Jump Back

Thursday lunchtime rhythm tap restarted this week and I was really looking forward to getting back in the studio after Christmas! Monday’s Pilates class left me with a bit of DOMS (delayed onset muscle soreness) but by Thursday it had worn off. The 2 day gap between classes was certainly sensible!

Many of the same people were back this term, plus a few new faces. I don’t know if our teacher read my mind (or this blog) but we worked on pullbacks! YAY! And I could actually do them! DOUBLEYAY! I have been obsessed with being able to do them ever since last year’s Tap Dance Festival UK technique class with Robin Passmore where I just wasn’t getting it at all.

A pullback is 2 sound step where you pickup both feet at the same time with elevation. You can also do single ones and keep switching feet. According to Acia Gray in her tap dance guidebook The Souls of Your Feet (1998):

The most difficult action to master is the JUMP action of leaving the floor in order to execute the BACK

AMEN. It was exciting to be able to finally execute them, but then my feet really started to ache ūüė¶ A bit of stretching and Spiky rollerball helped immensely once I was back at my desk.

We also worked on a Shirley Temple exercise which was slightly mind bending (we kept changing direction) and a SuzyQ exercise, which is another basic step I wasn’t entirely confident in, but the practice helped cement things a bit more.

Our routine this half term is to Naughty Little Flea by Miriam Makeba. I’m going to listen to the music over the weekend and also have a go at some of my Pilates exercises before Monday. I was going to start reading Tina Turner’s new autobiography today, but it arrived damaged, so I need to send it back!

Have you started anything new this year?

Happy New Year!

Happy New Year! I hope you had a great Christmas.

Mine was good fun and I really enjoyed the festivities and the break. My SO and I hosted twice, including on Christmas day itself, and all went swimmingly and everyone enjoyed themselves. I have to personally thank Mary Berry for her amazing Christmas cookbook which helped me know what I could prepare in advance, and our local butcher who did an amazing job of preparing the stuffed turkey crown wrapped in bacon plus a gammon!

I actually went to work for a half day on New Year’s Eve and my SO met me afterwards so we could go for Vietnamese food, followed by a trip to the theatre to see Agatha Christie’s Witness for the Prosecution at London’s County Hall, which was brilliant! I love Agatha Christie, and the whole courtroom setting for the play was extremely effective. It was thoroughly engaging from start to finish.

Today was my first day back at work this year, and it was definitely a struggle to prise myself out of bed at 6am and get back into commuting into London after sitting around in tracksuit bottoms for 2 weeks! Nearly everyone I spoke to is harbouring some infection or other, so I’m only breathing through my nose and continuing to dose up on vitamin c!

I also had the first Pilates class of my 11 week course which I booked for the purpose of cross-training for tap dance. I was a bit apprehensive on my way there, but it was a very good and informative class, led by TB who is an experienced dance teacher, specialising in jazz dance and ballet.

There were about 10 of us in the [fully booked] class (not sure where the others were!) and we spent our time working on correct, measured breathing, which we were then able to use to aid our exercises that followed. We were pulled and prodded (with our permission) to correct any misalignment as we did the exercises, and TB actually said I had a very good spine roll when I was rolling up through the vertebrae, which she would expect because I’m young – I’m not as young as she thinks! Previous dance classes made this a familiar exercise. But of course other exercises were more challenging, like judging whether your arms are in line with your shoulders when out in front or out to the sides. Trying to move one arm up and one arm down at the same speed at the same time while lying on your back…

I have 10 sessions left, and my only reservation is that it went on longer than I expected (partly my misreading the course details and partly the teacher starting late) , so my lunchtime was a lot longer than I hoped. This combined with a longer lunch on Thursday when I have tap, and I’m not sure if I should have gone for an after work conditioning course instead. My bad!

Anyway, I hope you have a positive start to the year. I am going to work on crafting some more blog posts to share with you!

Christmas Legs

Poster PicAw, today was our last Rhythm Tap class of the year! I had been contemplating wearing some Christmas leggings and/or sparkly socks, but then I forgot all about it, and to be honest, I don’t actually have a pair of Christmas leggings. I have a Christmas jumper, but if I wore that, they’d be carting me off to St Thomas’ Hospital for overheating!

As you can see from the photograph above, our final class of the year was held in the basement studio ‘A04’ that we usually use on Wednesday nights, rather than our usual theatre rehearsal space ‘C10’, so while it was a familiar studio, it kind of threw some of us to be doing everything we’ve learnt (and more!) in a different space, if you know what I mean (C10 is square, A04 is long).

