Tap Shoes and Practice Surfaces

Hello all~

This is an essay about tap shoes and tap practicing surfaces. It is written for those interested in tap dancing and looking for some pointers to get started. It also loosely applies to any musician looking for their first instrument.

First, lets discuss shoes:

Like any instrument, tap shoes come in a variety of qualities and styles. What works for you will ultimately depend on your personal style, what sound you are going for, and your budget.

Ultimately, you really need an instrument that makes you want to play it. One that calls to you and feels good to hold, wear, listen to, and play.

Thats why, if you have the means, go ahead and treat yourself to a decent quality instrument. Also, research what is out there. I made this article to help.

It is possible to sound good with any quality instrument, and its definitely tempting, with the uncertainty of just starting out, to go for the least-expensive option, but let me just advise from experience that reaching for that mid-range instrument is soooo worth it. Its so much more satisfying to play something that is well crafted, stylish, sturdy, and capable of producing a rich sound. That quality will call to you from the corner of the room and beg you to practice. In the long run, you will be happy if you go for a better quality instrument because you will have a quality instrument. And anyway, you may end up spending just as much time and money leap-frogging and experimenting as if you just dropped the extra $100 on the good stuff to begin with. Treat yourself.

For myself, I started off with the cheapest ok-quality pair of tap shoes I could find. As I recall, there was only one option at the store that I went to, so it wasn’t much of a choice. I had no information about what else was out there, so I ended up with a pair of Bloch Oxfords for ~$80. Not bad. I didn’t particularly love the way the looked, but since they were tap shoes and I didn’t know of any other stylish options, I was happy with them.

I could have also gone with these, a real cheap-but-cute option from Payless, but I didn’t:

PAIR

Eventually, I lost my Blochs in a international shipping blunder in which I threw away my postal receipt before the package was delivered. I’ll never know what came of these or the Cajon sent along with it, *tears. Lesson learned – keep tracking number until delivery is confirmed.

All was not lost, however, since I had already purchased another pair of slightly higher quality tap shoes from a fellow student when I was WWOOFing and studying tap in Berlin. They were made with leather inside and had a thicker “build” – the layer of wood under the sole of the shoe, which made for a richer sound. They were Capezio, purchased in San Francisco, I think model K543, about a half-size too big for me, but they worked.

Capezio Capezio Classic Tap Shoe Black K543

These felt good on my feet, were sturdy, and sounded nice. Like my previous pair, I wasn’t crazy about the way they looked but I wasn’t aware of other options so I remained content.

Once I got to NYC, the cloudy tap shoe skies opened up and shined a golden, sparkly light of wonder upon me. I saw white shoes and green shoes and gold shoes, embellished designs, custom designs, a whole new world of tap shoe styles I never knew existed. Not to mention the dancers in the shoes and their styles of dancing, I had never seen so many tap dancers and such skill. It was amazing. I had stepped into a whole new world of tap.

I remember once when I visited NYC (pre-Berlin) during a port stop when I was working as a lunchlady on the TSGB, I took a tap class at Broadway Dance Center on one of my days of liberty. It was an overwhelming experience, but fun. After class, I checkout out the shoe shop on site and tried on what they had, which were Miller and Ben tap shoes. I had to use a shoe horn to put them on. They were $300. I guffawed and stuck with my Bloch’s.

Eventually, once I moved to New York and my Capezio’s started to wear out, I moved on to the J-Sams by Bloch. (Jason Samuels Smith model, named after tap dancer Jason Samuel’s Smith). They were the best quality pair I’d had thus far with a solid sound capable of being quite loud since they’re a heavy shoe. These shoes are what I would consider medium range shoes, meaning, they aren’t the top of the line in terms of materials, sound quality, or cost. These ran ~$175 and for that cost, they are amazing. So much better than the ones I had started with, which were kindof ugly and had an obnoxiously tinny, flimsy sound. If I could start over again I would start with the J-Sam shoes and skip the crappy beginner shoes. These shoes sound great, look great, and made me want to dance.

The one downside is the material on the inside doesn’t absorb heat well. It gets dirty easily and thus can get smelly. I learned to periodically wash the inside of my shoes to keep the smell away. Its annoying, but I don’t like dancing with socks so it is what it is.

