I add Breeze to the set

When it comes to Ceroc Weekenders I’m a bit of a Southport Junkie. I can’t remember when I last missed one, and my three times a year visits to the Pontin’s holiday camp always feature in my annual highlights.  This year I thought I’d better give the other Pontin weekenders a look in.  In June I did my first Jamfest, the much-loved weekender at Camber Sands on the South Coast.  The weather was fabulous and this, no doubt, helped me understand the love people have for this South Coast dance fest.

There is, of course, one other major event that takes over a Pontins holiday camp for a weekender – Breeze, the October get together in Brean Sands, just down the coast from Weston-super-Mare in Somerset.  I decided not to waste any time in completing the set and on a rather wet Friday in October I set off down the M5 to the West Country.

Breeze differs from the other two Ceroc weekenders in that it is just a once a year event, but as I was to find out, there is just as much love for it as there is for it’s two bigger cousins.  Also, Breeze has something quite unique amongst large scale weekenders – The European Blues Championship and this is a major attraction for lovers of the slower form of Blues dancing.

The Blues Competitions is a great draw for Breeze

People tell me what they loved

As I’ve developed my style of writing reviews, I’ve realised the importance of getting other peoples views.  Over the weekend I was constantly asking people what they loved about Breeze and I very quickly had a lot of material to write about.  I can’t use it all, of course, so can I thank the many people who gave up some of their dance time to tell me what they loved about Breeze.

If anyone is thinking about coming to Breeze for the first time next year, I hope the topics I’ve chosen to feature will give them a good idea of what to expect and just how much fun they are going to have.  By the end of the weekend, I was left in no doubt that this is a well-loved event that can stand proudly alongside Southport and Camber Sands.

The Background to Breeze

You may not be aware that Breeze was one of the first Ceroc Weekenders.  I asked John Baker, who was instrumental in getting Breeze off the ground, how it had all come about:
Back in 2006, Ceroc had yet to run any dance weekenders.  I was wanting to put something together and was looking for a suitable venue.  I was then able to get a date at Brean Sands in October.
John ran the very successful Strictly Ceroc franchise that had a big following in the Bristol area.  Brean Sands was within easy reach of Bristol and guaranteed him a good level of support.  Breeze would have been the first Ceroc Weekender but they were just pipped by Camber Sands.  John went on to explain how the venue developed:
Back then we didn’t have the Cyclone room as we had to share the holiday camp with another event.  So the Arcade area was cleared and this became our Blues/Chill-out Room.
This first event was very successful and so next year John was given access to the second dance hall.
Once we got the second large hall, we set up the Cyclone Room and Tempest Studio.  This enabled us to run more lessons in the day time and we used the Tempest Studio as a dedicated Tango and Blues Room, with the larger Cyclone Room for chill-out dancing.
I then asked John how the association with the Blues Championships happened:
Because Southport and Camber both developed into three-times a year weekenders, I felt we needed to make the weekender at Brean Sands a little different.  That was why we introduced the European Blues Championships in 2009.
When a venue like Breeze is so well attended, it’s hard to realise that someone had to take a punt on it in the early days.  Many of our well-loved events owe their origins to people like John daring to take a chance on them.

Pontins Brean Sands has been home to Breeze since 2006

Let’s not forget the music

Of course, Breeze is primarily about the dancing and that makes the music one of the most important aspects of the weekend.  The musical offering at Breeze was as good as any weekender I’ve been to and it’s worthy of a follow-up article.  So, in a few weeks I’ll write, The Spirit of Breeze in 12 Tracks where I’ll shine a light on the fabulous and diverse musical offering that the team of top DJs served up for everyone.

I also hope to find time to tell you about one particular DJ set from Breeze that is in pole position to be my best of the year.

Before I start my list of the things that people loved, can I say a thank you to Graham Farey for giving me permission to use some of his photos in this review.  Graham always captures the fun that everyone is having on the dance floor and I love the way people respond when he points his camera at them.  The other photos are taken on my iPhone.  While they don’t have the clarity of Graham’s pictures, I hope they fill in the gaps and give you a complete picture of this fabulous dance fest.

1: We ❤️ that it is in The West Country

Breeze attracts people from all over the country but the majority come from the West Country and South Wales.  Robert is a dancer who I’ve met several times on my travels in South Wales.  When I asked him what he loved about Breeze, he was quick to say that he loved that it was little more than an hour from home.  Understandably, dancers from the West Country love Breeze.  It’s a long way from this part of the country to Southport or Camber Sands, but because of its location just off the M5, great swathes of the South West and South Wales are within one and a half hours driving of Brean Sands.

