Tuesday, December 31, 2013

... and then it was Christmas

24 Dec 2013 9:00 am

In the lead-up to Christmas when I was trying to organise the tap shows, the shopping and just all the other things you need to do at the end of the year (teacher presents, Christmas cards), I was feeling completely stressed, and rather resentful of all the work. Luckily for me, Jodie posted this and woke me up to what an idiot I was being.  Her words made me realise that this so-called work is actually the best kind, because what I was really doing was creating fun and memories and excitement. And that one day in the not-too-distant future, my kids are going to be grown-ups and all that ado and anticipation will be gone. So I decided to cherish the effort instead of resenting it, because I still have my sweet excited children for a few more years, and they are what make Christmas the best time of year.

So here is my list of the things that made me happy this Christmas, and more than made up for having to visit shopping malls or slave away in the kitchen.

The fun of decorating the Christmas tree with my family.

8 Dec 2013 9:48 am

The fun of our Mothers Group annual Christmas party, our thirteenth together. This was taken pre water-fight.

21 Dec 2013 11:47 am

The fun of having children who love to enter in to the spirit of Christmas.

22 Dec 2013 8:11 pm

23 Dec 2013 8:44 pm

24 Dec 2013 8:35 pm

The excitement of Christmas Eve, of making sure you tire out your children with bike rides and swimming so that they'll be able to get to sleep that night, of leaving out Santa snacks and hanging out the stocking and of writing a hasty last-minute note to Santa because for the first time ever we didn't post an official one.


The fun of opening stockings in the early hours of Christmas morning.

25 Dec 2013 6:35 am

And then, after breakfast, of opening the family Christmas presents under the tree.

25 Dec 2013 9:49 am

The excitement of receiving a present you really, really wanted.
I got a fez! I got a fez!

25 Dec 2013 9:56 am

I got a bike basket, I got a bike basket!

26 Dec 2013 11:47 am

And then a lovely day spent with family, including Ma Fixit who is finally out of hospital after nearly 4 months, and who struggled desperately with having to sit quietly while her daughters-in-law (and her husband and children) did the bulk of the work.

25 Dec 2013 1:52 pm

Followed by a long and relaxing evening with my Dad and my extended family.

25 Dec 2013 4:37 pm

So it was a very Happy Christmas for us, and I've had plenty of time since to recover from the 'work' involved. Hope yours was too!

8 Dec 2013 9:40 am

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

And then it was the Grown-ups' Performance

The Grown-Up Students' show is a very different proposition to the kids' one. I have to coax many of them into even considering strutting their tap stuff in front of others. Some are fine to tap in front of people they don't know but won't bring anyone they do know to see. A few are keen. Given all that, I don't see that I could ever really consider charging admission for this, which is why I make it more like a party, so at least we can have yummy nibbles and a glass of champagne afterwards.

When it comes down to actually performing their dances on the night, they do seem to enjoy themselves, and having made it through the first time terror, they are somewhat happier to do it the next year. When you think about it, as adults there are not many times in our lives when we receive a hearty round of applause for something we've done, and it is rather nice.

Here they are then, my gorgeous and brave grown-up students, concentrating like mad, and making me proud. I applaud them all.


Here are some photos too.

I was tired before it started and completely whacked afterwards because I danced every dance that night, more for moral support than because they needed it but try telling them that. So it was followed by a day of collapse (in 40 degree heat, blergh), and then a day of Christmas shopping (finally!), an evening of post-show slump (nothing nice will ever happen again!) and then some pre-Christmas frenzy. I think I will properly relax on Boxing Day.

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

The Doctor is [IN]

15 Dec 2013 8:55 am

As I mentioned in my last post, a parent whose child was about to participate in their first ever Kidtap Concert was asking me what to expect, and I, downplaying it as usual, told her it would all be very low-key.  Striving to understand what I meant by that (who ever heard of a low-key dance concert?) she asked me if there would be a storyline.  I told her she wasn't thinking low-key enough; but part of my brain thought Could there be a story? Why couldn't there be a story? I could make a story. And the idea wouldn't go away. I kept thinking about it, mostly while I was in the shower.  The problem was the unlikely group of songs I was using for the show. They'd been chosen for reasons of dance-ability rather than curated to fit around a theme and at face value had little in common with each other.

At first I thought it's impossible, these songs can never be linked by a common thread. I thought that for a week, but however often I thought that I never let go of doing a story. Eventually, by dint of persistence, more long showers and the knowledge that the linking story could be as flimsy as all get-out if it had a skerrick of sense behind it, an idea that had possibilities presented itself. What if the common theme was advice, what if we set the whole thing in a counsellor's office, and the songs were all answers to problems? Further inspiration came from watching a Doctor Who special of Never Mind The Buzzcocks (on Youtube) where David Tennant suddenly started feeding Catherine Tate "Doctor, Doctor" jokes.

