The Second Room gets off to a great start

Second rooms at freestyles can be hit or miss affairs. Sometimes they are really busy, but I have more commonly seen them rather under used. I was really interested to see how the second room would work at the Ceroc Heaven Summer Prom. I suspected that the Motown & Soul opener would be popular and so it proved. From nine o’clock through to ten the room was packed and DJ Mark O’Reily created a great buzz on the dance floor.

OK Ashley, how do you follow that?

It was now up to DJ Ashley Davis to keep the vibe that Mark had created going. No easy gig. The Motown and Soul disco tracks Mark played were all upbeat. It was now time to chill out, and play a slower paced style of music that might not suit the normal Ceroc and Modern Jive style of dancing. The room was now officially The SILC Zone, a brand that was introduced at the February Southport Weekender to promote the new SILC dance syllabus. Were there enough people who could do SILC, or who were proficient in the Smooth Jive style for the room to work?

Ash’s first track is a real test

Ash’s first track was a bit of a test. Don’t wait by Mapei is a beautiful piece of mellow contemporary music that was a bit of a shock to the system after the Isley Brothers just ten minutes before in the same room. The Isley’s much loved This old heart of mine has been viewed just over a million times on YouTube, but Mapei’s track has been viewed over eleven million, and it only came out four years ago. The thing is –  music has moved on and dancing needs to move on too. That’s why the SILC Syllabus was developed. Here then is Ash’s opening track.

I’ve always struggled with this type of music

Modern Jive moves just don’t work with this kind of music, so I’ve always struggled with tracks like the Mapei one. I would try slowing down my moves and sometimes I’d get away with it, but sometimes I just had to stand and watch others move beautifully to the chilled out grooves. Which was a pity really because I really love this relaxed style of music. More importantly I’m a great believer in the saying ‘You’re only as old as the music you dance to’. Being able to dance to this kind of music is like drinking from the fountain of youth!

Ash is developing a bit of a following

Ash is very much the new kid on the block and he is slowly developing quite a following. I recognised people who had travelled quite a way to dance to his music. I’m minded of Marc Forster and Rachel Pears when I listened to Ash’s playlist. Marc and Rachel have over a long period of time developed quite a following and they regularly pack out Chill Zones throughout the country. Ash is certainly one to watch.

Here’s another of Ash’s picks and I’m beginning to wonder where he finds them. The first thing that hits you about Mad by Anthony Hamilton is the thumping bass, but listen a little more carefully and there is so much going on with the music production. Its straight out of Funk Central, with Hammond organ, fuzz guitar and harmonica licks that have me hip swaying in my seat as I try to write. If that wasn’t a bid enough distraction, when the horn section kicks in I’m off my chair and dancing – the review can wait.

Almost giving up on SILC

This Anthony Hamilton guy is really good. I’ve just listened to half the album, the rest will have to wait – work to do. Because I want to dance to this chilled style of music I was keen to give SILC a try, and I would always attend the SILC taster classes when ever Ceroc Heaven put them on during their freestyle nights. Sadly I couldn’t get on with it and I almost gave up. I’m not going to beat myself up too much because, like its sister dance format West Coast Swing, its not easy.

The SILC in 6 series of lessons

The human spirit did not evolve to give up and so I resolved to try again, and this summer I enrolled in the Ceroc Heaven SILC in 6 series of lessons run by the aforementioned Ashley.

Though I missed one lesson due to a holiday, suddenly the penny dropped and I started to make some progress. Of course if you don’t get a chance to practise, anything you’ve learnt can soon disappear from your muscle memory. The Summer Prom, coming just a week after the course of lessons ended, was perfectly timed for myself and some of my other fellow class mates to try out the techniques and moves we’d learnt.

I mentioned that the room was fairly busy all night, and one of the reasons was the presence of ten of the people who attended The SILC in 6 course. This picture shows four of them giving it a go. Ashley himself commented that he could see that we had all made progress. I’ll be commenting more about these SILC lessons later in the review.

Ash brings back memories of West Coast Swing

Ash was playing some beautiful music and one particular track brought back some interesting memories. In the past I’ve described SILC as West Coast Swing without the triple step. About four years ago I made a real effort to learn West Coast Swing. Progress was very slow and I eventually gave it up as a bad job. However it opened up a whole new world of dance music.

One of Ash’s wonderful tracks  was Finally moving by Pretty Lights. This lovely mellow piece of music was played quite a lot at my West Coast lessons. One of the reasons I remember it, is because it samples the distinctive guitar lick introduction to William Bell and Judy Clay’s 1968 hit Private number, recorded in the Stax recording studios in Memphis. I suspect that the guitar lick was created by Stax house band member Steve Cropper (sorry to mention this Stax trivia, but I have to take every opportunity to give credit to my Soul Boy hero Cropper).

The midnight switch that wasn’t

At midnight the room was supposed to switch over to Blues. Now I’m not sure if that was quite what happened. Now I was in and out a bit, so I could spend time dancing in the Main Room to DJ Marks more up-tempo sounds, but what I think happened is that Ash mixed it up a bit. I did wonder how The Blues concept would work as close hold blues music is not traditionally a feature of Ceroc Heaven playlists, and I didn’t recognise any of the local Blues Addicts in the room.

