Daytime Dance

This week I was way too tired to hang around after work and go to Wednesday night’s Rhythm Tap II class, so I emailed my teacher to ask if I could come to the Thursday lunchtime installment instead – all good!

I got to the college and checked the display board to see which studio we were in. Not the usual one. But then I spent 5 minutes running around the building looking for studio C10 when it turned out to be just along from where we are on a Wednesday night! I have to say, even after someone showed me to the corridor where it was, I still went through the wrong door (towards the boiler room) and then realised it was round to the right and up a short dark staircase! I should have just asked at reception *sigh*

I walked in to what is usually used as a rehearsal studio (it has mirrors, black walls, stage style lighting and an upstairs gallery area) and saw all these people milling around, chatting, changing; a couple of theatre-types furiously practising intricate tap steps in full leg warmers and stuff (honestly, it was like Fame when I walked in) and couldn’t see our teacher or anyone I recognised. I thought, am I in the right place? Then I spotted some older ladies I knew from level I daytime sitting to the side changing out of their tap shoes – phew! I was in the right place.

After the level one-ers cleared out, it was a class of about 7 students. I think I had been slightly nervous on the way there of a smaller class being quite exposing, but actually it was really good and more laid back. I need to stop being afraid of not getting it right away. After all it’s 45 minutes a week. I found 2 particular steps difficult when we learned them last week but after going over them all week (in the kitchen, in the corridor at work, in various larger shops!) I had them down by yesterday. One involves travelling backwards and then changing it to perform it on the spot. The other is a drop-shuffle-ball-change step where you change the shape of the shuffle so it goes around you so that you can travel forwards. I had to remember to begin with a drop-step in front first. It also helped to snap up the second part of the shuffle. I did find this more difficult on the left leg, but there we are! 

I realised that this daytime class was a week behind, so I got to repeat week 1 – boom! We filmed the routine we’d learnt and our teacher showed us the next little bit too – this helps because she said to me afterwards that they did a bit more on Wednesday night (being week 2), but I’d be fine. 

As it was a small class and we didn’t have to exit the studio right away, I got a chance to chat with our teacher afterwards about tap shoes (she has some lovely custom Ruben Sanchez shoes) and find out a bit more about her dancing background which was nice. 

Before next Wednesday I’m going to practice the routine as much as possible and watch the video to get a feel for the next bit.  

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Reflections on 2017

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I have finally had a chance this weekend to think back over the last year and my various dance pursuits. Some of the highlights:

  • Rambert Contemporary Dance Summer School – such a good day and I managed to keep up with the full time dance students, even with painful achilles tendons 🙂
  • Move It Dance 2017 – I go to this exhibition in London’s Docklands every year, but in 2017 I pushed the boat out and took a tap class with the Guinness World Record breaking tap dancer Jo Scanlan of Tap Attack!
  • Learnt the Shim Sham and had a go at Tap improvisation
  • Did ballet (barre only) course at improvers level at City Lit after pining for ballet for some time
  • Got my Maud & Chloe Arnold tap shoes for Christmas

I look forward to continuing my tap dance training and attending some more festivals and workshops in 2018!

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New year, New Vest

This evening I returned to Rhythm Tap level 2 at Morley College after almost a three month break. I was kind of nervous going back, but excited at the same time. 

As expected, it was a large class and plenty of familiar faces were there, people I’d been learning with from the beginning pretty much. Caught up with R, and another girl whose name I don’t know (can you ask after 2 years?). K wasn’t there, but as she works there, she might be continuing with the day classes.

Was the class as challenging as expected? Yes! It has become obvious to me that I just need a bit longer to process the step and then practice. The routine is pretty cool, but I do feel a bit like a fish out of water after being away in Ballet land, and although I enjoy it, part of me was like why am I putting myself through it? Ballet and tap are sooo different, and Rhythm Tap is probably harder still (plus the class is probably too big and I’m only doing 45mins a week). Although a tap teacher will tell you not to think about it, it really is a mental workout, whereas in Ballet I could get away with switching off and enjoying it if you know what I mean.  I want to get good at tap, and know all the basics properly, so I will see how these 5 weeks go before seriously thinking about doing ordinary 1-1.5 hour tap classes right from scratch, either as a supplement or instead of Rhythm tap for a term or so. 

On another note, we were down in the hot basement studio again and because works are being done on the building the windows were boarded up with the tiniest slither of air coming in! Arghhh 

Outfit alert

New Year, New You

I hope everyone had a fun Christmas and is ready and raring to go into 2018? Well, I’d love to say I am, but I’ve been stuck indoors with flu since Boxing Day evening. I was due back at work today, but I still don’t feel well enough to go anywhere. Thankfully I’m over the worst of it, my appetite is returning and I should be on the mend by the end of this week. Not how I wanted to begin the new year. 

Anyway, I got the Chloe and Maud Arnold tap shoes I wanted for Christmas! They were a joint present from my SO and his parents. I knew what they were as I’d picked them, but I was still extremely excited to open them on Christmas day.

I enrolled on Rhythm Tap 2 (now sold out!) which starts again next Wednesday evening. Can’t wait to get back into it! I also bought a ticket to the annual MOVE IT dance exhibition in London in March, and I got a class ticket for a tap workshop with London Studio Centre! Should be challenging…

My aim for 2018 is to get better at tap, set up a mini practice studio in the garage with my portable tap board and practice more in between classes. The other thought is whether to try syllabus tap classes to learn from scratch. There’s a 1hour class near home on a Friday morning which I may enquire about… 

Another aim is to stretch daily and maintain flexibility! 

Have you set any dance goals for 2018?

Movie Review – Tap

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A few weeks ago now my SO and I watched 1989 movie Tap starring the late legendary Gregory Hines. Gregory’s character Max Washington gets out of jail after a conviction for robbery and returns to his old New York stomping ground to the surprise of his old dance mentors and former lover…

The story hinges on whether he will stay on the straight and narrow and get involved in a tap project that Sammy Davis Jr’s character has envisioned, or whether he will give in to the lure of a life of diamond heists and cash-money.

I didn’t realise this when I bought the DVD, but there are loads of older tap legends in the movie (Sammy Davis Jr, Steve Condos, Harold Nicholas, Jimmy Slyde to name a few) as well as the talented Savion Glover, who is a kid in the movie, well known nowadays for bringing tap to modern audiences through his innovation.

Although it seems like that plot has been run before and there is a cheesy love scene, the tap dance and the characters make the movie, especially the old guys!

There is a thread running throughout the film of how real tap kind of got eclipsed by Hollywood ‘show’ tap. You will notice this when Max agrees to go and audition for the Broadway show and feels restricted by nicety, compared to the other, more freestyle tap scenes. This was also something my Rhythm Tap teacher alluded to when I mentioned I was going to see 42nd Street back in the summer.

I have 2 favourite scenes:

1) The funky street tap jam in the middle of downtown New York in the evening

2) When Gregory dances in the club with taps that are linked up to a sound system:

Verdict: If you love tap and want to know a little bit more about it’s history, you will love this!

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!