Afternoon at Pineapple

Exterior of Pineapple StudiosOn Sunday afternoon I went to an advanced beginners/intermediate tap class at the world-famous Pineapple Studios in Covent Garden, led by Kaia Koehler who currently dances with Old Kent Road tap company. Although I’ve been to Pineapple Studios before, it was for a couple of Cats workshops rather than a regular drop-in class, and I’ve never done a tap class there before, so I had no idea what to expect.

Well, I absolutely loved it! It was quite a full class, and we worked with a 7/4 time signature, using the piece of music Unsquare Dance by Dave Brubeck. We had 7 steps to master, and then we did them quicker and quicker. Once we got that, we added another 7 steps…and so on. After that we learnt a different combination. It was so much fun, and I can’t wait to go back!

 

 

More Practice > More Classes

Wall of tap shoesLately, I’ve found myself having conversations encouraging some of my classmates to practise outside of class. Before class people tend to ask each other if they’ve practised the routine, and I find some people are saying they don’t practise and they’re shocked at how much I do (and I really don’t do that much compared to some tap dancers). Now I know I am obsessed with tap, and want to get to a higher skill level, so I do try to practise the class routine at least 3 different days a week (not particularly long sessions), otherwise I find it doesn’t get into my muscle memory… and that’s a separate thing to doing drills etc, which I try to do on weekends, but I haven’t managed much of that since the autumn. I also know some people just want to do tap dance for fun and not really have to do homework – I definitely get that…BUT THEN they get frustrated in the class and sometimes even with the teacher. A lady recently told me she’s been doing tap classes on and off for about 20 years now, and she’s not improving, so her solution was perhaps to enrol in more classes. I asked her how much she practises outside of class – she doesn’t really. AHA. Imagine if we were talking about learning a musical instrument – I’m not improving but I don’t practise outside of my lessons. Unfortunately, it won’t happen by OSMOSIS 🙂

More Practice > More Classes

The Great Gatsby

 

The Great Gatsby

Last Thursday my SO and I went to Sadler’s Wells to see Northern Ballet’s performance of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s Jazz Age novel The Great Gatsby. I was really looking forward to it and I wasn’t disappointed! It was a full house, and we were right at the back of the top tier, so it was pretty warm in there. 

It was ballet, of course, but it was also full of jazz music and authentic jazz dances, such as the Charleston and the Lindy Hop. The sets and costumes were lavish and really captured the feel of the story set on 1920s Long Island, NY. I started reading this novel a few times in the past, but now I have made a commitment to read it all the way through, and then maybe move onto Fitzgerald’s other novels that I own because they’re art deco hardback editions that look nice on my bookshelf…

Tap Class

Tap dance class is going really well. It’s the largest class size I’ve ever known on a Thursday afternoon, but it’s a really lovely group of people. We’re all getting to know each other better as we’re doing a lot of work in pairs, which is great. I’m trying to stand in different parts of the studio so I don’t get stuck in my comfort zone! We now have a break for a week of half-term, and I was wondering whether to take a break from that class until September, but  I ended up telling everyone I’d see them in 2 weeks…

Under Pressure

Yesterday afternoon I went to the last tap class before a week’s break for half term. In the morning we welcomed our new line manager to our team with coffee and cake in the office, as well as catching up with colleagues and doing some WORK!

I’d missed last week’s tap class because my SO and I had a week in Devon as a bolt-on at the end of a weekend conference in Torquay. I didn’t get a chance to practise the fab routine we’ve been learning while we were away, and I came home with a sore throat and feeling a bit off, so I didn’t do anything at the weekend. I did spend some time on Tuesday evening recapping what we’d added on last time I was at the class, but I only got around to learning the choreography I’d missed the night before the class. I went over and over it, but I find it doesn’t go into the body unless I do at least TWO separate practises (three even better!). So I turned up to class yesterday feeling a bit sketchy on the last part.

We did some exercises travelling across the studio in 2 groups, which is always fun, before cracking on with the routine. I gradually picked up the new choreography, which helped build on what I did the night before and then we actually did a section as a canon (also known as a round) with one half of the class (A) dancing to one melody and the other half (B) dancing to another. It was great!

