Friday Favourites

Theatre

Last night my colleagues and I went to see the brand new West End production of Prince of Egypt! It lasted an epic 2.5 hours and I didn’t get home until 11.30pm, but the singing was amazing and the staging was atmospheric and effective. Can I just mention that the dancers were fantastic? I didn’t expect that amount of dance, but it featured throughout the storytelling and the top-rate choreography definitely deserves a round of applause. The song When you Believe was a particular highlight, having been made famous by Whitney and Mariah. I would recommend!

Long Weekend

Earlier this month, my SO and I had a long weekend away, Friday to Monday, at a hot tub beach hut retreat by the sea in Devon. We walked the coast path, relaxed in the outdoor hot tub, read books, binge-watched US crime drama and chilled. There was a huge storm raging around us towards the end of the weekend, but we were fairly sheltered. We’ll definitely go back!

Garage Workout

Now that we’ve added to our home workout equipment and reorganised the garage space, my SO and I got out into the garage on Sunday afternoon and did a weight training session. Bluetooth speaker, banging playlist, aerobic warm-up, barbell, kettlebells, dumbbells and stretching. To improve my conditioning for tap dance, I would ideally like to exercise 3 times a week. Let’s see if we can make the weights session a regular thing!

Have a great weekend, whatever you’re doing!

A New Year’s Whodunit

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Happy New Year! I hope the Christmas holidays treated you well?

For me, there was lots of food and family time, plus half a day at work on New Year’s Eve. But I didn’t let office time spoil the week…my SO and I went to the theatre afterwards to see a matinee performance of Agatha Christie’s The Mousetrap – the longest running show in the world! Yes, the 1950s murder mystery show is now in its 68th year. It was very enjoyable, with lots of humour. I expected it to be more serious, like last year’s Witness for the Prosecution. However, as seems to be the case these days, there was someone behind us rustling a popcorn bag throughout act one, opening fizzy drinks and constantly fidgeting, like we were at the cinema, and not a LIVE STAGE SHOW. Anyway, getting back to The Mousetrap, as is tradition, I’m afraid I am unable to tell you whodunit!

I was back at work properly on Monday after lazing around for the best part of two weeks, and I will be returning to my intermediate rhythm tap class tomorrow after a 2 month break. I had signed up to an 11-week writing class at City Lit in Covent Garden, starting next week, but I changed my mind and got a refund, as I really need to buckle down and get some things finished first. That won’t happen if I’m out every Wednesday evening and my list of commitments is longer than before. I keep saying I want to ‘do less’ this year, so instead of committing to an 11-week course, I’m going to look out for one-off workshops instead, and use my free time to actually sit down and write. And practice ukulele!

On a different note, whilst in Covent Garden on New Year’s Eve, I came across dance wear specialist Bloch’s brand new shop, which had moved from its prior location in Drury Lane. I love checking out the tap shoes, so I went downstairs to the shoe area and found the brand new Jason Samuels Smith patent tap shoes:

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drool!

I already have leather versions in white and black, so I probably would go for a different colour in the patent…if I was splashing out on new shoes.

Which ones you do prefer?

Dorrance Dance Review

Last Thursday evening I went to Sadlers Wells, London’s home of dance, to see Dorrance Dance perform a triple bill: Three to One, Jungle Blues and Myelination. Led by Michelle Dorrance, Dorrance Dance are known for their Rhythm Tap as opposed to the typical theatrical showtap style, which made me jump at the chance to see them.

Jungle Blues

A lighthearted, southern, bluesy piece featuring the whole company. Smiling and laid back, with the gangly and awkward Warren Craft sliding around the stage in a slapstick fashion, it was fun to watch.

Three to One

After a short break, this piece began with 3 pairs of legs illuminated by a rectangle of light. Dorrance was in the middle in tap shoes and two barefoot male dancers were either side, doing exactly the same steps; an interesting concept of sound and silence, light and dark. Eventually they were fully lit and Dorrance is thrust into the darkness.

