Would people return to the dance floor?

Like many people, as so-called Freedom Day approached, I wondered just how many people would return to the dance floor.  Reading the Facebook posts from many dancers you could easily have thought there would be a mad rush back once we were given the green light.  But my own experience of the Ceroc Heaven dance class on Monday (see the link to my review below) and reading between the lines of comments on Facebook it seems that so far the return has been cautious if somewhat encouraging.

Perhaps as word gets out about the fun everyone had at the class nights, numbers would start to rise.  The real test would be the attendance at the first freestyles that took place on the week ending 25 July.  For that reason, I kept my eyes out for venues that would open on the first weekend after Freedom Day.

Sadly events get cancelled

Once the original road map out of lockdown was published I was pleased to see that Ceroc Rolls Royce at Derby, run by Mark and Liz Taylor, announced they would be running a freestyle at Burton upon Trent Town Hall on the first Saturday.  This venue attracts dancers from all over the East and West Midlands to create a fabulous night out.  It would be a good early test to see how confident people were to return to the dance floor.

Sadly no sooner had I put the date in my dance diary, the event was cancelled.  It appears that the people who run Burton Town Hall were not comfortable allowing a large event to run so early on.  The same fate befell Mark and Liz’s Monday class night.  This is one of the best run classes I have ever attended and always attracts over a hundred dancers.  The people who run the Rolls Royce Pavillion again were hesitant to allow any social functions until the beginning of September.

The delay in opening the Derby dance class and the cancellation of the Burton freestyle are a great shame but hopefully, the Derby dancers can get their dance fix elsewhere until their local venues reopen.  I suspect that other dance organisations may have the same problem and this is not helping the general return to dancing.

Sadly the Summer Ball at Burton had to be cancelled.

My Dance Friend Margaret comes up trumps

As I travelled around the country writing my dance blog reviews, I’ve met some wonderful people, many of who contributed to my reviews.  Margaret is a particularly good friend as during lockdown she helped with my novel, by using her considerable knowledge about dressmaking to help me write passages around my heroine, Ellie’s, wardrobe.

Margaret, who lives in Wolverhampton, got in touch to say that Ceroc Addiction were kicking off their freestyle programme with one at the nearby Perton Civic Centre.  It’s a well-loved large venue I’d visited a couple of years ago and it would be just the event to get an idea of how people felt about returning to a full night of social dancing.

I’d originally been accompanying, Marion, one of my Derby dance friends to the Burton freestyle so I was soon asking if she was happy to travel the extra distance for her first post lockdown dance fix.  Having had such a fabulous time when I last visited Perton I had no problem justifying the one hour fifteen minutes journey time.  A message duly came back, ‘Yes, put me down for a ticket please.’

No need for a ticket or a Covid Passport

Organisations are trying to limit the numbers on the dance floor to comply with Covid safety guidelines.  Perton Civic Centre can easily hold a hundred and fifty people and Maja Kocanova, who runs Ceroc Addiction, obviously felt that the expected turnout would give everyone space on the dance floor and there was no need to pre-book.

Maja had also taken the decision not to ask for a Covid Passport but her team ensured that everything was done to ensure people’s safety including that the hall was well ventilated with every door to the outside terrace open.  I did wonder if not asking for proof of vaccination or a negative lateral flow test would affect the turnout – more of that later.

Dance Gang excitement

In many of my reviews before lockdown, I had talked about the fun that comes from going dancing with a group of friends.  For that reason, I accepted Margaret’s offer for myself and Marion to join her friends and also offered to pick Margaret up.  Driving to Wolverhampton, Marion and I chatted about the prospects of the night’s dancing ahead of us.  Once Margaret joined us the excitement level increased.

If I’ve missed dancing over the past sixteen months, I’d missed the social side even more.  As a single person pre-Covid, I’d built a great deal of my life around the friends I’d met dancing and the wonderful chats I would have at the side of the dance floor.  Conversations and laughter in the car on the way to and from dance venues were a big part of that life and it was so good to be doing it again.

Every chair was taken when I came in

I’m surprised how busy it is

We arrived at Perton about a quarter past eight and there was no queue at the desk.  I wondered if this was a bad omen and that perhaps people were still feeling hesitant about coming out.  I didn’t need to worry.  When we entered the main hall it was very busy.  So much so that every chair had been taken.

I quickly returned to the main desk and asked if there were more chairs and thankfully a storeroom was opened with plenty more.  It seems that the crew had guessed how many chairs would be needed and had severely underestimated the number.  We soon found a space around the side of the room and laid out a group of chairs for ourselves and Margaret’s friends who still had to arrive.

I’d forgotten that freestyles at Perton start at 7.30 and go on until 12.30.  Later I would chat with Lisa one of the Crew members who was on the door.  She told me that when they first opened there was a long queue going right out of the door.  I suppose that proves just how eager everyone was to get onto the dance floor and so by the time Marion, Margaret, and I entered the hall there was already an atmosphere bubbling up on the dance floor.

