Part 1 tells how the blog first developed
In Part 1 I explained how my blog grew out of a passion for dancing (see link below). I also explained that if I couldn’t write anything positive about a venue I visited I would rather write nothing at all. I also wrote how I started to ask people for their views on the freestyles and weekenders that I attended and how I hoped this gave added credibilities to my reviews.
As I spread my wings and reviewed class nights and freestyles beyond my East Midlands base, I expanded the scope of the blog to include music compilations that I would eventually load up onto my Spotify music streaming channel. One of the major developments was when photographer Tel Jenkins joined me on my travels and we started to include his fabulous photo albums and videos into my reviews. Tel would also be a big help in developing some of the artwork and graphics I used in my posts.
In this second part I look at how my articles start to comment more and more on this wonderful dance scene and the way it is slowly evolving as new styles of dancing and music have an impact. I also explain how my own changing style of dancing has influenced the venues I visit and the topics I write about. More than ever I show how the my blog has taken me on dance adventures I could never have envisaged when I first started out.
I seek out venues with a difference
Trying to broaden the appeal of my reviews I started to look for events and venues that were a little different to the regular freestyles that we all attend. It wasn’t long until I came across a whole series of different events run by Steve Thomas of Ceroc Evolution. I’d come across Steve as a teacher and had written about his wonderful SILC lessons at The Ceroc Perth Weekender. Back in the spring of last year I was told about a freestyle with a difference that Steve was running in late summer, on the Cutty Sark, the historic clipper now restored at Greenwich.
I immediately bought tickets for myself and my dance gang friends from Nottingham. Thank goodness I did, for it sold out very quickly. The event (see links to my reviews below) was a stunning success and just showed how people are always on the lookout for something different. I found myself keeping an eye on the Ceroc Evolution Facebook page and it wasn’t long before I spotted another event that promised to be very different – a trip on a dancing boat down the Thames. Again I bought a ticket before it sold out. Again it was a great success (see link below).
From The O2 to The Sky
Putting on these special events for the first time must be a bit of a financial risk and so I’ve a great respect for promoters like Steve Thomas, who will take a punt on a new idea, not knowing whether they will even break even or not. Between Christmas and The New Year of 2018, Steve put on a nine hour freestyle at the Indigo, one of the venues inside The O2. He must have had his fingers crossed that he’d sell enough tickets to make all the effort worthwhile.
There were over six hundred people in attendance and over a hundred people, including myself, in the survivors photo at five in the morning. I call that a success and it’s no surprise that Steve is doing it again this year.
Probably Steve’s most spectacular event was The Sky – a freestyle held inside the i360 venue on Brighton’s promenade. The freestyle ticket included a trip in the viewing platform that rises high above Brighton’s skyline. Dancing to Edwin Starr’s Contact seemingly amongst the stars was something that I doubt I would have experienced if it had not been for my blog. This was an amazing night and I was pleased to use my blog to tell the story of how a vision can become a successful reality (see link below).
This wonderful dance community
The more I travelled and the more people I spoke to, the more I built up a picture of a wonderful dance community. A community that was made up of like minded people, who just wanted to experience the joy of dancing, by inviting each other on to the dance floor. In my reviews and articles I would find myself referencing the two Golden Rules that underpin the community:
That no one should ever refuse an invitation to dance and that the ladies can ask the men
There would always be people who danced exclusively with their partners, but on the whole it meant that everyone danced with everyone else and in doing so created a wonderful social atmosphere. Everywhere I went I would meet people who had made lasting friendships through their love of Ceroc and Modern Jive. I would be told time and time again how dancing had changed peoples’ lives for the better by offering fellowship and a place of escapism.
I was told how people had rebuilt their lives with the support of what they called their dance family.
These heart warming stories would occassionally find a place in my reviews and articles and they would encourage me to write a short story featuring a group of beginners, who support each other as they overcome the stress of their early days at class nights and freestyles (see link below).
Class nights are central to everything
The more I learnt about this dance community the more I realised just how important the class nights were. Back in March, I was at the Modern Jive World Championships, which are held in the Tower Ballroom in Blackpool. There must have been five hundred people there either competing or spectating. It occured to me that every one competing was once a beginner.
