Time for a shorter Road Trip

This year myself and Tel have been doing some very long distance dance road trips.  For one night of dancing we did a 600 mile round trip to a Ceroc Glasgow party night, and last weekend we clocked up two hundred and fifty miles going to Ceroc Surrey’s Woking freestyle.  It was time to cut down on the miles a bit.

I went on to the UK Jive Website and found the listing for Saturday, and looked for something that was a little closer, but also somewhere we hadn’t been before.  It’s great going to new places.  Not only do you get to dance with new faces, but the music mix is always different too.

I get to see different set ups

But it’s more than just new faces and music.  What you also get to see is, the diverse ways that dance organisations are run.  The majority of venues are, of course, very friendly and indeed very welcoming, but now and again you see something that marks venues out as having a little extra something that I can write about.  So it was on Saturday night, but I am getting ahead of myself.  Let me get back to the UK Jive listing for Saturday night.

An hour’s travelling is about right

As I looked through the list I was looking for something about an hour away.  I know most people dance locally, but I’ve met many people who, like myself, enjoy trying out new venues.  It seems an hour is about the max that people will travel and that usually opens up lots of choice.

Tel.  How about Wolverhampton?  It’s Ceroc Addiction.  We’ve not been to any of their venues before.  It’s just over an hour’s drive and it sounds good.  I’ll ask permission for you to take photos.

It did sound good.  Maja who runs Ceroc Addiction had enthusiastically written about the success of the previous two events there, and The Perton Civic Centre venue looked impressive when I checked it out on Facebook.

Maja was also trying out a second chill-out room for the first time.  Readers of my Tea Dance Tour will know that I’m trying to develop a more smoother slotted style of dancing and perhaps I’d get a chance to try it out in this second room.  I was also pleased to see that the dancing went on until twelve thirty.  I’m always interested how venues treat any dance time after midnight – perhaps more chill-out time?

A change of tactics

One of the guiding principals of my blog is that I will only ever report positive aspects of this wonderful dance scene.  This presents me with a problem when I visit a venue that has little to recommend it.  For this reason I would never identify myself as a reviewer.  If the event was a disappointment I’d simply dance and disappear, and no one would be any the wiser.

I have recently changed tactics to accommodate the desire for my friend Tel to be able to take pictures.  For this reason when ever I’m on a road trip with Tel, I will announce my intention to write a review and at the same time ask permission for Tel to take photos.

It’s hard to put the joy of dancing in to words

Our great thanks then to Maja, for giving Tel permission to bring along his camera.  Tel’s photos really help bring my reviews to life and tell their own story – one I would sometimes struggle to put in to words.

In this first photo you see the sheer joy that was to be had on the dance floor at Perton on Saturday night, and proves the adage that a picture is better than a thousand words.  Tel’s photo album is full of many more similar images of joyful dancing, and I’ve put a link to it at the end of the review.

I would struggle to put the joy shown by these two people in to words

We soon notice a difference

As I mentioned above, travelling to different venues you soon start to notice the difference in the ways that venues are run.  I’m always interested in the welcome on the door.  I have to say that most places understand the importance of a warm welcome, but at Perton there was something a little extra that deserves to be mentioned.

Tel and I were greeted very warmly on the door by Kathryn and Maja herself, but it’s what happened next that really impressed.  Maja proceeded to give us a tour of the venue, with this offering:

I like to give everyone who comes to one of my venues for the first time an introduction to the venue.

Maja proceeded to show us the main room, the bar and second room and of course the toilets.  Little things, but they made an impression on me.  I visit the toilet a lot – to change my shirts, I might add – and it’s surprising how difficult they are to find sometimes.

While I’m mentioning toilets can I say how impressed I was to see deodorant made available.  This was a very hot and sticky night, and I’m sure that great use was made of the deodorant – something I’m sure our lady partners appreciated.  There was one other thing that made a big impression on me, but more of that later.  It’s time for some music.

Two DJs share the music duties

I always appreciate when the DJing duties are shared, as it ensures a variety of tracks throughout the evening.  It’s never easy for DJs to please all the people all the time, but having two DJs with different approaches to their playlist behind the decks, is always going to be a plus.

DJ Ellie, with the help of Steve, took the first stint and got the floor rockin’ with a mix of Ceroc favourites that included two of mine – Will Young’s Jelousy, and Tone Damli’s Butterflies, but the track I want to feature is one I really enjoyed dancing to, but just didn’t know what it was.

It’s funny to think that we dance to tracks week in and week out, but many of us don’t have a clue what they are called and even less idea of whose singing them.  When Tel told me what the track was I felt a little embarrassed – I spend my life dancing to and reviewing this music for goodness sake!

