My Highlights of 2022

Happy New Year! I meant to write this blog post on New Year’s Eve, but there was a lot going on over the holidays, including a trip to the theatre, so I’m writing it now! Today is actually Epiphany, so we’re still technically in the Christmas season ūüôā¬†

2022 was a better year than the pandemic years, and it was good to be out of the house and fairly ‘back to normal’, but it was still a bit strange with all the crazy politics, the death of the Queen and trying to get into some sort of hybrid work pattern, plus I got rid of my car. Here are my highlights of 2022:

Sadler’s Wells Gift Membership

I was given this amazing gift for my birthday, which gives me priority booking and 20% off tickets, so I made sure I went as often as I could! I saw some great ballets and other dance shows including:

Plus I saw Matthew Bourne’s¬†Sleeping Beauty¬†on New Year’s Eve, which was my first Matthew Bourne experience and I loved it!

Return To In-Person Tap Classes 

It was just so great to be back in the studio with other people, especially some of my old classmates! I include attending the tap intensive in this, because that was the first in-person class I attended after the pandemic and I learnt SO MUCH and surprised myself how I got back into things after being in the garage with a laptop for 2 years. But really good to be back to my weekly class.

Tina Turner the Musical 

A postponed birthday treat from 2021. I mean, it was just AMAZING!

Anything Goes

Once again, another FABULOUS SHOW with an excellent cast, including Simon Callow, Bonnie Langford and Kerry Ellis. It was a lovely Summer’s day at London’s Barbican.

Commonwealth Games

 

Athletics and diving – It was such a fantastic, positive atmosphere in Birmingham! Plus we stayed at a spa hotel outside of Birmingham (got an amazing deal!) and drove in to the designated park & ride car parks as the city hotels were stupidly expensive during the games.

Breaks in Devon and Kent

My SO had a week away in Devon in June, and then a colleague let us have her flat in the Thanet area of Kent for a week in September, so we took my mum with us. We were really fortunate to have great weather (most of the time) on these two weeks away – because you never know!¬† I wasn’t familiar with Kent, so it was nice to discover a new area.

Living Room Makeover

It hadn’t been changed since we moved in at the end of 2017 and I was sick of the blue walls, plus some of the paper was peeling and bubbling. In our second week off work in September, when we were back from Kent, we stripped wallpaper, filled holes, hung new paper, painted and rehung pictures where we wanted them (rather than where there were already holes)! There’s still an area to sort out in the corner behind the TV which requires replacing guttering outside, but WE LOVE IT NOW. The fireplace now stands out as a feature and I learnt how to do wallpapering properly.

Home Alone with Live Orchestra

In early December my SO and I went to see Home Alone with Live Orchestra at the Birmingham Symphony Hall as part of his birthday gift. It was also at the Royal Albert Hall in London something like a week before that, but it was pretty much sold out, standing room only, so we went for Birmingham…with a seat! There was even a choir onstage for the choral sections and they sang Christmas songs at the end. Those who left during the end-credits missed out! It’s my favourite Christmas film (I watch it every year) and it gave us all the Christmassy feels.

As you can see, I saw A LOT of shows last year, and I haven’t even mentioned all of them in this post. But you know I love the theatre, and when you go off-West End, the ticket prices are SO MUCH more reasonable.¬†

I usually write my goals for the year ahead, but I don’t think I managed to write anything last year – I was just glad to get out of 2021! This year I’m sharing a simple More & Less list:

More:

  • Quality sleep
  • Tap dance
  • Cardio exercise
  • Reading
  • Stretching
  • Writing

Less:

  • Trying to catch up
  • Things in the diary
  • Spending ¬£¬£

Let’s see how it goes! How about YOU?

