A chance to go somewhere new

Every so often I get an opportunity to review a new venue, and so it was a few Fridays ago.  I wanted somewhere within an hour of my Nottingham base, and so I duly went on the UK Jive Website to see what was on.  It’s here I found that Strictly Ceroc had a freestyle at the Massey Ferguson Social club in Coventry.

There are lots of other people, who like trying out new venues, that use this website.  Little did I know that I would meet some of them on the dance floor, but more of that later.

A venue supported by classes

I did have several options for this particular Friday, and I always like to think that I’ve chosen wisely.  My main concern is that the venue is busy.  I did a little research and found that Strictly  Ceroc ran a class night in Coventry and also one down the road in Solihull.

Some of the best attended freestyles are those that are supported by class nights, so the fact there were two local ones encouraged me to think I’d made a good choice.

By nine o’clock the floor was packed

When I arrived there were very few people in the room, and I couldn’t help wonder if it was going to be busy.  I often wonder if the people who run these events anxiously watch the door.  Of course an event doesn’t have to be packed out to be a good one, but a half filled floor can dampen the atmosphere some what.

Strictly Ceroc is run by John Baker and his wife Natalie.  John was on DJing duties, and if he was anxious about the numbers he didn’t need to be, because by eight thirty the floor was getting busy and by nine o’clock it was packed.

With a great atmosphere in the room, there was every chance this was going to be a good night.  It just needed two more ingredients – great music and friendly dancers.

Great music was assured

I had come across John before, at a Motown and Soul slot at last June’s Southport Weekender, and in my review (see link below) I was greatly impressed by his knowledge of this genre of retro dance music, and I loved every single track he played.

There was no reason why his understanding of what makes a great dance track wouldn’t extend to a more general mix of music.

Well let me tell you now, that John played an awesome mix of tracks, that had me wanting to dance to just about every one.  It seems that everyone else felt the same way too, as the floor remained packed well beyond eleven o’clock, and even as he played the last track at midnight, there were still plenty of people on the dance floor.

Let’s hear some of John’s wonderful music

Before I go any further let me feature some of John’s great music.  John found space for plenty of the Ceroc favourites old and new.  I still love Years and Years’ King and John gave a spin to two current favourites of mine – Felix Jaehn’s remix of Ed Sherran’s Photograph and Jason Derulo’s Kiss the sky.

But I’m going to feature a song that has been a Ceroc favourite since its release in 2016 – Places from Martin Solveig and Ina Wroldsen.  This is a wonderful piece of contemporary dance music, and I love the way this track slowly builds towards a climax where a strong bass line is brought to the front.  I’ll be talking more about John’s great music, but for now here is Places.

Just one more ingredient for a great night

 So, we had plenty of people on the dance floor, and a great mix of music.  We just needed one more ingredient – friendly dancers.  I’ll cut to the chase – from where I was looking this was a very friendly group of people, and so all the ingredients were in place for a great night.

Having said that I wonder if you’ll allow me to ponder a little on this issue of friendly venues.  I often use the reviews on my blog to reflect on aspects of this wonderful dance community, so please allow me a little time on this subject, but first more of John’s great music.

I lose myself in one of John’s Bluesy Rockin’ tracks

As I mentioned above John played some of the classic and current Ceroc favourites, but he perhaps played fewer than most.  This gave him plenty of time to play many of his own favourites, and it’s this mix of John Baker tracks that made this a standout night for me.

John loves bluesy rock infused tracks, and he played two from Jonny Lang, an American Blues and Rock singer.  The one I’ll feature is Matchbox, but he also played Rack em up, which has a similar rockin’ feel.

I have to say that John could have played more of his tracks, but I know that would have been a bit of an over indulgence and John had to mix it up for everyone else on the dance floor.

As soon as you hear Lang’s blues guitar laid over a funky Hammond organ riff, you feel a bouncy vibe, perfect for an full-on old style Ceroc dance.  Now I’m a sucker for a bluesy guitar solo, and I soon lost myself in its jazzy notation.

Dancing is a welcome form of escapism

I was recently in conversation with a dancer who explained that they had a very stressful job, and that as soon as they hit the dance floor they left all their worldly worries behind.  It’s the same for many of us as we walk on to the dance floor.

That’s why I loved the Jonny Lang tracks, but of course the DJs need to serve up tracks that mean everyone can have their own escapism.  That’s the hard part for a DJ, but John’s mix was so good, I imagined that everyone got there fix of escapism.

Here are three very different tracks, that all offer opportunities to connect with the vibe, and lose yourselve in.  If you like your dance floor escapism with a Latin twist than Suave (Kiss me) by Nayer and Pitbull, may work for you.

