Featured Image courtesy of Tori Hallett

First reflections on a fabulous night

It’s the morning after the night before, or rather the late morning after the very late night before.  Six of The Dance Gang are sat in the shade outside The Old Brewery pub and restaurant inside the grounds of The Old Royal Naval College just a few hundred yards from the scene of our fabulous night out.

We are all on sparkling water – an antidote for the bottles of wine consumed at the After-Party in Room 328 of The West Greenwich Premier Inn.  The conversation soon turns to our reflections of the previous day and particularly the worry that the demographic might not be similar to that on our home turf.  Here’s Anne:

I was a little worried, but as soon as we joined the queue to get in, and saw the other people in line, then that little anxiety disappeared, and any worry on that score was replaced by a growing sense of excitement.

I think we all felt a little relieved that there were plenty of people of our own age.  There was still a little anxiety, particularly amongst the ladies, about whether they would get enough dances but this was put aside as the excitement continued to build, and we got closer to the welcome desk.

Going on deck also helped calm any nerves

As I remarked in Part 1 the opportunity to go on deck and, from an elevated position, watch the sun set against the London and river skyline was something quite unique for a dance venue.  This going on deck and watching the sunset had another benefit for my Dance Gang friends.  Here’s Anne again:

Going on the deck made it very special, and wandering up there and looking at the beautiful view, and just chatting amongst ourselves helped relax us even more.

One of my own memories of going on deck, was seeing the huge Viking cruise liner light up the river as the sun set in the distance.  Fortunately I had my phone with me to capture this memorable view.  Of course there is more to a wonderful night of dancing than a spectacular view – the music and dancing itself are as important, if not more so – but as Anne said being on deck with everyone else and taking in the breathtaking views was a great way to ease us in to the night ahead.

As the sun sets the cruise ship lights up.  Photo courtesy of my iPhone

A warm welcome and a sweet touch

A warm welcome is so important, and Ali Beamish, Jen and Jamie Eddy did a great job checking us all in.  It couldn’t have been easy with so many people coming through, but they all kept cool and made a great first impression.  It was good to see Steve on the door too.  Having Ashley doing the first shift on the decks meant that Steve could personally greet everyone.

But the bit that made the best impression on me was Nardiya, ably assisted by Amy Adlington and Jonathan Pearson, giving out bags of sweets at the bottom of the main staircase.  The gift of the bag of sweet goodies was a nice touch that again helped myself and my Dance Gang friends to feel included.

Look carefully at the photo and you’ll see the sign which says Everything is SWEET @ Ceroc Evolution.  It certainly is, and just shows how much thought went in to making this event the great success it was.

These guys put together 300 bags of sweets – a great effort.  Photo courtesy of Mike Smith

Let’s not forget the dancing

The warm welcome and the opportunity to go on to the deck will always be one of the wonderful memories of this event, but we had all come to dance, and it was important that the music matched the venue’s unique atmosphere.  In Part 1 of my review I wrote how impressed I was with the main room music mix that DJs Ashley and Steve served up.

At 11:30 Steve took to the decks for the final ninety minutes.  It was time to slow it down a little.  Not Blues slow, but more funky chill-out slow.  In amongst some great contemporary tracks, Steve played one that hit all the buttons in my dance brain.

A track that I connected with in June

Back in June I was dancing to Steve’s music on the river boat trip up the Thames when all those buttons lit up again.  The track was Jestofunk’s Say it again.  This is a raw piece of funk that gave me one of the best dances of that wonderful afternoon.  When I was writing my review of The River I passed on featuring it – I thought it was just too damn funky, and doubted it had a universal appeal.

That Steve played it again on Saturday night proves why he’s a top DJ and I’m just a reviewer.  This hypnotic pulse of a dance track once again gave me one of my best dances.  Now I got lucky, for I was able to dance to it with a partner who connected with its trance inducing beat in equal measure.

Loved the switch to a chill-out mix

That the dancing went on until one in the morning gave Steve this chance to switch to a more contemporary chill-out playlist, and it’s a measure of Steve’s standing as a main room and chill-out DJ that this final set really impressed.  In amongst some well known chill-out tracks, Steve served up lots of new-to-me music that hit some of the same buttons as the Jestofunk one.

Tracks like Burak Yeter’s Tuesday and the R3hab remix of Kiiara’s Messy were all new to me, yet I connected with them instantly.  More treats were chill-out favourites from Charlie Puth with Done for me, Jonas Blue and William Singe’s  Mama and another track I loved on the river trip Janelle Monale’s Make me feel.

