High Horse

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Okay, I was naughty a few weeks ago and went and purchased another pair of Jason Samuels Smith tap shoes by Bloch, this time in black. I have to say they’re now retailing about £30 more expensive than when I bought my white ones, but I managed to track this pair down for the original price from a dancewear shop in Edinburgh 🙂 I’ve also just sold an old pair of Bloch Sync tap shoes (as well as a few other things) on Ebay.

I haven’t worn my new Jasons to a class yet, but the beauty of the Jasons is that they are very quick to wear in and I’m thinking I’ll bring these ones out either next half-term or in January. As with other shoes, it’s probably good to have at least 2 pairs of tap shoes on rotation.

On Wednesday evening I went along to week 2 of advanced beginners and intermediate rhythm tap. Both classes were amazing again, and by the end of it my toes were really sore! In the intermediate class (level 3) we had to pair up to work on a double flap exercise (f-f-lap), so I partnered with ‘L’. Talking later on, it turns out she did all the tap dance grades when she was a child and basically tapped for 10 years, stopping when she went to University. Telling her I only started learning in 2014/15, she was amazed at my progress! But then I said I want to learn to do pullbacks, but just haven’t managed it yet.

She said she can do wings and pullbacks all day, but finds the closework we do in rhythm tap (e.g. crawls and other co-ordination beasts!) difficult. This led us onto discussing the differences between **SHOW** tap and rhythm tap. I guess you could say that one focuses on appearance and the other focuses on the sounds. I wonder if I’d struggle with syllabus tap, having only learnt the rhythm style. Interesting, huh?

In level 3 we are using the song (Get off Your) High Horse Lady by Oasis. Although we had the opportunity to film level 2 (but not level 3), I have also written down what I can remember of both routines, so hopefully I won’t get the two mixed up!

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On the train home I ate a Goji Goodness raw flapjack and drank a load of water. Unfortunately I forgot to grab a banana to have as well. I got home around 9.45pm and had tiny bit of food that I’d prepared the night before and a swig of Green Smoothie.

After a shower, I ran through my super-quick routine to roll out the muscles in my feet and legs, then I went to bed around 11pm. On Thursdays I have agreed to start work at 9.30am so that I can have a lie in and recover (except this Thursday there was a signal failure on the tube, so after going all round the houses, I didn’t get to my desk until 10am). It’s a long day and I’m still not sure it’s sustainable for the long term, but I’ll enjoy it for now…until our teacher creates a level 3 class at around 5pm on a Thursday…PLEEEEEASE

Do you struggle to remember more than one dance routine?

What are your go-to post-exercise recovery snacks?

New Term

Last night was the start of the new term of Rhythm Tap at Morley College. I was really excited about it, but with the usual nervous butterfly stomach just beforehand!

I am enrolled on level 2 (advanced beginners) but for the first week back I decided I was finally going to also try out level 3 (intermediates) straight afterwards. I didn’t tell my teacher this beforehand, just incase I ended up shattered at the end of level 2 and couldn’t do any more LOL. So:

Level 2 

Level 2 was a BIG class. The warm-up circle took up the whole studio! But this always happens at the start of term, and apparently the class was sold out again. The acting couple were there and a few other regulars, but no R or K this time – boo! We worked on a toe-tip, heel-dig exercise, which would form part of our routine. At the end of the class there was some homework! We were asked to note down the music we are using for the routine so that we can go away and listen to it to get into the rhythm. I tend to download the tracks We’re using Come by Jain. The other task was to think of a question you would like to answer or something you would like to learn by the end of the 6 weeks to either share with her, or keep for yourself.

I went up to my teacher at the end and she asked “are you staying?”, and I said YAASSSSS!

Level 3

Level 3 which lasts an hour, rather than 45 minutes, was a lot smaller, a much better size. I chatted to the Swing dance girl who it turns out also sings in a band! She told me to come down to Soho on Sunday and check them out. I meet so many creative people!

The warm up was a call-and-response exercise, which is something I LOVE doing. I remember when I went from level 1 to level 2 that I found the transition to the speed of warm-up the first challenge, but I didn’t have that this time. It helps that I have been going to intermediate level workshops and intensives when I can.

We learnt the double-flap (f-f-lap), which creates 3 sounds, as opposed to a flap which creates 2 (f-lap). Quite hard to be accurate at first, but I was told to keep my head forward and not look down! Helped.

We also learnt a new timestep – yes! I don’t know many, so it was great to learn another one. I think that’s 6 on my list now…not that I remember 2 of them – doh! We were paired up to check in on each other and make sure we weren’t missing something. That was cool. I paired up with a lady who said she did grades years ago, but hasn’t done anything for years and doesn’t practice. We got there in the end!