Jenny is a friend from Devon.  For her, Breeze is the Ceroc weekender of choice and she comes each year with a group of friends from Plymouth.  Devon, it seems, sends lots of dancers to Brean Sands.

I also recognised lots of people from the Bristol area.  I mention Bristol for a reason.  This city has a vibrant dance culture but it also an area that I have termed a Slotted Hot Spot, because of its embracing of the contemporary style of chill-out dancing.  We’ll see later how this proximity to Bristol and other Slotted Hot Spots in this part of the country impacts on the dancing at Breeze.

Many of the dancers come from The South West and South Wales.  Photo courtesy of Graham Farey

2: We ❤️ The Thunderball Room

The main dance hall at all the Ceroc Escape weekenders is called The Thunderball Room.  It’s here on the first night that you really feel the vibe of a weekender.  I remember walking into the Thunderball Room my first time at Southport and being quite overwhelmed by its size and the number of people crowded on to its dance floor.

The room at Brean is not as large as the one at Southport and it was never as crowded, which could be viewed as a good thing, but there was still a great buzz out on the floor.  It’s in the Thunderball Room that you’ll hear all the music that you regularly dance to at Ceroc class nights and freestyles around the country – and people love it.  I spent a lot of time dancing in this room and enjoyed some quite fabulous dances with partners who were loving the music and the great vibe created out on the floor.

On the Saturday, I found myself chatting with Trish and Mary.  Both had been dancing for two years, but this was their first time at a weekender.  I asked them how they found the Thunderball Room on their first night.  Their experience was very much like my first time at Southport.  Here’s Trish:

We got here just after the Ice-breaker class and we were both a little overawed when we saw how many people were dancing.

But this didn’t stop the ladies joining in the fun on the dance floor.  Mary continued:

We absolutely loved it.  We had a fabulous time and we never stopped dancing.

It was great to hear these two first-timers speak so highly of their first night in the Thunderball Room.  I’ve spent a lot of time encouraging people to go to a Ceroc Weekender for the first time, and it was great to hear how easily Trish and Mary got into the swing of things.

The Thunderball Room had a great atmosphere out on the floor

3: We ❤️ love the SILC Zone

I’m going to generalise here – there are two breeds of weekender dancers.  The first love the Thunderball Room with its mainly hi-energy popular and classic tracks.  The second like their music a little more chilled out and want to dance in a more relaxed and expressive way.  For these people, their favourite dancing takes place in late-night sessions in The Cyclone Room AKA The SILC Zone.

At Southport, the SILC Zone is in an area adjacent to the main Thunderball Room.  For this reason, people move in between the two rooms very freely.  After a full-on session in the main room, I’ll go through the door and cool down with some chill-out dancing, and then I’m back into the main room.

It doesn’t work like that at Brean Sands, as the Cyclone Room is in a separate building.  For this reason, people tend to choose to be in one room or the other.  Now I didn’t spend a lot of time in this room as, for all I love the smoother slotted style of dancing, I love the buzz of the main room even more. However, I know some people never ventured out of there – so great is their love of the more contemporary music and its associated smooth dance style.

I spotted this comment on Facebook from Teresa:

The SILC room was my favourite.  Had so many fabulous dances in there 💃🕺♥️   I was blown away by the dances I had in that room.  Left Breeze on such a high.

Chill-out junkies love the SILC Zone, and there are so many of them at Brean Sands.  Why go into the Thunderball Room when for them, Dance Heaven is in The Cyclone Room until five in the morning.

Dancing until four-thirty every night

On the Sunday night, I spent half an hour in the Cyclone Room before driving home and recognised Helen who comes from Hereford.  I’d danced with Helen quite a few times on my travels.  I asked her why we hadn’t bumped into each other at all over the weekend.  Her explanation was very simple:

I’ve danced in this room all weekend, Paul

Helen tells me that after doing the Ice-breaker Class in the Thunderball Room she migrated to The Cyclone Room and stayed there all weekend,  She went on to explain that over the past four years her taste in dancing has changed from being a regular Ceroc dancer to one who now prefers the smooth slotted style of SILC and the expressive nature of modern Blues dancing.   Many of the dancers in the SILC Zone have made the same journey.

I find the Cyclone room gives me a whole weekend to indulge my passion to follow my lead, on a delightful slot to slower expressive music. This style of dancing allows me the time to play with the music.

So much did Helen want to indulge her passion for chilled expressive dancing, that she danced until four-thirty in the morning on all three nights.  She wasn’t alone  and tells me that the room was busy even as she left.  I’ll have more to say about the smooth slotted style of dancing later.