Ash knows the Ceroc Faithful well, and so he mixed up the tracks so that there was something for everybody. No bad thing. This explains why the room was pleasantly busy. He actually played a favourite of mine from main stream modern jive freestyles. Maurice John Vaughn’s (Everything I do) Got to be funky is a real belter, but hey why not.

Another song that Ash played, that could be described as a Main Room track, was Josh Turner’s Country & Western rocker Why don’t we just dance. This track’s gentle pace is still perfect for modern jive moves and so proved very popular.

A Blues and Funk Mash-up

I mentioned Marc and Rachel earlier. Their much loved playlists have a kind of mash up feel. Some real slow Blues, Chill-out tracks ideal for West Coast Swing and SILC and the occasional fix of Funk. I have to say I think Ash mixed his tracks in a similar way and it worked perfectly. Here’s one of Ash’s tracks that was in itself a mash up of Blues and Funk (it even had both words in the title).

You could have done close-hold blues to E.C. Scott’s Funkafied Blues, but I chose to modern jive, choosing those moves suited to the musicality of the track’s funky groove. It worked for me and I’m voting it the best of Ash’s late night selection. The song proved hard to track down on YouTube, so I’ve ended up using a video that shows people line dancing to it. Like I said you can do what ever you like to it – that’s what makes it such a great track.

My SILC Journey

Before finishing my review of the late night dancing in the Second Room, I want to talk a little about my SILC journey. As I said earlier I nearly gave up, but had recently attended Ashley’s SILC in 6 course of lessons. It’s my intention to start working on a wide ranging article about my own SILC dance journey, and for this reason I asked Tel Jenkin’s to do a couple of videos of me dancing to some of Ash’s delicious chilled-out tracks.

This is not a ‘How to do SILC’ video

I should say that this is not a video designed to showcase the SILC Dance Syllabus, but instead my intention is to show how, even after so many lessons and workshops, my dancing is still very limited. In Ash’s SILC in 6 course of lessons we probably learnt twenty moves. In this video I do about six and keep repeating them over and over again. I also do moves that are not in the syllabus, but they seem to work well in the SILC slotted format.

I’m dancing with my regular dance partner, who also attended the lessons, and she dances quite beautifully. In my second review of The Summer Prom I wrote about the joy of dancing, and featured photos where just about everyone had a smile on their face. In the video there are no smiles on my face, just determined concentration, but I have to say that inside I was loving that at last I could dance to a really slow track.

At last I’m dancing to a real chill-out track

The track we danced to was Daecolm’s contemporary and gentle interpretation of Abba’s Dancing Queen. In preparing the video Tel removed the soundtrack playing in the room, and over dubbed a fresh recording so that it sounded crystal clear.

I know that Ash watched myself and several others of his pupils with some pride that night, after all progress is progress no matter how small. I want to keep improving and I hope to sign up for the next SILC in 6, to continue my dance journey. I hope this video may inspire a few others to join us.

The SILC Zone proved a great success

The SILC Zone, The Blues Lounge, The Second Room – what ever you want to call it proved to be a great success. The video was filmed at about 11.30 and there are quite a few people dancing. This room had a lovely feel. The Ceroc Heaven Crew had laid tables and chairs around the perimeter of the room and it proved a popular place for people to sit and chat, or just listen to the wonderful music and watch the people dancing out on the floor.

Surely can we do it again?

The Ceroc Heaven Top Team were fairly confident that the night would go down well after the success of the New Years Eve Freestyle. While numbers were understandably down slightly on that night there is little doubt that it was a great success. The Second Room worked really well and the last hour of the Motown slot was, in the words of one of my dance friends, electrifying.

Ashley provided a wonderful mix of chilled out and funky music, and I think with him in charge of the late night shift the venue can slowly build a reputation amongst SILC and Blues lovers. The Main Room provided everyone with their regular fix of up-tempo tracks and it seems that everywhere people were having more fun than they ought to.

I know the venue is booked for New Years Eve again, and I have no doubt it will be a sell out, and after the success of The Prom I’d get your tickets sooner rather than later. But do we have to wait until New Year’s Eve to do it all again?

A vote of thanks to The Ceroc Heaven Crew

It goes without saying that none of the fun and laughter, that filled The Friesland School in Sandiacre last Saturday night and Sunday morning, would not have been possible without the unseen efforts of the whole Ceroc Heaven Crew. They had arrived at six o’clock that evening and didn’t leave until close on three in the morning.

So on behalf of everyone I’d like to extend our thanks and appreciation to all the crew – Kali, and Sue, DJs Mark and Ash, photographer Tel and not forgetting the unsung and often unseen heroes Caroline, Tracy and Bill. I’m sure a lot of other people did their little bit too – mustn’t forget the lady with the selfie stick – so a big thank you to all of you, and one last thing.

So when are we doing it all over again, because I for one can’t wait until after Christmas. Watch this space.

To read my two other reviews of The School Prom please follow the links

Part 1 Motown & Soul: I get a long awaited fix of Motown and ’70s Disco

Part 2 Having a Ball: I pick out my favourite images from Tel’s photo album of the night