They had enrolled for their first lesson and had some how not given up. With the support of the teachers, taxi dancers and crew members they had made it through to the point where the fun was greater than the stress of the classes. They would subsequently embark on a dance journey which would end with them competing in one of the most iconic ballrooms in the world.
It’s the same when you see five hundred people dancing in the Thunderball Room at Ceroc’s Southport Weekenders. Everyone of those people attended a class night at some point on their journey. It’s worth remembering that without the nationwide network of class nights there would be no freestyles, no weekenders, no dance holidays and no championships like Blackpool either.
It’s why I have always found time to review classes andworkshops and give credit to the legion of people who, through their patience and love of dancing, give people the confidence to start out on a dance journey that will take them to where ever they want to go.
The blog now has a video channel
Many class nights will have occasional fancy dress themed nights. Valentine’s, Halloween and Christmas are favourite times to look in the dressing up box. I’ve reviewed many of these themed class nights with their fun classes and general laughter. I’m always surprised how much effort people make for these fancy dress classes, but the result is a night of added hilarity.
This love of dressing up, in ever more bizzare and eye-catching costumes, has found its way into freestyles and weekenders. I have many times found myself reviewing fancy dress themed freestyles and they always generate added fun on the dance floor. The most impressive show of fancy dress I’ve ever seen was at the MJRoc Warmwell Weekender.
This was one of the weekenders where I was accompanied by Tel and his video of the weekend features lots of action from the fancy dress competition. My favourite part of this video is when Tel captures Popeye winking at the camera. This is just one of Tel’s videos that are now available on the Modern Jive Dancer video channel (see link below). I’d like to think that these videos also help spread the word to non-dancers about just how much fun you can have on the dance floor.
Video taken and edited by Tel Jenkins
I use my blog to give advise to inexperienced dancers
The article that has had the most reads is the one entitled Dance Tips for Ladies – making the leap to Freestyles. The background to the writing of this article gives some insight in to the feedback I recieve about my postings. You’ll remember the short story I mentioned above about the six beginners as they supported each other through the first first part of their dance journey – from their first class night until their first freestyle.
One day I saw that a man had left a comment at the bottom of the story. He had been reading how the group go to their first freestyle and his comment read as follows:
Fun to read but you have already forgotten the stresses of being a real beginner! I am going through this experience at the moment and am loving the classes but freestyle is way too scary!!
Even though I’d written the last part of the story about the experience of going to a freestyle, I’d obviously not portrayed the real horror that some people feel the first time they go. The man went on to explain how tough it was being a beginner man.
Being a man beginner is much more difficult as we have to lead. The ladies learn how to follow and they are good to go. We however have to learn to improvise and that takes knowledge and courage. I have been learning for a year and love it but my one freestyle experience was not good.
This made me think whether I could use my blog to give guys, who were thinking of making the leap to freestyles, a little help. I would quickly write an article, giving tips to the men about how they could minimise the stress of their first freestyle (see link below). The article was very well recieved and I got a lot of thanks for writing it. One day I got a comment left on the blog. It was simple and to the point:
When are you going to write an article giving tips to the ladies?
Could a man give tips to a lady? I decided to set myself the challenge of doing just that, but sensibly asked the help of the ladies in my local dance gang. It took a lot of thought and a great deal of input from my female friends, but when the article was published it was recieved as enthusiastically as the one giving tips to the men. Back in April I updated the article (see link below) and it found another audience who were equally appreciative that I’d taken the time to do this.
Road Trips and Dance Adventures
As I was thinking about whether to start this writing project, I read a book offering tips on how to write a successful blog. There was one piece of advice that gave me hope that I could make a success of it. The tip was as follows:
Just start writing and see what happens. You’ll be amazed where your blog takes you.
That’s just what I did and I’ve been amazed just where it has taken me. I’ve found myself criss-crossing the whole country to dance, From Perth in Scotland to the South Coast. I’ve danced in Kent in the East and Devon in the West, and crossed the Severn Bridge to South Wales. I’ve been to every part of The East and West Midlands. Manchester remains the only major conurbation I’ve not danced in.
