I get lucky in Devon

Last Sunday I got an opportunity to go to a Blues Tea Dance near Exeter in Devon.  That’s a long way from my base in Nottingham, so to make my journey worthwhile I searched round Facebook to see if I could find something for the Saturday night.  I got lucky.  There on The Ceroc Devon Facebook page was a freestyle near Torquay.

As I read the details, I soon realised that I had actually got more than lucky.  Prior to the freestyle, Ceroc Devon franchise owner Ivan Burton was running a forty-five minute SILC Class.  Regular readers of my blog will know that I’ve been on a mission to learn to dance to chill-out music in a smoother slotted style.  The lesson would be a bonus.  Even better there was going to be a second chill-out room where I’d get a chance to practise my new smooth moves.

All this and a Fancy Dress theme too!

But what really caught my attention was that the evening had a Back to School fancy dress theme.  Now, I’m not one for dressing up, but I appreciate the fact that other people do, and I’m often very impressed at the time and creativity that people put in to their costumes.

So it was again on Saturday night.  In fact I was so impressed with the constant references to naughty school boys and girls being sent to the Headmaster’s office, that I’ll use a little bit of artistic license to capture the fun element of this wonderful evening.

My thanks also to Ivan for his permission to use the photographs that were posted the following day on The Ceroc Devon Facebook Page, and his encouragement to have some fun with them.

I’m always appreciative of a warm welcome

When ever I’m a long way from home, and Torquay is some two hundred miles from my home in Nottingham, I’m always concerned that I won’t know anybody, so I’m very mindful of the welcome I get on the door.  Thankfully I was greeted with a warm smile by the Headmistress, though I was rather surprised to be asked to read the school rules before entering the hall.  I was particularly asked to take note of Rule No 1:

No kissing behind the bike sheds

Now sadly I went to an all boys school, and any activities behind the bike sheds never involved any kissing as far as I was aware.  I might also add that I was a little surprised that anyone should think that at my age I’d be tempted to break Rule No 1.  Still I suppose being the Headmistress she had to do her job.

I did notice The Headmaster hovering around, and he looked a lot stricter, so I thought it best to just do what I was told and keep my head down.  Surely there would be no trouble – hadn’t we all come to dance and enjoy ourselves.

Having said that I was a little concerned when I noticed that the next person in the queue already had a black eye!  I always thought Devon was a nice place to visit.  Wasn’t that why so many people came here on holiday.

Everyone was asked to read The School Rules by The Headmistress

Ivan explains the SILC techniques in a very clear manner

Come quarter to eight, everybody took their places for the SILC class.  The class was taken by Ivan Burton who runs Ceroc Devon with his wife Kate.  I think Ivan must be a Prefect at the school because he was very bossy, suggesting that any one who didn’t pay attention would be sent to The Headmaster’s Office.

I’m normally quite chatty in the lines, as it’s a good opportunity to ask people about their local dance scene, but I thought it best to be tight-lipped, particularly when the Headmaster was patrolling the corridor outside with a cane in his hand.

The music speaks volumes

It’s never the intention of my reviews to try to explain the moves that are taught in SILC classes – it’s just too hard to put the details in to words for a start, but what I have found to be useful is to feature some of the chill-out music that this smooth style of dancing was designed for.

Later in the second room, I got the opportunity to dance to a track that is proving very popular on the chill-out circuit – I like me better by Lauv.  It was my desire to be able to dance to tracks like this, that made me want to learn to dance in a smoother slotted style.  I’ve always felt that the standard Ceroc moves, even when slowed down, just don’t work for this type of chill-out music.

School Prefect Ivan delivers a great lesson

Ivan delivered a fabulous SILC lesson.  When SILC was first rolled out, I thought that the teachers struggled to explain it clearly enough.  It’s a reason that SILC has struggled to take off in many parts of the country.  Ivan, however has sorted out a clear and concise way of explaining the basic techniques.  That’s probably why they made him a School Prefect.