Dancing to late, late night chill-out music in The Cyclone Room

4: We ❤️ catching up with friends

There is no doubt that what people love about weekenders is having a chance to catch up with friends.  Emma is a dancer from the Ceroc Live & Dance franchise in Wiltshire, she explained what she loved about this weekender:

Breeze is the weekender for the Ceroc Wiltshire dancers.  I feel there’s something very special about having fun at your local weekender with fellow members of your local franchise.  It feels like a huge family and it makes me very happy to be part of it.

Emma makes a great point.  You can not beat spending a long weekend with your friends.  There are so many ways you can have fun with your mates, whether it’s having a laugh on the dance floor, just chatting or joining in with the chalet parties.  One of the things I loved about my visits to Southport was the after-parties my dance gang would have after a night on the dance floor.  Over a few (and then some) drinks we’d laugh about our antics on the dance floor.  Emma pointed to another important aspect of the social side to Breeze.

I’ve made lots of dance friends around the country – some of them, when they’ve come to Breeze – and it’s great to have an opportunity to catch up with them.

As I’ve travelled around the country I’ve made many new friends and at Breeze, I got a chance to dance and chat with quite a few of them. I think we all agree that the social side of this dance scene is one of its attractions and Breeze facilitated some wonderful socialising. In amongst Graham Farey’s photos, I found these two pictures. I think they say a lot about the fun that you can have when you catch up with friends.

Look out Brean, here come the girls . . .  Photo courtesy of Graham Farey

. . . and here come the boys too

Graham thankfully took a similar picture of the boys.  I’d hate you to think they didn’t have fun too.  Neil, from the West Midlands, is a great fan of weekenders, but this was his first trip to Breeze.  He had this to say about his experience:

The social aspect and atmosphere of Breeze was amazing, and it was good to see so many friends there.

That sums up what so many people said to me over the weekend.  When you go through Graham’s Breeze albums (see links below) you see lots of examples of friends having fun together. This is the spirit of a great weekender and Breeze, as Neil said, had a wonderful social vibe.

The  boys have just as much fun as the girls.  Photo courtesy of Graham Farey

5: We ❤️ the challenge of classes

One of the great attractions of any weekender is the classes and Breeze has an extensive programme.  On Saturday alone, I counted fifteen classes and seven Masterclasses.  Just looking through the timetable you realise that every style is catered for, and if you could do just half of them you would come away a very different dancer.  As well as the many Ceroc classes there were lessons on SILC,   Kizomba, Tango, Blues and Microblues, Rock ‘n’ Roll, Northern Soul and a whole programme for Beginners.  The Masterclasses also included instruction on Bachata and more Kizomba.

I think we’ve all learnt not to do too many lessons, and leave some energy for the main evening dance sessions.  My dance friend Jenny, was typical of many people and did a couple of lessons each day.  She picked out her favourite for me – Caine Langford and Danni Moore’s Light & Shade:

Most classes are move-based but Jenny tells me she loved the way that Caine and Danni showed how moves could be interpreted in many different ways dependant on the music you were dancing to:

We were shown how to change the moves slightly with a change of tempo or track.  It sometimes felt like you were doing a completely different move.

Jenny then pointed to something that explains the reason we do these lessons:

What Caine and Danni were asking of us was quite challenging.  What I loved was how the men smiled when they got how to change their lead subtly.

That’s what we love about lessons.  No matter what our level and experience, it’s a great feeling when you get what the teachers are asking you to do.  I remember doing a class with Caine and Danni that was to kick start my own journey to dance in the slot.  The sense of achievement when I learnt four moves perfectly suited to smooth slotted dancing was something that I’ll never forget.  I’ll have more to say about Caine and Danni’s teaching when I comment on the dancing style at Breeze.

Caine and Danni’s also did the very popular Intro to SILC in the Thunderball Room

6: We ❤️ the people’s choice competition

Breeze, of course, is also about the Blues competitions, but like all the Ceroc Escape Weekenders, it features a People’s Choice competition during the Cabaret hour, that is open to everyone and features main room music.   This competition isn’t open to professionals so there is always a chance that a dancer like ourselves gets to win it.  It’s a reason that the Thunderball Room is packed during this competition.

Entering competitions can be a little nerve-wracking, to say the least, especially the first time you walk on to the floor with people and the judges watching you.  But the People’s Choice competitions, with their ‘anyone can enter’ invitation, are a great way to dip your toes into competing.

It’s called the People’s Choice because the people chose the winners.  Three randon judges are picked from the onlooking crowd and they pick their own favourite dancer.  Then the three lucky couples perform again in a final.  At the end, the audience is asked to show their appreciation for each couple and the one with the loudest cheer, measured by a decibel reader, is awarded the prize.