At the end, our teacher asked if I (person A) would be happy to dance with her (person B) so she could film the last part of the routine for a video recap for class. Well, I kept going wrong! I guess it still wasn’t cemented yet, the camera was rolling and I think I just felt under pressure (I could feel the eyes of my classmates on my back…even though they weren’t there)! Still, it was a fun thing to try 🙂

On another note, I have a new colleague who found out that I do tap dance and she was interested in getting back into it herself but couldn’t find a convenient class, so I searched HIGH AND LOW for a class near to where she lives in the ‘burbs and managed to find her a rhythm tap class with a great teacher. She’s a beginner and is visually impaired, so she needs to be taken to the class. Well, she’s been going for 4 weeks now and is LOVING IT! She even gave me a card and a bar of chocolate to say thank you 🙂

Fitness Friday

Still not sure how I feel about toe socks…

Hey! Hope you’re well? Guess what? I’ve started going to Pilates on a Monday evening with my SO at his running club! I’m really trying to get my fitness (and core muscles) back after having been mainly home-based for the last 2 years, and so what better than a Pilates class after a day at the desk! I do get out for a short walk every lunchtime, but I no longer do the daily power walk commute, I quit the gym in March and what with the rigours of tap dance, I really need the lengthening and strengthening. So many back problems can be traced back to lack of core stability, sitting down all day and bad posture.

Studio at Birmingham Royal Ballet

 

I’m also trialling a membership of the Sleek Ballet Fitness app this week. Sleek Technique is the creation of professional ballet dancers Victoria Marr and Flik Swan. If you’ve been reading my blog for a while, you’ll know I had their DVDs and wrote reviews of their Sleek Ballet Bootcamp and Sleek Barre Technique workouts – there were 3 DVDs in the boxset, but I never got around to the third one! Membership gives you access to over 200 workouts, plus livestreamed interactive classes. The workouts are challenging and they really do get you sweating straight away. The settings vary from ballet school studio to warehouse-style brick studio to garden room to stunning beachside! They definitely sell you the lifestyle of the woman who sculpts her ballet body in affluent Thameside West London (think Chiswick or Kew) while wearing stunning Bloch leotards and shopping at Sweaty Betty

The ladies

I’ve only had a go at 2 full-body workouts so far, but I think I’m finding the same issue I found back in 2016 – the speed at which some of the exercises are carried out means I’m finding it difficult to maintain form, and I’m slightly concerned about pulling something – I’m happy operating at half-time! I think I need to have a go at some of the other types of workout before I decide. Perhaps I’ll concentrate on the lower body barre, stretch and mat exercises. Membership is £22.49 a month, and if I did go with it, I’d pause my £8.99 Rambert Home Studio membership (ballet, contemporary, Indian, street, yoga, Pilates, warm-ups, plus playlists, podcasts and other goodies) for now. However, as slick as Sleek Technique is… I’m thinking I should probably stick with Rambert, not only for financial reasons, but also because they’ve extended their offering since I first joined during the pandemic. We’ll see – I think I just need a bit of a change of routine right now.

I’m also taking a break from my Thursday rhythm tap classes once this block finishes later this month, with hopefully a return to the in-studio class in September. I’d like to spend a bit of time doing some of the many, many practise videos I’ve accumulated on things like technique, musicality, timesteps and rudiments, without having to spend that time practising a routine for weekly classes. I’m signed up for another Roy Castle Lung Cancer Foundation tapathon next weekend, which I haven’t yet learnt the routine for, and I have a 3-day tap dance intensive in London lined up for July 🙂

Enjoy your weekend!

ps. hope this blog post came out ok. This laptop has become very temperamental. My space bar suddenly stopped working at one point, and every now and then while I’m typing, the cursor jumps to a different line!