So with a plan in mind, I pitched it to the older kids to see if they'd be interested in being the actors, (umm, YES!!!) and started to fine tune the ideas.  And with a deadline looming, I put myself on lockdown and wrote a script, with the aid of a corny joke book.  The kids and I got together for one crazy, chaotic and creative afternoon a mere 6 days before the concert, where I handed out scripts and roles, gave them some directions and then told them to go home and LEARN THEIR LINES!!  Which they did, bless their cotton showpony socks.  What I loved was how willing they were to run with it, to hit all the jokes and to make a show. Let's put on a show!!! It was truly delicious. No wonder I love my job.

So with dances and lines learnt, lists ticked off and stuff carted over to the local primary school hall, the day of the concert dawned, and it was time to find out if I'd over-reached myself.

This was our opening scene, a waiting room of a doctor's office.


There was some fine ensemble comedic acting, (this scene was a lot of fun to put together) and then they did their seated tap-dance a'capella.  We were up and running!


The second scene was based on a kid (my Climber) seeking help because he was sick of his mother always bossing him around.  We played this for extra laughs by having him direct an accusing look at me over on the sidelines. The doctor's advice? Always do what your mother says, because your Mother is Always Right.  (Cue Climber demanding his money back.) If you need proof of that, just listen to the story of the Three Little Fishies (It's the one where they swam and they swam - against the mother fishie's advice - right out to sea, met a shark and hurriedly came home again).  Look at the adorable Little Fishies, just look at them.


Next we had a patient who wanted to make friends but suffered from shyness. Her doctor suggested she use corny chat-up lines as a solution, (more research required here, it was slightly difficult to find lines with a G-rating but I managed three), and voila, we introduced Jeepers Creepers Where'd You Get Those Peepers? We had a slight glitch with this routine, somehow the kids lined up in a different order than usual and I only noticed this after the song had started. Luckily we hadn't gone too far so I was able to signal Nell to cut the music, rearrange the children and start again.  It was very sweet actually.


The next patient needed help with exhaustion caused by over-scheduling; ie an abundance of extra-curricular activities (basketball, gymnastics, music lessons and *heavy eye roll* dance classes).  So the doctor sent her on holiday, a Swingin' Safari to be precise.  Don't forget your binoculars!


The fifth routine was trickier to thread into the narrative, being as it was a song from a Disney movie about two humans turned into frogs by an evil witchdoctor who were lost in a bayou with a trumpet-playing crocodile, singing about what they'd do when they were human. It only makes sense within its own movie, but it's such a good song to dance to! So the sketch consisted almost entirely of Doctor Doctor jokes until at the end the patient explained the above situation to the doctor, who told her the answer would almost certainly involve kissing (I'm not kissing anyone!), and the dancing started.


Cherub's class were next on, and their song was the hardest to fit in with the theme.  To what childhood problem could My Baby Just Cares For Me be the answer? Don't tell me if you think of something, it's too late now. In the end I gave the patient a non-specific illness. There was something wrong with her but she didn't know what, so the doctor prescribed tap-dancing to Nina Simone as a proven cure-all.  Frankly I'm surprised more doctors don't suggest this. The Groover class once more made excellent use of tap-plates on their hands as well as their feet. (Copyright Miss Caroline 2013)


Here is a picture that shows you the set-up of the stage.  The Consulting Room was off to one side so the dancers could be set on stage in readiness for the music to start.  It was wonderful how well this worked, thanks in large part to Nell wrangling them side of stage (Shufflers on, keep left, Gliders off, keep right etc).  I stood on another little board on the left hand side of stage for tap-dancing / keeping the beat help, and found to my pleasure that I was barely needed for the senior classes' routines. So relaxing! In this scene below, Cherub is playing a laconic dude who is sick of grown-ups asking him what he wants to be when he grows up, so the Doctor's advice was for him to tell the Grown-ups It Ain't What You Do, It's The Way That You Do It. We filled it full of like-speak (LOL, like, totally, like, awesome) for extra gags. 


I was very,very proud of this routine and proud of the kids performing in it. Stars.


We had a little break from dancing while I made a speech, thanking [almost] everyone. Tragically I forgot to thank my dear friend Jenny for her help, particularly for making the gorgeous Doctor Is [IN] booth but she insisted later that she prefers not to be put to the blush in public.  And then it was time for the combined Christmas routines.  The clever Tapsters and Groovers were highly professional with their song (Cool Yule), maintaining their different parts when necessary. They looked very slick.


And then came Here Comes Santa Claus featuring all 4 junior classes on stage, each group doing a class solo plus some all-together-now choreography. I'm surprised my brain didn't explode putting this one together, but it did actually come off quite nicely, considering their first go of doing it with all the other groups had been earlier that morning.  The video footage will show me bolting across the front of stage to physically collect the Tiny Tappers for their cue, as standing on the opposite side of stage beckoning and calling them was completely ineffective. Bless them.


So there you have it. Tapping and a storyline. Not so low-key as all that then. People kept coming up to me afterwards telling me what a good show it was. It felt like a triumph. I was so, so proud of those kids.  My goodness, what a lot of gorgeous right there.


I really, really do love my job.

(Adults Concert tomorrow night! Then I'm starting my Christmas preparations. Eek!)