually the case, but it didn’t feel like a hindrance this time as people spaced out quite well. It was great to see faces who had returned, including R and K!

One highlight of the week was learning the six beat riff, yes, SIX beats! It was very exciting! The other was a new time step that I feel I recognise maybe from watching tap dance in the past.

I have to say I found the routines quite challenging, and a few of us agreed about this at the end and decided that our teacher does it to gauge what students are capable of. A couple of people had just done their first double class (ie the addition of level 2) and were reassured when I (apparently a veteran!) said I found the routines really hard this time. And when they spoke to our teacher before that, I heard her say she is going to challenge us and not give us things we can already do! It’s true – that’s how you get better.

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!

Progress

At lunchtime today I went to my Rhythm Tap class and my teacher said I should definitely go up to level 2, which takes place after work on a Wednesday. I was previously a little apprehensive. Not because it will be more challenging, but because of the travel situation. They have closed Lambeth North Tube station until FEBRUARY 2017! Waterloo is walking distance, which seems like no biggie, but it is actually the busiest station ever, and when I tried the journey in July, it was convoluted and busy. Anyway, checking TFL’s website, I found that it is actually quicker to catch a bus back to Elephant and Castle and then do my usual journey home from work, or I can even bus it over the river to Westminster and catch the Jubilee Line to Baker Street and then Bakerloo it to Marylebone. Easy peasy!

So, the long and short of it is that I have booked onto Rhythm Tap 1&2 on a Wednesday night from November! (Level 1 for a warm up, level 2 for a challenge). Should be fun!

I have also just purchased a couple of books on Tap dance which I will share more about later…