A musical memory that said all was well

As I was putting on my dance shoes I became aware of the track that was playing, Cola by Lou Bega.  Since its release in 2010, this track has been a Ceroc favourite and it triggers many memories from across my ten years of dancing.  Just hearing it made me feel that everything was back to normal and this thought was reinforced as I looked across the hall and saw people happily dancing with each other.

As I later heard tracks that were doing the rounds before we were banned from the dance floor, I got an increasing sense that all was well, at least on the dance floor in Wolverhampton.  Kygo and Whitney Houston’s Higher ground, Shawn Mendes & Camila Cabello’s Senorita, and Mabel’s Don’t call me up, were just three of many tracks that reinforced this feeling that we were back as if nothing had happened.

It’s just like Ellie’s dance gang

In the dance novel, I wrote during my exile from the dance floor, my main character Ellie slowly builds up a group of friends who go dancing together.  They have a motto, that they look out for each other on the dance floor – that the men in the group make sure that the ladies get their fair share of dances.

I was a little concerned that Marion didn’t know any of the people at Perton but it didn’t matter as myself and Margaret’s male friends ensured that Marion got into the swing of the evening with plenty of dances before enjoying dances with the other dancers.  It was a great example of the benefits of going dancing with a small group of friends.

If you would like to read more about Ellie’s adventures on the dance floor then please click anywhere in the box below and you’ll be taken straight to the novel on Amazon   Ellie’s dance floor experiences are based on my own dance friends’ visits to freestyles and I’m sure that any dancer will recognise themselves in the characters I’ve created.

Everyone is happy to dance with everyone else

I mentioned that Maja had decided not to ask for proof of vaccination or a test taken on the day, but that’s not to say that her team had not considered the safety of everybody.  The dance hall at Perton is blessed with an outside terrace where dancers can cool down.  All the double doors to the terrace were fully opened to ensure maximum ventilation.  They also provided plenty of hand sanitiser but there was one other interesting consideration.

They provided round yellow stickers for dancers who wanted to signal that they wanted to stay as a fixed partner.  When I got to chat with crew member Lisa, she told me that they had over a hundred people in attendance and that they had only given out stickers to one couple.  It seems that the people who had set out to dance at Perton had taken the view that they wanted to dance with everybody who asked them onto the floor.

DJ Graham mixes it up

Graham Elphick was the DJ for the night and played a set of Ceroc favourites mixed in with plenty of contemporary tracks, all of which I loved dancing to.  One such Ceroc classic track is Sunchyme by Dario G.  It’s another piece of music that brings back so many dance floor memories and, like the Lou Bega track, gave me an assurance that things were back to normal.

I want to feature one of Graham’s contemporary tracks.  It’s one that I grew to love in the months before lockdown because its modern production and subtlety chilled vibe encouraged me to develop a more slotted and expressive style of dancing.  The track is Something about you by Elderbrook & Rudimental.

Because of Maja’s style-based approach to teaching, the lady dancers at Perton love it when you give them the time and space to express themselves.  I was lucky to get a partner who took advantage of the opportunities I gave her to play with the music – something the smooth slotted style of dancing is suited to.  Best dance of the night?  Well, certainly one of the best.

People travel for more than 2 hours

In between dances, I found myself talking to Frank, one of Margaret’s dance friends.  Like me, he was pleasantly surprised to see how busy the dance floor was but noted that many regular faces were missing.  I can understand that for this first weekend of dancing, many people would still be a little hesitant to come out but I couldn’t help wondering why the turnout was so good.

Again Lisa filled me in with some details that explained why this might be so.  Like all organisations, Ceroc Passion, are expected to keep records of the address and contact details of the people who attend.  While Lisa was taking the addresses, she was quickly made aware that some people had travelled some distance to get their first-weekend dance fix.

It seems that people had travelled from Chester, Manchester, Liverpool and even South Wales – not forgetting myself and Marion from Derby.  I suppose this shows how, like myself, many people just had to find somewhere to dance even if it meant travelling for over two hours.  It also shows the reputation and pulling power of Ceroc Addition’s events.

A fabulous version of a pop classic

One of the great attractions of dancing for me is the music the DJs serve up for us.  I love it when they find new versions and remixes of classic tracks.  Graham played one such track that ticked this box for me.  I’ve always thought that Walking on sunshine by Katrina and The Waves, while a wonderful pop song, was a little too fast for Ceroc dancing.  So I was pleased that Graham had found a fabulous remake that was perfect to dance to.

Made with a slower beat, this version by Jazzystics, made a real connection with me.  It has a late-night jazzy feel that was not only easier to dance to than the original but encouraged me to adopt a more expressive style for the dance.  It reminded me how much I’d missed hearing and dancing to new music and just how much new music the DJs have in store for us all.