I’ve had two foreign dance adventures. Back in April I was invited over to the Costa Blanca to review the dancing around Torrevieja and in July I spent a week driving between some of the Modern Jive and Ceroc venues in Ireland. In September I did my first Weekend Road Trip around Devon and South Wales. For these dance adventures I’ve developed a new blogging format, where I publish a review of each day of my trip within 24 hours.
I set off on a countrywide Tea Dance Tour
The biggest travelling project has been my Tea Dance Tour, where I set out to take a closer look at the growing number of Sunday afternoon freestyle events across the country. This journey marked a major development in my own dance journey. Let me explain. I had long seen myself as a hi-energy dancer. I loved dancing to uptempo music and I danced in a traditional rotational style. It’s how most people dance, particularly when they first set out.
The music I loved dancing to, was what seemed to be on offer at every freestyle I attended. It was the music of the Thunderball Room at Southport. Current chart hits mixed in with lots of Ceroc and Modern Jive classics with the occasional trip in to ’60s Moown and ’70s disco. This was the music that was featured time and time again in my reviews. I loved it and so it seems did everyone else.
However, there is another style of dancing that is seemingly slowly gaining ground. It is often called Smooth Jive or SILC and is danced in a slotted style. But there is one other feature that marks this slotted style out as different to the rotational style of dancing, and that is the music. This more modern style is danced to slower and more contemporary music, and this was the music I would come across time and again on my Tea Dance Tour.
My blog tells the story of my changing dance style
Sadly I struggled to dance to this slower music. My style would have to change, and in many ways my Tea Dance Tour reviews shows how my dancing changed. At several of the venues there was a SILC or Smooth Jive workshop before hand and these were a great help. Progress however was slow and I hope that my postings encouraged other people who might be struggling to adopt a smoother slotted style of dancing.
One of the things I noticed as I travelled around was the geographical spread of this smoother style of dancing. It’s a bit of a generalisation, but the closer you get to London the more you get to dance to the slower music. I noticed something else too. There were what I called Slotted Hot Spots, and there was a noticeable cluster of them along the M4 coridor stretching from West London to Newport in South Wales.
I still love dancing in a rotational style to uptempo music, and so do thousands of people who pay their money on a Friday and Saturday night to dance at their fasvourite freestyles. There is no rule that DJs should play more slower contemporary music or that people should change their dancing style, but I find myself using my blog to promote this more modern form of dancing. Hopefully those people who do want to dip their toes in to the world of the more modern slotted style of dancing will take encouragement from the articles I write on the subject.
I can’t hide my passion for dancing
When you are passionate about something, as I am about Ceroc and Modern Jive dancing, you can’t help but want to tell everyone who will listen about it. It seems that many of us love telling our friends about the fun we have on the dance floor. Word of mouth is the most common reason why people turn up for their first dance class. I’m really pleased when I see that people have shared Tel’s fun filled videos on their Facebook pages. It means that their friends will see what a great time they are having and this may be the spark that ignites an interesting in them joining us.
I’m for ever handing out a card with my blog address on to people I meet. I was getting Euros for my latest Spanish dance adventure when the lady behind the counter asked me if I was going somewhere nice:
I’m off to a dance holiday in Benidorm. Four days and nights of great fun on the dance floor
It seems everyone has a love of dancing, even if it’s just to dance round their hand bags or do a bit of dad dancing at a wedding. It wasn’t long before I was giving the lady my card and encouraging her to give it a try. I also find myself telling beginners about my blog:
Please take a look. It will show you just what fun you can have at freestyles, weekenders and even holidays.
It’s hard work being a beginner and not surprisingly too many give up after a few lessons. Hopefully they can see how those first difficult lessons are actually the beginning of a dance journey full of joy, fun and friendship, they may stay the course. May be it won’t be long before they are joining us at one of the many fun packed weekenders as part of a dance gang.
To-do and Must-pack Lists
Talking of weekenders, one of the most appreciated posts on the blog was a preview of one of the Ceroc Southport dance fests. I’d downloaded the Passport to Dance with the details of the classes and freestyle sessions and I put together what I called a Southport to-do list. I picked out some interesting classes and talked about the different styles of dancing on offer in each of the three dance areas.
