Be on Time!

Today I was an idiot. Actually, no, it was 4 of us and a misunderstanding. I left work with plenty of time to get to my tap class, then saw my friend R from Wednesday evening tap class was waiting to go in. We hadn’t seen each other since July, so we were chatting away catching up on things. It turns out she did get to go to the Rambert workshop in July, but she went to day 2 of 2 (I went to day 1). I think she must have danced with most of the people I danced with on the Monday as most of them were doing both days. She enjoyed it as much as I did and also felt, as I did, that the yoga at the end of the day was a bit too advanced! Anyway, after a while I tuned into the fact music had been playing for a little while, looked in and realised the class had started! Two other girls from the class had been chatting as well, so we all scurried in together and realised we had missed 10 minutes!!!

Anyway, our teacher explained that everyone who was in level 1 had stayed on for level 2, so I guess the four of us outside the studio were waiting for people to exit, alerting us to the fact we could go in, but no-one did! So we missed the warmup ūüė¨ She also said it felt like a strange atmosphere. I think because of that weirdness at the beginning. I think we soon shook that off.

We did a couple of exercises and got straight into the Cornflake Girl routine, which I have been practicing and studying all week. I have come to the conclusion that I work better under pressure in dance. I actually felt like I was ON IT today! No lazy hesitant left foot. Did some quick alternating side shuffles which feature in our routine and I think it was the first time I’ve actually done them evenly! But my teacher did pull me up on my cat claw toes, which is my trademark. I think it helped doing the shuffles with the two newer girls who tapped as kids. They knew what they were doing so I just went with their speed. Fun!

Learnt a rhythm turn which seemed complicated, but it’s really not. Not until you try to do it on the left… It just takes practice.

The routine is brilliant, probably my favourite so far after the heel drop heavy I’m only Human After All routine. Challenging, complex, creative!

This weekend I’m going to start reading my new book about the Jazz Tap of the¬† Nicholas Brothers!

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La La Land

This morning I booked a place on a La La Land tap dance workshop, taking place at Arts Educational in Chiswick in a few weeks’ time!

It will be half-term that week, so there is a break from my usual tap class. I am always looking out for opportunities to try out what I have learnt, so it will be interesting to try a 1.5hr workshop with a different teacher, and see how it varies in style. I know my usual teacher said that Hollywood style tap is very different to Rhythm tap, suggesting the Hollywood footwork is less technical. Rhythm tap is more syncopated and complex.

“Rhythm tap, made famous by John W. Bubbles, incorporated more percussive heel drops and lower-body movement rather than emphasizing toe taps and upper-body movement. It is more grounded and focuses more on acoustic rather than the aesthetic qualities. Gregory Hines brought back this style…demonstrating that rhythm tap‚Äôs focus is always on the feet.”¬†http://www.humankinetics.com/excerpts/excerpts/learn-the-styles-and-aesthetics-of-tap-dance

Maybe La La Land will be easier to pick up compared to what I usually do… or maybe not! I haven’t seen the film, and Ryan Gosling’s free hand really bothers me in the movie poster (see above), but maybe I should try and watch it before I go, to get into the character…

In the meantime, I have been practising the Tori Amos rhythm tap routine¬†at every spare moment. The next part we’re going to learn looks a little complicated, but there’s a real sense of achievement when you get it. Hopefully I won’t have a lazy left foot today.

Oooh, I have lots of tap stuff lined up this Autumn – never mind that we’re¬†anticipating a house move in the next month or so! (Yes, that scenario is still dragging on, *sigh*)

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*This Week’s Classes*

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Ballet

At ballet this week we learnt how to do a petit jet√©…

I left work earlier than last week after what was actually a good day (it has been a while!) and got changed and warmed up before the class began – yay! We were fuller than the previous week, so I tried my hardest not to kick or headbutt anyone’s clenched buttocks in front of me. There were a few more ladies who I recognised from previous courses, but I’m not sure they recognised me as one lady assured me she wasn’t the teacher.

We did a lot of work on our turnout and on our feet. My feet will eventually get better, and I even remembered some corrections from last week, but I know I do find it hard to isolate parts of the feet. Like, I’ll never be the person who starts to use their toes to type on a keyboard… Unless I had to ūüėā

One thing I concentrated on was continuing to breathe, relaxing and “indulging” in the movements. I definitely enjoyed it more this week because of that.

My rond de jambes were “almost there” but I now need to whoosh the movement bit more. One point our teacher made to the class was that we need to make sure we’re not moving our hips and upper bodies as we do it, and proceeded to demonstrate (with exaggeration) what some of us were doing, with his hair flying backwards and forwards – very comical!

I really enjoyed learning the petit jet√©¬†¬†towards the end of the class! It literally means ‘small throw’. I’ve never done one before in my life, but my teacher thought I was familiar with it. No, I just give that impression LOL. I think it probably helped when M demonstrated that I could recognised it through watching ballet. I am definitely a visual learner.

Rhythm Tap 

Tap seems to be ramping up a bit these days in terms of difficulty level! I think perhaps I am finding only 45 minutes a week too short a time to really cement anything in my mind, but that’s how it needs to be for now. It also made me think that I would like to go back to basics and perhaps learn syllabus tap next year. I had no experience of tap dancing prior to beginning classes back in 2014, and then didn’t start regular classes until a year later. K said something similar to me last week about perhaps doing the syllabus class on a Monday to learn it as you would if you were starting tap as a child.

Anyway, back to today’s class: we practised again our swung flap exercise which included turning on the spot. We also did the heel-toe-back tap-jump back-heel-toe-scuff, which is like a skipping action. I need to remember to keep it on the toes – weight placement again! We also learnt another complicated combination, let’s see if I can remember:

R: Side shuffle-dig-heel drop L: forward shuffle-ball change.