I have also tried So Dança tap shoes. There was a pair in the shoe bin at my dance studio so I tried them a few times. They were these, which run ~$200:

So Danca  Women's Professional Leather Tap Shoe with Leather Sole

 

These are a lighter weight shoe than the Jason Samuel Blochs, their sound is lighter and brighter. They are comfortable, sturdy, and made with quality materials. I was already accustomed to the J-Sams so decided to stick with them, but maybe if I’d started with So Danças I would have preferred them. I consider these two shoes to be in the same mid-range category of goodness.

I have yet to try the tap shoe of all shoes, The Capezio K360s. I’m pretty sure, with customization, they are around $500. Maybe someday. This seems to be the preferred tap shoe among the more advanced dancers. This is their site for custom shoes: Capezio Custom Shoes. There are about 1,000 different color options. Its overwhelming. Miller and Ben also seem to be of the upper echelon of tap shoe. I’ve heard are very stiff and difficult to break in but did try on a used pair once that looked and sounded great.

All this being said, perhaps if I was to start all over again I’d go with the Chloe and Maud tap shoe by Bloch, they’re cute and ~$70. This is the shoe I would recommend for beginners.

As for heels, the whole reason I am writing this today is because I finally found a decent pair of heels! Like the oxfords, I have purchased at least 2 pairs of crappy heels before discovering what is now my favorite tap shoe, the So Dança Chris Matallo Pro TA830. I bought mine 2nd-hand-but-never-worn on Poshmark for $50. I think they normally run ~$200.

This is a great, sturdy heeled shoe made with high quality materials and is built up to create a nice, solid sound. They are comfortable to wear for extended periods of time and don’t even really feel like high heels. I had never heard about them before seeing them on Poshmark.

As far as other pro-level, high heeled tap shoe options I’ve glimpsed and heard talk of, there is La Coquette by Miller and Ben, LaDuca Dance Shoes, and Capezio has some, very pretty:

Screen Shot 2020-06-03 at 5.43.17 AM

but I haven’t seen where to buy them other than on the Dancing Fair website. Heads up, Dancing Fair is apparently a good resource for someone who wants to get custom shoes.

Below is what I had tried before and would say don’t even bother. I tried Capezios both times, their cheapest heels. The shoe felt and sounded ick and didn’t breathe:

Do You Need Special Shoes To Tap Dance? | WonderopolisCapezio Tap Shoes sz 7 Black Character Shoe by ...

And these below, FYI, are a very common beginner shoe. I would stay away from these or anything remotely resembling them. Do yourself the favor.

 

Alright, on to tap practicing surfaces. I’m just going to be brief here because ultimately, I have found a good ol’ cardboard box to be the best practicing surface if making noise is an issue. Otherwise, there is the Fasfoot boards, Omara Sprung Dance Floors, and a slab of Masonite or any scrap wood you can find.

Here are a few tap boards reviews a-la-youtubers:

Later!

KB

Change for Chimps Year-End Update

Continue reading

Palestine’s Fine: Chapter 2

The Waiting

As soon as we all unloaded from the bus from Jordan and waited in another line to cross the boarder into The West Bank, I could tell something was up. There was tension in the air as we queued up to have our documents reviewed and to proceed across the boarder. It was taking forever.

A Palestinian man waiting behind me made disgruntled comments about how long it was taking for the officials to review another person’s documents ahead of us. I nodded as if I understood his sentiment, even though at that point I hadn’t witnessed any injustice. Beurocratic processes are notorious for being painfully slow everywhere, I thought, so I wasn’t that disturbed by the hold up. I did notice it was a Palestinian person the man was referring to, but again wasn’t sure if it was a coincidence or discrimination and didn’t have enough experience in the land to pass judgement.

Inching along, I finally made it to the counter to present my documents. The officials were Israeli, I came to find, which is strange since we were entering the West Bank, a Palestinian territory.

