I revisit an important place of my dance journey

Christmas is a wonderful time to be part of the Modern Jive community, as dance classes across the country put on festive themed nights.  I was lucky enough to be able to go to the Ceroc Red Carpet Class night at Rolls Royce Derby.  This Monday class night, held in the fabulous Rolls Royce Pavilion, has a special place in my heart as it is where, nine years ago, I first braved the lines of the Beginners Class.

The class has long had a very loyal following, and what was interesting, was that there were still faces I remember from my very early lessons all that time ago.

This Ceroc venue is now run by Liz and Mark Taylor and since fully taking over they have built the venue in to one of the top ranked Ceroc venues in the country.

David Evans captures the Spirit of Christmas

This Christmas Liz and Mark really went to town to provide a very special night for their dancers.  They arranged for photographer David Evans to be on hand to record the proceedings, and as I went through the album of photographs I realised that he had captured the true spirit of a Christmas fun class night.  This then is my take on what was a fabulous night, based around ten of David’s images.

I’ve also included a link to the complete photo album at the end of the review.

1: A heightened sense of anticipation

I think everyone sensed that this was going to be a special night, and David captured this image of people as they were greeted at the front desk by Liz and Mark.  The queue also tells you just how popular this night was and it seemed that all the regulars didn’t want to miss out.  The word had also got out and I spotted people who had travelled some distance to be part of this special festive night.

Liz and Mark had got an extension beyond their normal times to half past eleven.  This extra three quarters of an hour would provide time for some extra fun and games.  It was these extras that made this a standout night and one that will hold lasting memories for many of the people who attended.

Smiles all round as people are greeted by Liz and Mark

2: The Red Carpet Treatment

Liz and Mark provided a wonderful red carpet backdrop for people to have their photos taken as they first came in.  The resulting photos are a fabulous record of all the people who attended, and so good are they, that something tells me that many will find their way on to people’s Facebook Pages as featured images.

Many of the Red Carpet pictures were actually taken by David’s assistants for the night Taryn Gosling and Phil Sharkey and so a big thank you to them both for capturing all the smiles as people posed for their pictures.

The dress code was ‘Dress to impress’ and that’s exactly what people did.  As always the ladies looked fabulous and it was good to see the men making a real effort too.  I’m sure the ladies appreciated the many who came in their smart dinner jackets.  The picture on the right is one of my favourites from the whole album.  I hope that Mandy won’t mind me highlighting her quirky Christmas dress and I just love the poses all three ladies strike.

So great to see everyone ‘Dress to impress’

3: Teacher Dan and demos Holly and Ali create a fun packed lesson

Liz and Mark have worked very hard to establish this venue, but they also owe a lot to the enthusiasm of the team they have built around them.  We’ll meet more members of the team later, but this photo captures Teacher Dan Akers and demos Holly and Ali as they demonstrate a new twist on Double Trouble.

Dan is a fabulous teacher, but it is his relaxed interplay with his two demos, Holly and Ali, week after week that has helped build this venue’s enviable reputation.

Instead of the usual Beginners’ Class Dan did an interesting variation on Double Trouble, where two followers dance with one lead.  Dan’s version saw the two followers permanently coupled together, as Holly and Ali demonstrate below.

Teacher Dan leads his two regular demos Holly and Ali in the fun routine

4: The fun class is a laugh a minute

Now the fun really started.  The idea was that the two followers were coupled up by putting their arms round each other.  This made any move for the followers quite difficult, as they had to coordinate their movement.  The result was mayhem on the dance floor and David’s image captures both the concentration and laughter as the threesomes attempt a Ceroc Spin.

The hilarity was made even more acute because the followers weren’t necessarily two ladies.  There were many male couples and some of the ladies also took the lead.  It’s hard enough for men to follow at the best of times, but doing it while coupled to to a fellow man was beyond many of them.

Of course it didn’t matter.  This night was all about having a laugh, and everybody entered in to the spirit of it.  I’m not sure whether Dan thought this idea up himself, but I suspect that Coupled Trouble (I couldn’t resist that pun) might as a result take off on a bigger scale.

Doing the Ceroc Spin coupled to another follower was always going to descend into laughter

5: Fun and Laughter everywhere

Dan’s Coupled Trouble class was always going to be fun, but the laughter carried on throughout the night, whether on the dance floor or on the sidelines.  I’ve always thought that dancing alone is guaranteed to create a sense of well-being, but on Monday night it didn’t take much to see smiles break out on and off the dance floor.

It seems that where ever David, Taryn and Phil pointed the camera, they captured a real sense of joy.  I have no doubt that the spirit of Christmas itself played a big part, but there is something more going on.  I think it has something to do with the fact that in the room were a group of like minded people who are drawn together by their love of social dancing.

It is this social side of Ceroc and Modern Jive dancing, and the fact that everyone dances with everyone else, that underpins the friendliness of these events.

Smiles amongst the dancers and The Crew

6:  Raising money for The Clair Fund

Christmas is also a time to remember people less fortunate than ourselves and Liz and Mark had made one of the aims of the night to raise money for The Clair Fund, which is a charity that supports children with complex health needs.

One of the ideas that Liz and Mark came up with was having a Dancer Auction.  Eight of Liz’s Crew offered themselves to be auctioned off.  In the weeks running up to the event people were encouraged to submit sealed bids for their favourite dancer.  The highest bidder was then assured of having three dances with the crew member of their choice.