One of the main features of SILC is that the male lead opens up a slot for his lady partner to move smoothly up and down.

One of the differences between SILC style and the standard Ceroc style, is that the lady is ‘invited’ to start moving down the slot, rather than being pulled or pushed.

This makes for a much smoother dance for the lady.

It’s this ‘invitation’ concept that I thought teachers struggled to explain when SILC was first introduced.  However, Ivan explained it very effectively and we all seemed to grasp the idea that the man simply releases the compression at the end of the slot by moving towards the lady, and raises or lowers his hand, to denote which way he wants his partner to turn as she sets off down the slot.

Ceroc Devon have success with SILC

I’ve become a great advocate for SILC and the smoother slotted way of dancing, and I was pleased to hear from Kate that Ceroc Devon have had a lot of success in getting SILC established in their franchise area.  I see from the Ceroc Devon Facebook Page that these combined SILC Class and 2 Room Freestyles are a regular monthly event.  That’s quite a commitment to SILC that should be applauded.

It must help that Ceroc Devon also have such a good SILC teacher in Ivan.  There was one other thing that impressed me about Ivan.  Even though there was some messing about in the lines, Ivan didn’t feel the need to send anyone to The Headmaster’s Office.  That was a relief I can tell you!

Yvonne does a great job as Ivan’s Demo

Ivan was very ably assisted in his class by Yvonne, who is also a demo at the regular class nights that Ceroc Devon run on Monday nights at Marldon.  Yvonne tells me that it was actually her first time as a SILC demo.  This surprised me because I thought that she did very well.

One of the key techniques of SILC is that the ladies are allowed to settle at the end of the slot, before starting to move down the slot again.  This is one of the features of SILC that ensures the lady has a smooth dance.  I thought that Ivan and Yvonne demonstrated this very well.

Having said all that Yvonne seemed to have something on her mind.  Perhaps the caption picture below helps to explain.

Let’s hope the Headmaster is lenient with Yvonne.  Additional artwork by Tel Jenkins

The lesson is a wonderful Ice-breaker

The SILC Class had one other benefit for me.  Because, as was to be expected, I didn’t know anyone in the room, the class prior to the freestyle acted as a great Ice-breaker for me.  It gave me the opportunity to introduce myself to the ladies as I met them in the lines, and this was a great help when I came to ask for the first few dances.

I mention this Ice-breaker nature of the class, because I’m not the only one coming to these freestyles, who might not know anyone.  I mentioned above that Devon obviously attracts a lot of visitors, and I know that a lot of people look for venues to dance at during their holidays.

Many people have already enjoyed the warm reception from the Ceroc Devon crowd, and I was made aware of this by a comment left on my own Facebook Page by Carol a dancer from back home:

Hi Paul, pleased you enjoyed it at Ceroc Devon,   We always do a freestyle or class when we are on holiday down there and always felt welcome… (its like our second home lol)

We arrived Saturday, but I was too tired to do the freestyle, otherwise you would have had two familiar faces at Marldon.  However we did do Kate’s Tuesday class in Exeter.  Thank you Kate.   Missed you Ivan, hopefully see you next time xx

It was lovely to read this comment from Carol and it’s a wonderful endorsement for Ceroc Devon.  Carol is a great fancy dress enthusiast.  I can’t help wondering what costume she would have donned. Hopefully not another scary teacher Carol.

Having said that once the dancing started the teachers proved to be very friendly, though I’m not so sure about the Headmaster, who quite honestly needed to lighten up.  I just hope he was lenient with Yvonne for not doing her homework.  It must have been so disappointing for Yvonne to have spent hours on her essay and then the dog goes and eats it.

It’s about the dancing and the music

Of course the success of a freestyle is about the dancing and the music, and both were top drawer.  Once the freestyle kicked off, Ivan’s musical selection keep me on the dance floor almost non stop.  As I travel round different venues I’m always mindful of the different approachs that the DJs take to their playlists.

