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…
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.
Really fun classes tonight! Crawls, pick-ups, shunts (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…
Last night I went back to Rhythm Tap 1 and 2. I was half looking forward to it and half not, having had flu the previous 2 weeks, but once I got there I was back in the zone! I have to say the classes have become really popular (we have a great teacher and the style is modern and upbeat), so it was quite full. It was also nice to see faces from last term back again.
We did some more complex steps travelling backwards across the room, adding in some extra heels here and there. We were also working on tapping in triple time, i.e. 3 beats to a bar, like a waltz. Thankfully I had clarinet lessons when I was at school, so I understand musical time signature to a point. At the moment I am trying to work on keeping down in the knees and making the steps smaller and more accurate. Easier said than done!
Because the class size is so big, I am finding it a little hard not to get pulled into what the crowd are doing, which tends to be speeding up like a military march and ignoring the beat of the music! Last night I tried to ignore that and feel the music and not worry about being the last one to get to the other side of the room. It’s more important to get the steps right than get there first!
Highlight of the class: heel click in the air!
Things to practice this weekend:
- Pickups travelling backwards with extra heels (no clawing!)
- Shuffle exercise travelling forwards and changing feet
Today I went to my last Tap class before Easter. I feel really tired today as the cat keeps waking me up at 4am(!) so I wasn’t feeling at my best when heading down to Morley College at lunchtime, but I didn’t want to miss out.
As usual it was too hot, I was too hot and with a fuzzy foggy head, I was wondering if I was going to be able to get through the entire 45 minutes. I had hydrated before the class and made sure I drank throughout, but if you’re tired, you’re tired.
Our teacher explained after our warm up in a circle that we were going to spend the entire class on our routine. Oh no. That would require some serious brain power.
Despite my reservations, it was actually good fun as we tackled a whole extra section which included scuffs, shunts and turns. She did say to me “Sorry, but I’m going to push you” which made me slightly nervous, but I do like the challenge, but she also told me to try and push my toes forward and out as she felt I was clawing them. Yes, that is my trademark. I will try and work on that because I KNOW I do it all the time. I was told off for that in a Jazz class taster at Morley a few years ago after the teacher felt where my toes were through my shoes and it made me slightly paranoid. But it is good to be made aware of things that are hindering your progress so that you can correct them. That is the thing with dance training – they’re always correcting your feet!
Anyway, I am going to enjoy the two week break and catch up on some sleep before returning to Wednesday night classes!