Just What I Needed

Photo of the tube ride home with gym bag
Heading home from tap 

Guys, I have just returned from having a FULL BODY massage plus complimentary facial this afternoon and I FEEL GREAT. I’ve had a really annoying ache at the base of my neck and around the shoulder blades and upper spine area, likely from how I’m working at my home desk and the height of my laptop. Although I’m trying to do lots of stretching, movement and strength work, it hasn’t improved much, so I decided to get a massage. I used to get a massage every 2-3 months at a therapy clinic near my workplace, but the lady I was going to has ceased to operate from that central London location because she wasn’t getting enough customers with the way a lot of people’s work patterns have changed – I mean I’m only there 1-2 times a week now). I did a quick search on Google and managed to find two massage clinics near home – the first one I tried I got no answer when I phoned both numbers listed. The other one answered, so I went with them – plus they have fantastic reviews. I feel SO REFRESHED and I have to say my neck and shoulder blades are feeling a lot better already, and the surprise complimentary facial and scalp massage were an added bonus. As I told the therapist – IT WAS JUST WHAT I NEEDED!

Tap

Tap class is going really well. I had to miss the first two weeks of this 6-week block due to feeling under the weather and then the train/tube strikes, but I made sure to use the practise videos that are shared every week to catch up. The combination we’re learning is a little tricky at first, with loads of direction changes, so I made sure to go over and over and over it. We’re also working on a section of the BS Chorus and playing around with it, which is great, because I learnt it at the summer tap intensive! It’s November and my garage is now officially freezing, so I’ve not really been in there to use my floor recently. I’ve been staying in the warm and practising in socks on carpet! We’re dancing to I Like it Like That¬†by Pete Rodriguez – I can’t believe we only have 2 weeks left until we break for the holidays!

Sportin’ Life

Image of book 'Sportin Life: John W. Bubbles' by Brian Harker

Last week Tap Dance Research Network hosted a talk on Zoom entitled ‘Sportin’ Life’ on John W. Bubbles, aka the Father of Rhythm Tap, with author and jazz scholar Brian Harker (Brigham Young University, Utah), who has written a book all about him, and tap dancer and historian Jane Goldberg (Changing Times Tap Co), who actually knew John. It was a really interesting talk, hearing about his life and Vaudeville career as one half of ‘Buck & Bubbles’ and later as a solo act, and how he took tap dance and made the steps more complex, adding more heel drops, swing time and improvisation. He even had a come-back career in the 1960’s appearing on many tv shows, USO tours (with Bob Hope, Judy Garland, Barbra Streisand etc) and in the nightclubs (this was before nightclubs became sticky-floored meat markets!). Apparently he gave Fred Astaire a tap lesson, but Astaire never admitted this. It was kind of sad to hear how Bubbles had become slightly embittered by how he was treated as a black American, but I mean, who could blame him? It was another enlightening evening and Jane Goldberg even shared some footage, including some of her and John. Someone asked how many people on the call had Brian Harker’s book, and honestly, I hadn’t even heard of it until that night…so I ordered myself a copy the next day¬†and I’ve added it to my list of Must Reads! I’ve got so many books lined up, I’m actually overwhelmed.

Right, I must go – I’m going to a winter fayre in a local high street this evening, my hair’s still a mess from my scalp massage and I don’t want to miss the hot dogs!

October Happenings

Sorry – I’ve been M.I.A again! I guess I’ve been adjusting to a new life routine, now that I’m going into the office 1-2 times a week and I’m back at TAP CLASS every Thursday (apart from this week as we’re on a break).

On Tap

Tap class has been really great – I mean REALLY great. We’ve done lots of helpful exercises over the last few weeks, travelling across the floor, working in pairs and cementing some trickier combinations. We’ve been learning a routine throughout the 6 week course using Mick Jagger’s Strange Game.¬†I don’t think I’d ever heard the song before, but I like it! The routine allows us to play with the rhythms, switching between the downbeat and cross-phrasing. There are a couple of turns in the middle of the routine (exciting!), and we had the option of doing a turn-and-a-half (540 degrees so they tell me) and landing in the right direction on time(!!) or just doing a half-turn (180). I’m not great with fast turns and dizziness these days, so I stuck with the half. It was for the best!

In other news – my 14 year old niece has recently started tap dance lessons! I think these are tacked on straight after ballet and she’s doing the ISTD syllabus of course. I’ve given her one of my portable tap boards so she can practise at home, and I told her I’m happy to go over anything if she needs any help, because I think she’s finding it quite difficult having started later than the rest of the class. I’m going to make sure I don’t overwhelm her with information!