Some give their music a very contemporary feel, while others shy away from the modern tracks, restricting their up to date ones to the current dance floor hits.

Others mix in tracks from every decade, and include some Rock ‘n’ Roll, Motown, and Disco.

What’s important is that the music is dance-able and fresh.  I never appreciate dancing to the same old, same old tracks.

Ivan, who was also on DJing duties went down the modern route with a few classics thrown in. Here’s one of my favourite contemporary tracks from Ivan’s list – One kiss from Calvin Harris featuring vocals from Dua Lipa.

Calvin Harris keeps the dance floor hot

Record producer Calvin Harris has given great service to the hi-energy music vibe out on Ceroc main room dance floors, since he made an impact with Ready for the weekend in 2009.  As well as One Kiss his hits include Let’s go with Ne-yo (2012), the trance inducing Summer (2014), This is what you came for with Rihanna (2016), How deep is your love with The Disciples, and of course the current dance floor favourite Promises featuring Sam Smith.

Ivan’s playlist also included a lesser known (if any of Harris’ tracks are lesser known) but equally full on track from 2016 My way.  Other tracks that gave Ivan’s playlist a modern flavour were favourites from Youngblood with 5 seconds of summer, Jess Glynne’s latest I’ll be there Meghan Trainor’s fun filled Better when I’m dancing.

Classics Tracks find their place too

Mixed in with Ivan’s modern tracks were a few Classics that added a necessary bit of variety.  Stand out tracks were Nat King Cole’s Let there be love, and George Benson’s version of the Bobby Darin ’50s classic Beyond the sea.  There was one ’80s track that gave me one of the best dances of the night, but I’ll reveal it at the end.

What really makes an impression is when DJs play something that surprises and gives me a fabulous dance.

The track that made that impression, was one that I realise that I must have heard before, but that doesn’t stop me from voting it September’s Fresh Track of The Month

The Axwell remix of Coracao, by Jerry Ropero & Denis The Menace is a semi instrumental with a rockin’ hi-energy Latin beat.  What lifts it is the way a thumping bass kicks in at intervals.  This is a track to lose yourself in and escape your worldly worries, and who cares that you might get caught round the back of the bike sheds.

Guess who wins the Fancy Dress competition?

Well not me obviously, but the person least likely to win a ‘Who’s your favourite teacher’ competition.  Yes, the aforementioned Headteacher, was one of the two winners.  I note he’s not actually in this picture of all the other people who came in fancy dress.  I understand he was in his office dealing with a queue of pupils who had broken the rules.

Two had been in a fight – well that explains the black eye I met at the door, four hadn’t handed in their homework in on time (see Yvonne, you weren’t the only one) and two people found round the back of the bike sheds breaking Rule No 1.  Well they were warned.

I promise not to reveal the two people who were found round the back of the bike shed

Another fabulous track from Ivan

Ivan’s mainly modern playlist kept throwing up fabulous tracks that were new to me, and that I just loved dancing to.  Here’s another.  It has a lovely mellow Tropical House feel with a beat that’s so easy to connect with.  It’s a great advert for the wonderful contemporary music that is out there.

Now I love that DJs mix in music from when I was at school (being a goody goody I might add) – bits of Motown and ’70s Disco, but when I find myself knowing all the words it does make me feel a little old, so I have come up with the following mantra:

You are only as old as the music you dance to

And that’s why I love dancing to tracks like the Deepend remix of Matt Simons Catch & release with its joyous rhythm.

Teacher’s Pet snitches on his classmate

I was right.  Ivan was a School Prefect, and it seems in his quest to impress The Headmistress, he snitched on one of own classmates.  Seems the girl in question asked Ivan to dance with The Headmistress to distract her, so she could slip out and . . . perhaps best I don’t reveal what her intentions were.

Anyway, just to say that after dancing with The Headmistress, Ivan blew her cover.  But he did worse than that.  He actually sent me a photo of her being punished in The Headmistress’s office.  Being the goody goody I was in my school days, I did think twice about publishing the picture, but I wouldn’t want to get on the wrong side of Teacher’s Pet!