As well as being able to hold the Cup (sadly you aren’t allowed to take it home) and receive a bottle of cheap plonk, more rewardingly you are given a place in the Ceroc Champs in May where you compete with the winners of the other weekender People’s Choice winners.

The finalists take a breath as they await the verdict of the onlooking audience.  Photo courtesy of Graham Farey

7: We ❤️ dancing to our favourite music

Breeze is essentially about the dancing and the one thing you’d ask for is fabulous music to do it to.  It’s no easy gig being a DJ, especially when we all have our favourite styles of music and tracks we’d rather not hear again, but the organising team at Breeze put on a roster of top DJs and they didn’t disappoint.  It helps, of course, that there are two rooms offering different styles.  That the slower chill-out music is the mainstay of the Cyclone Room, means that the Thunderball Room DJs are free to serve up many of the Ceroc classics in amongst their offerings of the latest dance hits and their own favourites.

It’s a formula that works really well and I heard plenty of positive comments about the Thunderball Room music, but I only had to look at the smiles on my dance partners faces to know how good the music was.

There is one Ceroc Classic that is a guaranteed floor filler and never fails to bring a smile to everyone’s face.  I heard it on the Saturday night, but I wouldn’t be surprised if it was played on all three nights, so good is its ability to create a great atmosphere out on the floor.  Last night by Chris Anderson and DJ Robbie a real favourite of mine and I love any opportunity to give it a plug.

8: We ❤️ dancing in the afternoon

For me, the great joy of the Ceroc weekenders is that there are opportunities to dance whenever you want to.  One of my favourite times is in the afternoon and it seems that I’m not alone for the Boudoir/Queen Vic pub area was packed on both Saturday and Sunday afternoons.  It’s because the organisers know how much we all love dancing in the afternoon that they put on a whole series of speciality hours on during these times.

Two of the most popular were both on Sunday afternoon – Swingers Hour, sixty minutes of full-on Swing and Rock ‘n’ Roll music, followed by Kieran Moore’s Motown and Soul hour, a chance to try out some of those Northern Soul moves taught by Sharon Thornman an hour before in the Thunderball Room class.

My favourite and I think many other peoples’ was John Bakers S’Funk hour on Saturday afternoon.   I’ve reviewed John’s music many times and he always serves up a top set no matter what the setting.  I remembering being blown away by his chill-out set at Strictly Ceroc’s Switch freestyle in Bristol, but I’ve had a sense that deep down he is a Soul and Funk Boy and so he proved.  So good was the atmosphere he created  in The Boudoir with his mix of ’70s and ’80s funk classics, that I’ll give it another big mention in my follow up music article.

One of my good dance friends Helen, from Wolverhampton, had this to say to me about the dancing in The Boudoir:

Paul, you know I absolutely love the afternoon sessions in the bar, the music is so brilliant, its difficult to leave to attend classes.

On Sunday afternoon Helen had to drag herself away to Keiren and Charlie’s SILC class.  I can understand the difficulty she must have had.

DJ John Baker selects another track as he builds the atmosphere in the S’Funk Hour

9: We ❤️ The Country Hour

A recent addition to these weekender speciality Hours is Country Hour billed as Bucks ‘n’Boots.  In the same way that one of the appeals of Swingers Hour is the opportunity it gives the girls to dress up in swirly retro 50s dresses,  Country Hour gives people an excuse to wear glamourous cowboy boots, a stetson hat and if you dared, Daisy Dukes.  This in itself creates a great atmosphere and is proof of how dancers love any excuse to get dressed up.

What you soon realise is that there is some wonderful country music that is perfectly suited to Ceroc dancing, and in my follow up music article I’ll be featuring some of DJ Vince Silva’s (or should that be Whispering Vinnie his Country alter-ego) fabulous music.  Country music has long had an association with line dancing and this year the Nu-line dance was choreographed to Luke Bryan’s Country girl (shake it for me).  

Not surprisingly Vince gave this a spin and suddenly a whole bunch of people are doing the line dance.  Every so often he would play a track that prompted another  line dance to break out.  It seems that there is a closet line dancer in many of us.

Whispering Vinnie gives me some background

The first Country Hour took place at Southport earlier this year and I couldn’t help but wonder how it had come about, so I asked Vince, sorry Whispering Vinnie, for the background.