Mixtape: Celebrating 20 Years of Zoonation: The Kate Prince Company

A few weeks ago my SO and I, being big fans of ZOONATION, went to Sadlers Wells to see their latest offering Mixtape, a 20 year celebration of many of their shows, including the incredible Into the Hoods, Some Like it Hip Hop, Message in a Bottle¬†plus The Mad Hatter’s Tea Party, Tales of the Turntable¬†and¬†Groove on Down the Road.¬†The whole thing was just so uplifting – stunning live music and singers, fantastic hip hop choreography and dance. There was also a wonderful exhibition on one of the floors dedicated to former member Teneisha Bonner who died far too young in 2019 from breast cancer. I remember her as a real stand-out dancer in Into the Hoods when we saw it not once, but twice many moons ago. Wow, I forgot how much I loved that show and the banging soundtrack.¬† Mixtape was such a great night, didn’t want it to end and yes, the audience clapped on the off-beat!

Back to the Future The Musical

 

 

Last Thursday I met a former colleague after work and after a catch-up at Wahaca with Mexican street food, we went to see Back to the Future The Musical¬†at the Adelphi Theatre on the Strand. Now this was an interesting one. I absolutely LOVE the Back to the Future¬†films – they’re iconic and I can watch them again and again, particularly I and II. So I was interested to see how they’d adapted the first film for a West End musical.

In all honesty, I thought Doc Brown and George McFly were excellent, down to mannerisms, humour, dancing and everything. Marty McFly was pretty good. Not all, but a lot of the dialogue was verbatim, so if you know the film, you know what’s coming. They changed the reason why Marty had to go back in time to save the Doc. The set and especially the DeLorean was AMAZING – five stars! But I had this feeling all the way through that much of the supporting cast were fresh out of musical theatre school and a little inexperienced. I like the fact the show used the original theme music throughout and of course the iconic Huey Lewis & The News songs which popped up here and there, plus Chuck Berry’s Johnny B Goode at the school dance¬†but some of the singing grated in places, such as when the actress playing Marty’s girlfriend Jennifer sang The Power of Love –¬†it was a bit over the top musical theatre voice, if you know what I mean. I’d say good effort on the whole production, but something was missing for me and I don’t think everything can be successfully be made into a musical. Someone at my tap class who saw it last time around suggested it could perhaps have worked better as a play? Maybe. Still, it was a good night out.

Strictly 2022

Fleur Vito Jive Still
Fleur, Vito and Wig © BBC/Kieron McCarron

Strictly Come Dancing is back! I’m not really obsessed with it this year, but I’m still watching the main show, the results show and most of the It Takes Two shows on weekday evenings because it’s fun and positive. It’s really refreshing to not be on Twitter with all the moaners and psychos this year! It’s a great cast of ‘celebrities’ again this year…even if some don’t take to dance as well as others… Last Saturday night celebrated 100 years of the BBC and although the songs were JUST AWFUL for dancing (the Eastenders, Blue Peter¬† and Casualty theme tunes, anyone?!), I have to say I was in stitches watching Fleur & Vito’s jive to Abba’s Waterloo (celebrating Eurovision) –¬†I mean that WIG on Vito’s head took on a life of its own! HAHAHAA

Anyway, I hope you have a great weekend, and if you’re in the UK, don’t forget the clocks go back tomorrow night!

 

Back to Class!

On my way

Hey, sorry for the radio silence for the last 2 months! I’ve been away for a week on the Isle of Thanet in Kent, followed by a week of painting and wallpapering the living room. And then last Thursday I returned to my weekly tap class IN THE STUDIO!

My workplace has asked that we work from the office 40% of the month, so I’ve chosen Thursday as my main day in…so I can attend tap class in the afternoon. I have to say I was feeling a little nervous going back to the class, having not been there in person since MARCH 2020, but at the same time I was really excited!

Well, I arrived at the college (which has a snazzy new entrance) and asked which studio the class would be in – same one in the basement as usual! Some of my old classmates were sat in the waiting area outside the studio, so I caught up with them, and then some others arrived – including a couple of ladies who I’d never actually met in person but they recognised me from being on-screen in the garage! When the class before ours was done and exiting the studio, us intermediates went in and J and A, who were at the summer tap intensive in July were there already as they’re doing both levels. It was nice to be back there with people I know, and of course it was great to say hello to our teacher in person, after a couple of years on camera!

