Just Been

I’ve just been to my lunchtime Rhythm Tap class. I have to say I didn’t leave work early enough to get there with some breathing space, so I was overheated and a bit out of breath. Ah, how I miss the joy of last week when I was on holiday and able to breeze in, all relaxed with plenty of time to spare…

Didn’t really feel like my brain was totally engaged, and I felt like I was second-guessing myself at times. It didn’t help being woken up in the early hours by a cat paw prodding me in the face!

dav
Gimme biscuits!

But anyway…we practised some flaps and co-ordination exercises, and we also learnt an exciting new swung walk, which began with a heel-dig in front and ended with a spring onto the other foot. When I say swung, or swing beat, it means rather than doing a 4 beat step as an even ‘1-2-3-4’, you do it as ‘a-ONE-and-two’.  I’ll try and practice this while it’s fresh.

Then we went through our routine, but as I said, I wasn’t being as deliberate with my steps as I would like.

Chatted to K at the end of the class about doing ballet and contemporary dance.  Our teacher had some amazing new blue Ruben Sanchez tap shoes. I like!

One thing about going back to Weds night ballet and Thurs lunchtime tap is to think about how I am going to co-ordinate kit bags. Need to ponder this when I get home later.

Hope you’ve had a fun dance week?

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B2B (Back to Ballet)

Leotards1

Filled with nervous excitement, last night after work, I went back to Ballet at the Barre! I left work at 4.20pm and caught the bus over Waterloo Bridge to Covent Garden, and then did a quick walk to City Lit. Went to the ladies toilets to get changed because the changing rooms are always occupied, but was a bit unsure about my outfit. I ended up wearing my pink leotard, black leggings, black wrap cardi and black ballet skirt, which I hadn’t worn before. The leggings kind of pulled down a bit during the class, so next week I’ll wear tights instead.

I recognised a lady called F who had been in the class the last two terms I had been, so I went on the barre by the window next to her. There were about 10 or so of us in the class, including 2 guys (plus our teacher M is also a man).

We did a head-to-toe warm up, followed by some fun things like grande battements en croix, (which I actually remembered from last time, so I wasn’t phased by which direction I was supposed to be facing), ronde de jambe (which were lightening fast for my unfamiliar feet, although it helps me to focus on the beat and the letter ‘D’). We concluded with jumps and changement. Still amazed at how my achilles are problem-free since hill-walking in Cornwall!

I was surprised to be asked to demonstrate the changement exercise while everyone watched. I mean, I haven’t done any ballet for well over a year! That was a definite feeling of imposter syndrome.

M then suggested that we take a few minutes at the end of the class to stretch before leaving. I made sure I did just that. He asked me if I’d been doing ballet class, and I was telling him all about tapping at Morley College and how weird it is to find ballet form again. Ballet is all poised and pointed and tap all bent knees and laidback.

I came away with a couple of things to work on:

  • Little toe on the ground & heel forward when pointing the toes en avant (forward)
  • General foot flexibility (tap, what have you done to me :))
  • Keep bottom tucked under 🙂

 

First Week

A rare outfit post

Yesterday I travelled into London with my SO so that I could attend the first Rhythm Tap 2 (advanced beginners) class of the new term! I left him to do his 4 bridge walk of the Thames, while I headed to Morley College. I felt quite nervous again after the break and I guess anticipating who would be there as I hadn’t been to the daytime classes in a while.

Besides that, when I got to the display board, I saw that the class wasn’t in the usual studio in the basement, but in a studio in the other building next door! Thankfully, I knew the other building from having attended Pilates there a couple of years back, so I knew where to go.

I got changed in my usual venue (toilet cubicle in the main building) and then made my way to the other building, bumping into the head of the dance department on the way and smiling at him as though he was supposed to remember teaching me back in 2012…

Got to the correct place and then had to check in with the security desk there and basically they won’t let students through until a minute before the class begins. Not as relaxed as the main building!

I spoke to a couple of new girls on the way in and then caught up with K and said hi to a few other familiar people who were coming out of level 1. It’s a small class, being 1.30 in the afternoon, but I like that – there’s about 7 of us.

The class was really great fun! It felt weird being back in tap shoes after so many weeks, and it took a few moments to get balanced on the balls of my feet to execute quicker shuffles, but I LOVE the warm up song we’re using (California Soul by Marlena Shaw).

For some reason I had a reluctant left foot/ankle so I kept missing a few things. Part of that is probably because my ankle has been feeling like it has needed to click for about 2 months now…and hasn’t! But at the same time I think my tapping was a bit cleaner than it has been and I got some encouraging feedback. I actually think I prefer the new studio as it’s better ventilated and not slippery like the basement studio, but my front tap plates are still slicing the floor and getting stuck sometimes mid-flow.

The routine we’re learning is really cool, and I’ve actually remembered most of what we learnt!