It seems Vince had been a closet Country fan for many years and had a built up a sizeable collection of Country dance music. He takes up the story:

Last year I noticed that lots of my dance friends were also closet cowboys/cowgirls, so I decided to approach Head of Dance at Ceroc, Tim Sant-Turner, and asked if I could introduce a country music hour at the Ceroc weekenders.

Vince tells me that coincidentally Tim had been toying with the same idea, but couldn’t think who would be the best DJ for the job.  That’s when Vince decided to out himself as a Country fan, and Tim was quick to ask him to DJ the first one.  I remember being at Southport when Vince did that first Country Hour and you could sense that it was going to take off.  That it’s been rolled out to all the Escape Weekenders proves just what a success it’s been.

Another line dance breaks out on a packed dance floor during Country Hour

10: We ❤️ dancing outside

One of the joys of Breeze was the opportunity to dance outside the Queen Vic pub.  The weather had been very wet on the Friday, but thankfully Saturday’s weather was dry and come the afternoon we were able to dance outside.   It was here, out in the fresh air, that you had a chance to really chill-out.  Here’s Graham, who dances in Manchester, take on the alfresco dancing:

Breeze has a lovely chill-out vibe particularly when you get to dance outside.  I prefer the outside area at Brean Sands to Camber and it’s a great place to cool down.  I had some lovely dance here – lots of fun, lots of chemistry.

Chemistry.  Now there’s a word, but isn’t that what we want from our dancing sometimes.  By six o’clock on Saturday afternoon the Boudoir had thinned out a bit, inside and out, and there was a little more room to do some smooth slotted dancing.  DJ Danny Gallina was on the decks and he served up some fabulous funk-infused tracks in his SILC Vibe set.  Like Graham, I had some fabulous dances connecting with the wonderful vibe that Danny created and with my dance partners.  Chemistry?  At times, I’ll admit to that.

People love dancing outside on Saturday afternoon

11: We ❤️ watching the Blues Competitions

Before I talk about the Blues competitions themselves I just want to talk about the place they hold for the people who sit and watch.  As I was going through Graham Farey’s photographs I spotted this photo.  It shows part of the audience watching the Masters Invitational in The Thunderball Room on Saturday night.  The room was packed as people watched the finalist do their upmost to winner the top prize.

I’ve always felt that Blues dancing is the most difficult of the dance genres that we associate with Ceroc weekenders.  It requires a connection with your partner that is total.  Blues dancing just doesn’t work unless you and your partner have the same intense connection with the music.  I think we all have a great respect for dancers that can make such a connection.  It’s something we would all love to be able to aspire to, and that is why I think  that the audience is so transfixed by the dancing out in front of them.

The audience show their appreciation for the competitors in the Masters Invitational.  Photo courtesy of Graham Farey

12: We ❤️ Dancing with a Stranger

What I loved about Breeze was that the Blues competitions didn’t take over the whole weekender, even though there was a lot of it.  The Ceroc Breeze team seemed to get the balance right, and the various competitions didn’t get in the way of most people’s dancing.  It helped that the main competitions were held in the Cyclone Room so there was little interference to the dancing in the main Thunderball Room.

One of the popular categories in any competition schedule is the Dancing with a Stranger competition, where you end up dancing with a random partner.  These are great fun if only because there is a chance that you might end up dancing with someone, who you might never have imagined dancing with.  One of the big attractions of Lucky Dip competitions is that you don’t need a partner to enter.  I’ve met quite a few dancers who would love to enter a competition but couldn’t find a partner to share the experience.

By way of illustrating the place the Dancing with a Stranger competition has in people’s Breeze experience I want to let Helen tell her story.  We met Helen earlier when she explained how she danced all night in The SILC Zone.  The thing about the Lucky Dip is that you may find yourself dancing with someone you’ve never danced with before.  Helen told me how she prepared herself for this:

On the previous two nights in the Cyclone and Tempest Rooms, I asked lots of people I had never danced with before to partner me in a Blues dance.  I wanted to see how I would cope with a lead I’d not experienced before.

I asked Helen if that helped her.  I couldn’t help smile at the answer she gave me:

I’m not very tall, only 5 ft, so when I was paired with what seemed like the tallest man in the room I did wonder how I would get on.

So, how did it go?

Fabulously.  I was blown away, with the intensity of his lead and felt as if I’d had a masterclass in delightful dips and drops.  We didn’t get through, but I came away feeling our dance was my most memorable of the weekend.

And that is what competing should be about for most of us.  The thrill of taking part and the chance that you may have a dance that takes you to a place that you may not have been to before.  But isn’t that what all the dancing at a weekender is about.  Here at Breeze were so many opportunities to dance with people we have never danced with before.  Whether it was in The Thunderball Room, the Boudoir or in The SILC Zone and Blues Room, the opportunities were endless, and Helen wasn’t the only person to tell me just how many fabulous dances they’d had over the weekend.

