The Tea Dance Tour throws up some wonderful stories

I sensed that the Tea Dance tour would be different from going to a series of Friday or Saturday night freestyles, and so it has proved, and it has thrown up some heart warming stories.

At the very first stop at Ceroc Surrey’s Byfleet Tea Dance, I told the story of Marion, who had come along at the bequest of her granddaughter Rozel.  Marion had been a ballroom dancer, but could no longer take to the floor, and it was a joy chatting with her as she talked proudly of the way her grand daughter graced the floor (see link below).

A few stops later I called at Ceroc Perth’s first ever Weekender, and included a review of the  Sunday chill-out dancing as part of The Tea Dance Tour (see link below).  This Weekender proved to be an outstanding success and it was very heart warming to see Nicola thank all her team that Sunday afternoon.  I felt very privileged to be in at the start of a Weekender that I’m sure will grow in to one of the major dates in the Scottish dance calendar .

A garden haven for Jennie

Knowing that I was looking for future stops on my Tea Dance Tour, my dance friend Neil drew my attention to a charity event in Surrey he thought we could go to.  The story behind this charity event is one of the most heart warming I’ll ever report on, and shows the very best of the Modern Jive community in action.

The details came via an email sent out by Colin Shaul of LeRoc Surrey.  Colin’s own words speak volumes:

Jennie who is a very popular dancer, at our dances and those at MJRoc, sadly had the bad news that she has very little time left with us, and a group of dancers have got together for some urgent fund raising.
We all want to transform her garden asap, so you can enjoy this precious time she has.
The group of dancers organised a Just Giving fund raiser page and a Sunday afternoon Tea Dance to raise money to create a peaceful haven in Jennie’s own garden.

A beautiful setting for such a wonderful cause

Peter Chang, who runs the award winning Heron’s Bonsai, and keen modern jive dancer himself, kindly made available his beautiful garden and venue to hold a ‘bring your own’ Picnic and Tea Dance.

Peter has created a beautiful Japanese style garden complete with koi carp pond and waterside planting.  In the midst of this he has recently built a contemporary Japanese workshop and venue with meditation space open for corporate and private hire.

The workshop has a beautiful wooden floor, and I understand that it is sometimes used for modern jive teaching workshops.  On a beautiful sunny afternoon it was the perfect place to come along and meet up with dance friends and celebrate Jennie’s contribution to the local modern jive scene.

Peter’s beautiful garden provided the perfect setting for a BYO Picnic

The Modern Jive Community quickly gets on board

Jennie is well known and loved throughout the dance community in The South East, and for many years has been part of the crew for the sell-out MJRoc Warmwell Weekender in Dorset.  The people behind this well loved dance event, along with others from the local dance community, decided to get together and try to raise the funds for her garden haven.

A team was quickly put together involving some of Jennie’s close friends with support from LeRoc Surrey, EnerJive, Gazzabash, Jive Riot and Jive Frenzy.  I got to chat with Sally who, along with Dawn and Lesley, was one of the main co-ordintors.  She was happy to give me a little background to the fund raising:

More than anything we wanted to do something to let Jennie know that we were thinking of her.  One of the dancers approached Jennie’s husband Kevin and he gave us his, and Jennie’s, blessing to go ahead.

Sally and the team moved quickly, and she tells me the event was organised within a couple of weeks.

Jennie takes her place in the Warmwell 2017 Welcome Team.

Jenny would have loved Lee’s Fun Class

From talking with people who knew Jennie, it seems that she was the life and soul of the party, and was always game for a laugh.  There is no doubt then, that Jennie would have loved Lee and Dawn’s Fun Class that kicked off the dancing.

Husband and wife teachers Lee and Dawn are also regulars at Warmwell, and MJRoc’s other sell-out Weekender – Beach Roc in the Isle of Wight.  They both run the Style Dance School in Stevenage.  Lee is quite a character, bursting with exuberance and hilarity, and just perfect for this ice-breaker of a class.

