Happy Christmas!

 

_20181222_152121.JPGI can’t believe the year is almost over! As Christmas day is almost upon us, I thought I’d share my highlights of 2018:

  • Tap Dance Festival UK Winter Intensive in Salford with amazing workshops
  • MOVE IT 2018 Tap workshop with Chloe and Maud Arnold of the Syncopated Ladies and percussive workshop with cast member from hit show STOMP
  • Cats the Musical Jellicle Ball and Jellicle Songs for Jellicle Cats workshops at Pineapple Studios with cast member Cameron Ball
  • Tap Dance Intensive at City Lit in Covent Garden (although only managed day 1 of 3!)
  • Moving up to Intermediates at Rhythm Tap class
  • Seeing The Tap Pack, 42nd Street (again) and The Play that Goes Wrong at the theatre
  • Trips to the Sky Garden and the Museum of London
  • Finally sorting out my home practice studio with suitable floor
  • Spa day at Sopwell House
  • Completing and passing another module on my course (Cert in HR Practice)DSC_0151.JPG

 

I look forward to continuing with Rhythm tap classes as well as starting Pilates in the new year. I also have a theatre trip (Agatha Christie’s Witness for the Prosecution), a couple of dance festivals and trip to Edinburgh lined up! I want to FINALLY complete my HR Practice Certificate, develop my writing further, learn some techniques for reading aloud and public speaking, plus I am really interested in learning bookbinding…

Anyway, before I get back to watching terrible movies on the ‘True Christmas’ channel:

I’d like to say a BIG THANK YOU for following and reading my blog and I hope you have a fabulous Christmas and a Happy New Year 2019!

 

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Winter Plans

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Best foot forward

After wondering all weekend whether to do a half day or full day, I have gone and booked a one-day pass to the Tap Dance Festival UK Winter Intensive 2019! The festival takes place in February in Salford, Greater Manchester, and you may remember that I went along for the first time last Winter for the Saturday morning only, which included 3 classes. They haven’t released half day passes yet, and seeing as there were very few adult spaces left, I bit the bullet to make sure I don’t miss out… Apparently the teaching faculty will include American Tap Dance Foundation! Can’t wait!

At the last festival I learnt so much in just a few hours of tapping and got to learn different things from different people who teach in their own unique style. It was a bit scary going on my own, but really, I’m used to it. I thought about not bothering and just doing the summer ones (London Tap Dance Intensive and Brighton Tap Festival) but considering the heatwave this Summer just gone and the fact I overheat massively at these things, I decided the WINTER would be best!

Beautiful Tango

_20181107_123555.JPGLast week I went back to Thursday lunchtime rhythm tap! I’ve gone back to dancing Level 2 (advanced beginners) just so I can ditch the late evenings of Level 3 (intermediates) in the busy run up to Christmas. I discussed with K how we can make level 3 work when we currently finish work at around 5pm and the class doesn’t start until 7.45pm. Doing levels 2 & 3 back to back to fill the time are great, but quite taxing, so I suggested the beginners gentle yoga class which runs 6-7.30pm on the same night, so that might work for January… Honestly, as I was walking to the college I was thinking about taking a break in January -yeah RIGHT!

Thursday’s class was really good fun. We worked on our 6-beat riff, a crawl exercise and the good ol’ paddle and roll which we worked on in pairs. Then we moved onto our routine, which involves travelling in a box shape and the track Beautiful Tango by Wakakura, which I’ve been listening to to get into the groove. I actually felt like I was taking the steps in, despite being too hot (as usual) and probably a little dehydrated beforehand.  It’s so much easier only having to remember one routine!

To enhance my learning, I acquired a new book at the weekend, which I’ve been dipping into every evening – Beginning Tap Dance by Lisa Lewis. When I’ve finished going through it, I’ll sit down with a latte and write a review for you!

Have a good week 🙂

Home Improvement

The clocks have gone back an hour, it’s dark early, we’ve just had 2 weeks break from Rhythm Tap and I stuck to my word and DID NOT DANCE in the break! However, I did do an aerobics video a couple of evenings when I got home from work, but no intense dance workshops or anything! I’ve also just got back from an afternoon tea and spa experience, which was just what I needed.

A few weeks ago I decided to change my practice tap board for something less loud and echoey and with more space to move around and not fall off the edge, so I ordered a snap-together dance floor and I find it to be a massive improvement! Plus I can use it for other dance styles. Now to sell the portable tap board…

Looking forward to getting back to class next week ☺

Keep Dancing!

Here’s a run-down of my week in a series of bullet points:

  • Finally got back to making salads for lunch – BOOM!
  • Randomly ended up having lunch with my tap teacher and her sister
  • Nailed the advanced beginners tap routine
  • Had another go at improvisation (one at a time, call & response, in a circle – argh!)
  • Intermediate tap was extremely challenging, but I loved it!
  • Switched to advanced beginners daytime class for next half term (starting 8th Nov)
  • Booked an Afternoon Tea & Spa for 1st Nov…can’t wait!

We now have a two week break from tap, and I am not going to do any dancing in that break. Last year I booked a place on a La La Land Tap workshop at the Arts Ed school in Chiswick (West London) and then didn’t go because I’d had a bad day at work and I was DONE. My natural leaning is always to do more, but I am trying to do less – any dancing that I do will be in my garage! In the meantime, I am getting ready as early as possible for the 4 Christmas fairs I’ll be doing with my soap business.