This half-term we’re dancing to Strange Game by Mick Jagger. I didn’t get any practise in over the weekend, so I ended up running through it about ten times the night before this week’s class. This week we did a few exercises in pairs, including working on spring-shuffles, which we do every week in our warm-up sequence, but a lot of us are either missing the floor a lot and/or not hitting the timing. I did work on this quite a bit in the last year at home, so it went better for me than it used to, but I still missed the floor quite a bit, and then when it came to doing 3x spring-shuffles on a single side…it all went horribly wrong. Oh, and someone fell over – not me, thankfully! I have to say, the new studio floor is VERY slippery…

It’s interesting doing these exercises in the studio again because it’s quite hard to hear yourself when we’re dancing all together. Due to this fact, our teacher had us run through the routine in 2 smaller groups so that she could hear us properly. I think there’s about 12-15 of us in the class – a bit bigger than the Thursday afternoon class was in 2019/20. Now, I had to do a bit of self-talk and tell myself not to think about the people standing there watching! It worked – I didn’t go wrong ūüôā It was much easier to hear the timings of the two groups, and my own steps of course.

After the class last week, I went back to work, showered and then carried on working for another hour, but this week I decided to just head back to work to check if any emails had come in and then headed home straight away to beat the crowds. Then I logged on from home and did another hour or so. I think that will work better for me going forward.

It’s SO good to be back. When I took a break from classes in May, I was feeling quite jaded, probably from being online for so long and not being in a physical class with proper feedback, but now I’m back, I’m absolutely LOVING IT!

 

Tap Intensive 2022

At the end of July I¬† was excited to attend the Improvers/Intermediate tap dance intensive at CityLit in London’s Covent Garden. I was only able to attend 2 of the 3 days because I didn’t have enough spare leave as I had 3 days booked the following week for the Commonwealth Games!

I’ve been to this tap intensive twice before, but on those previous occasions I burned myself out and I don’t think I had my hydration and nutrition quite right, because as I mentioned before, I felt hung over the following day! This time I made sure I drank enough water throughout, was fuelled and hydrated beforehand, had jellybeans I could pop during the class for extra quick energy, and then I had an electrolyte powder to add to my water for the journey home. IT WORKED!

I think what especially helped was that I’m now mainly working from home, so I was starting from a place of rest rather than the cumulative daily commute exhaustion of the past. Arriving on day 1, I was really pleased to see A and J from my pre-pandemic tap classes in Lambeth! It was so nice to be in a studio and dance with other people again after 2+ years!

Over the two days I was there we learnt the BS Chorus and worked on some other routines, timesteps and exercises, including travelling corner-to-corner across the studio. I particularly enjoyed being pushed to do some more advanced stuff and add in those extra sounds, and also to get lots of helpful feedback. It was great after having been dancing at home in the garage with limited feedback – it’s just not the same doing classes online! It was a really fun couple of days and we filmed the routines and exercises at the end of each day to take away for practise. On my last day (day 2) I realised I had been trying to film using my phone on camera mode instead of video (I mean, REALLY!) and then I wasn’t there on the final day, so J was kind enough to send me her video. It was great to learn some new things – like the BS Chorus and what a Maxi Ford is! I’m still not great on wings as I’ve not spent much time on them in classes…but I know what I need to do!

When I got home I put my feet in the air with yoga toe-spreaders for ten minutes, then plunged them into a bowl of water with Epsom salts. The next day while working at my home desk, I had my feet on the heated foot massager, which did the job!

By the way, the Commonwealth Games in Birmingham were AMAZING! Such a positive, exciting atmosphere! We saw Athletics (100m T11/12, 400m, 800m heats and Heptathlon Long Jump – including Katarina Johnson-Thompson) and then we saw Jack Laugher (1m springboard) and Andrea Spendolini-Siriex (10m platform) win GOLD for England in Diving! I mean, these people are so inspiring – the WORK they must have put in. The diving was my favourite part, I guess because I’ve seen a lot of athletics before, and the atmosphere was amazing – everyone in the audience holding their breath as the diver got up into a perfect armstand at the edge of the 10 metre platform…before they threw themselves off into various twists and somersaults, finally hitting the water like a fish. WOW

Did you see any of the games? I didn’t see much of the gymnastics on TV, so I’ll catch up on BBC iPlayer.