Then to change sides, you have a break where you do the combination 2.5 times, finishing mid-way through the ball change. I guess a ‘ball’ without the ‘change’. Then you can start on the other leg. Took a while to get it, but we got there in the end!

The routine is really cool, and I worked out the song is¬†Cornflake Girl¬†by Tori Amos. My teacher kept asking me if I knew what song it was, and it just wasn’t familiar at all. But on looking it up, it was released in 1994 when I was still a newbie at secondary school, so maybe I had too much other stuff on my mind to notice that song!

We learned the next part of the routine, and oh my, it got complicated! I’ll get it with time, I just need to practice from what I filmed at the end of class today.

 

 

Tap Dance in America

This weekend, I finally got around to watching Gregory Hines: Tap Dance in America on YouTube.

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Image courtesy of YouTube

It was originally shown on PBS back in 1989 I believe, and it is clearly from someone’s VCR recording that they probably transferred to DVD at some point.

It lasts almost an hour and gives a great run-down of the leading tap artists in America, quite a few of whom are sadly no longer around. But here you get the chance to see them in action, on stage or taking part in a tap battle. Tap is definitely a social dance! You might recognise legend Honi Coles as the bandmaster in¬†Dirty Dancing (I’m talking about the original film, not the disrespectful-to-Swayze remake).

Watching the documentary, my favourite performances were from Gregory Hines (of course!), a young Savion Glover and the duo of Gregg Burge (choreographed Michael Jackson’s Bad)¬†and Hinton Battle (Scarecrow in Broadway version of¬†The Wiz).¬†Battle and Burge really reminded me of the Nicholas Brothers in the way they did classical tap, complete with jetes, leapfrogs and the splits. Brenda Bufalino was also great to see perform as I’ve heard and read a lot about her and I believe she taught a masterclass in London earlier in the year.

There is also a bit of comedy running through the documentary about trying to get Gregory Hines to tighten the screws on his taps (some tappers dance with loosened tap plates, others don’t) – I’m quite a stomper, so I like my tap plates tightened to the shoe.

Verdict: This ever so 80’s PBS special is definitely worth watching as part of your tap immersion. Some enjoyable viewing on a lazy Saturday afternoon.

The next tap-related film I want to watch is Tap starring Gregory Hines (1989). I caught a clip on YouTube where people were dancing on tables and it looks so New Jack Swing FUNKY. Takes me back. Love it!

Just Been

I’ve just been to my lunchtime Rhythm Tap class. I have to say I didn’t leave work early enough to get there with some breathing space, so I was overheated and a bit out of breath. Ah, how I miss the joy of last week when I was on holiday and able to breeze in, all relaxed with plenty of time to spare…

Didn’t really feel like my brain was totally engaged, and I felt like I was second-guessing myself at times. It didn’t help being woken up in the early hours by a cat paw prodding me in the face!

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Gimme biscuits!

But anyway…we practised some flaps and co-ordination exercises, and we also learnt an exciting new swung walk, which began with a heel-dig in front and ended with a spring onto the other foot. When I say swung, or swing beat, it means rather than doing a 4 beat step as an even ‘1-2-3-4’, you do it as ‘a-ONE-and-two’. ¬†I’ll try and practice this while it’s fresh.

Then we went through our routine, but as I said, I wasn’t being as deliberate with my steps as I would like.

Chatted to K at the end of the class about doing ballet and contemporary dance.  Our teacher had some amazing new blue Ruben Sanchez tap shoes. I like!

One thing about going back to Weds night ballet and Thurs lunchtime tap is to think about how I am going to co-ordinate kit bags. Need to ponder this when I get home later.

Hope you’ve had a fun dance week?

B2B (Back to Ballet)

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Filled with nervous excitement, last night after work, I went back to Ballet at the Barre! I left work at 4.20pm and caught the bus over Waterloo Bridge to Covent Garden, and then did a quick walk to City Lit. Went to the ladies toilets to get changed because the changing rooms are¬†always¬†occupied, but was a bit unsure about my outfit. I ended up wearing my pink leotard, black leggings, black wrap cardi and black ballet skirt, which I hadn’t worn before. The leggings kind of pulled down a bit during the class, so next week I’ll wear tights instead.

I recognised a lady called F who had been in the class the last two terms I had been, so I went on the barre by the window next to her. There were about 10 or so of us in the class, including 2 guys (plus our teacher M is also a man).

We did a head-to-toe warm up, followed by some fun things like grande battements en croix,¬†(which I actually remembered from last time, so I wasn’t phased by which direction I was supposed to be facing), ronde de jambe¬†(which were lightening fast for my unfamiliar feet, although it helps me to focus on the beat and the letter ‘D’). We concluded with jumps and changement.¬†Still amazed at how my achilles are problem-free since hill-walking in Cornwall!

I was surprised to be asked to demonstrate the changement¬†exercise while everyone watched. I mean, I haven’t done any ballet for well over a year! That was a definite feeling of imposter syndrome.

M then suggested that we take a few minutes at the end of the class to stretch before leaving. I made sure I did just that. He asked me if I’d been doing ballet class, and I was telling him all about tapping at Morley College and how weird it is to find ballet form again. Ballet is all poised and pointed and tap all bent knees and laidback.

I came away with a couple of things to work on:

  • Little toe on the ground & heel forward when pointing the toes en avant (forward)
  • General foot flexibility (tap, what have you done to me :))
  • Keep bottom tucked under ūüôā