Knees

Ever since I decided to throw myself 110% into Tap Dancing, I have found that it has affected my knees a bit, depending on what exercises we’ve been doing. The culprits for me have been things like shunts and stomps. I’ve been dancing fine, but then hobbling around like an old lady at the weekends. I did start to wonder if this was just part of starting Tap in your thirties, but after doing a bit of reading around, I realise it is probably more a case of needing to strengthen the muscles that actually hold the knee in place. I have to say it has helped a lot after just a week!

Blausen_0597_KneeAnatomy_Side

My top exercises for dodgy dance knees:

  • Demi-pliés – in 1st, 2nd and 3rd positions
  • Developpés…slowly
  • Tendu
  • Sitting on the floor and raising each leg alternately to strengthen the quads
  • Leg raises while lying on your front to strengthen the hams

So basically a mini ballet class! I just used a chair (as my purple foldaway ballet barre is currently in storage). It also helps to stretch the quads and hamstrings on a daily basis.

The Mind Boggles 

Tonight we were back to Rhythm Tap level 1 and 2 classes! As usual it felt a bit alien after a week’s break, but I got back into the swing of things pretty quickly. I find it’s best to just calm down and enjoy it… Especially the 1930s jazzzzz…

Both classes were quite large as is usually the case, but it didn’t feel like a hindrance this time as people spaced out quite well. It was great to see faces who had returned, including R and K!

One highlight of the week was learning the six beat riff, yes, SIX beats! It was very exciting! The other was a new time step that I feel I recognise maybe from watching tap dance in the past.

I have to say I found the routines quite challenging, and a few of us agreed about this at the end and decided that our teacher does it to gauge what students are capable of. A couple of people had just done their first double class (ie the addition of level 2) and were reassured when I (apparently a veteran!) said I found the routines really hard this time. And when they spoke to our teacher before that, I heard her say she is going to challenge us and not give us things we can already do! It’s true – that’s how you get better.

Resistance

This week is half term, so there are no tap classes this week. I am actually glad of the break because I have barely gone a week without tapping recently, and my knee was bothering me a bit over the weekend. I’ve also had a bit of plantar fascia twinge recently, so instead of schlepping about at home barefoot or in slippers, I’ve been trying to wear my (not) Birkenstocks because they give excellent arch support.

 

Birkenstock

Speaking of the weekend, there were LOADS of dance wear sales on, and I got some very tempting emails from Pineapple, Dance Direct and Bloch. However, I resisted!

I spent my money on something else instead…tickets to see 42nd Street in the West End! I’m going with a dance friend on the 22nd June after work…can’t wait!

International Tap Dance Day!

Today, the 25th of May, is International Tap Dance Day! Love it! To celebrate, I have started reading ‘Tap!’ by Rusty B. Frank, at long last, after saying I was going to read it over the Christmas holidays and write a review…

Yesterday was the hottest day in May since the 1940s I think, and I had my usual level 1 & 2 Rhythm Tap classes at Morley. Well it really was like a sauna! It was the final week of our half-termly course, so after lots of practice exercises (including the (sweaty) 3-beat paddle and 5-beat riff) we worked on the final pieces of our level 1 ‘Let it Shine’ (Take That) and level 2 ‘Mr Bojangles’ routines.

Bill ‘Bojangles’ Robinson (25 May 1878 – 25 Nov 1949) was an African American tap dancer and entertainer, who performed in minstrel shows, and later vaudeville, Broadway and television. His signature was the ‘stair dance’. He is best known for dancing in several films with Shirley Temple, and overcame many racial barriers in his time. You can find loads about him online.

220px-Bill_Robinson

I believe the song ‘Mr Bojangles’ written by Country singer Jerry Jeff Walker was inspired by a tap dancing homeless street performer who called himself Bojangles. A lot of people have sung ‘Mr Bojangles’, and I’m not sure who sang the version we used, but I thought I’d share the lyrics:

I knew a man Bojangles
And he’d dance for you
In worn out shoes

With silver hair a ragged shirt
And baggy pants
He would do the old soft shoe

He would jump so high
Jump so high
Then he lightly touch down

He told me of the time he worked with
Minstrel shows travelling
Throughout the south

He spoke with tears of fifteen years
How his dog and he
They would travel about.

