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 1900–1955) 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…
The amazing 42nd Street is now on in the West End and I would love to see it! I’m sure I heard that Kate Ivory Jordan (whose Beginner’s Tap Workshop I did in Brighton) is in it.
Anyway, I caught a clip of the cast performing on BBC1’s The One Show recently, and I don’t know why, but the first bit really makes me laugh. Watch for yourself!
Went to the glamorous and quirky neighbourhood of Notting Hill to see Old Kent Road’s tap show ‘Fallout’ on Thursday evening after work.
OMG these people are so talented! If you get a chance to see some of their work… Do it!
A totally engaging show, amazing tap skills and musicality. Founder Avalon Rathgeb is mesmerising to watch and the live band was fantastic. There was a half hour Q&A at the end where I was kind of poised to ask a question but kind of missed my chance… Or chickened out.
What I really wanted to know was how they look after their feet! I mean, I’m only doing 1.5 hours a week and I get foot fatigue, aching toenails, blisters…
Despite Storm Doris wreaking havoc during the day, Clive and I got there and back to the burbs no problem.
Was great to see a few people from our Rhythm Tap classes at Morley in the audience as our teacher is Old Kent Road’s company manager.
Watching these amazing dancers gave me renewed enthusiasm for Wednesday nights and left me wondering how I can put more hours in.
An amazing evening all for only £15!
Back in the tap studio this evening for Rhythm Tap 1 and 2 after having a week break for half term. I had a flu type virus from Thursday to Monday so I wasn’t sure how I’d be until today.
As is always the case at the beginning of a new 6 week block, we went over some of the basics and I was really glad to learn how to do a Suzy Q properly! We used it in a routine last time, but I realised as I was travelling, that I didn’t know what the heck I was supposed to be doing with my feet. Now that I know, I love it! It was the first stamp across the body that I was missing a few weeks ago.
We did lots tonight, our coordination was challenged and unusually for me, my knees are hurting. And my toes, but that’s not unusual.
Tomorrow night off to see Old Kent Road Tap company’s new show ‘Fallout’ at The Tabernacle in Notting Hill. Should be fun!
Last Thursday I went to Watford’s Pump House Theatre to watch a Belmont Theatre production of Stepping Out, written by Richard Harris and first performed in the West End in 1984. It was also made into a movie in 1991 starring Liza Minnelli and Julie Walters; I need to get this!
The story is basically about a group of people who attend a weekly tap class in their local church hall, each with their own foibles and quirks, and through the course of the play, snippets of their lives and backgrounds come to the fore. This, interspersed with a bit of tapping here and there, culminating in a final showstopper!
I really enjoyed this performance at this little, intimate theatre (so intimate in fact, we saw people we knew, including one person in the play!). The acting was good, the setting was believably suburban, the jokes worked (if not a little forced in places), dramatic moments cut through the humour and the dance wear certainly caught your eye.
Now, as a tap student myself, I was really looking forward to seeing the tap dancing, but as this was presented by an amateur dramatics group, it wasn’t the best I’ve seen. Watching the final showstopper, I think there were maybe 2 or 3 ladies who have trained in tap dance, while the rest maybe hadn’t done any prior to this show (if they had, I apologise!). But, that made it all the more believable, rather than everyone suddenly becoming a perfected Ginger Rogers at the end. I like the fact that people sometimes trip over a line or speak at the same time as another character by accident, because that is the BEAUTY of LIVE performance. No editing. I’ve seen West End shows where the singer’s voice has cracked, or they got out of breath, or the stage equipment got stuck, and that shows that they’re human.
I would definitely recommend seeing a production of this show if you get the chance (or watch the film).