Shim Sham Workshop ’18

How’s your week been?

Wednesday was a full-on day in many ways. Work is quite busy at the moment, we had our a quarterly team meeting mid-morning and I also had good but lengthy conversation at the end of the day with a disgruntled colleague (nothing new there!). By the time I got to the college at 6.45pm I felt quite drained!

I caught up with the acting couple who were waiting outside and found out that only one of them is an actor in fact. Sadly R didn’t make it because she’s got a crazy workload at the moment. Also caught up with level 3 girl (agh, I heard her name and forgot it straight away) who I bump into sometimes.

I was really looking forward to this workshop because I attended last year and have been doing it on and off ever since, also watching YouTube videos of people like Gregory Hines and others demonstrate. Despite the England World Cup Semi Final game being on at exactly the same time, we had a full class (we are SO dedicated!).

We warmed up in a circle, a slightly different warm-up than usual as the attendees spanned all levels. Then we did a brief walking exercise to practice separating heel and toe before getting straight into the Shim Sham!

“a one-chorus routine to a thirty-two bar tune with eight bars each of the double shuffle, crossover,……tack-Annie, and falling Offa Log” (from Brotherhood in Rhythm, Constance Valis-Hill, 2000).

We basically learnt it in smaller chunks, which are fairly simple and then connected them altogether and did the routine to an easygoing jazz track. To finish the class we performed it to a fast track which was so much fun!

I would say I found it easier to execute the steps in the faster tempo this year (especially the pickup from a flat foot) because my weight was in the right place! We also learnt an extra flourish on the end which usually includes pullbacks (my teacher asked if I’d be doing that – nope, never done them! So now that’s my thing to try before the summer’s out!) but we did a finger click and jump back onto our toes.

It was a really fun evening and it was nice to meet some new people. I asked my teacher to cancel me off next week’s Improv workshop because I’ve got lot on next week and it will be another late night. I also confirmed I wouldn’t be able to make the Brighton Tap Festival in August despite them offering me a 25% discount – sad face!

Best to enjoy the break before the 3 day intensive at the end of the month!

Rollin’

This afternoon I spent a bit of time rolling out my calves and Achilles tendons because they’ve been quite tight and achy, having not really stretched properly after Wednesday night’s rhythm tap class. Despite the heatwave, I have been really good and not worn any unsupportive flat shoes or sandals that are everywhere at the moment. Arch support at all times! Because my right foot and ankle tends to swell a bit in the heat (something I was so paranoid about when I was doing ballet), I’ve been travelling to and from work in lace-up tennis shoes to avoid that as much as possible.

Speaking to a classmate on Wednesday, I realised I did actually end up missing a week of our Candy Shop routine after all, but no disaster, I was able to catch up this week (song by Andrew Bird if you’re interested). I feel like this routine is pushing us a lot more, which is great. It seems like there is a lot going on, but at the same time, you can pick it up and the speed and sliding around makes it fun! The triumph of the evening was the fact that I was finally able to get the shuffle-step thing that most of us were struggling with last time – yay! Our teacher got us to do it again and again, and again (and again LOL).

Bumped into K, who I haven’t seen in about 6 months, in the corridor afterwards and she was asking me why I was walking away from the level 3 class! So I said about the timing etc. She’s been doing choir, which she loves, and is getting to perform regularly, but really misses tap and like me and R, wants to try level 3. As she works at the college, she said she’s going to get in our teacher’s ear about a level 3 class that is earlier in the day. We’ll see! I had intended to try level 3 that evening, but decided it would be better at the start of the new term…and not during a heatwave!

I did a crazy thing earlier that day and enrolled onto the ‘Summer Tap Intensive (Improvers/Intermediate)’ at City Lit, which takes place over 3 mornings at the end of July. OH MY DAYZ!!! I have been umming and ahhing over going to the London Tap Dance Intensive at the end of July where there are so many amazing people teaching (like Adam Garcia of Coyote Ugly fame) and I wouldn’t need to take any time off work, but then I saw this tap intensive, which is half the price, likely a smaller class size, and we’ll be learning about different tap styles, artists and history in a more relaxed atmosphere. I’m so excited!

In the mean time there is one week left of term before we head into the ‘Summer Shorts’, where I’ll be doing the Tap Shim Sham Workshop, and possibly the Improv class. August is when I tend to buy a PAYG gym pass and use the University gym opposite work a few lunchtimes a week just to keep up fitness levels.

I also have my eye on a vocal anatomy workshop at City Lit in July because I find I’m losing my voice quite easily lately, and I dread having to speak in public or read things out at the moment. I’d like to learn a bit about vocal projection, which will help in many spheres of life.

What are your plans for the summer? Dance intensives? Taking a break? Learning something new?