This idea of switching from main room sounds to more chill-out ones seems to be gaining ground.  It gives DJ more opportunities to play contemporary tracks.

Marc Forster of Ceroc Beds & Bucks always makes sure the last hour of his freestyles are more chilled.  John Baker’s Strictly Ceroc Switch at Bristol has built a great reputation for more chilled sounds after midnight.

This is a particular advantage of venues that go on beyond midnight, and the ninety minutes of chill-out tracks was another reason why this Cutty Sark freestyle was so well received.  The fact that the dance floor stayed busy right up until Steve’s last track was proof in itself of just how good and engaging the music was at the end of the night.

The dance floor stayed busy right until the end of the night.  Photo courtesy of David Addis

More thoughts from The Dance Gang

I’ll feature some more of Steve’s fabulous chill-out mix a little later, but I want to return to my dance friends discussions over sparkling water at The Old Brewery.  We soon got on to the topic of the number of dances the ladies in the group got.  It seems that no one had any problems.  Here’s Mel:

Although we had each other’s support, this proved to be such a friendly and welcoming event that we didn’t need to have any cause for concern.

We found ourselves on the dance floor as much as we would with the familiar faces back home.

I have no doubt that people will want to visit this event from outside of London.  I mention my Dance Gang friend’s concerns, about getting dances, because I feel it’s not uncommon for ladies who travel to new venues anywhere in the country to share these worries.  In fact after I made a brief mention of this concern in Part 1 of my review, Barbara got in touch to say that it was something that women worry about at all venues nationwide.

I still get nervous at a new venue, excited by the challenge, but nervous and only go if I have the safety net of at least one friend.  Once I got over the terror of asking a man to dance – it took about a year if not more – I was very proactive.  I would usually have to do 85% of the asking, but was driven by my desire to dance.

The payback came back slowly and now there are several men who I’ve asked in the past who will come and find me.  That in itself is validating and gives me the courage to carry on asking.

I don’t think Barbara’s use of the word terror is over stating it – I know many women will agree with her about the stress of asking guys to dance.  One tactic my lady friends use use is to ask for a dance while they are still on the floor.  As soon one track ends track ends they turn to the man next to them, smile and offer their hand.  We guys are a sucker for a nice smile.

Men please do the chivalrous thing

While on this subject of ladies getting a dance, can I ask one thing of the men.  Just like my Dance Gang ladies, it’s a lot easier to ask for a dance with some one who is already on the dance floor.  Your adrenaline boasts your confidence, but could I ask that men make it a policy of asking ladies to dance who stood out the last dance.

It’s a chivalrous thing to do guys, and it ensures that every one gets their fair share of dancing.  Sipping at their sparkling water the ladies were very pleased with the number of dancers they got.  I’ll have more of their thoughts later, but lets look at some more photographs now.

We love dance photographs

We all love seeing photographs of ourselves, but you can’t beat seeing a picture of yourself having fun on the dance floor.  Many Ceroc venues across the land are fortunate to have photographers, with professional skills behind the camera, amongst their dancers.

Because of their love of dancing these people will post their photos on Facebook for people to share at no cost.  This means that many of us have great quality photos as our featured images on our Facebook Pages.  Ceroc Evolution were blessed to have three highly skilled photographers on board who captured some wonderful images of people, that will no doubt have found themselves on to Facebook.

Smiles as photographer David Addis shows his latest snaps.  Photo courtesy of Tori Hallett

The photos help spread the word of the fun we all have

The combined albums of Davis Addis, Mike Smith and Tori Hallett contained over five hundred photographs and every one is of a professional standard.  I have no doubt that hundreds of them will have been shared to Facebook, and many peope will have updated their featured image with them.

These photos are a great marketing asset.  I have no doubt that the photo albums have helped raise the profile of Ceroc Evolution, but they have a more general marketing value.  When people share these photos of themselves out dancing on their Facebook pages, their non-dancing friends get to see all the fun they are having.

I’ve had several conversations with venue managers, who tell me that one of the reasons that people sign up for lessons, is because they saw their friends having a great time out dancing.  So, in the interests of publicising our wonderful dance scene please post away.  Let everyone know just how much fun they are missing.

Was anyone else having as much fun on Saturday night?  Photo courtesy of Tori Hallett

It’s great to have group memories

One category of photos I love are the group ones.  Saturday night was extra special for me and my friends because we were all together.  We had a shared experience.  When ever we meet up we can relive every aspect of our Cutty Sark adventure.  Here’s Jo:

It was fabulous that we made a weekend of it, and that I was with my girl friends.