My Highlights of 2021

Happy New Year! I do hope you had a good Christmas. Unfortunately my SO and I both had COVID-19! We’re both vaccinated and I’d just had my booster, but by then my SO was already ill and he then passed it on to me. Being vaccinated at least meant we weren’t seriously ill, but it was like a type of flu for about 5 or so days (headache, eye ache, body ache, sore throat, altered taste and smell, high temperature etc) followed by feeling very, very tired. Our next door neighbour got us some supplies and my family dropped off Christmas dinner and nibbles on Christmas Eve, which was MUCH APPRECIATED (although I had no appetite for a while).

Because we felt rubbish and couldn’t leave the house, we watched A LOT of Law and Order. We made a point of watching a carol concert from the Royal Albert Hall, and the Royal Opera House’s Nutcracker online for all the Christmassy feels, and we also watched several movies…

My COVID Christmas Movies:

  • Back to the Future (1985)
  • Uncle Buck (1989)
  • Mrs Doubtfire (1993)
  • Hercule Poirot’s Christmas (1994) 
  • Mission Impossible: Fallout (2018)
  • Lady in the Van (2015)
  • The Fugitive (1993)
  • US Marshals (1998)
  • K-19: The Widowmaker (2002)

I had some actual Christmas movies, like Home Alone, lined up, but we haven’t got around to watching those yet. We did get to see family properly later on in the week after Christmas, including a lovely (yet windy!) walk along the beach at Bexhill-on-Sea in Sussex.

 

Thinking about the craziness of 2021, I struggled to recall what stood out to me as highlights of the year, even though I know there were many. Here’s the list I came up with…

My Highlights of 2021:

I’m now having a think about my goals for 2022, but I’m not putting myself under any pressure right now. The main things on the list are a bookbinding course, improving my tap dancing, more writing… but I’ll come back to my 2022 goals in another post 🙂

What were your highlights of 2021? 

Show Me Jericho

Image: BBC Strictly Come Dancing

Hey! Hope you’re ok, hope you’re well? Sorry I’ve been MIA for a while. Things have been a little busy round here, and as you can see from my last post (and the photo above), I’ve also been engulfed in the world of Strictly Come Dancing – or should I say the World of AJ Odudu & Kai Widdrington? At the weekend, they performed an outstanding, champagne-quality Quickstep to Benny Goodman’s Sing, Sing, Sing, followed by a beautiful, sensual Rumba to Maria McKee’s Show Me Heaven. I mean, STUNNING! Anyway, it all comes to an end this weekend with the GRAND FINAL. Unfortunately, I’m hearing news of injury today, but whatever happens, they’re my WINNERS anyway! (Plus, we’re all really hoping they’re more than just good friends 🙂 )

In other news…

  • Tap classes finished last week for the Christmas holidays and I am determined to keep practising the routine we’ve been doing to the swing number Jericho by Hot Sugar Band while I have the space to work on it. I might also try to get back on the exercises I got from the Tap City tap festival this summer.
  • There was a talk by Tap Dance Research Network UK last week on the Whitman Sisters, which I had to miss because I had my class. I was happy to hear they would be sharing the recording with members for a limited time, so I set aside the afternoon to listen to/watch it…but they took it down early! I’ve sent them an email!
  • Here’s a helpful co-ordination exercise we did in one of our classes this month – I only recorded it on one side, but you keep switching sides:

Keep dancing! x

It’s October

Hello! Today is the first day of October and it definitely feels like it – yes I’m wearing a jumper. I haven’t written a post since I received my Tap Dance Postage Stamps in August, so here’s a rundown of what I’ve been up to recently:

The City of Bath 

At the beginning of September, my SO, my mum and I had a 3-day break in the beautiful Georgian city of Bath. My SO and I had been before as a short stop-off on the way to Cornwall, and we had been meaning to return for a proper visit. The sun was out the whole time and it was loooovely and warm. We wandered the city, ate great food, visited Bath Abbey and the Jane Austen Museum (we bought books!), did 2 different bus tours. We had a GREAT time and can’t wait to go back.