Do you watch Strictly Come Dancing? Maybe you watch Dancing with the Stars if you’re in the US or elsewhere. My favourite couple is Ashley Roberts (from the Pussycat Dolls) and her professional partner Pasha Kovalev (Pashley hahaha). She did an amazing cha cha and I LOVED their Dirty Dancing salsa routine! All the routines are on the BBC Strictly YouTube channel. I really want to learn to cha cha, but I’m going to park that ambition for now…

BBC Ashley Pasha
Image from BBC

 

Last Week

View of London from the Tate Modern

Argh, I meant to post this on Friday! Anyway a few tweaks and here it is…

I’ve actually missed 3 weeks of Wednesday evening tap classes due to illness (and an evening meeting), so on Thursday I went along to the advanced beginners lunchtime class to try and catch up.

K was there! She hasn’t been for about about a year because she was doing other things and then couldn’t make the classes because she was working. It turns out that she did a term at the other tap class that runs at the college with a different teacher. Well, she said it just wasn’t for her, she didn’t get on with the teaching style, it was in a hall rather than a dance studio, and so on… so that has answered my question about whether I should try that class to go back and learn everything from scratch! I’ll continue with rhythm tap.

The lunchtime class was quite small which was nice because it feels more laid back than the busy Wednesday class. We had a go at a complicated exercise of stepping and alternating heel drops, which for me was OK on the right hand side but more tricky on the left. It reminded me of something I saw Gregory Hines do on YouTube. We were partnered up to help each other go over any difficulties that we had and that really helped because we could go through the steps a bit slower and try to figure it out.

Despite missing two weeks of advanced beginners, I was able to catch up quite quickly and remember our routine. We ran through the whole thing a couple of times at the end and it was great – I really like this one! But then, I like them all LOL.

At the end I asked our teacher if I could film her doing the routine for the level 3 intermediate class because I’ve missed three weeks, this week is the final week and I wanted to practice before then. She agreed, but currently has a shoulder injury, so she apologised the movements weren’t as big as they should be, but that wasn’t a problem… all I cared about was getting something to work on because I couldn’t remember a thing beyond 4 flaps! (Because of her injury, our teacher missed a week of classes, so I haven’t missed as much as I thought).

I’m looking forward to this week’s final classes, and then we have a break until the week of 5th of November. I’m probably not going to do level 3 (intermediates) in that run up to Christmas because it’s late and I have a few things on in November and December. I might just switch to level 2 daytime so I have the evenings back!

Book Review: Brotherhood of Rhythm

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Last week I finally finished Brotherhood in Rhythm: The Jazz Tap of the Nicholas Brothers by Constance Valis Hill (2000). I bought a second hand copy which is full of scribbles and I may go back over it and make some scribbles of my own!

Beginning with a foreword by the late, great Gregory Hines, Valis Hill takes us through history from the origins of jazz music and dance to the early heroes of tap dance, such as Bill ‘Bojangles’ Robinson and Leonard Reed. She then takes us to Chicago in the early 1920s and introduces us to the bright young brothers Fayard and Harold Nicholas, their family and their ambitions at emulating these early jazz tap acts and then going even further with their own unique class act style.

There are 10 chapters literally bursting with information. The overarching theme in this biography of the tap dancing brothers is the unfortunate backdrop of racial segregation in America up to the 1960s.

One of the stand-out dance acts of all time, they were grossly overlooked in Hollywood once they had reached an age where old enough to be considered a threat to segregated societal norms (i.e. no possible suggestions of sexuality, no hints at interracial relations, and certainly no being the star in a film made for white audiences) they were relegated to being a novelty act and never really got the mainstream recognition they deserved. It was much easier to keep them in the role of boys and keep feeding the minstrel show stereotypes. (It brought to mind the servile and deliberately non-threatening Mammy next to the glamorous Scarlet O’Hara in Gone with the Wind).

I found it really interesting that a movie many people know the Nicholas Brothers for – Down Argentine Way (1940) – would have been censored for Southern white audiences so that the brothers’ amazing dance sequence was cut from the showing. Crazy! However, it remained in the version shown in cinemas and people loved it! Today that dance sequence is actually the part of the movie that people want to see (check it out on YouTube – fabulous).

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The good news is that Harold and Fayard went to Europe, which was was more open-minded and they experienced great success in places like the UK and France (particularly Paris), but the US didn’t give them the dues they deserved. Sad times.

We’ve all heard of Fred Astaire and Gene Kelly, but ask your average Joe if they’ve heard of the Nicholas Brothers, and they’d probably say “who?” A CRIME in history as far as I’m concerned!

Gene Kelly, Fred Astaire, Ginger Rogers dance on air

Madonna, Vogue (1990)

Although it took me a while to get into it, I found Brotherhood in Rhythm an enjoyable, extremely informative book to read, with lots of detailed facts and musical counts and ‘dee-dee-dahs’ to digest (yes, really). A great historical record of the Jazz Age and all things Nicholas, including a little of their personal lives, but without the gossip aspect. There are also quotes littered throughout from hoofers, dancers and musicians that will be of interest to tap dancers and jazz enthusiasts. There is a helpful glossary at the end of the book to explain various terms used in the book such as “Legomania”:

Highly individual and unusual leg movements in jazz dancing, such as rubber-legging.

A goal of mine for a long time was to master the splits. Well, after reading about Fayard Nicholas’s hip replacement…I’m not so sure!

Verdict: Warm, wordy, wow!

Mammy
Scarlet & Mammy