Now Dan was always going to be a popular choice, but Liz tells me that, Mark, Holly, Ali, Penny, Jordan, Tara, and Britta all attracted equally high bids.

In a break in the general dancing the winning bidders were introduced to their Crew partners.  It was a bit like the first night on Strictly Come Dancing, when the celebs are introduced to their professional partners.

Liz would also like to pass on her thanks to the people who donated some quite fabulous prizes for the raffle, which raised more funds for The Clair Fund.  In total the evening raised £193 for the charity.  Liz also tells me that the left over buffet food – there was a lot – was donated to a homeless charity too.

Crew member Holly shows her delight at finding who had bid the most for her

7: Christmas is best when celebrated with friends

The build up to Christmas will always engender a feel good factor, but you can’t beat celebrating it with other people.  The Rolls Royce Pavilion is a great venue to meet up with friends.  Its ample seating and tables is a great place to chill out in between dances.

I loved this photograph that David took.  It captures an important element of the Spirit of Christmas.  While the night revolved around dancing there was still plenty of time to engage in some catching up and sharing of Christmas stories.

Christmas is a great opportunity to catch up and exchange Christmas stories

8: Does anybody know what’s going on

A session of dancing followed the Dancers Auction, and then it was time for more frivolity in something that Dan called the Ceroc Olympics.  Now I won’t attempt to describe what happened for the next thirty minutes, except to say it was the silliest thing I and no doubt everyone else has done all year.

Playing silly games is one of the great traditions of Christmas and Dan came up with some pretty outlandish examples, involving an egg and spoon, some newspaper and a potato – enough said.

The great joy of these games was that they were done in teams.  I’m a great lover of team games as they have a way of breaking down barriers and help create a friendly atmosphere.  It really is anybody’s guess what is going on in the picture below, but does it really matter.  What mattered that we laughed all the way through.

Answers on a postcard, if you know what’s going on here

9: There was actually a Winning Team

In amongst all the chaos and the fact that most of us were pretty useless at following instructions, Dan somehow decided that there was a winning team.  This wonderful photo shows the winning team with their gold medals.  It shows again, how Christmas makes us all go a little bonkers when we get together with like minded people, and some one shouts ‘Silly Games!’

I don’t doubt that all social groups are capable of equal hilarity, but Ceroc and Modern Jive dancers make it look easy.  You’d think this lot had won a real Olympic medal, but hey it’s good to get on the winners podium even if it’s just the stage at Rolls Royce.

Hey mum, look!  I won an Olympic Medal

10 A big well done to all the Derby Team

As I said above, nights like this take a lot of planning and effort and Liz and Mark deserve a lot of praise for their determination to give their class a great start to their Christmas celebrations.  But this night was also the climax to a year, where there was a collective will from all members of the Ceroc Rolls Royce team to make this regular class night the success it has become.

I singled out Dan and his demos Holly and Ali for their contribution to this success, but we should always remember the contribution of the Taxi team of Britta, Penny, Jordan and Jackie.

You’ll remember that this venue was where I learned my first three moves.  It’s also the venue where I forgot those three moves the following week.  Like many people I struggled in those early days, and looking back I hate to think that I might have given up.  What stopped me from quitting was the help and encouragement of two very dedicated Taxi dancers.

Everyone from the people on the front desk to the DJ has their role to play, but for me the Taxi dancers are the most important, and it was great that David captured this image of them posing proudly with the rest of the Derby Team.  Sadly Taxi Jackie missed this roll call and so I promised Liz I’d make sure I gave her a separate shout out.

The Rolls Royce Team: Back Row L – R: Holly, Ali, Liz, Britta, Penny. Front Row Jordan, Mark, Dan.

Let’s not forget DJ Roy

There is one other person that I mustn’t fail to give a mention to, and that is DJ Roy Goodall.  Roy played a great set of party music, that kept the dance floor busy all night.  In amongst his tracks was my favourite Christmas dance song.  I can’t say I’m a fan of hearing Christmas songs in the supermarket from the end of November, and hearing Mariah Carey’s All I want for Christmas can get a little irritating.

I am grateful then, that one of my favourite Christmas dance tracks is seemingly omitted from Supermarket playlists.  Hopefully I only get to hear it at a Christmas freestyles and so it was this year when Roy played Little Saint Nick by The Beach Boys.  I actually think that Mariah Carey’s Christmas song is a little too fast for Modern Jive, but The Beach Boys track is just perfect for a joyous dance.

I’m reminded of my first big step forward

This was one of the most fun packed Christmas class nights I’ve enjoyed since I started my blog.  What was particularly pleasing was that it took place in a venue that is so close to my heart.  It was here that, after about six weeks, I finally managed to string enough moves together to get through a whole three minute song without too much repetition.

This memory was brought home to me by another of DJ Roy’s selections, Keeps getting better by Christina Aguilera.  This track was released just prior to my first class.  By the time I turned up for my first lesson it had become a real favourite of Ceroc DJs.

Like many popular tracks it eventually fell out of favour, even though it’s got a great dance beat, and I can’t remember dancing to it in recent times.  As my dance brain recognised the opening strains of the Aguilera track, I was instantly transported back to the time when I started to make some progress.  Nice memory.  Thank you Roy.

View the complete Red Carpet photo album