Rambert Adult Summer Dance Intensive

I have just got home from Day 1 of the Adult Summer Dance Intensive hosted by the Rambert Dance Company in their lovely modern studios by Waterloo Station. What a day!

I was a little apprehensive because I was going on my own and I haven’t done any contemporary dance since 2013… Anyway, I got there in plenty of time so I didn’t have to stress about being late.

The classes ran as follows:

10am Contemporary (Carolyn Bolton)

This was our warm up class, which got us doing typical ballet warm-up exercises, such as plies, releve, degage, grande battement etc. Aw, I’ve missed these! Then we moved into doing some contemporary exercises, including travelling corner to corner, jumps and a short routine. This was a lot of fun, but not being used to dancing bare foot lately, my achilles tendons did play up a bit on the jumps section. After this we had a 15 minute break to use the facilities, refill water bottles, grab a healthy snack and stretch.

11.30am Choreography (Stephen Quildan)

I had a feeling we would be creating our own choreography, and that’s exactly what we did! We had six words to interpret through movement: Spiral, Drop, Stab, Blue, Explode, Relax. Then we had to perform these in 2 separate groups in silence, then to a piece of music. The observing group then had to answer questions about the differences they noticed between say, music and silence, making eye contact with your partner or looking straight ahead or at the ceiling. Then we did some silly things at the end, including a dance Chinese Whispers game i.e. pass the move along the line… It really didn’t seem that scary to be performing in front of an audience. Definitely found it easier to come up with choreography in this workshop than I did at the Tap workshop the other day…

12.30pm Lunch break

1.30pm Repertoire Workshop: Tomorrow (Simone Damburg)

We were supposed to be learning the piece ‘Ghost Dances’, but they swapped the repertoire programme for the 2 days around, so we were learning ‘Tomorrow’, which is basically the story of Macbeth backwards. We were learning part of what is performed by the ‘witches’ on one half of the stage. It was so much fun! Lots of jagged movements, fast, slow, pauses, pulsing, shudder, shake! We ended up performing it in one big group with the teacher, Simone, then we performed it without her, then in two groups, then in four small groups (about 6 of us)! SO GOOD! Followed by a much appreciated 15 minute break.

3pm Stretch/Yoga 

For this class we had a cover teacher, so it took a while to get yoga mats and music sorted, but once we got started the relaxation could begin! My favourite bits were the child’s pose and lying on the mat! We were doing Yin yoga, which meant holding poses for around 4 minutes at a time for ‘deep tissue’ work. Some of it was a bit advanced for me, like even using a foam block didn’t help LOL. I also found my lower back was kind of jarred by it, so I will have to stretch and roll out the muscles this evening.

4pm Home time!

But not before filling out a feedback form and buying a T-Shirt!

Verdict: A good mixture of ages and abilities (from student to retired), and I didn’t once feel intimidated, even though some people were clearly more experienced dancers. Everyone was very friendly and the teachers who are all Rambert dancers made it a fun and relaxed environment. Being a relatively new building, the facilities are fantastic. Although contemporary dance is done bare foot, some wore socks for the whole day (I did on and off to avoid blisters when turning) and some wore foot thongs. I would thoroughly recommend the dance intensive or any of Rambert’s regular classes if you’re in London. I’m really glad I booked it and I enjoyed the chance to learn from the professionals (and other students) and to dance with such expression. BOOM!

www.rambert.org.uk

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Found a Cure

I’ve had painful achilles tendons for weeks and my calves were so tight and painful at points that stretching didn’t even seem beneficial. I was seriously considering cancelling the Rambert dance intensive coming up next Monday. Well, then my SO suggested I try using his foam roller. YES!

The foam roller did the job! It massaged out all those tender, tight muscles and trigger points. The next day, all stiffness, aches and pains were gone! Going forward I’m going to try and use it at least a few times a week, all the while continuing to stretch daily.

I received all the info today about Monday’s dance intensive and now I can be excited! I need to be there at 9.45am and we will be dancing barefoot (not done this in a while) so I’d better get the foot file and nail polish out 😁

The timetable is:

10-11.15am Contemporary

11.15-11.30am Break

11.30am-12.30pm Choreography

12.30-1.30pm LUNCH

1.30-2.45pm Repertoire workshop: Tomorrow (Was supposed to be Ghost Dances but a last minute change)

2.45-3.00pm Break

3.00-4.00pm Stretch/Yoga

 

Tap Workshop: Improvisation & Choreography

Tap Poster

Last night I went to the final Tap workshop as part of Morley College’s ‘Summer Shorts’…Improvisation and Choreography. There were less people than last week, but still plenty of us there for the 2 hour workshop.

We warmed up in a circle, then we went round the circle (like last week) and had to fill 4 bars with something using heels & toes only… ARGH! We did this a few times, and then we did some exercises in rows facing the mirror, such as playing with crawls, we refreshed our memories on some steps, did some call and response (i.e. respond to the teacher’s combination with something different, but to the same beat) and made up our own time step. We also made up some of our own choreography in pairs, and did some improvisation in smaller groups where one person danced in the middle and then signalled to someone that they were going to swap with them.

It was so much fun! But it was also kind of scary to come up with something on the spot when the spotlight is on you. I think it got easier as the time went on, but there is always that feeling of butterflies when you know you’re next! Everyone was in the same boat and really supportive of each other, and our teacher is very encouraging. I have done improvisation before in other styles of dance, but trying to make my feet do what I wanted them to do was another story! I’d love to drop into the splits and slide back up to standing like the Nicholas Brothers, or Prince, but it ain’t happening.