Two of the couples in The Dancing with a Stranger competition.  Photo courtesy of Graham Farey

13: We ❤️ making the connection

Graham photos captured a lot of the action in the various Blues competitions.  I’ve picked out two that I think illustrate the wonderful connection that typifies modern Blues dancing.  The first is taken from The Blues Open finals on Sunday night.  Some people think that Blues is always done in a close hold, but it’s not necessarily the case.  In this picture, Dave and his partner Angela show great balance and grace as they complete an open move.

I love how Angela creates a lovely shape by the way she throws her arm out.  To do so she needs the confidence that Dave will keep her perfectly balanced.  To create such a pose the connection needs to be total.  That’s the type of connection that scores highly with the judges.

In the second picture, from the Dancing with a Stranger final, both the dances have their eyes closed and that in itself shows a connection of some intensity.  I remember a Blues teacher telling the men not to hold their lady partners in a vice-like grip.  ‘That is not Blues’, she said.  In this picture, Peter and his partner Chloe simply show a closeness that comes through a shared connection to each other and the music.  The close-hold is, in fact, very relaxed..  This performance would go on to win Peter and Chloe the top prize in the Dancing with a Stranger competition.

Dave & Angela, and Peter & Chloe illustrate the connection essential to Blues Dancing.  Photos courtesy of Graham Farey

14: We ❤️ Graham photos

I love that I have Graham’s photos to illustrate my Ceroc Escape reviews.  It seems that everyone one else loves them too, as they seem to pop up all over Facebook as people use them to tell their friends just what a great time they’ve been having.  What’s also nice to see is that people thank Graham in their postings for taking the photos of them.  There are so many photos that I’m sure that just about everyone is featured somewhere.  This time Graham managed to take a photo of myself:

Thank you, Graham

There are now two albums of photos available on the Ceroc.com website and I’ve put a link below so that you can easily access them.

Just about everyone is featured in Grahams 2 albums.  Screenshot from the Ceroc website

15: We ❤️ the smooth slotted way of dancing

You’ll find chill-out music at all the Ceroc weekenders, but I think Breeze might take some beating if you like the smooth slotted style of dancing.  There is a reason for this.  I mentioned in item 1 that Breeze attracts a lot of dancers from what I call the slotted hot spots along the M4 corridor.  People dance in the smooth slotted style in all parts of the country but it is particularly strong in the towns and cities either side of the motorway that stretches from West London to South Wales.  I think that it has a lot to do with the teachers at these venues and their commitment to the more modern slotted style of dancing.

On Sunday night I found myself chatting with Arthur, who dances almost exclusively around Bristol.  He commented on the style of dancing:

I love that everyone dances in the slot.  To be honest, I know no other.

I suspected I knew why.  I asked him who had taught him to dance:

Caine and Danni.

I mentioned Caine Langford and Danni Moore, in item 5 about one of their classes.  They also taught the SILC introductory class on Saturday.  Whenever I’ve been to Bristol I’ve been impressed by just how many people dance on the slot.  This I am sure is down to Caine and Danni’s influence.  I noticed something else about the dancing at Breeze.  Many of the people dancing in the main Thunderball Room were doing so in the same slotted style.  Something that contrasts with the majority of dancing in Southport’s  Thunderball Room.

Helen gets hooked on smooth dancing at Breeze

Helen, from Wolverhampton this time, is another dancer who is now a committed smooth slotted dancer.  Here’s her story and as you’ll see Breeze plays an important part in it:

I attended Brean last year and instantly fell in love with SILC.  I had little experience of dancing to the slower contemporary music but found myself watching dancers who were good at it.

Over that weekend Helen pushed herself to ask people to dance in the SILC Zone.  It paid dividends:

By the end of the weekend, I felt more comfortable with the slower music and smooth slotted dancing style.  So Breeze 2019 was a must for me.  Another chance to improve my SILC with great leads I knew I’d find in the Cyclone Room.

Like her namesake, Helen danced long into the night:

I loved the vibe in the SILC room created by fabulous music until the early hours.  In fact, the music got better and better the later night went on.

So in love with chill-out dancing is Helen, that she joked with me that she needs to move down south to get more of this wonderfully relaxed style of dancing.

Can I suggest you move to Bristol, then Helen

Here is one of Helen’s favourite chill-out tracks.  It’s one that any lover of chill-out music knows, and it is so easy to imagine Helen and everyone else dancing to it late into the night at Breeze.