As I was putting the article together someone suggested I add a Must Pack list. It seems that everytime I went I always forgot something. So I mentioned about taking a 4-plug extension lead so you ould have the kettle, the toaster and micro-wave all plugged in at the same timewhile you were cooking breakfast. Another item I mentioned was to remember to take a bath mat.
When the article was published a regular reader of the blog got in touch to suggest another item, which I quickly added to the list. Here’s what I wrote:
No 10: Christmas Fairy Lights
This final tip came from Davina and made me smile!
Take fairy lights to string in your window so you can recognise your chalet at 4 in the morning – as they all look alike!
One of the joys of Southport is being able to stay out dancing as late as you like, but there is then the trudge back to the chalet, to try and get a few hours of sleep before all the action starts again. It’s not just that all the chalets look the same, but all the chalet blocks look equally identical too, and the numbering on them is not always sequential either.
Sadly, I’ve been known to waste valuable sleep time trying to find the correct chalet block. Now where did I put the Christmas lights.
The reward is knowing that people enjoy reading it
I’ve often been asked if I make any money from my blog. The answer is a definate no. The readership is now high enough for me to generate some money from digital advertising but I think adverts are an unnecessary distraction when you are enjoying reading an article. I have also been asked to write an article promoting a dance related product. This is a favourite course of action for bloggers who need to generate income from their writing. I am retired from work and I am very lucky that I have no need for any extra income.
Sadly blogging is now seen as an easy route to riches. It isn’t. Some make a great success of it, but they are few and far between and they are often dealing in topics that have universal appeal. The Ceroc and Modern Jive community is larger than you may think but it is still very much a niche market and has little monetry potential. My reward comes from seeing the Google Analytics map light up when I publish an article. To know that someone is reading my post in all corners of the UK is reward enough.
I also get a great deal of satisfaction from people telling me that they enjoy reading my blog when they first meet me. I’ll tell just one story that gave me agreat deal of satisfaction. I was at The MJRoc Warmwell Weekender last November. I was walking between the two main dance areas when a guy stopped me:
Are you the guy who writes the dance blog?
I proudly said I was that guy and thanked him for reading it. He went on to tell me about on eof the articles he’d read:
I’ve just read your beginners story. I just want to say how much I enjoyed it and you really captured the stress of being a beginner. It brought it all back. Well done for writing it.
People, like myself, who project themselves to a wide audience love getting positive feedback. I’m no different to the teachers who stand on the stage or the DJs who do their stuff behind the decks. They do it because they love what they do, but they also love getting a round of applause now and again. I’m no different. When I publish an article I promote it by putting links on to various Ceroc & Modern Jive Facebook groups. I love it when my notifications light up with the reaction. So can I take this opportunity to thank everyone for their kind coments and feedback. It helps when I’m writing at silly o’clock to meet a deadline.
A Best Kept Secret – I hope not!
I do wonder if I hadn’t been taken along to my first Ceroc class night would I have ever found this wonderful dance scene. I remember having a conversation with a new beginner, who described Ceroc and Modern Jive as a best kept secret. He may have had a point which is a shame, because this dance community needs lots of new entrants to sustain the numbers at class nights and weekend freestyles. The last thing it needs to be is a secret, best kept or otherwise.
Realising that I was lucky to have been told about this wonderful secret I understand how important it is for Ceroc and Modern Jive class nights to promote themselves to the wider community. I’d like to think that my blog can help to promote Ceroc and Modern Jive to a wider audience, but I am very aware that my articles are only really read by people within the dance community.
For this reason, as my blog continues to grow, I’ve set myself the challenge of getting one of my articles posted on a national website. In the book I read about how to write asuccessful blog it gave hints on how to get coverage on widely read national sites like the Huffingham Post. Even when you’v eread the helpful advise it’s not easy. However that sounds like a goal to bear in mind. LIke the book said:
Just start writing and see what happens. You’ll be amazed where your blog takes you.
All the way to the Huffingham Post? Hey dreams are good, aren’t they? We’ll see how I get on, in the meantime I’m happy to do my little bit to promote all the wonderful aspects of this amazing dance scene.