Janet another of the Dance Gang added another wonderful aspect of making the trip as a group:

Being with my friends enriches the whole experience.  It starts with discussions about what we are going to wear and pack.

I suspect there were many groups of friends on the Cutty Sark, and I suspect that there were, as Janet recalled, many discussions about which frock to wear.  Here’s a lovely group picture from Saturday night.   I’m tempted to caption it ‘Who’s the lucky guy!’.

One of the many wonderful group photos.  Photo courtesy of David Addis

Thanks for the extra fans guys

This sweltering summer has taken it’s toll on the dance floor.  Even in the middle of winter a mass of dancing bodies can generate a lot of heat in venues, and this summer the heat on the dance floor has at times been overpowering.  Venues have done their best, but it seemed that sometimes there just were never enough fans to go round.

The Cutty Sark is an air conditioned venue, but it was never going to be enough with the record temperatures outside and three hundred bodies wanting to dance as much as they could.  Sensibly Steve and his crew had brought in their own fans and I think that most of us spent some time congregated around them.

Steve’s late night music cools it down a little

It was good then that Steve didn’t wait until midnight to switch to a slightly slower vibe.  Not only did Steve’s more chilled tracks lower the body temperature a little, it also gave him a chance to play a more contemporary music mix.  Now, regular readers of my reviews will know that lately I’ve been paying a lot of interest to contemporary music.

If this wonderful dance scene is to flourish it has to attract young people, who will want to dance to their own music, and that means more of the chilled R&B with its funkier rhythms and modern instrumentation.

I think there is a general acceptance that new music has to find its place in DJ playlists, but what I’ve noticed as I visit venues around the country is that London is a Hot Spot for more contemporary chilled music.

This is not the place to discuss the reasons why this is, but for the moment I’ll give you a few thoughts on this subject.  But first let me feature a track from Steve’s after midnight playlist that will help establish what me mean by contemporary chilled music.  Didn’t Know by Digital Farm Animals & Yasmin from 2015 is a great example.

Chilled music requires a different style of dancing

Tracks like Didn’t know have a more relaxed vibe than main room music, and as such it needs a different approach to dance to it successfully.  One very popular approach is to dance in a more slotted style.  Now, here’s the thing – there isn’t a lot of this kind of music played in The East Midlands and there’s even less teaching of the SILC style slotted dance technique.

That can be a problem when I or my Dance Gang friends travel to some venues – particularly in the South, which turn out to be slotted dancing hot spots.  It was obvious pretty early on that this venue was such a hot spot.

During Steve and Ashley’s main room sets about half the people were dancing in the slot.  After 11:30 when Steve chilled the vibe down, that figure was a lot higher.

Readers of my Tea Dance Tour series of articles will know that I embarked on my tour of Sunday dance venues hoping to get a chance to dance to more chill-out music, and so to improve my smoother slotted style of dancing.

Some of the Sunday afternoon events I’ve attended have included lessons, and I’ve also been able to get in plenty of practice.  Let me just say that if I hadn’t learned some slotted techniques, I would have struggled to dance to many of the tracks in Steve’s last ninety minute set.

The ladies had some wonderful leads

My Dance Gang friends all agreed that Steve’s end of night playlist was a lot different to what we are used to back in Nottingham.  Now don’t get me wrong, we have a very vibrant dance scene in Nottingham – it’s just that we haven’t had too many opportunities to learn to dance in the smoother slotted style.  At our freestyles there is very little music like the Digital Farm Animals’ one, though as I mentioned earlier Ashley is slowly making a difference.

I couldn’t help wonder how my lady Dance Gang members got on with the more chilled music.  Here’s Jo:

The music at the end of the evening was quite new to me, different and interesting and not something we would necessarily hear at freestyles in the East Midlands.

I’m fortunate that I dance fairly regularly with Ash in lessons, but the men I danced with at this event all led very clearly and I was able to really enjoy the more chilled tracks at the end of the evening.

Mel agreed that there was a lot of different music in the final part of the evening, and like Jo still enjoyed some wonderful dances:

There was certainly a lot of fresh music, which I was still able to dance to.  I suppose as Jo says it was because the men were very clear with their lead.

At the end of the evening I got to speak to Helen, who had travelled down from Wolverhampton.  Her own experience was very similar to my dance friends:

Everyone has been euphoric which created a great vibe.  I didn’t feel uncomfortable which gave me confidence to ask many new faces for a dance.  They were all very friendly and there were some magnificent leads, taking me through lots of new moves, especially during the slower tracks.