16: We ❤️ coming over from Spain

Above, I mentioned that people come from all over to Breeze.  Barbara is a dancer I know from Scotland and she flew down from Edinburgh to get another weekender fix.  But there was also a group of people who had flown in from Alicante in Spain.  Back in April, I went over to Spain to dance with Maxine Goodie’s dance Paso a Paso dance club.  There I became good friends with Spanish residents Henny and his wife Viv.

As I was walking through the Thunderball Room on Friday night I bumped into Henny, Viv and Maxine.  I asked Henny what had brought them over:

We have a nice dance scene in Spain but we are a bit short on experienced dancers.

Back in February, the group went to the Ceroc Southport Weekender and their dancing benefited from being able to dance with so many good dancers.  It wasn’t long before they were looking for another opportunity to improve their dancing.  At this time of year, they were able to find some inexpensive flights that fitted in with the Breeze dates.  Here’s what Henny had to tell me about their experience:

We loved the workshops and masterclasses we attended and loved that we got a chance to dance in the slot.

It’s interesting that Henny mentioned dancing in the slot.  What impressed me when I visited Paso a Paso was that they hold lessons were the more modern form of smooth slotted dancing is taught.  Like Helen, they all loved that they got plenty of opportunities to dance with experienced dancers in the so-called slot.  Seems I’ll have to add Breeze to my Slotted Hot Spot list.  Henny told one other thing about their Breeze experience:

We enjoyed watching the blues competitions.  We’ve not had the chance to do any Blues dancing at our club.  Needless to say, Viv now has the Blues Bug.

Seems that Henny and Viv will be back next year to have another Blues fix along with everyone else.

Viv, Henny and Maxine (middle row, centre) watch the Blues competition

17: We ❤️ Sack the DJ Slots

Sack the DJ Slots are where the regular DJs give way to anyone wanting to take a turn at DJing in The Boudoir.  Now it’s fair to say, that these spots aren’t at the busiest times, but they fill in the gaps so that you can dance around the clock, except for a break between six and ten in the morning.  This continuity is something so many of us love about weekenders. On Saturday night these slots allowed chill-out dancers to carry on dancing when the Cyclone Room was given over to Blues practice.

On Sunday night the dancing in the main Thunderball Room didn’t kick off until eighty-thirty, and once again the Cyclone room was set aside for practice for The Open Blues competition.  Having a full roster of DJs ensures that the dancers get an extensive variety of tracks to dance to, and the Sack the DJ guys and gals add to this fabulous mix of music.

The Sunday night eight o’clock slot was in the hands of Ramon Graham and impressively his first two tracks were ones I can’t recall dancing to before.  They were both perfect for chill-out dancing.  In fact, I loved the first track so much I’m going to feature it in my follow-up music article.  Seems that others were impressed by Graham’s selection too, as he tells me that a small group stayed on the floor for the whole of his hour-long set.  I love that people like Graham get their chance behind the decks.  This wonderful dance scene is richer for the opportunities it gives to aspiring DJs like Ramon.

Sack the DJ slots enable the dancing to start at 3 Friday afternoon

18: We ❤️ love the accommodation

Most people who are regulars at the Pontin’s holiday camp weekenders come to accept the accommodation for what it is.  It’s just a base after all, and many of us spend more time on the dance floor than in our chalet.  You learn to take your own bedding, a four plug extension lead, a bath mat and you’re sorted.

Having now added Breeze to my list of Pontin weekenders, I think that the quality of accommodation at Brean Sands might just pip that at Southport and Camber Sands.  A few people mentioned how impressed they were with their accommodation.  The first thing is that the majority of the chalets are single story – a real benefit when you don’t have to cart all your stuff up and down the stairs when you arrive and depart.

I want to mention one thing that impressed me.  The shower I had in my chalet was like the ones I’m used to in the Premier Inn – the hotel chain of my choice when I travel around.  Now that was impressive.

The majority of chalets at Brean Sands are single story

19: We ❤️ dancing with different people

Many people love dancing locally.  Regularly going along to your favourite freestyle means that you soon get to know many of the dancers.  You know who you feel comfortable dancing with and you soon have a list of your favourite dancers.  Come along to a Ceroc weekender, that attracts people from all over the UK, and you’ll find yourself dancing with lots of different dancers.  That for many people is what they loved about Breeze.  Here’s Jo, another dancer from The West Midlands:

I love the challenge of dancing with people for the first time.  It brings my dancing on.

For the ladies, this is a particular challenge, as every man will lead the moves slightly differently.  Jo is a fabulous dancer.  After a particularly wonderful dance I asked her to remind me where we’d danced before:

We danced together at Southport.