Technically the West Bank is part of Israel, so I suppose it makes sense to have Israeli government controlling the boarder, but its still a strange situation if you think about it. Usually when you cross into a country, the officials are of that country. Like I said, the land is technically Israel, but we were passing into Palestinian territory so it would have made sense to have Palestinian officials at the boarder. Just sayin’. Especially since the Allenby Bridge is the only border crossing point Palestinians can use to enter the West Bank.

If a Palestinian travels abroad, they are not permitted to fly to Tel Aviv and enter the West Bank from the Mediterranean Sea side like Israelis and other human beings. They do not have the same privileges. Palestinians are only permitted to pass through the Alleby Bridge, which is only accessible by way of Jordan, so Palestinians are restricted in how they can travel abroad. Its a pain. They cannot go through any other border crossing point from the Jordan side either, which there are two of, one in the South via Eilat, and another in the North near the Sea of Galilee. No, all Palestinians have to come through the Allenby Bridge, where I was at the moment being described.

Its a bit confusing but I digress, when it was my turn to step up to the window and present my documents in order to pass through, I was surprised at the way the officials conducted themselves. There were two officials, young military women. The official took a long time to review my passport, passing it to her colleague and the two of them talking between themselves without cluing me in as I stood there, wondering what the issue was, waiting for further instructions. It wasn’t very human, but I suppose any country could have grumpy, jaded border patrol employees. I wont count that as a strike against Israelis, but its worth noting. They were not friendly.

After deliberating and having another soldier come look over my passport, the officials directed me to a waiting area.  I didn’t know how long I’d have to wait or why. Apparently, I was not in the clear to pass through and I had no idea what made me suspicious. As I sat there waiting for the next step, the seats around me filled with Palestinian families. Eventually, Hanan came to meet me, as she was also sent to the waiting area for further review. I was glad to have met her, otherwise I would have been much more anxious and confused waiting there alone.

It was a half hour before my name was called. I went into an office with an Israeli man who questioned me about what I had been doing in Israel and what I would be doing next. In the end I think the questioning was related to my visa, as my re-entry into the the country from Jordan would result in my visa being extended another 3 months.

Since I already had a plane ticket out of Tel Aviv a few weeks later, it was a non-issue and I was allowed to continue through the boarder. Simple fix.

So I went through, first stopping to confer with Hanan. I told her I’d wait for her on the other side, not knowing how long that would be. And guess how long it ended up being, by the way….

7 HOURS.

Seven.

With no clue where I was, no idea where to go, and no gumption to set off on my own, I waited the entire time for Hanan to pass through, even though I barely knew her.

While I waited, I observed the people passing through. I had never been in a Muslim country before, save for Jordan, and was mesmerized by the clothing people wore, especially the women covered head to foot in black, with only slits for their eyes to see. I found it strange, but that’s just the way things are there.

Allenby Bridge Boarder Terminal

During my hours of waiting, two noteworthy things happened. First, I met a man from South Africa on his way to Mecca with a group of 13 others. I had never met anyone from South Africa before, and never met anyone going to Mecca, a pilgrimage I had learned about in religion class back in my Catholic School days. The concept had seemed quite mythical, but turns out lots of people really do that, including my new friend, the South African.

The man was wearing a funny little pillbox hat and a white linen tunic and was very nice to talk to. I sat with him for about two hours as he waited for his party to pass through security and collect their bags, one by one. I asked him about South Africa, the wild animals there (chimpanzees and monkeys, of course). He entertained my chimpanzee fantasies and gave me pointers about good beaches to visit, but I forgot all that information because I didn’t write any of it down. Eventually everyone in his party made it through security and they moseyed along, leaving me with my bags to wait in the figurative dark for Hanan to come through.

It had been several hours already and I was beginning to doubt if she’d make it through. Of course she would, but it was taking so damn long the worries began to creep in. I staved them off as I continued to observe the flow of people coming through.

The second noteworthy thing to happen was among the funniest scenes I’ve witnessed in this life. Funny in a peculiar and irreverent sort of way.

It went like this: I had my big backpacking backpack propped up in a corner and was sitting a bit away from it in observer mode. Then all the sudden a pair of devout looking Muslim folks laid down mats in front of my pack and started bowing to my backpack. Well, actually they were doing their prayer ritual in the direction of Mecca, but it looked like they were bowing to my backpack. I found it very funny and wanted to take a photo, but didn’t because #1 my camera was in my backpack and #2 that would have been oh so rude.