I won’t try and explain just what Lee did, except to say that he had everyone in stitches and set a joyful tone for an afternoon that was just as much a celebration of Jennie’s contribution to the Modern Jive community.  It was great fun and a great help to anyone like Neil and myself who didn’t know anyone before this class started.

Here’s the part in Lee’s fun routine that we all Dosey-Doe around our partners.  My thanks to Cliff for taking this picture

Cliff kicks of the dancing with ’80s disco

Now I’m a great fan of ’70s Disco music so I was intrigued when DJ Cliff, from EnerJive, told me he would be playing ’80s Disco tracks.  I’d kind of forgotten about ’80s disco music, but Shalamar’s A night to remember, and George Benson’s Give me the night soon brought the dance memories flooding back.

The track from Cliff’s set I’ll feature is Odyssey’s Going Back To My Roots from 1981.  This was a big hit on the dance floor in the early eighties, and rather like Shalamar’s A night to remember shows how music had moved on after the disco boom of the ’70s.

I mention this because, when I set out on my Tea Dance Tour, I imagined I would hear a lot of chill-out music, and here’s a great example.  Here in ’80s gift wrapping, courtesy of Cliff, is a track that represents the beginnings of a more laid back dance music style.  Back to my roots owed its origins to the ’70s funk of James Brown, and the development of this style of music would eventually lead to the contemporary sounds we now associate with chill-out rooms.

Everybody is dancing on the slot

Cliff’s only had about half an hour before the fun started again with a ‘Dance with a Stranger’ competition.  In that time Cliff’s music soon filled the floor, with people starting to burn off the picnic calories, and it wasn’t long before I realised that most people were dancing in the so called slot.

Readers, who have been following my Tea Dance Tour, will know that I’m using it to try to advance my skills of dancing in this more modern style.  Back home in Nottingham there is very little smooth slotted dancing – what a contrast to how the dance floor looked on this particular afternoon.

I’ve made more progress than I realise

When the majority of the people are dancing in this style, the dance floor soon divides up in to linear spaces and it’s very difficult to dance in any other style.  I must have made more progress with my smoother slotted style of dancing than I realised, because I instinctively joined in.

I’ve always thought that the further you went south the more chilled music would be played and the more people would be dancing in the more modern slotted way, but this was a surprise.  I mentioned it to Cliff, who gave me this assessment:

What you have to realise Paul, is that there are quite a few West Coast Swing dancers here

It was West Coast that first brought the idea of the slot to modern jive dancing, and if I might be so brave to say so, Ceroc’s SILC style of dancing is very much like West Coast Swing without the triple step.

West Coast Swing plays an important role

What I’m beginning to understand is that there is some kind of link between West Coast Swing and the number of people doing the slotted style of dancing.

In a previous post on my Tea Dance Tour, I’d mentioned that my home town of Nottingham saw very little slotted dancing.  Interestingly West Coast Swing has failed to take hold in The East Midlands and there is now no regular West Coast Swing classes in Nottingham.

Having dancers with experience of West Coat Swing at Modern Jive freestyles is always going to help establish a more modern style of dancing – surely.  Enough though of my musings.  It’s time for some more fun.

The Dance with a Stranger Competition

Everyone was encouraged to sign up for the ‘Dance with a Stranger’ competition.  This was run by Nicky, another member of the MJRoc team.  Nicky quickly got every one paired up with a partner in two rows.  Nicky then simply got the men to move up four ladies along the rows to arrive at their random partner.

There were then two heats.  As the music started in my heat, I realised that my dancing in the slot to slower music was going to be severely tested.  Lucky for me I got paired with a very experienced dancer.  So how did I and my partner do?

So Paul, did you make the final?

Now, I don’t think there was any disgrace in not making the final.  Just three pairs were selected from each heat, and any way the idea was to have some fun, and that’s exactly what we and everyone did.