That is what I love about weekenders – I get to dance with so many wonderful dancers like Jo.  It was the same at Breeze, and what was so exciting was the opportunity to dance with people for the first time.  Like Jo, it helps bring my dancing on too, as I have to ensure my signals are unambiguous and my positioning is spot on when I’m partnering people who aren’t familiar with my dance style.

Jenny owns up to a lack of confidence

I was told something else about the advantages of  having lots of different people to dance with at Breeze.  Jenny has not been dancing a full year and still lacks the confidence to ask just anyone to dance.  She explained her confidence issue:

Because I’m still not very good, I worry that if I dance badly with someone at my class night, they might avoid dancing with me in the future.

I’ve danced with Jenny before and I think she’s being a bit hard on herself, but I understand where she’s coming from.

This weekend, there’s been so many people to dance with who I’ll never see again.  So I don’t have the same worry.  I can relax a little more and I think my dancing’s come on a little.

I think there’s something positive in Jenny’s story.  We improve our dancing any way we can.  Many of us go to classes at weekenders, but dancing with new dancers is a great way to bring your dancing on whether you are me, Jo or Jenny.

Dancers in the Thunderball Room help bring each other’s dancing on

20: We ❤️ having fabulous dances

You can’t beat having fabulous dances.  Whether it’s like the two Helen’s in the Cyclone Room or like myself and Jo, in the Thunderball Room.  It’s what weekenders are about and so many people told me about the wonderful dancing they enjoyed in all the rooms.  More than anything a wonderful dance needs a wonderful dance partner – and it’s worth remembering that Breeze would be nothing without the people who come to dance.

It would be unkind to Southport and Camber to suggest that the level of dancing at Breeze was the best, but it wouldn’t be unfair to say that the standard is very high.  On Sunday night I asked a lady on to the Thunderball Room floor, to dance to what is one of my top dance tracks of all time – the Communards Don’t leave me this way.  This track has so much energy and whenever I hear the intro, I hope that I get lucky with my partner.

I was already high from my dancing.  DJ Tony Riccardi had created a great vibe out on the floor but he’d left this monster of a dance track to the very end.  I had to dance with someone who could match my excitement.  I quickly spotted a lady I’d danced with during DJ John Baker’s outstanding S’Funk Hour on Saturday afternoon.  Our dance had been so good that as we’d walked off the dance floor I couldn’t help myself saying these words:

That was absolutely fabulous

I dashed over to where she was sitting.

Would you like to dance?

Yes, please.

I know that everyone has their favourite tracks and don’t want to miss out on the chance to dance to them.  Many times I’ve been asked on to the floor with the words:

I love this track.  I just have to dance to it.

We are dancers, we have come to Breeze for the great music and to give ourselves up to it.  Sometimes we just can’t miss out. It’s as if we were born to dance to certain tracks.  The one thing I would wish for the first-timer Jenny is that she gains enough confidence to be able to ask someone on to the floor when her favourite track comes on.  I want her to enjoy the same high that I experienced as I gave myself up to the thumping beat of Don’t leave me this way.

The gates of Dance Heaven await us all

My partner didn’t let me down.  She matched my energy and crisscrossed the floor with a wonderfully flowing action completely in sync with my lead.  The connection was total and there was never any doubt that we would crash through the gates of Dance Heaven as the song reached its musical climax.  At the end of the track I couldn’t help asking where I’d danced with her before:

Yesterday afternoon.  The Funk hour.  You said the dance was fabulous.

I couldn’t help but smile.  It was the reason I’d asked her to dance to this favourite track of mine:

Yes, but I’ve danced with you before somewhere.

We danced in the summer at Flava, the tea dance in Newport.  After the dance, you said WOW!

That’s me all over.  When I have a fabulous dance I can’t help but enthusiastically compliment my partner.  The lady I now know as Jackie, who comes from Chippenham.  I’m sure that everyone who came to Breeze got to dance with someone as fabulous as Jackie.  When they did, I hope they got to go through the gates of Dance Heaven and at the end, they thanked their partner as enthusiastically as I did Jackie.  The words ‘WOW’, ‘Fabulous’, and ‘Bloody Fantastic’ are all allowed.  I’ll leave you with the track that gave me one of my best dances of the whole weekend.

Coming soon

In a couple of weeks I’ll be writing a review of the music at Breeze entitled The Spirit of Breeze in 20 Tracks.  It will cover all the different genres of music served up over the weekend.

Links to the official Breeze photographs

Graham Farey’s Official Photos Part 1

Graham Farey’s Official Photos Part 2