Our next exercise was a tap turn, which our teacher stole from US Hoofer Derrick Grant who she took a World Dance class with at the Brighton Tap Festival. I was gutted to miss it this year, but I was on holiday, and this summer I decided not to over-do it and burn myself out. Technically, I could have gone on the way home from a week in Devon, but seriously! Toe-toe-heel-heel-toe-toe, travelling along the studio while turning 360 degrees-ish. The music was amazing and it was so much fun and we all ended up dizzy!

Our routine was amazing. I picked the beginning quickly, but then we spent a while on the next bit and then I forgot the beginning LOL. I know it starts with flaps.

Anyway, at the end when I was changing my shoes my teacher said I should definitely change over to level 3, but I had to say I really enjoyed it…but it’s just too late on a school night with my commute. Knowing I would be staying on that evening and getting home around 10pm, I told work I would be in later just so I could have a lie-in and catch the 8.30am train, as opposed to the 7.13am. I could probably manage it for a couple of weeks, but it’s not sustainable long-term as I’d be burning the candle at both ends.

I said out of the side of my mouth “do an earlier level 3 class. Do one on a Thursday.” A few others said they have a lot of hanging around to do before the class starts and so on. Anyway, it depends on funding and our teacher is looking at what she can do. A difficult one. I LOVED IT.

Anyway, thanks for reading my essay!

 

Today’s Workout

This rainy afternoon I finally got out into my garage/dance studio and did a bit of tap! ☔ I played music from my phone through the Bluetooth speaker and had a go at some drills, including flaps and lots of shuffles, especially on the left hand side which seems to miss the floor a LOT when I use my tap board. I dunno, it’s a bit slippery and I guess being confined to a square compared to using a whole studio makes it difficult. Still, it was good!

Next I did some ankle strengthening using a balance board. It’s really hard to keep it even and centred, which makes it ideal for working those ankles!

Next I did some 5kg weights, lifting them above my head, out front, behind, to the sides, and then some squats. I followed this up with crunches – it has been a while!

I finished up my sweatfest with some stretching. Maybe I’m motivated because I’ve now got 2 weeks off work 🙂

My (eclectic) Playlist:

  • My Same – Adele
  • California Soul – Marlena Shaw
  • Get Off – Foxy
  • Hanky Panky – Madonna
  • Cornflake Girl – Tori Amos
  • Candy Shop – Andrew Bird
  • These Days – Take That
  • Changing – Sigma feat. Paloma Faith
  • Forget – Lianne La Havas
  • When My Baby – Bing Crosby

Improvement

Fiat500
You need me…

Hey! How was your weekend?

This weekend just gone my SO and I went to look at a cute pre-loved Fiat 500 that I spotted online after I had been wondering about whether or not to get a slightly better and more reliable make of car in order to bring down my annual repair bills (currently driving the second Ford KA I have owned).

My SO did the test drive because I was too nervous about driving a circuit around town with the car dealer in the car. It was such a smooth drive and the interiors were lovely, and I could have got a good finance deal, but…I decided I don’t really need a new car, I don’t do much mileage at all, the finance deal meant a large deposit upfront, and I remembered my original goal to eventually get rid of my car and use public transport, especially as I pay for an Annual Season Ticket for work which also covers my local buses since moving house. At the moment however, the bus doesn’t quite intercept the train I need to catch in the mornings…

Instead of getting the lovely Fiat, I cleared the trash out of my car, gave it a vacuum, replaced the filthy floor mats with some stylish new ones and put up a new scented garland on the rearview mirror – there you go, new car! LOL).

On a tap dance note, now that the extreme heat has subsided (for now) I got out into the garage and did a bit of practice. I ran through some of the steps we did at the Tap Dance Intensive at City Lit 2 weeks ago, including trying to work on my pullbacks. Still very much a work in progress, but I feel a bit more confident in knowing what I should be doing.

Looking forward to getting back to it in September!

 

Summer Tap Dance Intensive 2018

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On Monday I attended day 1 of the Summer Tap Dance Intensive for improver/intermediate level at Covent Garden’s City Lit. Term ended a few weeks ago at my usual rhythm tap class, and although it doesn’t seem like that long until September 12th, it’s enough time to get a little rusty. I’m a big fan of tap intensives and dance summer schools for the fact that they are a chance to learn new steps, pick up extra tips, try something a bit more challenging than you’re used to, and to experience a different style of teaching.

The 3-day intensive was intended to develop “tap technique, posture and musicality as well as incorporating some performance based exercises”. I was excited because it would be covering time steps, which I haven’t spent much time on, turning steps, and tap dance history, which I’m reading loads about at the moment.

After some trouble with cancelled trains, I managed to get there in plenty of time as I was intending to arrive about an hour early anyway. I had a handful of vegetable gyoza at Itsu and then made my way to the college. I made sure to down a bottle of water before going into the studio because I know that I sweat half my body weight every time I dance, so I wanted to make sure I was properly hydrated!