We had a full turnout today and we did our warm-up in a circle to some Christmas music and I noted that our teacher was wearing Christmas socks! We went straight into working on our Beautiful Tango¬†routine, which is full of twists and turns and weight shifts. I would say it’s actually one of my favourites so far…maybe because I’m actually getting it! But really, there’s a lot of variety in there. We completed our routine, which went on to include slides and two¬†Shirley Temples. I could do with practising these types of traditional steps more because I don’t want to be attending intermediate level classes and still unable to do basic combinations like a Shirley Temple or Suzy Q.

At the end of the class we had to perform the routine in 2 groups, with one group observing the other. I don’t know what it is, but as soon as you become aware that people are watching you, the nerves kick in and you get brain block! Well, I do anyway. I had the first half of the routine down ok, but when venturing into the newer parts, I knew something significant was coming up, but couldn’t remember what! Haha. It really wasn’t that bad.

Tip of the week: Keep your eyes forward and off the teacher!

It’s okay to watch the teacher when she’s demonstrating the steps, but when performing it try and do it as you remember it, rather than watching the teacher’s every move with the belief that you don’t know it.

Believe and commit!

 

Tips for Surviving The Winter Months

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Having an outdoor chai n’ cupcake

When I was a teenager, I used to get Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) and would find I would get home from school in the dark Autumn and Winter months, lie down on the sofa and have ZERO energy to even get up to answer the phone, let alone tackle homework. I would dread the clock change every year.

Because of this, I made sure pretty much from then on to exercise or dance regularly during these darker months to keep my energy levels up and to just generally feel better and not let it get the better of me.

What is SAD? Also known as ‘Winter Depression’, the symptoms, according to the NHS include:

  • a persistent low mood
  • a loss of pleasure or interest in normal everyday activities
  • irritability
  • feelings of despair, guilt and worthlessness
  • feeling lethargic (lacking in energy) and sleepy during the day
  • sleeping for longer than normal and finding it hard to get up in the morning
  • craving¬†carbohydrates¬†and gaining weight

https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/seasonal-affective-disorder-sad/

To help others out there who find this time of year sapping, I’ve put together some survival tips:

  • If you work indoors, get outside into the daylight at lunchtimes or breaks as often as you can
  • Invest in a sunrise wake-up alarm clock to simulate a natural wake-up with warm, gradual light
  • Invest in a SAD lamp or light box
  • Take part in regular group exercise (e.g. tap dance, Zumba, spinning, running group). Group exercise will add a fun social element to your workout. Go, even when you don’t want to.
  • Try to eat plenty of fruit and dark green vegetables to boost your immune system. I’m also taking Vitamin C & Zinc supplements to ward off colds at the moment (especially with commuting on public transport!) I tried taking Vitamin D (the sunshine vitamin) last winter, but I didn’t really notice any effects. That might be different for you.
  • Stay hydrated – there’s so much heating on at the moment which can make you feel drowsy and dry
  • While it may be tempting to cosy up in candlelight when you get home in the evenings, if you want to get anything done, put the lights on full until nearer bedtime. Don’t let early sunset steal your day! (I have to say I am very sensitive to lighting and have many lamps and candles about the house).
  • Go for walks in the evenings – yes, even though it’s dark (don’t let the dark win!)
  • Have a regular bedtime
  • Put some things in the diary to look forward to – theatre trip, spa day, coffee with friends, family meet-ups, Christmas markets, carol concert, museum trip. On Saturday my SO, his sister and I went to see The Play That Goes Wrong in the West End, and I honestly haven’t laughed that hard in ages.

Let me know if you find these tips useful.

Do you have anything to add? What keeps you buoyed during the darker months?

 

Christmassy

Happy belated Thanksgiving to all my American followers! Hope you had a good one!

I had a very Christmassy weekend last weekend with a trip to Waddesdon Manor near Aylesbury in Bucks on Friday with my SO for the Christmas Market, with the hope of getting most of our Christmas gifts in one go. Despite it being very festive, most of the stalls were selling the same sorts of things – chutneys, gin, craft beers, jewellery, scarves and sausages! The National Trust shop was lovely, but not really the sort of items we were looking for.

On the Friday night we took my mum to see ‘Walk Like a Man’, a Jersey Boys tribute at our local theatre. Heavy hit after heavy hit! So good.