Myelination

This final, longer piece showcased the entire company, including the two breakdancers. The pint-sized B-girl was mesmerising in her contortions and fluidity of movement, if not slightly disturbing at points. I’m thinking of her frenetic movements on the ground, engulfed by red light as Warren Craft plays an electric guitar behind her, like something from The Exorcist (I’ve never seen the film, but I’ve seen enough trailers and silly gifs).

This show was pure rhythm and every sound was hit like a drum. Each dancer had their time to shine, and my favourite was Christopher Broughton’s old school tap solo, which was a nod to dancers such as the Nicholas Brothers, Bill ‘Bojangles’ Robinson and others. A suited Nicholas Van Young’s quick tapping brought to mind Gregory Hines’ close to the floor tap style.

Can I just mention the live jazz band on stage. The singing was exceptional. The guy on the keyboard and occasionally the drums had a voice like velvet. I’d buy his album!

I give the show 4 out of 5 stars for its innovative 21st century interpretation of rhythm tap dance, but it wasn’t as exciting as I was expecting, after rave reviews of previous shows. It was probably a little ‘out of the box’ for me this time.

5 Things in 5 Pictures

Autumn has definitely arrived

Despite the torrential rain (a hangover of Hurricane Lorenzo), this is still my favourite time of year. Well, apart from the clock change. Coats, scarves, boots, red and orange leaves, bonfires, firework displays, squashes and soups!

I joined a new gym! 

On Wednesday lunchtime I went to the council gym near work. Coming from the familiarity of the neat University gym, I had to have a look around the machines before getting started. They seem a bit more fiddly to load weight to, and some of them were broken. The air con wasn’t working properly. The steam room was CLOSED. But it is a busy gym of heavy usage, so not entirely surprising. I’ll be back on Tuesday, and I might even try the swimming pool. If it doesn’t work out, I may quit and return to the Uni gym in its temporary location.

On Wednesday night I had my second Ukulele class

I realised after the first class that I needed to cut my nails so I could press the strings properly! We had a substitute teacher as our tutor was unable to make it this week. The stand-in was very good and even got us onto strumming. We went over chords C, F, A minor, G7 and we even added C7. Lots of information, but I can see how learning a musical instrument (musicality, rhythm, strumming patterns, reading music, timing etc) feeds into tap dancing. Love it.

Watching Ballet on stage is like being in a dream

At the weekend, my SO and I went to Sheffield to visit his sister. On the Saturday evening, she took us to see Northern Ballet, currently celebrating 50 years, perform Cinderella at The Lyceum. The dancing was high quality, and because the story is so familiar (I loved my Ladybird books LOL), it was intriguing to see how they would stage the story. For example, in this production, the Fairy Godmother is a magician, first introduced at a Moscow winter market among other interesting circus performers.  I particularly enjoyed the crystal lake ice skating scene and the Prince’s winter ball. Enchanting, wintery and wonderful!

 

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I couldn’t quit tap if I tried

Last week I thought I’d made my mind up to take a break from rhythm tap classes once this 6 week block is up next week, and come back to it after Christmas, once my Ukulele classes have finished. I thought maybe I’d go swimming on a Thursday lunchtime instead – something that doesn’t require too much brainpower! But then I went to my class and LOVED EVERY MINUTE. I feel like I’m back ‘in the zone’, as Britney would say and I’m learning loads of new intermediate level things and have lots of fun things to work on…

Heartbeat of Home

I hope you’ve had a great summer? I’m just coming to the end of a relaxing two weeks off work…😭

In our first week, my SO and I went to North Devon for a relaxing week by the coast. We stayed in a little apartment in Lynmouth and did lots of walking and visiting National Trust properties and fishing villages. We also did a boat trip to Lundy Island on our last day. Unfortunately the 2 hour voyage there was extremely choppy, our boat rolling around like you wouldn’t believe, to the point that most of the 150+ passengers were using sick bags. Not nice! I just managed to avoid it by pulling my body up the stairs to the fresh air of the upper deck and trying not to look at the rising and falling water, but my poor SO didn’t 😦

Anyway, it created camaraderie among the passengers and we chatted to people who we kept bumping into later on when wandering around the island. Everyone felt ill! Thankfully the boat trip back to the mainland in the afternoon was so much better (you could eat, talk, take photos and like, walk LOL).