I’ll draw a picture and include it here someday.

Finally, after 7 hours of waiting, Hanan came through. She was surprised and glad that I was still there. It was dark out by that time and we took some sort of bus van out of the terminal to where Hanan’s parents were waiting for us. They had arrived hours before, not expecting to have to wait until 9 pm to pick us up. No one expected it to take that long.

In the drive to Hana’s parents house I gazed out the window into the night as Hanan’s father talked about life in Palestine. I got my first glimpse of the wall and learned that inconvenience and waiting are not at all unfamiliar to Palestinians living in the West Bank under the Israeli occupation, which is what the situation is, I was learning for the first time.

There’s a Gnome in my Pumpkin; DIY Toothpaste

Continue reading

Palestine’s Fine Excerpt: Peace in the Middle East Tea

Sunrise in Palestine

I learned about this tea recipe while volunteering at a goat farm in Jerusalem. The farm was within a village called Moshav Zafririm, which was probably once occupied by Palestinians but invaded/apprehended by Israel in 1948 when the country was established. Out with the old, in with the new it would seem.

Unlike in Hebron, there was not trace or retelling of foul play in this village.

Propaganda in Hebron
Israeli Propaganda

It was quiet and rather empty, with no banners or propaganda to be found, just an unmanned military check-point at the base of the village to ward off intruders. Unfortunately I have no photos from the village to share.

The tea on the other hand….

Peace in the Middle East Tea Recipe

This tea was made on a daily basis at the farm and we enjoyed it throughout the day, hot and cold. All the ingredients were picked at the farm or gathered in the nearby hills.

Today I drink it as a reminder of the crazy experience I had in “the Holy Land,” encouragement to continue telling the story, and nourishment for the soul.

Ingredients:

Geranium

Pelargonium ‘Citronella’ : Large citrus-scented leaves on a robust plant. Lavender flowers.

Sage “Culinary Sage”

Sage. One of my favorite culinary herbs and one of the herbs people have easy access to no matter where they are. Salvia officinalis – even the Latin name gives us an idea of the respect this Mediterranean beauty has earned. Salvia in Latin derives from the word salvere which means, “to save.” Historically, it has been used in many ways from a facial toner to a plague remedy, as well as drying up breast milk and easing a cough. Sage is a well-loved and well-used herb throughout the ages.

and

Mint (any variety will work)

mint grown in pot

Process:

Steep a few leaves of geranium, a bunch of sage, and a cluster of mint in hot water for any amount of time, add sugar or honey to taste (or not), and serve hot or cold.

Enjoy the pleasant pink color and floral taste of a tea that will sooth the senses, calm the mind, and bring peace to the middle east in your heart, which reflects the world. Enjoy with friends for greatest therapeutic benefits.

Cheers!

KB

Travelling Junebug Updates: Boredom, Farewell Goat Farm, Hello New York

Hello Reader-Friends!

Well, my Tennessee adventure has come to a close with mixed feelings of relief and a tinge of remorse; yes, remorse.

How can I sanely leave behind that beautiful setting and that peace: tucked away in a mountain hollow–the creek, the goats, the chorus of crickets and starry nights, the wide open spaces–how can I leave all that and replace it with a top bunk in a shared room in Queens with a backyard I cant even go into and no way to grow my own food…a very stark contrast of environment and lifestyle, to say the least. I also feel this way about leaving Santa Cruz, my beautiful hometown by the sea.

DSCN1215.JPG

But alas, this is what I have chosen to do. All so I can pursue tap dancing. Lets hope this works.

A few days ago I left the goat farm and hopped on a Megabus from Knoxville to NYC. It took about 15 hours, cost me $14 for one ticket…whaaat?! I paid $20ish for a second ticket for my extra bags. And guess what, they DIDN’T lose my bags like Greyhound did! All in all it was a good experience and I give Megabus 2 thumbs way up.

A little about my last bit of time at the farm.