Listening to the ladies talk about the men leading them during the slower tracks was another big tick for this venue.  There is no doubt that the local guys went out of way to ensure that all the new faces had a great night.  Well done guys.

The floor is still busy as DJ Steve switches to more chill-out music.  Photo courtesy of Mike Smith

Callum throws himself in to chilled dancing

The latest recruit to our Nottingham Dance Gang is Callum.  Now, Callum is young – as in the younger age of dancer that Ceroc needs to attract.  I wondered how Callum found the later part of the evening.  Now being young Callum has no fear, and in an attempt to get some experience of the smoother style of dancing Callum puts himself about a bit.

I was particularly impressed when he told me he had been to Utopia, the chill-out music venue in Twickenham, twice in the past year.  That’s youth for you, and not surprisingly Callum really engaged with the slower smoother tracks on Saturday night.

I keep making little bits of progress

I’ve promised myself that I’ll go to Utopia, but not just yet.  I feel I want a little more experience, more experiences like Saturday night in fact.  Having said that there were no disasters during that final session on Saturday night and that included a lovely dance with Nardiya.

Now, Nardiya has featured quite a bit in my journey to dance in the more modern slotted style.  This is the forth time I’d danced with her since March and each time I come off the dance floor feeling I’ve made a little more progress.  Back in March Nardiya demo-ed for Steve at a SILC class at the Ceroc Perth first ever Fresh Weekender in Perth, Scotland.

In one of those lessons Steve and Nardiya taught a simple SILC whip.  I’d been shown it before, but it had never really clicked with me.  Suddenly in Steve’s lesson I got it, and I’ve been including it in my slotted routine ever since.  As I danced with Nardiya I was perfectly positioned to do the whip.  ‘Here goes Paul, lets do it.’ To my great joy Nardiya recognised it as the move she had taught with Steve:

That was the whip.

Just four words, but for me four very important words.  Four words that said ‘Yes Paul, you are making progress’.  Progress is progress no matter how small.  Nardiya mentioning my execution of the whip was a recognition of another measure of my progress.

At the Cutty Sark I watched many men who showed a real proficiency and fluidity in their smooth slotted style of dancing.  I realised that I still have some way to go.  But I’m determined to get there.  Perhaps my visit to Utopia is not so far away.

The music is my motivtion

My motivation to learn to dance in a more modern way has been simple.  I just wanted to be able to dance to some of the slower funkier tracks I would occasionally hear.  I would go to the Ceroc Southport Weekenders and watch enviously as people danced to the slower tracks in The Boudoir area.  My standard Ceroc moves just didn’t hack it – even when I slowed them down.

Here’s a track that Steve played towards the end of his set.  It’s a great piece of contemporary R&B.  Twelve months ago I wouldn’t have dared asked anyone to dance to a track like The River by Bishop Briggs.  On Saturday I gave it a shot.  My moves were a bit repetitive, but I connected with the tracks funky groove.  That is a memory that I will take from The Cutty Sark.


My Dance Gang friends agree – it was fab

As myself and my Dance Gang friends finished our drinks at The Old Brewery and started to think about our journey home, we all agreed that Ceroc Evolution’s Cutty Sark had been a great success.   We’d had a fabulous night which was a fitting climax to the most wonderful weekend.

The previous night, as people started to head off, we got together for one last photo.  It’s a photo that we have all shared on Facebook and holds a lot of wonderful memories.  Our thanks to the guy who we commandeered to take the shot.  I’m sure we weren’t the only ones recording this night for prosperity on their smart phones.

The Nottingham Dance Gang.  Back Row, L to R: Brett (honorary member from London), Jo and Paul.  Front Row, L to R: Mel, Janet, Callum, Anne and Alan.  Photo courtesy of Alan’s iPhone and unknown guy

Facebook is full of glowing feedback

I didn’t doubt for one moment that everyone, who was lucky enough to have a ticket, would have had just as great a time as my friends, and the reaction on Facebook the following day was validation of this.  What particularly impressed was to see the appreciation for the efforts of all the Ceroc Evolution Crew.  Here are a few of the comments:

Thank you all so much for a fantastic night!  A special thanks to the whole of Ceroc Evolution team for setting the tone prior to my arrival and the atmosphere was just electric from start to finish. Thank you all and see you again soon! Chris

It was good to see appreciation for the three photographers too, as in this lovely Emoji filled appreciation of Tori’s photographs

The most wonderful fabulous spectacular dance ?? evening on the ship ?.Thankyou again Tori for capturing the magic of the night xxxx❤️❤️❤️ Marilyn

This next comment is one of my favourites.  It seems that at some point before eleven on the night, Anna captured an image of Tori on the dance floor, as she took more of her wonderful photos.  Anna then proceeded to create an image that tells its own story of the night.  The image was then posted to Ceroc Evolution’s Facebook Page just after 11:00 with this comment with more Emojis:

Photographing the photographer:) and I managed to draw it too?  Great kilt outfit in the background!  Brilliant atmosphere?????!!!  Anna

Here is Anna’s fabulous creation.  It’s simple, but I love the way it captures Tori at work.