On Saturday we went to a local garden centre which has an amazing gift and homewear shop and even more AMAZING Christmas shop! It’s like a winter wonderland full of decorations, lights, trees, and lots of Santas in all different sizes and outfits (and cute fluffy boots!) OK, I had to buy one!

Wednesday night I had a stall with my soap and skincare biz at a local prep school for their festive shopping evening and was absolutely shattered by Thursday… But the tap must go on!

Thursday’s Advanced Beginners class was a lot of fun. I was wondering if I would have any coordination with being quite tired, but I was alright! Good times. We worked on our slurps (closed thirds), 5-beat paddles and 5-beat riffs in pairs, plus a crazy quick flap-flap-flap-ball-change travelling across the studio at high speed to music which had us all laughing!
I really love the routine and of course all our exercises feed into it. K and I discussed the merits of stretching afterwards. MUST DO MORE!

Looking forward to next week! ‚ėļ

Have you started your Christmas shopping? Prefer to leave it until Christmas Eve? Or do you hibernate until the new year?!

An Alternative Monday

Autumn Lightbox Pic

I bought myself a mini light box this week to keep me awake and motivated at work in the afternoon during the dark winter months – BOOM! Let’s see if it works…

Speaking of light, my SO and I went to watch the fireworks at a local school on Saturday evening to celebrate Guy Fawkes Night. Last year’s display was so good (way above our expectations of a primary school) so when this year’s display began it seemed a bit lame…but once it got going it was AMAZING! They also had a BBQ, so we enjoyed a burger and some tomato soup, oh and a cup of mulled wine!

Yesterday our systems all went down at work, including internet and phones, so after sitting around for a while and finding out that it could be 4 hours until IT diagnose the problem before even attempting to fix it, we all abandoned ship and went home. I got home by 1pm after a quick stop by the vet to pick up flea treatment for my cat, and had some lunch while seeing if I could log into my work system – nope! (Actually, we couldn’t log in again until gone 4pm). So, what did I do?

  • Topped up a plant in my front ‘garden’ with special compost supplied at the weekend by the inlaws
  • Raked leaves off the lawn ready for Wednesday collection
  • Did a ballet workout dvd which was extremely taxing on the thighs! (Aiming to do this again tonight)
  • Had a relaxing hot bath while watching a couple episodes of Sabrina the Teenage Witch (old Melissa Joan Hart series, not the new Netflix one LOL)
  • Unblocked the gunked up sink plug hole in the bathroom
  • Made a spicy bolognese sauce
  • And then a bit of actual work once I could log into the system again!

I’m going to try and keep up the ballet workout as much as I can to build up the muscles around my knees, which have been suffering a little with my rhythm tap practice. I also need to get my core back in shape too, and ballet is definitely an ALL-OVER body toner. After swimming at the spa last Thursday, I’d quite like to get back into swimming on Friday lunchtimes, but it might be one thing too many at the moment.

In the meantime, roll on Thursday’s advanced beginners tap class!

 

 

Style

La La Land

This morning I booked a place on a La La Land tap dance workshop, taking place at Arts Educational in Chiswick in a few weeks’ time!

It will be half-term that week, so there is a break from my usual tap class. I am always looking out for opportunities to try out what I have learnt, so it will be interesting to try a 1.5hr workshop with a different teacher, and see how it varies in style. I know my usual teacher said that Hollywood style tap is very different to Rhythm tap, suggesting the Hollywood footwork is less technical. Rhythm tap is more syncopated and complex.

“Rhythm tap, made famous by John W. Bubbles, incorporated more percussive heel drops and lower-body movement rather than emphasizing toe taps and upper-body movement. It is more grounded and focuses more on acoustic rather than the aesthetic qualities. Gregory Hines brought back this style…demonstrating that rhythm tap‚Äôs focus is always on the feet.”¬†http://www.humankinetics.com/excerpts/excerpts/learn-the-styles-and-aesthetics-of-tap-dance

Maybe La La Land will be easier to pick up compared to what I usually do… or maybe not! I haven’t seen the film, and Ryan Gosling’s free hand really bothers me in the movie poster (see above), but maybe I should try and watch it before I go, to get into the character…

In the meantime, I have been practising the Tori Amos rhythm tap routine¬†at every spare moment. The next part we’re going to learn looks a little complicated, but there’s a real sense of achievement when you get it. Hopefully I won’t have a lazy left foot today.

Oooh, I have lots of tap stuff lined up this Autumn – never mind that we’re¬†anticipating a house move in the next month or so! (Yes, that scenario is still dragging on, *sigh*)

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