The track turned out to be All the lovers by Kylie Minogue, and it’s been rockin’ Ceroc dance floors since 2010.  You can see why, as it has all the ingredients of a great dance track – a well defined beat, that’s so easy to connect with, and a catchy lyric that fully engages you.  Sorry Kylie, but I’ll know it next time.

Of course I’d love to dance

I mentioned above that there was another reason that this venue made an impression on me.  Travelling long distances to venues often means that I know none of the ladies in the room, and while I’m a confident dancer, I still have to take a deep breathe before I march off to ask someone for the first dance.

Thankfully there were a few friendly faces we both recognised from our last visit to the West Midlands, and there were also some ladies I’d enjoyed dancing with at the recent Southport Weekender.   But that mattered little, for both myself and Tel were asked to dance before we could even think about asking someone ourselves.

The Ceroc Addiction Crew instil a noticeable confidence

Of course it’s nice for all men to be asked to dance, but even though Ceroc has the rules that the ladies can ask the men, and that nobody should refuse a dance, it’s still difficult for many ladies to do the asking.  Both myself and Tel were asked more times to dance than we are used to, and I doubt it was our aftershave.

I discussed this with Kathryn who had greeted me on the door along with Maja.  Kathryn has been part of the Ceroc Addiction Crew for over eight years and had spent much of that time as a Taxi Dancer.

We always make a point in The Beginners’ Refresher Classes of emphasising that the ladies can ask the men to dance.

Maja also reinforced this point, when I got to chat with her:

When I teach, I encourage my ladies to be proactive, when it comes to getting a dance.

Well it has worked Maja, because they seem very confident, and it makes for a very friendly venue.

Thank you Paul, I’m very proud of my girls.

Now I mention this conversation for a reason which I’ll return to a little later.  Time now though for some more music.

Ellie shows her love of Latin tracks

Latin tracks always find their way in to DJs playlists.  Their rhythm is perfectly suited to Ceroc and many have become firm favourites.  Ellie showed her love of these tracks by mixing a few in to her playlist.  These included the Ceroc favourite Latin lover by Lemon, but I’m going to feature a track I particularly enjoyed dancing to.  It proved a real floor filler and had several people showing off their Cha Cha Cha moves.

This is a wonderful modern Latin track that most of us will recognise.  Bailamos  by Enrique Iglesias has a lovely gentle beat that’s so easy to connect with, and perfect for a few Mambo moves with lots of hip swaying, or of course if you can do it – a little bit of Cha Cha Cha.

Maja keeps the vibe going

At about nine thirty Maja took over on the decks, as Ellie went to open up the second chill-out room.  The room had slowly filled up and the dance floor was now very busy.  Ellie had set the floor up nicely, and Maja kept the great vibe going with a set packed with current favourites, including George Esra’s Paradise, Rita Ora’s Your song, and the collaboration between Ofenbach and Nick Waterhouse that produced Katchi.

Maja’s set proved she is a top drawer DJ, but I want to talk about her other passion – dancing.  Half way through her set Maja lept from the stage and asked me to dance.  I forget what track it was, but it had plenty of energy.  This would be interesting.

Maja takes to the decks for her own top draw set

You can’t hide passion

Within the first few moves I could sense that Maja was up for a full-on dance, and I wondered for a moment if I might feel a little out of my depth, but that wasn’t ever going to be the case – Maja saw to that.  Maja is of course a Ceroc teacher, and it is a sign of a great teacher that they can make everyone they dance with, what ever their ability, feel good about their dancing.

I was suddenly a better dancer, and found myself perfectly synchronised with Maja’s own fluid movement across the floor.  As we criss-crossed back and forth with a connection that belied the fact we had never danced together before, a thought occurred to me.

My partner was dancing with a passion that matched my own.  I exercise my own passion through my writing about this wonderful dance community, and I now had a sense of how Maja expressed hers.  Myself and Tel had noted the confidence the ladies had when it came to asking for a dance.  That confidence no doubt came, as Kathryn had said, though the instructions in the Beginners Classes, but perhaps it had come from her pupils tapping in to Maja own passion for dancing.

As the dance progressed I found more opportunities to give Maja a little space and time to express her own musicality.  It was a joy to experience the way she expressed the music through her own movement, and through our total connection, I was able to share the uplifting spirit of it all.

Here on the dance floor was an expression of passionate dancing.  You can not hide passion, and it can be infectious.  Not only does it affect the other dancers who turn up for the lessons and freestyles it helps build a great team around you.  Ceroc Addiction is one of the largest Ceroc franchises in the country.  It takes a lot of Teachers, Venues Managers and Taxis to run such an organisation.  It needs a lot of passion to succeed.

What I had experienced on the dance floor was some of the same passion that drives Maja to make sure that every new visitor is shown around the venue, and that little details are seen to, like deodorant in the men’s toilet.  There was one other little detail that impressed me, but I need to catch my breathe, and what better way than to talk about some more of Maja’s fabulous music.

