As pre-determined, Suzy’s muscular endurance prevents her from sustaining the strength needed to produce clear, precise sounds. Near the end of a piece or session, foot-work starts to get sloppy with the taps not getting high enough off the ground, causing her either to scrape the floor or sometimes making her fall off balance. This can consequently distract her, causing her to lose her place in the dance.
To test this, I asked Suzy to do 20 successive pullbacks to the best of her ability; 4 marks were awarded for any pullback if each of the 4 sounds were precise and separated, 3 marks for 3 clear sounds etc. For the first 5 pullbacks she scored 18/20; for the second 5, 17/20; the third 5, 13/20 and for the final 5, 9/20. After comparing the results, it is evident that she is able to produce an excellent sounding pullback without too much effort but finds it very difficult to maintain this standard after a period of time. I also noticed whilst observing her that most of Suzy’s missed or slurred sounds were made by the left foot, proving it needs more work than the right.
Timing is also another issue with Suzy’s work, making dances sound awkward and unpractised. This too can sometimes cause Suzy to have to start again as highlights in the music can help to remember steps and when stresses in the rhythms come when they’re not expected, it can be very off putting. She particularly struggles with even, repeated beats, tending to either rush them or put accented rhythms in. Unless steps have a distinct pulse that corresponds with the music, steps are very often off-beat; this is one of the main aspects she needs to improve.
As Suzy is a very good ballet dancer, she sometimes has difficulty with adapting her posture for a very different style of dance. Practising being very up-right and posed can prevent her from being comfortable with moving her body weight forward. Without this weight transfer, back taps prove very tricky and it becomes hard to balance when doing pick-up steps, obscuring sounds made and making the performance look rigid and mechanical. To correct this she needs to get used to having her upper-half leaning over her feet.
Her posture often affects her balance too and stops her from making clear, crisp taps, meaning that she sometimes finds turning steps and taps on one foot hard to master. Whilst she spots when doing simple turns, when changing direction within a dance her head doesn’t turn around first, making it hard to stay up-right. This means that often during practises, she can lose her balance completely and fall over. In addition to this, being off-balance means that she can’t travel and move her steps as much as she could to make full use of the space, affecting her agility around corners.
Additionally, Suzy does not have enough speed, at times, to keep up with the music. In advanced grades, footwork is repeatedly required to be incredibly fast, neat and agile and without quick movement in the legs, this is nearly impossible. Again, this will make a performance look scruffy and untidy as: tap sounds won’t correspond to the music; in order to get the taps in, movement will begin to stay on one spot and the performer will start to concentrate too hard on getting the beats in that they will end up making mistakes and getting even further behind music or peers.
Another one of Suzy’s main problems is her memory of sequences. This means that she has been working towards her current grade for a long time now because she has not been able to recall all the different exercises in the syllabus required for the exam. Consequently, she is beginning to tire of the lessons as the same things have to be repeated many times. In an exam situation itself, she would get marked down on her ‘Response and Knowledge of the Syllabus’ and on a stage not remembering certain aspects of a dance might mean stopping half-way through and spoiling a show.
Section 4: Suggest what training/practice methods might be used to improve performance. Outline a six week training/practice programme that will be used to improve performance.One progression would be to add a heel beat on the end to make a 4 beat ripple; this would mean having to coordinate both parts of the foot together as well as just the arms and toes. An additional development will be to perform arm movements in a random order; just before she finishes two ripples, a change in arm positions would be called out to try and reduce the amount of thinking time it takes to coordinate the feet and arms together. Once this is completed to a satisfactory standard, Suzie could try to include head movements, changing from right, facing forward, to left and back again as she completes two 4-beat ripples and moves her arm positions.
Strength The main place where muscle is needed in tap is whilst jumping. In order to improve this, the practice involves one foot jumping over the top of a stationary leg as shown below: This should be repeated on alternate legs but practised slightly more on the left as this foot has been found to be not as strong as the right. This can be developed first by reversing the exercise (jumping the foot in front back over the stationary leg); then by jumping forward and back in quick succession and then, once this is found to be fairly easy, 5 repeats of this without pausing, before changing feet. After this is completed, the stationary leg should be raised so she has to jump higher and sets repeated as before. The exercise, if done correctly, should develop the appropriate muscles needed in order to jump high enough to produce all taps with clarity. As this ability increases she should work to try and maintain body posture whilst attempting this exercise.
To learn and perform the correct rhythms in time with the music, dances will be broken down into smaller sections. The counts for each step will be repeated out loud and clapped before they are attempted in conjunction with the steps. Once the rhythms are achieved accurately with the feet, she should listen carefully to the music and work out how the steps fit to it. Suzy should then, again, clap the beats and say them out loud with the music before putting the steps to it. After this sounds aesthetically pleasing and Suzy is happy she can remember the rhythms, she can move onto the next section of the dance. When the whole dance is completed, Suzy can work towards putting all of the parts together.
If this proves too difficult, she can just put a few sections together at a time before trying to dance the piece as a whole. Additionally, any particularly hard or problematic areas should be taken out separately to practice with and without music and then put back into the full arrangement. When Suzy feels she is comfortable with the dance and it sounds neat and in time, she can start work on another piece.