In our second week, we visited Osterley Park National Trust House in West London (making good use of our membership gift!), but the main task of the week was to paint the kitchen walls to finish off our Property Brothers style Farrow and Ball makeover, which began earlier in the summer with painting the cupboards and spraying the handles hammered black. Almost finished! I might do a separate kitchen makeover post at some point.

On Thursday we travelled into London to see the show Heartbeat of Home at the Piccadilly Theatre, to get my latest Irish dance fix! First we had pizza and pasta at Vapiano in Soho, before browsing some of the quirky shops and then heading to the theatre’s top floor bar, for a drink before our matinee performance at 2.30pm.

Heartbeat of Home comes from the producers of the world famous Riverdance, and is a high energy show telling the story of the common ground found by immigrants who travelled to the new world with nothing “but the hopes and histories remembered in the music”, through an amalgamation of dance styles, namely Irish soft shoe and hard shoe dance, Flamenco, Latin, Hip Hop, and Contemporary. I also spotted a bit of tap dance in there! There was an amazing live singer and live musicians on stage, which included the traditional Irish Uilleann Pipes and Bodhran drum. It was fantastic!

The theme of leaving one’s homeland echoed Rhythm of the Dance which I saw at my local theatre recently, but Heartbeat of Home differs with the addition of other dance styles and cultures.

Verdict: Still obsessed with Irish Dance!

The show is at the Piccadilly Theatre, London until 13th October.

Anyway, back to work on Monday – boo!

Check It Out

I never made it to my tap class last night because I was feeling a bit on the fatigued side and decided to head home and rest, instead of overdoing it and ending up unable to surface for a busy work day in the morning (or passing out in the studio). Sometimes you’ve just got to give in and rest.

As is tradition now, today I had a little practice of a pickup exercise we’ve been doing. Check it out LOL

 

 

I also booked tickets to see The Tap Pack at Sadlers Wells’ Peacock Theatre in Holborn next Thursday evening! I had kind of written it off due to going to 42nd Street this coming Saturday (oh by the way, turns out my brother used to teach the lead actress!) and wanting to calm it down a bit, but I got an email from Sadlers Wells featuring a clip of the show and the tickets are discounted for certain evenings… Cannot wait!

Courtesy of Peacock Theatre

Next Wednesday we have a guest teacher at our tap class so that should be fun!

OMG Cats Workshop

Pineapple Studios

So yesterday afternoon I went into London and took part in the OMG So Stagey Cats (The Musical) Workshop at Pineapple Studios, Covent Garden, taught by cast member Cameron Ball (Macavity/Admetus).

It was AMAZINGGGGGGG!!!

It was a packed studio as expected, and extremely hot until someone found the air con switch! We did a quick aerobic warm up consisting of jogging with various arm circles, plus some stretches and some cat-like movements and mannerisms to get us into character and ready for the routine we’d be learning…. The Jellicle Ball! OMG Yes, everyone was very excited!

If you know the Andrew Lloyd-Webber musical, you will know it’s the bit everyone gets excited about. It’s a 12 minute full on dance piece, but we were only learning the first few minutes. Apparently the full piece is notoriously a killer! The part we learnt is an audition piece – ooh!

The choreography by Gillian Lynne is amazing. Formerly a ballet soloist, she is now 94 and apparently still does the splits, every day. Wow.