Great tips I picked up for improvisation:

  • Don’t plan ahead
  • Steal steps from other people!
  • Keep it simple

One I would add for me is to repetitively practice steps over the summer using your new tap board! We are DEFINITELY going to be moving to a house over the next few months (YAY!) so I will be able to utilise this resource more fully LOL.

Side note: I have been suffering a bit the last few weeks with tender Achilles tendons, but I didn’t want to miss this class, having missed three weeks of the last term of classes. I am wondering if my Achilles tendons are inflamed from over-use, plus I’ve had swollen ankles from the humid heat, which has thankfully cooled. I will rest after this…I promise (Rest, Ice, Compression, Elevation)! I have one more summer workshop coming up – the Adult Summer Intensive at Rambert, Waterloo, which one of my Tap friends might be joining me at. I need to see how I go. Might have to wear ankle supports.

Prince Splits

Yoga

Last night we went to Yoga. It was a gentle hour and a half class in a nice calm dance studio. My body was stiff and achy so it was really nice to lie down on a mat and chill out. We did several poses and stretches which really helped to loosen up my hamstrings, back and shoulders. The standing poses were also great and I particularly enjoyed the Tree pose as it made me test my balance!

It’s Here!

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So my tap board arrived yesterday while I was at work, and I didn’t know about it until I got home from the Shim Sham workshop! I ripped the box open like a child at Christmas! Then the cat commandeered the bubble wrap.

It’s a lovely wooden board, heavy but portable. Might be too heavy to take in the car to Cornwall with suitcases and the Nutribullet… The bottom is mounted with stoppers so it is elevated off the ground and it won’t slip around when pounding it. I tried it with my Bloch Sync MEGA tap shoes, but they are bit too loud and I currently live in a flat, (aka apartment for USA friends!), so I might use it with my cheaper shoes that I have at work as spares that are much quieter, or even just some hard soled lace-ups.

I am really pleased with this purchase and it came really quickly, considering I only ordered it last week. Now, time to stop spending!

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Tap Practice Board from Dream Beams & Bars Ltd

Shim Sham Shimmy 

Last night I went to the Tap Shim Sham workshop at Morley College. It was SO MUCH FUN! It was a much larger class due to there being people from levels 1, 2 and 3 present. I knew a lot of them, but not the level three-ers. Caught up with a few pals to explain my 3 week absence!

So what is the Shim Sham? It’s a simple routine that is known by tap dancers the world over, like the tap national anthem. It was developed by tap legends Leonard Reed and Willy Bryant back in the 1920s while touring the African American version of the Vaudeville circuit (TOBA).

Here is a clip of Gregory Hines doing the Shim Sham:

We started with a warm up and stretch  in a circle and then, working in 3 rows we started learning the steps, all done in a swing beat. We rotated rows just so that everyone got a chance to work in front of the mirror. For some reason my left ankle was hurting when I tried to shake it out, but it seem didn’t bother me while dancing. We learnt the dance to a slower track and then a fast one which was amazing!

We also did a short improvisation exercise back in a circle where every time there was a pause the next person in the circle had to fill 4 beats. Argh, scary when you know you’re next! This then fed back into the dance when we were free to improvise in the gaps. Several people did lots of taps when it was their turn, particularly the advanced people. I kept it simple with a cramp roll and three crawl beats but threw my whole body into it. This exercise plus the book I’m reading (The Greatest Tap Dance Stars & their Stories 19001955) has actually made me realise that it’s ok to have my own style and it’s not necessarily about hundreds of intricate taps but feeling the music, working within the rhythm and doing your thing!

Afterwards there was lots of chat about who’s coming next week, what are you doing in the Autumn, the Dorrance Dance and Old Kent Road workshops that some people attended on Sunday and Monday plus the Dorrance Dance show that’s currently on at Sadlers Wells. My teacher said I’d really enjoy it, but I really can’t fit it in this week or justify going to the theatre 4 times in the space of 4 weeks (2 performances were featuring relatives or people I know) 😩 I told my teacher that I did see 42nd Street a few weeks ago and she was saying how that style of tap is not necessarily as technical…

Got home at 9.30pm and my Tap Board had arrived!!! I have Thursday off work, so I can get stuck in 😊 Maybe I can prepare for next week’s two hour Improvisation & Composition workshop…

 

Order!

 

I’m so excited – this weekend I ordered a portable tap practice board! I actually had two expensive purchase options in mind, some new Bloch tap shoes by Chloe & Maud Arnold of the Syncopated Ladies (I was fortunate enough to take part in an Afro Funk workshop taught by Maud last year) or a tap board, which are about the same price. Then I thought about it and came to the conclusion that I already have some pretty good tap shoes (Bloch Tap Sync plus the Jason Samuels Smiths in white), but my real frustration has been not being able to practice at home in my tap shoes because I will ruin the floor (I also have a neighbour below, but he works unsociable hours so thankfully is never home in the evenings). I will let you know how I get on with it when it arrives.

Tap Board

On another note, I am going to start going to gentle yoga on a Friday evening at my local leisure centre. I actually used to go to that class with my SO a few years ago, but we got out of the habit. He runs for an athletics club and has recently started doing pole vault. I dance, but don’t do nearly enough stretching at the moment. We were chatting about it last night and then you wouldn’t believe it…while walking around town this afternoon, we bumped into the teacher! A sign?! So we sorted out our free drop-in loyalty cards and booked in.

I’m really looking forward to it. That particular class had mainly older members, so it was way more relaxed than the one I tried at London South Bank University, which was like an hour’s push-up class :$ It will be a nice way to unwind at the end of the week and hopefully will help with a bit of the stress I’ve been under.

How do you cross train or stay flexible? Do you find yoga or Pilates helpful?

maudchloe
Photo of Chloe (L) & Maud (R) Courtesy of the Washington Post