Tap Class

Tap classes restarted last week after the summer break! I’m continuing to work from home, so I’m not able to attend the classes in London. My teacher is running online-only classes on a Monday evening, so I’m doing her one-hour intermediate/advanced class. It’s pretty cool to be moving towards advanced level tap. The class is basically covering the same stuff as the in-person intermediate classes, but at a faster pace. Because it’s an hour as opposed to 45 minutes, we have more time for the exercises, such as rudiments.

I was determined this summer to do lots of practise down in the garage, and I was actually getting stuck in with rudiment exercises from the recordings of the virtual NYC Tap City festival….but then I had a flare-up of eczema on the tops of my feet that meant I wasn’t able to wear tap shoes or get hot feet. (I’ve not had any eczema for about 5 years, so it’s pretty frustrating). That knocked practise out for several weeks. Well, now I’m back to class and it’s back again – I think I’ve been a bit stressed lately. The steroid cream is working, so hopefully I’ll be okay for Monday.

Exercise

Like a lot of people I need to get back into shape after having sat around at home for over a year with no commute and no Tuesday gym sessions. Last year I was quite motivated to exercise. This year…not so much. But, I have been doing the BOP Jazz workout most weeks, which has helped with flexibility more than anything, and last week I renewed my £8.99 subscription to Rambert’s Home Studio for access to all their online classes – Ballet, Contemporary, Contemporary Fusion, Yoga, Pilates and Dance Cardio which I did on Monday and still haven’t recovered from! I went swimming a couple of times during the summer and even ran around a local running track with my SO (a club-runner!), of which I hated every minute because I really hate running 🙂 I’m hoping to maybe get into the swimming habit on a Friday, but we’ll see!

How are you keeping fit right now? Have you gone back to the gym? Are you back to in-person classes or still online? Let me know in the comments – I love to hear from you!

 

Tap Dance Stamps: Tap Collection

Tap dance stamp collection

I received my Gregory Hines stamps a few weeks ago, but LOOK what came through the door this week! This year, the US Postal Service issued a new set of stamps honouring the American art form of tap dance – featuring five of tap’s hottest performers today: Max Pollak, Michela Marino Lerman, Derick K. Grant, Dormeshia and Ayodele Casel. 

The stamps were designed by Ethel Kessler and the dancers were photographed by Matthew Murphy, and it’s important to note that the US postal regulations prohibit the honouring of a living person on a stamp, in case you were wondering why the dancers’ names are missing. Instead, the dancers are honouring the art form as representatives.

The first-day-of-issue ceremony took place in Times Square, New York City during Tap City, the New York City Tap Festival in July, and was attended by Max, Dormeshia, Ayodele and Michela, plus Tap City and ATDF’s Tony Waag.

As with my Gregory Hines set, I’ll be putting these into a frame to display in my garage dance space, as part of my tap dance memorabilia – but first we’re getting the garage roof replaced because it’s leaking. I’ll share some pics next month!

The stamps come in sheets of 20 and are available from the USPS or if you’re outside the US, try Gift Sampler on ebay.

Have you ordered yours yet?

Tap Dance Stamps: Gregory Hines

Gregory Hines Stamps Ordinarily I’m not a stamp collector, but I was really excited to receive THESE in the post! In 2019 the United States Postal Service celebrated the life and work of the award winning tap dancer and entertainer, Gregory Hines by making him the 42nd honouree in their Black Heritage USA Forever stamp series, with a ceremony at the Peter Norton Symphony Space in Manhattan, NYC. 

The event was attended by his brother Maurice Hines, his daughter Daria, his protégé Savion Glover, Tony Waag of ATDF, Chloe and Maud Arnold of the Syncopated Ladies and Jason Samuels Smith. The photograph used for the stamp was taken by Jack Mitchell in 1988 and the stamp was designed by art director Derry Noyes.

I’m planning to frame my little stamp collection with the following Gregory Hines quote:

I don’t remember not dancing. When I realised I was alive and these were my parents, and I could walk and talk, I could dance.

I’ll share some pics once they’re on display in my garage dance studio.

The stamps and artwork are available to purchase at the USPS Shop
– if you’re outside of the US, like me, check out Gift Sampler on ebay.

Have you got your stamps yet?