End of Term

Hope you’re having a good week? Recovered from the Royal Wedding yet? I wasn’t even going to watch it and now I’m obsessed with them LOL

On Wednesday evening I went to the last Rhythm Tap class of the term at Morley College. I’ve included a photo of the college in its mid-renovation state so you can see what I’ve been going on about. Our studio is basically in the basement below the area to the left of all that scaffolding, which means we can’t really open the windows as it’s a building site!

I got there about 10 minutes before the class and the actor couple were there, along with R, chatting about the cost of getting into certain arts exhibitions in London. Then another girl came and sat and started chatting. I think she’s almost as obsessed as I am with everything tap! We had all seen the BBC4 documentary Tap in America at the weekend, so we were gushing about that and all the history and key figures and stuff before we went into the class. We all agreed that it makes us want to do more! As a self-appointed Tap Evangelist, I told them all about the London Tap Dance Intensive coming up at the end of July and how it’s a great opportunity to use what you’ve learnt so far, pick up other things and have a taster of quicker stuff.

The class was really good. We had another go at the drop-shuffle-ball-change exercise where instead of executing the shuffle in front of you, it comes around you as you travel forward, in a D shape (makes me think of a ronde de jambe a terre). I found this really difficult when I first learnt it some months ago and I spent a lot of time practising at home in the kitchen. Well, the piano guy (who played for us one time last term) said he felt so embarrassed that he couldn’t do it last time that he spent a lot of time practising and his improvement was noted!

Our Lionel Richie routine was still amazing! I think this is another of my favourites along with Cornflake Girl, I’m Only Human, and When my Baby Smiles at Me (which I sadly missed too many weeks of), which mean absolutely NOTHING to you! Sorry, I can’t post the class videos – they’re not to be shared on social media.

The routine is slow with sudden quick accents, there is travel, direction changes, a leap, flaps, pressed rolls (realised this week that’s what they are called!), crawls and a great section of heel scuffs, back brushes, toe jabs. It’s all in there! Despite me saying it’s not that complicated, it is actually very challenging, but finally I felt I could just go for it without having to think of what is coming next.

In the Summer our teacher will be running another Shim Sham class and an Improvisation and Choreography workshop. I’ve actually drawn up a timetable for July & August to help me decide what to do and what to miss this year – not decided yet!

What are your dance (or other) plans for the summer?

 

BBC Four – Tap America: How a Nation Found Its Feet

Photo courtesy of BBC4

https://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b0b396jx

Over the weekend, after watching the amazing Royal Wedding (Congrats Harry & Meghan!) I watched Tap America: How a Nation Found Its Feet on BBC4, as part of their dance season. A school friend actually messaged me to tell me it was on, but as I’m all over anything tap, I already knew it was on.

If you are able to, you have to watch this! Tap America is essential viewing if you love tap dance. Presented by Clarke Peters (Five Guys Named Moe), he explores the history of tap dance, meeting with well-known modern and older tap dancers and tap historians.

He interviews Michelle Dorrance of Dorrance Dance (sadly I couldn’t make their workshop at Sadlers Wells last year 😥), Obba Babatunde, Chloe and Maud Arnold (love them!), Maurice Hines, Arthur Duncan, and many more. The documentary also discusses the work of other hoofers, such as the Nicholas Brothers, Baby Lawrence, Bill Robinson, John Bubbles, Sammy Davis Jr, Gregory Hines and Savion Glover.

Peters explores the origins of tap dance in slave drumming and story-telling which led to ‘buck dancing’ along with the influence of Irish indentured workers and their traditions of the jig and clogging. He moves on to looking at minstrel shows, Vaudeville and the Cotton Club, and the inequalities that existed in the US during racial segregation.

I like the fact that the documentary draws out the different styles of tap, specifically the African style, which is down in the ground, bent kneed (ie the Rhythm Tap I’m learning) versus the more upright Hollywood 42nd Street style which was, I guess the sanitised version that went mainstream in the entertainment world.

The Tap Drought section of the documentary is very interesting. Tap went out of fashion in the 1940s, tap dancers struggled to get work, but there were a few keeping it alive, still going when it wasn’t cool, and those who revived it, a bit like the revival that’s happening right now!

Some noteable quotes about tap:

“a form of musical expression”

“communication… sound… a drum”

“a universal language”

“American identity”

“a percussive dance form”

I really hope this becomes available on DVD because I will definitely buy it! I’m going to try and watch it again as it’s available on BBC iplayer for 28 days. A must-see!

Hit it!

This week was the penultimate Rhythm Tap class of the 6 week block. I can’t believe how quickly it’s gone! It was one of those weeks where I was quite tired and it would have been easy to just jump on the tube and head home, but I sucked it up, had a protein-packed salad and a sugary drink and got myself over there!