I got very bored for a few days. Bored and restless. Familiar feelings and thoughts circled in my head–thinking forward to life in New York, thinking back to times when I had more fun, more contact with people, more cute guys to flirt with (TSGB)…wanting to leave and not appreciating just BEING, being at the goat farm. I noticed myself getting real irritable and not wanting to talk much with my farm host. I was blaming her for my boredom. UNTIL, I started to realize my feelings couldn’t be her fault, because I had felt that same way before on many of my adventures. So, I did what I normally do with phsychological problems these days…I consulted my moderately qualified counsellor…the internet. And found a video of a sweaty guru talking about boredom that at first I was hesitant to watch but am now glad I did.

My takeaway from that video is that Osho is a very interesting man and, more importantly, that boredom is a beautiful thing. It is a feeling, that when you have it, you can say: “Welcome boredom, you are my friend and I am happy you came to visit me.”

Once you realize you are bored, that the thoughts swimming around in your head are just thoughts and that you can dismiss them, or let them pass, THEN you can realize where you are, realize that you are YOU, just sitting in your kingdom (your body) and just be…be like that. Enjoy just sitting in your palace–your body, baby–just like a king, or Daenerys Targaryen, enjoys sitting in his/her throne. Something like that.

For some reason that idea really helped me get past fretting about my boredom. Something about me that I have been learning over the years is that boredom is among my least favorite feelings, it is uncomfortable! When I feel bored I feel anxious and want to DO something to change it. That is perhaps why I live the life that I do. Because I don’t like to be bored, I move around a lot, seeking out adventure and new experiences. But even on my adventures, I get bored. Sometimes terribly bored. Now however, I am happy that I can welcome the boredom and start to just chill when I feel it. Exciting times ahead.

Also in my boredom internet therapy session, I did some research on the speaker/philosopher Osho and his desire to spread his “cool love” throughout humanity.

I want to spread Oshos cool love too, and I’ll start by sharing his talk on “The Coolness of Love.”

A few more farm updates:

I finished the garden, planting a variety of winter vegetables that I hope will grow.

Here’s a series of photos showing the garden’s makeover:

DSCN4210

DSCN4330

Garden in progress

Garden in transition

And Finally…as done as I could be with it…seeds planted and starting to sprout.

Garden, Done

I also finished knitting socks and a baby hat and said bye bye to all my new animal friends.

Thats about it to wrap up my farm experience. I will add a post soon about cashmere production.

Thank you for reading and all the best!

Kelly B

 

 

 

Palestine’s Fine: Introduction

This is a story about when I accidentally went to Palestine in the Winter of 2014.

DSCN1908

“Wait what? This bus is going to Palestine?”

Surprised, yet not utterly shocked by my circumstance, I was both intrigued and alarmed by the situation at hand. How did I get myself HERE? I wondered.

No stranger to pickles, this was definitely my most unnerving to date. What had begun with a free trip to Israel two months earlier now had me alone, astray, and headed straight into the West Bank via minivan.

Remaining calm, I began to speak with some of the other passengers on the bus. Amongst them was Hanan, a beautiful woman I had noticed earlier carrying a US passport. Turns out she was on her way to Palestine to visit her parents and plant olive trees in an act of defiance against Israeli settlers.

“Hm,” I thought, “a twist.”

Everything I had learned up to that point was from the pro-Israel perspective. I had, after all, come to Israel via a program called Birthright, which sends young Jews from all over the world to Israel for an all-inclusive, highly insulated, 10-day bus trip to learn about Judaism.

Palestine’s Fine: Chapter 1

MacGruber Wreath- Step-by-Step

Calling all Crafters and Florists:

What can you do with unbent paperclips, some twine, and stuff you collect in the forrest…make a wreath!

DIY Autumn Wreath

Rita Reinecke Design

If you’re clever, like McGruber, you can make this without spending a dime.

Here’s how:

You will need:

  • the great outdoors
  • clippers

collect:

  • moss
  • ivy
  • hearty foliage (like so…)

DSCN4691

You will also need:

  • wire or string for wrapping
  • straw
  • floral pins (or paper clips, think “MacGyver”)
  • ribbon or twine to hang your wreath

Note: moss is not 100% necessary. If you can’t find it outside, you can buy it at a craft store, or just skip it.

