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

Third Position 

I haven’t done ballet in over a year, so just checking if I’ve still got it LOL. Even if I don’t sign up to a class in the autumn, I have several DVDs of traditional ballet barre class (and some that are more of a fitness workout) as you can see below!

Actually, my achilles tendons are aching a lot and I need to sort out my posture and alignment…head to toe! 

(Lace-up Shoes from TK Maxx) 

Burnout 

Ok, I have to admit it. I’m burnt out. I have missed two weeks of Tap classes and am also missing tonight’s class because I am off work and have zero energy. Although I felt I had to go because I’d been telling my teacher for two weeks that I’d be back “next week” and hadn’t been, and it’s the final class of term, I just knew it wouldn’t be sensible to go. I need the rest. 

I’ve had a lot on my plate over the last few months. A lot of my stress is work-related, but I need to stay employed so I figured it would be better to not burn myself out further tonight at a class so I can actually go to work tomorrow! 

Another aspect of burnout that I’ve been reading about is that a lot of dancers hold very high standards for themselves and can end up overdoing it by signing up to too many classes and not having enough recovery or even overdoing it at each class when the fitness level is not there yet. Of course there are other factors like getting enough sleep and nutrients, but you must listen to your body. Must! 

I think a good thing for me to do would be a yoga type class for relaxation and stress relief, while also aiding flexibility and strength. 

Next week will be the first of our tap workshops, so I’m going to rest up so that I’m back in the zone for learning the Shim Sham!

A Little Practice 

This evening I decided to actually practice the routines for tomorrow’s tap class, using what I filmed 2 weeks ago. I know I missed what extra they learned last week, but it won’t be so bad if I get the first bit right! 

Decided to glam it up this evening! 

42nd Street 

Last night a dance friend and I went to watch 42nd Street at the Theatre Royal in Covent Garden’s Drury Lane, which I believe is the West End’s largest stage. On arrival we just HAD to take a photo opportunity with the chorus girls before going into the theatre! We originally had tickets for the upper circle, but we were *upgraded* to the grand circle a tier below where we got an amazing view of the entire stage! I don’t know if this is because the theatre wasn’t full or because of the heatwave (those old theatres can be saunas), but heat rises, and they seemed to have some sort of of aircon going where we were, thankfully.

Programme

The show was absolutely amazing! The sets were brilliant, the costumes captured the 1930s Hollywood golden age and I loved the chorus girls’ colourful tap shoes! The songs were great, with a few you would recognise (such as We’re in the money, and Keep young and beautiful) but the choreography and dance was spectacular! Of course I was watching the Tap Dance from a tap student’s perspective where you are trying to recognise steps…  and it was just amazing how talented these people are! Of course they’ve been tapping since they could walk, so there’s no point comparing starting to learn as an adult!

I was also keen to see the show because a couple of dancers who were involved with the Brighton Tap Festival last year are in it (plus I also spotted the sister of a former school friend in the programme).

My verdict: A visual spectacular! If you love musicals, dance, the Hollywood golden age or just want a great night out, go and see it!

Heatwave 

Yesterday we experienced temperatures of up to 34 degrees centigrade in London. Oh that’s nothing compared to Australia/Dubai/India, you say. Yeah, except those countries are set up for hot temperatures. We’re not. And don’t get me started on the Tube (add on ten degrees). 

My office has been unbearably stuffy for the last few days and yesterday I was finding it hard to breathe normally (I had heat stroke last year and have a slight heart murmur, so no laughing matter really) so they told me to go home. I said “but I’ve got Tap tonight”. They told me “NO TAP”. So, I travelled home just before midday, and sat in my other office with the fan on, cat in the in-tray and a bottle of fizzy guava in my hand, trying to work from home. 

Emailed my tap tutor to let her know I wouldn’t be there and she recommended an ice bath 🛀. I was actually wondering before this whether I would even manage both classes seeing as Morley College has NO air-con. 

It’s 42nd Street tonight, and thankfully it has cooled down. 

Stay hydrated!