First that young lady gets in to a fight, and now she’s up before The Headmistress

I enjoy the second Chill-out Room

I think I need to get back on with my review of the music.  Hopefully they’ll be no more naughty behaviour to report.

The monthly freestyles at Marldon always feature a second chill-out room.  When I went down there it wasn’t particularly busy.  But I don’t think that matters.  What was important, was that here was an opportunity to try out some of the techniques and moves that Ivan had taught in the earlier SILC lesson.

Learning a new dance style like SILC is no easy task, but it’s made easier when you get a chance to practice what you’ve been shown before it disappears from your memory.

I was fortunate that there were a couple of ladies in the room, who were happy for me to practice my slotted dancing with them.

My thanks to those ladies and hopefully they appreciated my efforts to make the dance as smooth as possible.

The music that Ivan provided in this room was perfectly suited to trying out the techniques he’d taught earlier.  Here’s a lovely bluesy track that the smoother style of SILC was designed for.  One man show by Ariana Savalashe also has breaks and changes of tempo in the music, which encourage you to experiment with your musicality.

Some tracks are too fast for Ceroc

I was soon back in the main room for the final session, and after a run of wonderful dances, I sensed I was ready for a break.  I find it difficult to sit down sometimes, especially when the music was as good as it was on Saturday night, but I got my chance when Ivan played a slightly faster track.

I sometimes think that some tracks are too fast for Ceroc.  I love the bouncy Rock ‘n’ Roll songs, but most are just too fast and I’ll sit them out.  Over the past couple of years there’s been two very popular rapid tempo tracks that I thought were not enjoyable to dance to.  So much so that I would disappear to change my shirt as soon as they came on, least someone asked me to dance to them.

You’ll probably be surprised at the tracks, as everybody else seemed to love them.  They were Pharrell Williams’ Happy and Ed Sheerin’s Castle on the hill.  Now I mention this for a reason.  As I said I was looking to have a break and Ivan put on a track that I judged a little too fast.  Now I could take a break.

I get asked to dance by an important person

As I went to sit down, I was asked very politely to dance by a lady I hadn’t danced with before.  I’m a great believer in the golden rule that you should never refuse a dance. However if I do need a break or I’m on my way to change in to a fresh shirt, I will make my apologies and reassure the lady that I will find her later.  I think that’s quite an acceptable thing to do.

I was just about to excuse myself when I realised who the lady in question was.

What happened next probably took less than a second, but it was still plenty of time for my brain to take me on a roller-coaster ride of worry.

I knew I hadn’t danced with the lady before, but I thought I recognised her.  Had she been wearing spectacles before?  Perhaps she’d changed what she was wearing?  There was certainly something different about her, something different from when I first encountered her.  Then it came to me.  I had been asked to dance by The Headmistress.

Could I excuse myself from the dance?

My brain now went in to overdrive.  Could I excuse myself so easily.  The Headmistress had been very friendly when she had welcomed me at the door, but I’d been hearing about how strict she was, all night.  And hadn’t there been some use of the cane.  A vision of the cane was quickly replaced by a picture of the School Rules.

I remembered Rule No 1, about not going round the back of the bike sheds, but what were the others.  I had a vague recollection about something to do with the actual dancing.  How I wish I’d paid more attention.  Rule No 3.  What was it?  My brain was determined to have fun with me and came up with it’s own version of Rule No 3:

No one shall refuse a dance with the Headmaster or Headmistress

My brain then unhelpfully created an image of the queue of people outside the Headmaster’s Office.  There was Yvonne worrying that she hadn’t handed her homework in on time.  Behind her was the girl with the black eye.  She wasn’t smiling now, and behind her was me.  I protested that I hadn’t actually done anything, but a voice in my head suggested that I might be about to.

Careful, Paul.  Remember Rule No 3

I quickly accepted the offer of the dance with a smile.