I think those two days of intensive tap really geared me up for returning to in-studio classes from September – I think I just need to decide if I’ll return to my usual class or try somewhere else for a change…it would be great to see everyone again after all this time. In the meantime – more practise and Pilates!

Time to Tap Tapathon 2022

On Sunday afternoon I once again took part in the annual Roy Castle Lung Cancer Foundation ‘Time to Tap’ virtual Tapathon!

Unfortunately I didn’t really put the time in to learn the routine because I had so many other things going on, so I ended up learning the beginner’s routine as best I could and then I watched the intermediate version and added some of those steps in. To be honest, I wasn’t even sure I was going to be able to take part on the day. However, I spent part of Saturday and the hour before the event working on it and managed to pull something out of the bag!

The event was led by TV presenter Naomi Wilkinson (Countryfile, Milkshake), who choreographed the routines and got everyone energised and pumped up on the day. There were over 100 screens tuned in on Zoom, and it was loads of fun. We performed the routine three times Рbeginners, intermediate and then all together! I danced all three times (muddling through the intermediate performance LOL). It was so great to take part from my garden on a sunny Sunday afternoon and to see so many tap dancers from all over the UK! 

Afterwards I was absolutely shattered, so I’ve spent a lot of time stretching and rolling out my muscles.

And today…I’ve just gone and signed up for another 5k run for the Roy Castle Lung Cancer Foundation – Roy’s Regal Run, marking the Queen’s Jubilee! Eeek!

Why I’ve Cancelled My Gym Membership

Sad news – my SO and I cancelled our gym membership at the retirement village! We’ve been members since November and made quite good use of the gym, swimming pool and sauna, and it gave us a boost in those dark winter months of working from home, but there were a few things that brought us to the decision to end the membership this month:

  • The gym room and swimming pool are very small. Any more than 4 people would be a squeeze. Now that covid restrictions are gone, it’s getting busier.
  • Although there is a booking system via an app, people seem to be ignoring this and turning up when they feel like it – not great in a small gym!
  • There’s always a shortage of towels and shower gel in the changing rooms in the evening – not a major thing, but when they’re provided as part of your membership, you don’t want to have to bring your own.
  • Following on from the lack of towels and shower gel, the staff don’t seem to be checking the changing rooms and poolside often enough, so nearly every time I’ve been, the rubbish bin is overflowing, someone’s left their bra on the dressing counter, there’s talcum powder all over the floor and there’s often a wet towel or two left on the recliners by the pool from earlier in the day.
  • The cost of living is rocketing here in the UK for various reasons and we could do with chopping unnecessary spends. We have our own equipment we can use for free in the garage and I still have a Rambert Home Studio subscription that I’m using to do Pilates, dance cardio, contemporary and ballet classes.
  • We’ve been very busy recently with church prep and other things, so we haven’t been able to get there much as we would have liked in recent weeks.
  • My workplace is asking us to return to working in the office at least 40% of the month (at some point soon), so I may try and go back to the university gym. It’s currently ¬£10pm as the building renovations are still ongoing, but it’ll soon be reopening in the former sports centre and then I’ll probably do pay-as-you-go via the Hussle app. (Although I don’t miss commuting, I do miss the gym-Tuesday, tap class-Thursday lunchtime routine I was in.)
  • On a side note – I also cancelled my Spotify membership last month. I mainly used it to listen to the track for my tap dance class routine, various podcasts, and maybe a jazz mix for improvisation. BUT I wasn’t using it enough to justify the spend. If I do use Spotify now, I’ll have to live with the adverts and random shuffling! I’ve basically gone back to downloading the tracks for tap class as I used to, because it works out about ¬£1-2 every 6 weeks or so, and I own the track and have a great collection of songs that work for practise. (I originally had a Spotify membership deal of 3 months for ¬£9.99, but when that finished it flipped to the usual ¬£9.99 per month and I just don’t think it’s worth it for me.)