We want to dance as much as we can

In my review of my Freedom Day visit to Ceroc Heaven’s Monday class (see link below), I commented on the fact I seemed to have lost my dance fitness and wondered how I would cope with a full four-hour freestyle.  I suspect that many people will have the same concern.  I knew I had to pace myself and would need to take plenty of breaks but it seems that the excitement of being back on the freestyle dance floor was enough to keep me energised right up to my last dance.

It seems that many other people experienced the same uplift in their energy levels, as even as the clock approached midnight the floor was still very busy.  People just wanted to dance as much as they could.  Perhaps we all fear our dance freedom could be taken away again at short notice and so want to ensure we don’t miss any opportunity to dance.

Suzanne is so pleased to be back

As we drove back home Marion was quick to tell me what a wonderful time she’d had but I’d also wanted to get the view of one of the regular Perton dancers.  For this reason after a particularly lovely dance, I asked Suzanne if I could get her view on this first full night of dancing.  I suspect her story is one that will resonate with a lot of people, particularly the single ones amongst us.

When restrictions eased in the late summer last year and fixed partner dance classes were on offer, Suzanne like so many other people wasn’t in a bubble that allowed her to participate.  It was the same when fixed partner dance classes started up again in the spring.  Unable to find a partner Suzanne tried some solo classes.  While these classes allowed single people to participate in some form of dancing the strict distancing rules meant they had limited appeal and Suzanne couldn’t wait for the real thing to return.

As the big night approached Suzanne was worried that she might be rusty, that she might struggle to follow her partner’s lead.  It is a common worry amongst ladies.  The men, too, worried that they might have forgotten all their moves.  I had been lucky that I could invite ladies to dance with me at my house during the past few months, but even so, I realised that I was dancing with a limited number of moves.  Thankfully I slowly remembered them as the night progressed.

Great to have the real thing again

Rusty?  Not when it came to it

So was Suzanne rusty?  No, she followed my lead smoothly and we enjoyed a fabulous early dance.  While discussing her worries about following her partners lead, Suzanne explained what made for a good dance.

My best dances are always with the men that I understand their lead and dance style.

As a man, I dance in basically the same way with every partner, often keeping to the same pattern of moves.  This enables me to smooth out the individual moves and ensure my signalling is unambiguous.  It’s completely different for the ladies, of course.  With each new partner, the dance is different and so I can understand why Suzanne’s best dances are amongst the men she dances with regularly and where she gets to understand their signals.

So was Suzanne’s best dance with one of her regular partners?  No, it was actually with someone new at the venue – perhaps someone who had travelled a long way to get their dance fix.  This proves the attraction of social dancing, the fact we get to dance with so many people and often completely new ones and occasionally they give us one of our best dances of the night.  With Perton attracting people from far afield this was always going to be a good dancing night.

You can not beat dancing with a partner

During the lockdown, many of us found ways of dancing solo to the fabulous music we have come to love.  Some joined in with the Zoom group sessions, others like myself simply disco danced around their living rooms and kitchens, but it was no substitute for dancing with a partner, as only then can you both connect with the same infectious beat.

One of Graham’s plays was the funk-infused Shake that by Eminem featuring Nate Dogg.  You could dance to this dance track in your living room but there is no way you can fully connect with its thumping beat on your own.  For this, you need a partner.  Someone who also feels the same raw attitude the song exudes and was prepared to express it through their dancing.

As I danced to this classic Ceroc dance track, I was reminded once again how wonderful it was to be dancing with a partner on a busy dance floor – connecting with the beat and with each other.  It is so good to be back.

Dancing is waiting for you again

I know that some people will still be anxious to start dancing again.  The aim of this and my other reviews is simply to let you know what people are feeling out on the dance floor.  There is no doubt still some anxiety out there.  Here’s Suzanne again:

I was a bit apprehensive about coming tonight but when I got here and saw all my friends I was fine.

If you do come back know that the dancing is as joyous as it ever was and that people who do venture out are determined to have a good time and experience once again the joy of dancing.

Enjoy another dance fix with my novel

If you enjoy reading my dance blogs, I’m sure you’ll love reading my novel, Would you like to dance?.  It tells the story of how Ellie and her friends discover the joy that is partner dancing and find the confidence to enter an amateur dance competition.  The story is full of the excitement and passion that I feel dancing and I’m sure many people will recognise themselves in the ten characters that make up Ellie’s Newbie Dance Gang.

Why not visit the website I’ve designed to support the novel.  It is packed with background information on how I came to write Ellie’s story and reviews from the people who have already enjoyed it.  You also find whole sections dedicated to the joy that is Ceroc dancing including photo galleries and videos showing the fun we all have on the dance floor.  Simply click on the image below and you’ll be taken straight there.

Links to related articles

My first night back dancing with Ceroc Heaven (July 2021)

My first visit to a Perton Freestyle (July 2018)