At the end our teacher called me back over and said she thinks I perhaps should try level 3, which I guess is intermediate! I said “really? Are you sure?” and she said it would challenge me, but maybe do these 6 weeks of level 2 and see how it goes. My teacher was excited and I was like arrggghhh! Anyway, I’ll keep you updated on my progress. I want to stick with the daytime level 2 and evening ballet until January ideally.

Book Review

Tap book

Tap! The Greatest Tap Dance Stars and their Stories 1900-1955 by Rusty E. Frank 

I have finally got around to writing this brief review, having finished reading this book back in July!

LA tap dancer Rusty E. Frank has compiled this fabulous book of interviews with all the tap dancing greats of the early to mid twentieth century as a potted history of tap. The book opens with a foreword by tap legend Gregory Hines (one of my faves!) who briefly describes the origins of the Jazz art form and the various styles and rhythms that evolved.

The book is then split into 3 parts:

Part 1: 1900-1929 (includes people such as Willie Covan, Ruby Keeler and Leonard Reed (of the Shim Sham Shimmy))

Part 2: 1930-1939 (includes the Nicholas Brothers (LOVE them!), Shirley Temple, Fred & Gene Kelly and Jeni Legon (known for wearing trouser suits…shocking!)

Part 3: 1940-1955 (includes Gene Nelson and Brenda Bufalino)

Within each section, each chapter covers a different dancer, with some introductory blurb on the historical context of the era and what was happening on the dance and entertainment scene, followed by an autobiographical interview with the dancer. Being an American art form, you can’t ignore the fact that the book covers the era of segregation. The biggest example of this is the separate entertainment circuits of Vaudeville and the TOBA (the African-American version), minstrel shows, and the separate clubs, such as the famous gangster-owned Cotton Club which was for black entertainers and white audiences. There was some cross-over, but mostly for those who were able to “pass” as white, such as Leonard Reed…until he was found out.

It was interesting to read how each dancer had their own style within a style (flash, soft shoe, Buck & Wing, rhythm tap, acrobatic). Some were tapping from childhood, some fell into it and some came from classical dance backgrounds (e.g. Gene Kelly, Ann Miller), which clearly influenced their tap style. It was also amazing how many dancers learnt from, danced with, were influenced by or loved to compete with Bill Bojangles Robinson, the world’s greatest tap dancer. (It is said that he was a tap perfectionist who put hours and hours into his craft).

Helpfully, there is a glossary of terms at the end of the book, which I referred to regularly, followed by a series of Appendices covering all the tap acts, the years they were active and what they were known for, plus a list of tap in film and on record, which is also worth looking at.

Verdict: A fantastic snapshot of tap dance and entertainment through the Jazz Age, the War years and the post-war years, straight from the horse’s mouth, if you will. A MUST-HAVE for any tap dancer if you want to understand where it all began and how it developed. I’m really pleased tap dance is making a come-back 🙂

 

Late Summer Holiday

I’m now home after a nice week in St Ives in Cornwall. Although I took some of my home-laminated cards of stretches with me, I didn’t get around to doing many, although I did make sure I stretched my calves after all the uphill walking we did! We visited St Michael’s Mount, Truro, Falmouth and the famous cliffside Minack Theatre to watch a live performance of The Country Wife. I can’t believe tap starts again next week! It may be a bit of a shock to the system. I’ll still be on holiday, but I’m going to travel in, go to the class and maybe combine it with a trip to London Zoo.

Refresh 

Ok, I did it…I redeemed my City Lit discount voucher and booked a place on the Ballet at the Barre course starting on Wednesday 20th September! It starts a week after tap begins, and runs for 12 weeks. Tap runs in 6 week blocks (Thursday lunchtime) so I may pause after the first block is finished and concentrate on ballet until January. 

I wasn’t going to enrol, but all year I’ve felt like my body has seized up a bit and I’ve lost my core muscles, posture and ankle strength since solely doing tap, and I really like the strengthening and flexibility that ballet provides. 

I’ve forgotten everything I learned, so I’d better refresh my memory while I’m away in Cornwall next week! 

Goals

_20170823_155823In all my obsessing over whether or not I should return to ballet, I sat down with my notebook at lunchtime and found there my list of things to practice for tap dance over the Summer! These were:

  • Flaps
  • Shuffles
  • Shuffle-step-heel
  • Time step (single, double & triple)
  • New time step (can’t remember what this was – doh!)
  • Pick-ups (no claw toes please)
  • Pickup-hop-step (travelling backwards)
  • Suzy-Q (master the left)
  • The SHIM SHAM!!!

Although I have been distracted, I have actually been practicing the Shim Sham at every opportunity. This has often been at work either in the ladies toilets or the corridor to the stairs ha-ha!

Now that I’ve reminded myself of this list, I can get on with practicing some of these steps before we resume in September. My goal is to try to master some of these basic steps and then get a little bit quicker…

Did you set yourself any dance goals to achieve this summer? How about for next term?