I must say the standard of dancing in the final was very high, and there was some wonderful smooth dancing on show.  Sally was on hand to give out the prizes to the winning couple.  Well done to them, and indeed to everyone who took part.  This was another fun element to what was turning out to be a wonderful afternoon.

Smiles all round as Sally gives the winners their trophies

Kelly plays a fabulous chill-out set

The next DJing slot after the ‘Dance with a Stranger’ competition was in the hands of Kelly Donoghue who runs Jive Riot based in Totton near Southampton.  I was really interested how Kelly would play it.  From what I’d already seen the dancers showed a proficiency of dancing to chill-out music in the modern slotted way, and I wondered how much Kelly would play to this.

I hope fellow DJs Amanda, Cliff and Colin wouldn’t mind if I concentrate on Kelly’s playlist, because as I’ve listened to the tracks again I’ve come to realise that this was a set worthy of some consideration.  Here’s one of Kelly tracks that really impressed.

A perfect Tea Dance track

I’m going to vote Get at it by Lawrence Welton as this month’s Tea Dance Tour top track.  Its funky rhythm sums up what Sunday dancing is all about.  Laid back, but not too laid back.  Just listen to the intro’s funky bass line hook.  It hit me from the very first bar, and the track has such a well defined rhythm that you can instantly connect with it.

The track is perfect for the more contemporary slotted smooth style of dancing, but its beat is strong enough to work when you just slow your normal Modern Jive moves a little.  Recorded in 2006 it pays homage to the funk vibe of the ’70s and ’80s, but it also has many elements of a modern dance track, and it’s that funky vibe that makes this a killer track.

This playlist is so well crafted

As well as picking out standout tracks, I can’t help but listen to how a DJ puts their playlist together.  It’s not easy to get the balance right – we all like different music, but Kelly pitched it perfectly.  In Kelly’s playlist was a great mix of different rhythm and music genres that provided the dancers with music to express themselves what ever their preferences.

Kelly even found room for the current main room favourite – One Kiss by Calvin Harris, featuring the vocals of Dua Lipa.  But even this track, with its club land vibe, isn’t too full on that it doesn’t fit the bill for a Sunday dance.  The track also  has that wonderful passage where Harris slows it down to allow the dancers to really express their musicality, before he builds the energy levels back up again.

Kelly also mixed in some bluesy slower tracks, including one I’ll feature later, that allowed for some real expressive dancing.  With all the great variety and the tempo spot on, it’s no wonder that the dance floor was packed – proof if it was needed just how well crafted Kelly’s playlist was.

Kelly’s wonderfully crafted playlist kept the dance floor very busy

Another top chill-out track

My note book was full of so many great chill-out tracks that’s it’s proving hard to pick the best out.  Private dancer by Julian Perretta & Feder, the Zwette remix of Tom Odell Another Love, and Charlie Wilson Infectious featuring Snoop Dogg, all had stars against them, but I want to feature this next track as a real favourite from the afternoon.

The Isley Brothers were one of Motown’s biggest stars of The ’60s, but they felt their creativity somewhat restricted.  They left the Detroit hit machine in 1968 and formed their own record company T-Neck.  Here they went on to create a wonderful new laid back sound – Think Summer breeze and Harvest for the world.

Now, I mention the Isley’s because I honestly thought this next wonderful track was one of theirs.  It actually turned out to be Shaun Escoffery with a track from 2014.  Nature’s call is a wonderful contemporary laid back track, but it shows just how much modern record producers owe to the pioneers of chilled music like the Isley’s.

Let’s have a break for some cake

I’ll return to Kelly’s playlist and her wonderful music in a short while, because now its time to put the spotlight on cake, and more particularly chocolate cake.

While researching for my first Tea Dance article (see link below), I soon realised that cake played a very important part in the proceedings, and that people went out of their way to bake the most delicious offerings.  So important is cake in fact, that I have decided to actually announce my favourite one at the end of the tour.