I’ve been to see the show several times, including once at its original home, the New London Theatre in Covent Garden’s Drury Lane. I also have the show on DVD, which I used to dance along to a bit here and there, so I kind of know the part we were learning very well, but obviously we were learning the intricacies that you don’t pick up from a DVD, i.e. the particular steps, and the bits when the camera pans away to something else! But this prior knowledge definitely helped me remember where I supposed to be going because there are a lot of changes of direction. We performed the piece various times as a whole group, in 2 groups and even in 3 groups while the others watched. There were also people watching from outside the studio – all adds to the exhilaration of performing!

After learning the routine, we were then taught the bit at the very start very start of the Jellicle Ball, where we all begin by lying on the floor and then different cats pop up as they sense that someone is there (Grizabella, a fallen glamour cat). We were all labelled number 1, 2 or 3 and then each number had a different thing to do once the music kicked in. I was a number 1, so I was tapping on the floor with my claws 6 times, then I had to come up to standing, bring my hands up in front and behind my midriff with knees bent and then do a kind of jazz-hands, head shake, body shake. Others were shoulder shimmying and or shaking their booty. So much fun! This then led into our main routine, which we then performed all the way through in groups and all together!

I have to say I felt my back pinch the last time through, but, the show must go on! I was ok, I had just over-rotated when I was on the floor.

Watch the Jellicle Ball here (we ended at 1:18):

It was such a fun afternoon and I finally got to learn some of the Cats choreography, which I’ve wanted to do since I first saw the show in the 90’s.

p.s. Only one person was dressed up head to toe in costume, plus makeup! No, it wasn’t me 😁

OMG So Stagey do other West End Workshops at Pineapple (Kinky Boots, Les Miserables etc), so check them out if you’re in the London area.

Tap Factory 

On Friday evening my SO, his sister and I went to see Tap Factory at the Watford Colosseum! There were loads of young dancers in the audience eagerly awaiting the start.

The show was not what I expected at all! All the dialogue was in that kind of mime speak (think Tony Hart’s plasticine figure Morph, if you used to watch that), coupled with exaggerated facial expressions and physicality that made it so funny and captivating.

The setting was an industrial chemical factory, with scaffolding, ladders and oil drums, which served as just some of the percussive instruments. The guys (the workers) were wearing overalls and the boss and supervisor wore army camouflage trousers – the star of the show was a comedic little guy (Small Joe) who arrived late for the first day of work and had to prove himself amongst the others and their strength and masculinity.

The show was a mixture of amazing tap dance, incredible acrobatics (from a very smooth smiley guy who popped up every now and then), contemporary, break and street dance, flute playing, singing, and some audience participation with some call-and-response clapping…There was so much variety! My SO said it reminded him of Stomp if you’ve ever seen that show.

A great night out!

42nd Street 

Last night a dance friend and I went to watch 42nd Street at the Theatre Royal in Covent Garden’s Drury Lane, which I believe is the West End’s largest stage. On arrival we just HAD to take a photo opportunity with the chorus girls before going into the theatre! We originally had tickets for the upper circle, but we were *upgraded* to the grand circle a tier below where we got an amazing view of the entire stage! I don’t know if this is because the theatre wasn’t full or because of the heatwave (those old theatres can be saunas), but heat rises, and they seemed to have some sort of of aircon going where we were, thankfully.

Programme

The show was absolutely amazing! The sets were brilliant, the costumes captured the 1930s Hollywood golden age and I loved the chorus girls’ colourful tap shoes! The songs were great, with a few you would recognise (such as We’re in the money, and Keep young and beautiful) but the choreography and dance was spectacular! Of course I was watching the Tap Dance from a tap student’s perspective where you are trying to recognise steps…  and it was just amazing how talented these people are! Of course they’ve been tapping since they could walk, so there’s no point comparing starting to learn as an adult!

I was also keen to see the show because a couple of dancers who were involved with the Brighton Tap Festival last year are in it (plus I also spotted the sister of a former school friend in the programme).

My verdict: A visual spectacular! If you love musicals, dance, the Hollywood golden age or just want a great night out, go and see it!