But his dog up and died
He up and died
And after twenty years he still grieved

He said “I dance now
At every chance in the Honky Tonks
For my drinks and tips

But most the time I spend
Behind these country bars
You see on I drinks a bit”

Then he shook his head
Oh lord when he shook his head
I could swear I heard someone say please

Mister Bojangles
Call him Mister Bojangles
Mister Bojangles come back and dance please

Come back and dance again Mr Bojangles

Written by Jerry Jeff Walker • Copyright © Sony/ATV Music Publishing LLC, Warner/Chappell Music, Inc

Rainy Days and Improv

Rainy Day

Yesterday was such a miserable, rainy day in London. I’ve been really stressed out recently and I really wasn’t feeling like going to Tap after work, but I knew that it would cheer me up and I would be energised…which it did, and I was!

I spoke to my teacher when I was grabbing water before the class started and told her I have booked a place on her Tap Shim Sham class, but I wasn’t sure about the Improvisation & Composition class the following week, and if I would be the right level. (Told her about my previous experience of Improvisation when I was still a beginner and didn’t have enough steps in my vocabulary to do a lot) She said I should definitely do it. It sounds as though it will be a relaxed and fun 2 hour workshop for level two upwards, so I am booked on!

So my summer programme is looking like this:

Weds 12th July – Tap Shim Sham 7-8pm

Weds 19th July – Tap Improvisation & Composition 6-8pm

Monday 31st July – Rambert 1 Day Adult Dance Intensive 10-4

I’m really looking forward to it, and I’ve got a day off after each event so I pace myself and don’t end up ill again.

Unfortunately I didn’t get a chance to mention the workshops to my friend last night, and she zipped off as soon as the class was finished.

It’s funny, a girl at the level 1 class last night was asking me about other classes I’ve done as she’s interested in doing ballet as well, but is not sure about days and timings. She said she has a habit of overcommitting and burning out. Yeah, me too!

To alleviate some of the stress and back ache I am feeling at the moment, I have booked a 1 hour aromatherapy massage tomorrow afternoon. I was only going to get a half hour back massage, but the receptionist said they have a new therapist and all of her treatments are currently half price! So I went for the full hour. Hopefully it will be good…

 

Summer School

This week I have sorted out what dance I am going to do this Summer, after hearing that there is no Brighton Tap Festival this year.

Shim Sham

Yesterday I booked onto Tap Shim Sham with my usual tap teacher, which takes place at Morley on Wednesday 12th July. As it will be a late one getting home, I’m taking the next day off work!

Rambert
Photo Courtesy of Londondance.com

Secondly, I have gone all out and booked a place on the first day of the 2-day Adult Summer Dance Intensive with Rambert, based at Waterloo! I’m nervous, but also really excited! It will give me a chance to do something non-Tap. I’ve been chatting with a lady at Tap class about doing something along the lines of ballet barre or yoga to stretch out a bit, so I might mention it to her if she’s there this evening. It involves Contemporary dance technique, repertoire, choreography and some yoga and Pilates to finish! I’ve booked the following day off so I can recover LOL.

I’ve also since discovered, that my tap teacher is also doing a 2 hour Tap Improvisation & Composition class on Weds 19th July! That would be great, but not sure if that will be one thing too many, with work and the possibility of moving house… Must pace myself.

Anyone else doing any summer schools or festivals this year? How do you find fitting in dance classes and work (and commuting?)?

Wednesday 

Really fun classes tonight! Crawls, pick-ups, shunts (watch those knees!), riffs, and more! Did a pick-up ‘plait’ which is basically doing pickups in a triangle. Managed it, but definitely something to practice!

Right, I’m off home to shower and eat! Made a lovely Goan fish curry last night…