Maja plays her own Latin favourites

Like Ellie, Maja also slipped a few Latin tracks in to her set, including the Ceroc Classic Fuego en el fuego from Nel Fuoco.  Maja actually kicked off her set with a wonderful Enrique Iglesias Latin track I’d not heard before – Noche Y De Dia.  This has a lovely contemporary feel and an easy to dance to rhythm.  Perfect for a joyous dance.

I use the word joyous, because that’s how it felt out on the dance floor, and Tel was on hand to capture the fun we were all having.  When I see photos like this next one I do wonder if anyone has more fun on a weekend night than Ceroc dancers.  I feel so grateful that nine years ago someone introduced me to Ceroc.  I hate to think what I’d be doing now if I hadn’t found this wonderful dance community.

More Classics from my list

Two weeks ago I published a list of Ten Classic Ceroc Tracks.  The list got some great feedback on Facebook and I was particularly pleased when three of the tracks were played by DJ Keith Leigh-Jones at Ceroc Surrey’s Woking Freestyle the following weekend.  I couldn’t help wonder if Maja would play any of them.

Amazingly Maja also played three from my list.  The first was Human, by The Killers.  This is a real rock anthem and, as always, it created a great vibe out on the floor.  The second is one that I think everyone knows the chorus to – BWO’s Sunshine in the rain.  It’s one of those tracks that is just perfect to dance to, and it’s no wonder I hear it so many times as I travel round the country.

To listen to both these tracks please follow the link at the end of this review.

A third Classic accompanies Tel’s fab video

The third is Sunchyme by Dario G.  This is an instrumental track that everyone will know, but few will know what it’s actually called.  I struggled to find the name of this catchy dance anthem, and only got to know when I hummed it to my daughter, who thought she had a vague recollection of it.  She then did some research on Google and found it on YouTube.

You may be interested to know that the infectious chant in Sunchyme was sampled from a 1985 top five hit Life in a northern town by The Dream Academy.  Tel used Sunchyme as a backing for his fabulous video of the night’s dance floor action, so you can enjoy the dancing while listening to this great classic track.

Another Rock Anthem another great dance

I have been asked to do a second volume of classic tracks and this next track from Maja’s playlist will definitely be in it.  Just like the aforementioned Killers’ Human, this is another rock anthem that is perfect for a full on dance.  Now I mention this track not just because of the great music, but because of the dance that it inspired.

As I mentioned at the beginning I only knew a handful of dancers from previous excursions.  This meant that the majority of my dances were with people I’d never danced with before.  Now, when you dance locally you get to know the dancers who are best equipped to dance to the various different styles.

Back in my home town of Nottingham I know the dancers who will enjoy a full on hi-energy dance, and if I want to dance to a slower chill-out track I know the ladies to ask on to the floor.  I’m sure it’s the same for all of us – we get to know each others styles of dancing.

We often have no idea of our partners ability

As Uprising by Muse started up I asked a lady to dance.  I asked her for no other reason than I had not danced with her before.  I knew nothing of her musical preferences or her ability level.  As always I started off simply, doing a few beginners moves to gauge my partners experience,

The lady danced with a lovely fluidity, bang on the beat.  I started to do a few intermediate moves, again nothing too complicated.  I was still gauging my partners ability level, and once again she responded smoothly to my lead.  So it went on.  Every time she showed she could do the next level of moves, so I introduced something a little more challenging.

Then something occurred to me.  This lady wasn’t just interpreting my signals fluently she was matching my energy too.  I described Uprising as a rock anthem – it is a little more engaging than say the Kylie track I featured above.  Songs like this have the ability to connect with something almost primeval within us, and it seemed that myself and my dance partner were connected in equal measure to its spiritual heart beat.   

Here was another example of meaningful dance passion

As I came off the dance floor, and thanked my dance partner, I couldn’t help thinking that this dance had shown the same energised passion that I had earlier experienced with Maja.  Then another thought.  I had enjoyed a wonderful night of dancing, and when I thought about it the standard had been really good.  Once again I was reminded of my brief conversation with Maja:

. . . I’m very proud of my girls.

Of course where ever I go, I get to dance with some fabulous dancers and indeed some very passionate ones too, but I’ve come to learn this:

The passion we meet on the dance floor is often inspired by the passion of those that teach us.  If you are passionate you can not hold it back.  Passionate people will always inspire passion in others – enough said.

But one more thought – about the standard of dancing.  I see some amazing dancing on my travels, but the quality of dancing here had without doubt made an impression on me.  I had another look through Tel’s photos.  He had captured the spirit of some lovely dancing with his camera.