We were back to the usual crowd this week and we continued learning our Easy routine (I think a few people had exams and other things going on last week when we had a guest teacher). Although I hadn’t really practiced the routine since week 2, it’s not massively complicated and is fairly slow. But… that means that you have to nail every sound at the right moment! Not always easy.

At the weekend I actually got myself down to my little garage dance studio at the end of the garden! Armed with phone and Bluetooth speaker so I could play music, I spent about an hour doing tap drills – shuffles in all directions, paddles, pick-ups, cramp rolls, crawls, riffs, and I even managed to do wings for the first time ever! I also spent a good amount of time stretching afterwards 🙂 Following this I think I saw some improvements in hitting the sounds in the Wednesday class. My left foot is the one that tends to miss the floor every now and then, so I’m trying to even both sides up by spending more time on drilling my left foot. It all helps!

At the end of Wednesday’s class, our teacher encouraged people to speak to her about level and trying level 3 (if it had been suggested)… so I did, as she mentioned it to me months ago. Well, I told her that I’d like to try it, but that it’s just a bit too late for getting home in the middle of the week. So she told me to book the next block of level 2 (done weeks ago!) and to drop in on a level 3 class one week.

We’ll see…

The Tap Pack

After a busy day at work on Thursday (helping cater and host a lunchtime leaving do for 60+ for our department head :-}), I met my SO at Holborn station as we were going to see The Tap Pack at the Peacock Theatre! Exciting! Before the show we went to the Meat Market, which sits above Covent Garden’s Jubilee Market Hall, and enjoyed a ‘healthy’ dinner of wings, hippie fries (topped with onions and hippie sauce) and slaw. I think I’d pass on their wings next time because they tasted like they were deep fried.

The show began at 7.30pm and I went for tickets in the back, end of row seats in the stalls as the view is always good, being a modern theatre. A bonus was that we had the row to ourselves so we could move along to the middle 🙂

The Tap Pack are 5 guys from Australia and as you can guess from the name, the show takes its inspiration from the Rat Pack (ie. Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin, Sammy Davis Jr are the members you will have heard of). The show was full of all kinds of music, both modern and classic Rat Pack, plus plenty of humour and amazing tap dance! I wasn’t expecting the guys to sing as well as dance, but they sang throughout the show, accompanied by live band. The audience was introduced to each member of the pack and their skills in turn, and you really saw each member come alive.

My favourite parts were:

a) when founding member Jesse Rasmussen alternated between sitting and drumming on a wooden box and tapping…sometimes tapping while sitting down. He has some fast hands and feet!

b) his tribute to some of the tap dance greats

c) the showy song and dance piece to Bruno Mars’ Runaway Baby

d) Thomas J Egan’s improv section – AMAZING. Like whaaa??!

e) the section of audience participation with clapping call and response (I love a bit of call and response!!)

These acts stood out to me, but there was plenty to enjoy. It was a fabulous show!

The show runs at the Peacock Theatre until 19th May, and then will be touring the UK before heading back to Australia.

https://www.thetappack.com/

3 Beat Roll

This week I was a bit spaced out at tap class, despite having had over an hour to chill out and forget about work. I think I was just really tired! We had open windows this week (yay!) as the building work has progressed so that the wall is no longer covered in plastic sheeting.

We worked on a backward travelling exercise using pickups, where we did 3 alternating heel-drops in between each. A good tip is to sit back so that the weight is on your back foot, otherwise it complicates matters in terms of travelling. It was quite challenging with a faster piece of music, but with more practice time, it’ll be easier… I hope!

We also went over our 3-beat cramp roll with a fun exercise to Mark Ronson’s Uptown Funk.

Here’s a video of my quick practice (during a break at work, in heels!) of the 3-beat cramp roll that we are using in our routine. It has another name, but I keep forgetting what that is!

 

 

I’ve seen on social media that booking is open for the London Tap Dance Intensive, which takes place over 3 days at the end of July, using 3 different venues (Base, Danceworks and Pineapple Studios) with an amazing faculty line-up, plus Brighton Tap Festival is also advertising at the moment. I really don’t want to overdo it this year because I’m trying to get my soap business side gig back on track and will be doing a couple of local summer fairs, plus I already went to the amazing Tap Festival UK at the start of the year. I could also do with cutting back a bit on my spending, so I will probably do one day at the London Tap Dance Intensive and let Brighton be because I have been before and it involves a bit more travel. Or, I allow LTDI (and the modern phenomenon of FOMO) and go to Brighton as it’s during my summer holiday fortnight. These events are great for cementing what you’ve been learning in regular classes and also give you new skills and steps. I dunno, I’ll keep you posted!

Happy weekend whatever you’re up to! ☀️