Anyway, thanks for reading, and happy weekend! Any plans? As well as chores and getting out for some walks in the sun, I’ll be attending a tap history talk on Zoom this Sunday evening with Lisa La Touche, so I’ll be sure to make some notes and give you the lowdown in the next few weeks.

Why I’m Not Attending TDFUK This Year

I’ve been going to Tap Dance Festival UK for a couple of years now, including the virtual-only event during the last 2 years of the coronavirus pandemic, and I absolutely love it. They always have an amazing international faculty of teachers and I always get HEAPS out of it.¬†This year the festival is once again taking place online, but (very unlike me) I’ve decided not to take part this time. BUT WHY?¬†

  • I’m actually busy that weekend with a trip to Kew Gardens amongst other things, so I won’t be able to join live
  • I’ve got SO MANY tap and musicality workshop recordings to catch up on that I really don’t want to add even more to the list (you know how you can end up stacking up videos to catch up on, and never actually get around to it??)
  • Although the class recordings will be available for a month after the festival has taken place, last time I just didn’t manage to find the time to do them before they expired
  • I’m happy to wait until I can go to the physical event, which will hopefully return next year

I recently purchased the recordings of two really helpful TDFUK classes that I attended last year (with no expiry!), ‘Rudiments’ with Adele Joel and ‘Drills’ with Robin Passmore and I’m going to set aside some time this month to go through them…I promise!

The virtual Tap Dance Festival UK takes place 26th-27th February 2022 

Why Rhythm Tap?

Image from TDRNUK

Last week I spent a lot of time umming and ahhing over whether I was going to join Tap Dance Research Network UK’s lastest Zoom networking event: Tap Caf√© – Open Space.

Because I’m a member, my ticket was automatically booked and I got an email notification to let me know. I’ve only ever attended TDRNUK’s talks on a particular subject where I could just listen and write notes, and up to this point I’d chickened out of attending the networking events. I mean, the word ‘networking’ can make a lot of people run a mile. Well, last Thursday I decided to stop being silly and just GO!

It was a REALLY great session where a couple of questions were put forward and then we discussed them. We actually ran over time because an hour is really not enough to talk about all things tap dance, am I right? There weren’t as many people as at the last event I attended, but numbers have dropped off a bit on all kinds of online events since things have opened up again, and TDRNUK do vary the day of the week and time of day of their events to make sure everyone gets a chance to attend something. We started off by going round and introducing ourselves, something I had prepared myself for in advance. I was the only one there who is not teaching tap, but not the only newbie to the networking events, and can I just say, Jane Goldberg joined us from New York!

Rhythm Tap?

One of the questions that was raised was why we call it ‘rhythm tap’. The class I attend is called ‘Rhythm Tap’ and that name actually drew me in over the ISTD syllabus-led ‘Tap’ that was also available at that particular college (and I’m glad, from what I hear about syllabus tap). There was also ‘American Tap’ at Citylit, which was my other choice, and ‘Jazz Tap’ at Pineapple Studios, which are all the same thing and sound exciting! We kind of came to the same conclusions in our chat – in the UK, most people think of West End/Broadway musicals, like 42nd Street when they think of tap dance, which is all about the aesthetic quality, rather than the ‘rhythm tap’ style which is about sounds, musicality and improvisation.

If you go down the dance school route as a child in the UK, you’ll likely be doing the ISTD tap dance syllabus, which is fairly restrictive in terms of steps and rhythm, but it gives you what you need for a career in musical theatre. I’ve heard people say that by their early teens they’d learnt all there was to learn in tap, had nowhere else to go with it…and quit. This blows my mind because there is SO MUCH TO LEARN! But this made sense when, in our discussion, someone mentioned that when they were learning as a child, it was a case of ‘this is a shuffle, this is the timing for a shuffle and that’s that’. By saying ‘rhythm tap’, we are making the distinction, but I don’t believe this distinction really applies in the US. What do you think?

The Tap Caf√© session really picked me up after a busy and frustrating day at work and I really can’t wait for the next one!¬†