This is one of my favourite images from Tel’s photo album

A chance to mark my progress

Readers of my Tea Dance Tour reviews will know that when I started out my ability to dance smoothly in a slotted style was somewhat limited, but as I’ve toured the country, and come across more chill-out music, I’ve had plenty of opportunities to practice my technique.  I decided to break away from the great dancing in the main hall to see what progress I’d made by popping in to the second chill-out room.

Maja had now handed over the main room DJing duties back to Ellie, and took over the duties in the second room.  This room was only small, and so it didn’t need too many people to give it an atmosphere.  There were probably no more than ten people in there at any one time, but this was sufficient to give the room a nice vibe, and I hope that Maja will be encouraged by this and continue with it.

I always wanted to dance to tracks like this

Maja played some lovely chilled music including a real Ceroc chill-out favourite – Breathe In by Daddy was a Milkman (that has to be the best name ever for a singer).  One of the tracks I danced to was a collaboration between Coldplay and The Chainsmokers – Something just like this.

This is a great piece of funky contemporary music that I’ve so wanted to dance to.  Trouble is my main room style of dancing just doesn’t cut it with slower form of music, and that that has been my motivation to learn to dance in the more modern slotted style.  So how did I do?  Let’s just say that I’ve made some progress, and that pleases me.

Suddenly the dance floor half empties

Around ten thirty, I suddenly became aware that the dance floor had thinned out somewhat.  It wasn’t because the music was suddenly naff, so I looked around for an explanation.  Then I saw a long queue at the kitchen door.

Many venues now offer savoury and sweet goodies at their freestyles, but the Ceroc Addiction Team again went that little bit further and put together a delicious show of cakes and fruit, that explained the queue at the door.  Ceroc Addiction aren’t the only people to go to great lengths to treat their dancers, but that’s not to take anything away from the effort that went in to Saturday night’s offering.

This wonderful display of cakes and fruit explained the queue at the door

A great finish from DJs Ellie and Steve

You’ll remember that this event went on for an extra thirty minutes after Midnight.  I was really interested to see how DJs Ellie and Steve would play this, and for me they got it spot on.  Here was a chance to slow the music down, but not too slow.  Sometimes the end of a freestyle can look like the last song at a school disco, with people not quite sure how to dance to really slow tracks.

So I was pleased that Ellie and Steve chose to slow it down just the right amount with more funky chill-out tracks.  So good was their chill-out selection that I’ve listed their final four tracks.  Here were four tracks I could also practice my smoother slotted style of dancing, and I think I did OK again.

It was hard to choose my favourite

First up was Get my name by Mark Ballas.  This track is as funky as hell, and a real favouritre of mine.  Next came Love, sex, magic from Ciara featuring the added vocals of Justin Timberlake.  I don’t recall dancing to this track before, even though it’s been around since 2009.  Next came the slower, but still not too slow What about us from Pink.  This is another track that has established itself as a chill-out favourite.

Ellie finished the run with another of her Latin favourites from Enrique Iglesias Dimelo.  I have to say that this really worked, but the track I’m going to feature from this list is my own favourite, the Ciara and Justin Timberlake one.  This has the most wonderful contemporary feel that makes it perfect for a smooth slotted dance.

Let’s not forget all the Ceroc Addiction Crew

Such a wonderful night of dancing doesn’t happen without a lot of planning and hard work.  As well as Ellie and Tim on DJing duties, Maja had a whole backroom team to help out with the setting up, the fabulous show of food treats, and of course the packing up after we had all gone home.

The fact that this freestyle went on until twelve thirty, I doubt if any of the team got home before well past one thirty in the morning.  So on behalf of everyone can I give a big thank you to Kathryn, Laura, Tim, Steve and David.

A last word from Maja

I was so pleased that Maja gave permission to Tel to take his photos and the resulting album has received some lovely comments on Facebook, including this one from Maja herself:

WoW!!! Tel your photos are magical!!! Thank you so much for capturing the spirit and energy of the evening with such beautiful special effects. You worked so hard at the freestyle taking the images of everyone and even harder making your photos alive. Thank you so much ❤️

Tel took over four hundred pictures on Saturday night, but as always picked out a selection that showed the very best of everyone.  My thanks to Tel for also spending time with the special effects.  I’m sure you’ll agree with Maja that they capture the spirit of what was a memorable night of dancing.

Another last word and final track

At the end of the night there was another nice touch from Maja, as she took the microphone and thanked everyone for supporting the venue.  Maja also took time to add her own thanks to her magnificent team.

It then fell to Maja to introduce the final track.  It came as a bit of a surprise.  It was Frank Sinatra’s party classic New York, New York.  There were still a lot of people on the dance floor and they instinctively formed a large circle and did the high kick routine that this song is now associated with.  A great way to end a great night.

Related Links

View Tel’s fabulous full photo album

Ten Classic Ceroc & Modern Jive Tracks