Queen of The Chocolate Brownie

Colin tells me that Jennie was Queen of The Chocolate Brownie and actually sent me a photo of one of her wonderful creations.  While everyone bought their own picnics, many people had baked cakes which were for sale in the marquee.

Now one of my biggest weaknesses is cake, particularly of the chocolate variety, but so good was the dancing to Kelly’s music, that I nearly forgot to indulge myself.  Sadly when I got go the marquee there was little left, but I found this chocolate cake.  So delicious did it look that it came with a health warning, so in the interests of my waist line, I only had a very small slice.  If anyone knows who baked this gorgeous creation please, let me know as it’s in the running to be voted No 1.

The Health Warning was my graphic designer Tel’s way of reminding me about the dangers of eating too much cake on my Tea Dance Tour

So what is expressive dancing?

At least I could burn off the calories with more dancing to Kelly equally delicious music.

While I am no doubt making some progress with my slower dancing, there is one style I’m still very wary of – close hold Blues, and what is called Expressive dancing.  Now I have to be honest here that I’m not a hundred percent sure just what Expressive dancing entails.  I realise that it’s about expressing yourself to the music, but I’m not yet quite sure how you do that in a partner dance.

It’s about spotting the breaks and accents in the music

While I was at The Perth Weekender, mentioned above, I attended two excellent Blues classes run by Jo Hart.  One of the tips that Jo gave us was to really listen to the music and try to spot the breaks and accents.  Songs all have a structure, and with some songs that structure is quite easy to identify.

The one thing I have learnt to do is spot the breaks – those very definite pauses in the music.  I’ve had less success in matching my dancing to these pauses, and I’m not quite sure what to do sometimes.  I suspect that this is what Expressive dancing is all about.  Hopefully as I continue my Tour I’ll get to do some lessons and get to practice.

Kelly plays a track perfect for expressive dancing

Now I mention this Expressive dancing because played Kelly played a track perfect for spotting the pauses and breaks, and the changes in tempo and feel.

I’d actually asked Kelly if she would tell me what her own favourites were amongst her playlist.  She picked out Tom Jones version of the 1947 blues classic Sixteen Tons.  Listening to it again on my headphones, I can see that this is the type of track that Jo Hart was alluding to.  Tom Jones’ delivery is punctuated by dramatic changes in pace that I imagine the Expressive dancers on the dance floor had a field day with.

This track also impressed me because Kelly must have really dug around for it.  It was recorded in 1967 when Jones had his first taste of success, and it must have been buried deep in the music vaults.  I love it when DJ dig out tracks that I’ve never danced to before.  Great find Kelly.

The fresh tracks kept coming

One of the reasons that Kelly’s playlist impressed so much, was that there was so much fresh new music.  I know that many people want to be continually served up fresh new tracks to dance to, and that’s just what Kelly did.  Another gem, that was completely new to me, was The Stella Starlight Trio’s bluesy rendition of the Gloria Jones classic Tainted love.

While I sat this track out – being a little too slow for me – I circled it in my note book as a standout track, and the type that I hope I’ll be able to dance to by the end of my Tour.  Interestingly Kelly also listed it as one of her favourites.

My thanks to Peter on behalf of us all

Before I tell you about one more of Kelly standout tracks, I just want to make another comment about the general atmosphere of this wonderful Tea Dance.  Peter’s beautiful garden proved the perfect place for people to simply chill-out and catch up with friends.

The garden was the most wonderful place to spend a relaxed afternoon and evening, and reflect on the reason why we had all gathered together.  So, on behalf of everyone who enjoyed the wonderful ambience of the workshop and its Japanese style setting, I’d like to extend our thanks to Peter.