Perhaps it’s a club remix that works best, so how about Tiësto’s Birthday Treatment Mix of John Legend classic All of me.  May be you want something grittier, so John dug out Sexyback a Justin Timberlake track from 2006.

Ceroc’s golden rule makes it very friendly

The unwritten rule that no one should refuse the offer a dance, makes Ceroc and Modern Jive venues great places to meet and socialise with other like minded people.  The fact that the ladies are also encouraged to ask the men to dance also adds to the social mixing, and it’s very rare to go to a venue and not feel welcome.

But having said that most of still have a little anxiety about going to new places.  Of course we could all stay at our local venue and dance with people we know.  People that we know enjoy dancing with us too.  But that can get a little boring after a while, and its great to visit new venues now and again – but along with this goes a little anxiety about a place’s friendliness.

I thought I’d ask Dave

Because I visit so many new venues, I’m not typical of the average dancer who branches out a little.  For that reason I was pleased that I got to chat with Dave, who I know from my days as a beginner at Rolls Royce in Derby.

Dave regularly dances around Derby and Nottingham, but likes to try out new venues occasionally.  This was his first visit to Coventry, so I was interested to see what he said:

I was pleased that I recognised a few friendly faces from when I’ve danced at Braunstone in Leicester and Nuneaton.

I found the ladies friendly and welcoming.  I soon felt confident to ask them to dance, and had a great night.

I’m sure the ladies realise that we men have to sometimes take a deep breathe, and just head across the dance floor in the hope that our offer of a dance is received with a warm smile.

I experienced the warm smiles many times on Friday night, and I was pleased that my own view of the venue’s friendliness was confirmed by Dave’s own experience.

I asked JLS for a woman’s perspective

But what of the women?  Even though they are encouraged to ask the men, they will often wait to be asked, particularly when they go to a new venue.  It was great that I got to speak with JLS at the end of the night about their perspecvtive.

Now do you know JLS?  Perhaps they don’t need any introductions, but I’ll remind you about them.  They are of course Jill, Lynn and Sandra – three ladies who tell me they live in the posher part of North West Leicestershire (our little joke).

The three of them have started to branch out and visit new venues in The Midlands – it was there first time at Coventry.  I first asked them what brought them there.  Here’s what they had to say:

We went on The UK Jive website, and saw that there were two freestyles on tonight.  Our other choice was The Ceroc Heaven freestyle at Hucknall, in Nottingham.  We didn’t really know anything about either so we randomly chose Coventry.

I asked them if they found it friendly.  Here’s Lynn:

We found it very friendly and we were really pleased with the number of dances we all got

Enough said.  Let’s get back to John’s fabulous music.

I love that DJs dig around the music vaults

John must spend a lot of time digging around the dance music vaults because he played some real gems that were new to me.  Here’s one that I loved.  Chaka Khan’s I’m every woman was a great dance tune from the late ’70s, but it’s perhaps a little slow for Ceroc.

Whitney Houston reprised it for The Bodyguard in 1993, but even though it’s another great vocal performance it doesn’t improve on its dance-ability.  John found a more recent cover by The Leading Ladies, that has a stronger beat and a ’70s disco feel that made for one of the best dances of the night.

Something a little different for JLS

John found some real gems, many that were new to me, and I’m sure there was something for everyone.  In my discussions with JLS about the music they all mentioned the wonderful varied mix.

One of them picked out Andy Williams duet with Denise Van Outen on I can’t take my eyes off you, as an example of just how varied the music mix was.  I remember noting this track too.  Nice pick John.

Is this the track of the moment?

I’ll finish my review of John’s fabulous music by featuring a track that I seem to hear every time I go out dancing.  It was released back in March of last year, though the remix we are all dancing to was done in June.

I suspect it was picked up very quickly by the smooth jive and SILC DJs, but it’s only recently that it’s broken through to my dance brain.

That’s what happens sometimes – we dance to to tracks subconsciously, then suddenly they become front of mind.  Here then is a track I really only noticed at Southport back in February.  I suspect we are going to hear a lot of the Ofenbach remix of Portugal: The Man’s  Feel it still over the next few months.  No complaints from me.  I love it.

The last word on John’s music from JLS

There is so much more that I could write about John’s music, including his tribute to Motown with the great reworkings of Ain’t no mountain high enough and Signed, sealed, delivered but the word count is against me.

So just to say that when I asked JLS about John’s music, they all said they were impressed by the variety and loved it.  There was though, one last question I had to ask them:

So girls, will you be back?

Yes, yes and yes

Like I said before – enough said!

Related articles:

John Baker’s Southport Motown and Northern Soul slot