I hope The Crew enjoy their Star Billing

I hope that Katie, who played the Headmistress so convincingly, will forgive my portrayal of the goings on at this rather dysfunctional school dance.  I was so impressed just how many people came in fancy dress, and the photos that were posted on Facebook were so full of playacting, that I couldn’t resist having fun with it all.

I also hope that Yvonne (who didn’t do her homework), Claire (with the black eye) and Paul, who portrayed the Headmaster with the same playfulness, as Katie, also enjoyed their star billing.  Ivan tells me that all three are Taxi’s for Ceroc Devon, and had this to say:

All the Ceroc Devon Crew are characters, and myself and Kate are very proud of them

As I travel round doing my reviews I see lots of teams dedicated to ensuring their paying customers have a great time.  I’ll add Ceroc Devon to the list.

One of the best dances of the night

After all that joking I have to say that the dance, I had with Katie, was one of the best of the night.  I feel quite embarrassed that I thought the track was a little too fast, because it had the perfect tempo for a good old fashioned Ceroc dance.  No messing about on The Slot – just lots of criss-crossing across the floor to a cracking piece of dance music.  It would have been a shame to have sat it it out.

The track we danced to was Another day by Jamie Liddell from 2008.  The track has a strong no-nonsense beat from the word go, and a lovely retro ’60s feel, that owes a little to some of Stevie Wonders early Motown recordings.   Loved it.

One last dance to a Classic Track

As I said above, Ivan’s playlist had a modern feel, but mixed in were some great classic tracks.  Ivan saved one of these classics for the end of the night.  I remember disco dancing many times to Lionel Ritchie’s Dancing on the ceiling back in the ’80s, but then it seemed to disappear from my dancing life.

Then at February’s Ceroc Southport Weekender DJ Tony Riccardi played it in the main Thunderball Room.  It set the floor on fire.  Suddenly everyone it seems is playing it.  Not surprising really, because it has everything a classic track should have.

The beat is perfect, and it’s got a catchy chorus that you want to sing along to.

What makes it a guaranteed floor filler is the way the instrumentation slowly builds the track to a series of heart thumping climaxes.

As soon as I hear the distinctive drum intro I know I’m in for a great dance.  Of course I also need a partner, who feels the same vibe as I do, and can do it justice.  When I’m dancing on my home patch, I know the ladies I can ask on to the floor, to share the exhilaration that it has the potential to generate.

I get lucky again

Sadly I didn’t know the dancing capabilities of the ladies at Marldon as well as the ladies back home, but I had had some wonderful dances during the night – perhaps one of those ladies was free.  As people took to the floor I looked round and I got lucky.  One of these ladies still had to find a partner.  I duly asked her on to the floor.

We all know when we’ve had a fabulous dance and it’s sometimes difficult to know why.

Sometimes it’s simply the track, sometimes its the vibe created by all the other dancers around you.  I’m sure some people judge it by the standard of their’s and their partners dancing.

But you don’t have to be an accomplished dancer to have a great dance.  What I think makes a great dance is having the same connection with the music as your partner.

I was lucky, my partner seemed to share my appreciation of the track’s uplifting vibe.  A great way to end a  wonderful night of dancing and fun.

The Winners and The Circus of Horrors

One of the wonderful things about this night was the fancy dress, so before I finish let me show you the winners.  Now, I’m not sure about that Headmaster.  He’d been walking around with a book all night.  I assumed that it was The Detention Book.  Take a look – it’s a Playboy Annual.  Ivan I think you need to have a word.

Fancy dress plays a big part of the Ceroc Devon schedule.  I see from their Facebook Page that they have another one at their Plymouth Freestyle venue on Saturday 3 November.  The theme this time is The Circus of Horrors.  Something tells me that it’s going to be another fun filled night.

The fancy dress winners proudly show off their prizes, but what’s The Playboy Album for Headmaster?

See the Devon Ceroc Facebook Page for more details of their great fun nights