The area adjacent to the Dance Studio was a lovely place to have a picnic or catch up with friends

Everyone’s favourite track

In amongst Kelly’s wonderful mix of chilled music were some real chill-out favourites.  Another that I’d highlighted in my note book was the beautiful Tropical House remix by Kygo of Ed Sheeran’s I see fire.  But the favourite I want to feature is perhaps the one track we would all wish to dance to on a such a beautiful day.

The track is another one that Kelly tells me is a personal favourite – and it’s one of mine too.  Take me to the river by the English duo Kaleida is the most gorgeous piece of dance music.  While it has all the credentials as a chill-out track, it is also given a lot of main room plays.  Released in 2015 I suspect it’s now safely established as a Modern Jive classic.

I have to give Amanda a mention

While I focused most of my attention on Kelly’s playlist, she was followed by Amanda from EnerJive, who I have to give one important mention.  Last year I voted one of the LeRoc Surrey freestyles at Tylney Hall, Leatherhead as my best of 2016-17 (see link below).  That night Colin shared the decks with both Amanda and Cliff.

One of the standout tracks was a fabulous mix of Drizabone’s Real love.  I searched all over YouTube for it, but drew a blank.  With Amanda on the decks again I heard the intro to this Modern Jive classic once more.  Was it the version Amamda had played at Tylney Hall?  Yes, it was the same great mix.   As the track ended I was at the front asking Amanda what it was, and she kindly gave me the details.

The reason I mention this track is because, once again in September, I’ll be putting together my top picks of the year and will be doing  a Top Ten Tracks Listing.  Real love is a wonderful Smooth Jive track, and after dancing to this great remix in the context of this wonderful Tea dance, it is in pole position to be included in my latest Top Ten listing.

The track is simply labelled as Real love – Jazzy Mix.  Here it is.  Now, lose yourself in its wonderful saxophone solos.

A smile for Jennie

The dancing went on until nine thirty – Colin followed on from Amanda on the decks.  Sadly I had to leave at nine because I had a long drive to my next destination.  It had been the most wonderful day, and even though there was at times a little sadness in the air, the day had been a fitting way to much bring Jennie in to everyone’s thoughts, and perhaps do nothing more than smile for her.

There was certainly a lot of smiling on this wonderful day.  There were smiles in Lee’s fun class, and further smiles as we all joined in with the ‘Dance with a Stranger’ competition.  Of course you can’t help but smile when you dance, and when I look through all the photo’s I took of the dancing, the room is full of smiles – some no doubt for Jennie.

Who could forget Scooby Do

When Colin was giving me some details about Jennie, he mentioned that she was always up for the fancy dress nights at The MJRoc Weekenders.  Here she is dressed as Scooby Doo at Beach Roc, in The Isle of Wight, as Lee takes everybody through another fun class.

The MJRoc fancy dress nights are legendary and having seen Tel’s album of photographs (see link below for the full set) I am sure that they remain in people’s memory for some time, and who could ever forget Scooby Doo.

Lee has everyone smiling in a fun class at Beach Roc, including Jennie dressed as Scooby Do

Next stop North Greenwich Pier

I hope you’ll join me as my Tea Dance takes to the river.  My next stop is Ceroc Evolution’s Sunday afternoon dance on board a River Thames river boat.

Related Posts

LeRoc Surrey Tylney Hall Freestyle

The Beach Roc. Isle of Wight Photo Album 

The Tea Dance Tour Articles

Tea Dances grow in popularity

More Tea Dances than I had realised

The Tea Dance Tour starts at Byfleet

The Tea Dance Tour rolls in to Northchurch

The Tea Dance Tour steams in to Perth

The Tea Dance Tour pulls in to Bromsgrove

The Tea Dance Tour pulls in to Southport

Get the Tea Dance Jigsaw

The image at the top of this posting is by artist Jason Juta, and was used for a 1000 piece Falcon de luxe Jigsaw entitled Tea Dance. The jigsaw is available on line. Here’s a link to one of the many sites that sell this popular jigsaw.