Anna’s image tells its own story of an amazing night

The Ceroc Evolution Crew – take a bow

This wonderful event must have taken a lot of planning and a massive effort on the night.  It’s great that people have taken the time to thank the Ceroc Evolution team, and Nardiya was proud to tell me just how much positive feedback the team have been getting:

It’s been amazing how many people have messaged us saying it was their favourite Ceroc event ever. We’re very glad that people had fun.

Nardiya was also kind enough to give me the names of some of the Ceroc Evolution Team, who worked so hard behind the scenes.  I’ve mentioned some of the people above, but Nardiya also asked if I could also give a shout out to Georgie Peake, Jess Woodall and Horse (apparently everyone knows who ‘Horse’ is).

There is one other person who deserves a mention and that is Konrad Sanders, who along with Nardiya featured in the publicity shots wearing his distinctive braces.  Konrad and Nardiya appear in quite a few of Ceroc Evolution’s publicity shots and they have become an essential part of the brand.

I’m sure there are many more who deserve a mention too, so anyone who had any kind of role in making this the special night it was, please take a bow.

I suspect that this photo includes many of the Ceroc Evolution backroom staff and volunteers.  Photo courtesy of Tori Hallett

Take a lesson from Charles

Not only was Facebook a wash with wonderful comments about Saturday night, it was also full of people wanting to know about how to get tickets for the next one.  Not surprisingly, after word got out, the tickets for the next date in February sold out within six days.

I know that a lot of people will be disappointed, but let me give you a heads up about how to get a ticket for the next one by telling the story of Helen from Wolverhampton.  I’d danced with Helen a few weeks before at the Ceroc Addiction freestyle at Perton, just outside Wolverhampton.

We both recognised each other and got chatting.  I was interested to know how Helen had found out about the event:

I was very lucky.  Charles, who’s from nearby Walsall, posted on Facebook details of the dance he was going to at The Cutty Sark.  I posted a comment saying I was dead jealous and what an amazing time he would have.

On the Friday I had a message from Charles saying his partner for the evening was unable to attend and would I like to go instead? I replied in an instant, ‘Absolutely!’

I couldn’t help wonder how Charles managed to get his tickets, not being a local dancer, so I contacted him on Messenger.  His response will give everybody a heads up as to how to give yourself a chance of getting a ticket for next summer.

Charles gets around more than I do

It seems that Charles gets around even more than I do.  Here’s what he had to tell me:

Although I live in Walsall, I only dance one night a week there.  I travel far and wide on a weekly basis looking for great music and dancing.  I make a point of making Facebook Friends Requests with all those teachers I’ve learnt from at Weekenders or various other events.

So whenever they are selling an event it then shows up on my Facebook page, and if I fancy it, I buy tickets.  I got to hear about the Cutty Sark even before the tickets went on sale.

So here’s my tip.  You can of course send Steve a Friends Request, or better still why not join the Ceroc Evolution Facebook Group, or like the Ceroc Evolution Page, and you’ll get notifications before any tickets go on sale.

Steve tells me that tickets for a second Cutty Sark freestyle in February were offered to the people who were at last weeks event, but that there were still 160 tickets on offer when they went on general sale.  There’s no doubt that members of The Ceroc Evolution Facebook Group knew exactly where and when to get a ticket.

Another Freestyle of The Year?

Being a member of the Ceroc Evolution Group you soon realise just how many other sell-out events that Steve and his team put on, and there’s always a simple click through to the ticket site.  As a member since the beginning of the year I’ve been made aware of so many events and they all appear to have their own special appeal.

Right now you’ll see that there are still tickets to an event, that might just surpass the Cutty Sark as The Ceroc Event of The Year – The pre-New Year O2 freestyle.  This unique event goes on until five in the morning and there promises to be seven hundred people there.  That reminds me, I must see if The Nottingham Dance gang are free on Saturday 29 December.

Related Articles

The Cutty Sark Review Part 1

Other Ceroc Evolution Reviews

The River:  A Sunday afternoon Boat rip down the Thames

Steve’s Birthday Party class night