Now, let me explain:

  1. Start with your ivy or twine and make a ring

DSCN4541

DSCN4542

2. Cover the ring with hay or straw, wrapping it as you go, handful by handful, with string or wire, tightly. Remember to secure the beginning and end of your wire wrapping. I usually tie it off or twist it around itself. You’ll figure it out. Remember, you are a great ape.

DSCN4576.JPG

3. Next, if you can find some, wrap a layer of moss around that.

DSCN4591

DSCN4592.JPG

4. At this point, the wreath its pretty as is! Make a loop for hanging with rope or ribbon

DSCN4630.JPG

5. Next, I’m so sorry made an epic fail and forgot to take a picture of this intermediary stage…take your hearty foliage clippings and layer them starting at the top, working down and counter-clockwise, while wrapping the stems with your wire or string…see how my hands are, that’s how you should layer the foliage. Keep it organized, it will save you a headache later, and try to avoid wrapping the leaves down flat, aim for the stems. This step requires some dexterity but it does not have to be perfect, because you will cover this part with your flowers/etc…

Photo on 9-23-17 at 10.50 PM

6. Finally, use floral pins or unfolded paperclips (easier, cheaper, more accessible) to pin your nature walk treasures to your wreath. Remember symmetry generally makes things look good. Work on your wreath while it is hung up, stepping back every now and again to assess your work from afar. Don’t be too critical, it doesn’t have to be perfect. Go with your instincts. DSCN4650.JPG

7. And Voilá! A beautiful seasonal wreath.

DSCN4633.JPG

Add ornaments for a season appropriate display

DSCN4638

Rita Reinecke Design

Questions, comments, frustrations to vent? Did I make it seem too easy? Note I made my wreath over a period of a few days because I do not have the patience or attention span to do it all at once. Let me know how it goes if you make one!

I learned this style from my wonderful WWOOF hostess Rita in Berlin last fall. Credit where credit is due. Thank you Rita!

xoxo,

Kelly

Weekend Update – Yarn Store

Hello all,

Just another weekend update from Mountain Hollow Farm over in Tazewell, Tennessee.

This week I spent hours and hours shovelling shit. It was good.

And I finished burning that wood pile…see before and after…(Notice the giant pile of sticks and logs behind the burning pile of wood),

DSCN4221

…and now its pretty close to all gone. See?

DSCN4341.JPG

I also spent many hours shelling beans, picked from the LMU Garden Club in Harrogate, the next town over.

DSCN4222.JPG

…and made soup beans, nutritious and delicious (click here for recipe)

A note about beans, which I learned from a sort-of strange homesteader girl with a wonky eye: most commercially grown beans (think-canned beans) are artificially ripened by spraying Roundup (or something like that) on the crop, which ultimately kills the plants, but has the benefit of encouraging the plant to make a last-ditch effort at spreading its seed, i.e. ripening the beans. So, the chemicals make the crop ripen all at once, which makes it easier to harvest, since everything ripens at the same time (cost-effective). But, mo’ money, mo’ problems, I say, since the soils and groundwater become contaminated and ain’t no fixin’ that down the line without a pretty penny for clean-up.

Beans grown without chemical additives ripen more slowly, making it more complicated and time-intensive to harvest (more expensive), but I say the trade-offs for human and environmental health much outweigh the extra cost of organically grown beans. Buy organic.

Phew, getting off my soap box meow…

What else, well, the horse started engaging with me more than just eating the hay I bring to her on a daily basis. Its happened two times, where I fake run and then she actually runs and kicks her back legs up…and farts a little bit as she runs off. Its hilarious and I try not to be embarrassed for her since farting is natural.

DSCN4248.JPG

Also, here is a cute picture of Fiona, an exceptionally friendly 6 month old Cashmere goat, eating watermelon.

DSCN4340.JPG

That’s all for now folks, sorry I forgot to write about the Yarn Store. More on that later. That, and Poke Berry natural dye.

Thanks for reading!

xo

Kelly