There were about 12 of us in the class, a mixture of ages and abilities. The tutor (BB) asked what shoes I was wearing, and it turned out he was wearing the black version of my Jason Samuels Smiths (J-Sams)! I can testify to them being a very sturdy and supportive shoe. Quite a few of the class were part of BB’s regular classes, but I actually recognised one retired lady from the daytime class at Morley – caught up with her briefly, which was nice!MOV_0788_000158.jpg

We ran through some warm up steps, and then went over the basics, particularly shuffles and then 3-beat shuffles (or open and closed thirds). Then we went straight into learning the longest routine I’ve ever done in tap, which included pick-ups, riffs, shuffles, turns, slides, paddles, cramp rolls, Suzy Q’s (need to practice these more!), pull-backs (ditto), and a time step. Because I’d told the tutor that I’d been learning tap for almost 3 years, I think he assumed I would know how to do pull-backs, and the time-step we were using, but I guess because I’m learning non-syllabus rhythm tap, and classes are 45 minutes as opposed to an hour and a half, I’ve not spent so much time on those things. Anyway, I blagged my way through! (My Suzy Q was OK heading right, but not so good to the left…until the last run-through :-/ )

Because the class was 2 hours long, we had plenty of time to go over and over the steps and do drills and things which you never normally have time to do in class. I really enjoyed this! The tutor was really passionate and knowledgeable about tap dance, and talked about some of the dancers of the past that he was inspired by, including Jimmy Slyde and Chuck Green.

We got to film the tutor doing the entire routine slightly slowed down at the end, which would make practising at home for the next day easier. However…

Dancing for 2 hours straight wiped me out and I woke up the next day with a headache and feeling really under the weather, so I ended up missing the other 2 days – gutted! :((( Yep, overdid it again. But, the one day I did attend was brilliant, fun and really challenging, and I can have a go at what I learnt in my garage studio at the weekend.

 

Qualified

_20180724_161049.JPGLately I’ve been pondering the question of when you are allowed to call yourself a dancer. I keep saying to people that I take dance classes, or I’m learning to tap dance, but hesitate to say I’m a ‘dancer’ probably because in the past people told me I had missed the boat, I was too old etc when I said I wanted to dance and do choreography, plus I don’t perform, I never took any grades in anything, and so on. Yet when I think about it, I’ve actually been dancing for over 15 years.

Did you have to start dancing as a 2 year old to qualify?

Despite the opportunity I had with my dad supplying dance shoes to all the local dance schools (Ballroom, Latin, Ballet, Jazz) I didn’t take formal dance lessons as a child, and only started with a weekly freestyle jazz class at University, culminating in a show that I invited friends and family to watch. But there’s enough stories out there of professional dancers or dance teachers who started learning late. It’s much harder, but it’s possible.

Is it about how often you dance?

Once working I started doing weekly dance classes at my local theatre, which included street jazz, break dance, and even a bit of Charleston to Amy Winehouse, plus a performance at the end of the Summer term with a work colleague I managed to convince to join me. We were working during the day, so we missed the dress rehearsal – doh!

Since working in London where there are lots if places to dance I’ve pretty much been dancing most weeks with the odd break to like, be ill or move house 🙂

Must you be performing regularly? 

I’m not as bothered about performing these days as I’m just dancing for the love of it, and to learn something new (rhythm tap – yeah!).  When I was still going to classes at the theatre I enjoyed the opportunity to perform a bit and did a street jazz solo at a talent contest two years in a row. If I was learning at a specific dance school I would probably have more opportunity to perform now in end of year or termly shows. Mind you, I believe the advanced level classes at my facility do take part in the end of term shows…

Or is it about your commitment to and passion for dance?

I think it’s a lifestyle. Dancing as regularly as you can, training, learning, improving, trying new things, evolving. Or, you may have been a dancer in the past who stays inspired by watching dance, reading, writing, inspiring others, attending events.

How tap dance differs

I love doing ballet classes, but because it’s a formal style of dance that takes a lot of training and can be elitist, most adult learners [read: beginners] would not call themselves a ballet dancer, and certainly NOT a ballerina/ballerino. However, since throwing myself into rhythm tap, practicing constantly and reading all about its humble beginnings on slave plantations and street corners, where people make up their own steps and styles which they challenge each other with and steal from others, I realise I can call myself a dancer. Tap is informal and everyone is invited to contribute something (hence improvisation). A lot of people who have been dazzled by the showy Broadway version of tap don’t realise it’s actually a social dance, like Salsa or Swing.

I’m starting to feel like I can call myself a tap dancer…but definitely not a Hoofer…just yet 😉

What do you think? Do you call yourself a dancer? Or do you feel like you have a long way to go before you qualify? Maybe you feel like this in some other area of life?

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 who I bump into sometimes (agh, I heard her name and forgot it straight away).

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 faster tempo 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!