For details of the Tea Dance image see the acknowledgement below

It’s the second leg of The Tea Dance Tour

I’m in my car driving down the motorway.  The air con is on full blast, but it’s struggling.  Outside its 26 degrees and it’s getting warmer as I travel south on the second leg of my Sunday Tea Dance Tour.

The nice weather might be great for those people enjoying their cool beers outside the pub.  Great for supermarkets, who will have sold out of chicken drumsticks destined for the BBQ.  Not so good for dance venues, especially those that are timed to take place during the hottest part of the day.

There’s little  chance for the weather to cool down – the dance I’m on my way to finishes at six.  I know that numbers at some freestyles and classes have suffered with the hot weather during May, and I’m worried that the attendence at Ceroc Beds & Bucks Afternoon Delight dance at Northchurch, near Beckhampsted may also suffer because of the extreme temperatures.

Will everyone have retreated to the pub?

The dance started at quarter to two, but I was unable to get away in time, so my Sat Nav says I shan’t arrive before three.  Still plenty of time to dance, but I’m worried that most of the people will have retreated to the pub for an ice cold lager.

I finally turn in to the car park – the temperature’s up to 28, and I turn back out again – it’s full.  I look for some on-street parking, but it’s all taken.  I have to drive down several streets before I finally get lucky.  Other cars are doing the same – this is a good sign, yes?

No surprise then, that when I get in to the hall it’s packed.  But what is surprising, is that everybody seems to be on the dance floor.  There are some people sat in the cafe part of the building – chatting with friends and enjoying the buffet, but there are few people standing round the edges.  Everybody it seems is dancing.

What is the secret of their success?

I should have known that this Sunday afternoon dance would be busy, because it seems that every Ceroc Beds & Bucks event I visit is extremely well supported.  I couldn’t help wonder what makes them so successful.  It wasn’t long before I had a possible answer, but more of that later.

I was here to review the second Tea Dance on my tour schedule.  Interestingly it was my visit to Ceroc Beds & Bucks other Sunday Tea Dance, Te Amo, that set me on this trail around the country.  After seeing just how busy Te Amo was for myself, I was prompted to look in to the popularity of Sunday dancing, and was surprised just how many there were.

When I published an article on the subject several more venues got in touch to ask me to give them a mention, and I subsequently wrote a follow up article (see links below).  I then decided to see for myself just how vibrant the Sunday dance scene was – hence my Tea Dance Tour.

This isn’t a total chill-out affair

In doing my research I got a sense that most Tea Dances were essentially Chill-out affairs, often tied up with a lesson in Smooth Jive, SILC or Modern Blues before hand.  However, when I walked in, DJ Marc Forster was playing tracks more akin to a main room freestyle, and there was a lot of energy being expended on the dance floor.

This wasn’t actually a surprise, as Afternoon Delight is advertised as a two room venue, with the main room being pure freestyle right through to the end at six o’clock.  What was a surprise, considering the heat, was just how how packed the dance floor was.

With the temperatures outside hitting 28 degrees the dance floor was still packed

The second room had a more chilled vibe

While Marc was playing his main room playlist, his partner Rachel Pears was holding court in the second upstairs room with a more chilled programme.  When I had a peak inside, DJ Rachel was providing some gentle Latin music for Tango lovers.

This was a follow on from a thirty minute Tango lesson that Marc and Rachel had provided earlier.  Afternoon Delight offers an alternate Tango and Blues class each month in the second room.  After the Tango music there’s a session of R&B, then it really slows down with the final hour devoted to Blues dancing.

Afternoon Delight has a well structured timetable ranging from Main Room to Tango and Blues

Marc is a Master of Main Room DJing

Above I asked the question about why Ceroc Beds & Bucks venues are so popular.  One of the reasons has to be the music.  I’ve reviewed four of Marc and Rachel’s venues before (see links below) and every time the music has been spot on – Marc seems to read the floor perfectly and never plays a dud.

Mark mixes in all the favourites we love, but it’s his own finds that make him stand out.  Camila Cabello’s Havana has been a big Ceroc favourite over the last year, so much so, it’s probably due a rest, but Marc came up with a mash-up of this track with Santana’s Smooth that gave new life to this popular chill-out track.

Marc moderates the temperature in the main room

Marc also matched his playlist to the soaring temperatures.  This was certainly not the time to be setting the floor on fire, with hi-energy Triples – no Bongo SongDisco Inferno or Adam Lambert’s thumping For Your Entertainment.

When I listened to Marc’s playlist more carefully it was obvious he was moderating the temperature on the dance floor by mixing in plenty of mid tempo and slower tracks in to his mix.

Here’s a lovely example of a gentle track that gave the dancers an opportunity to take it a little easier.  It’s Raeve’s tropical house reworking of Avicii’s Wake me up.  I’m planning to make a Top 10 List of Sunday Chill-out tracks.  This delicious track has to be a contender.

Marc’s can’t help but show his Soul Boy roots

As I said above, Marc always gets his music mix just right, and there’s something for everyone.  In amongst the Ceroc favourites, Swing, Latin and Contemporary remixes there’s always a bit of Motown or ’70s Disco to bring a smile to an old Soul Boy like myself.

In amongst all his great contemporary tracks like Jonas Blue’s Perfect strangers, and the Roman Müller remix of Pink’s What about us, Marc managed to slip in a ’70s Disco classic.

The Sound of Philadelphia was the record label that took over the dance floor baton from Motown.  One of it’s biggest acts was Harold Melvin and The Blue Notes, featuring the gritty soulful voice of Teddy Pendergast.  One of their biggest dance hits was The Love I lost, and this was the track that gave me my Soul Boy fix, and one of the most pleasing dances of the afternoon.

Rachel always puts on an amazing spread

One of the things I remember about my visit to the Te Amo Tea Dance was the amazing spread of food provided.  Rachel has a willing body of helpers who layout one of the best buffets I’ve seen on the Modern Jive circuit.

Now one of the themes of this Tea Dance Tour is to vote for my favourite cakes.  As mentioned earlier, I didn’t get to Northchurch until after three, so sadly the delicious cakes were just about gone.  My sweet tooth was somewhat disappointed, but the side of my brain that controls my calorie intake had a disturbingly smug smile on its face!

There is no doubt that the provision of such wonderful food is another reason that helps to explain the success of the Ceroc Bed & Bucks venues, but there’s something more significant that I’ll come to later.

The Cafe area is the perfect place to enjoy Rachel’s wonderful spread of food and watch the action on the packed dance floor

The Tour is also about Chill-out Dancing

I embarked on this Tea Dance Tour (I have about ten further visits lined up over the summer and autumn) to primarily gauge the popularity of this genre of dancing.  But another aim is to use it as a way of developing my ability to dance to chill-out music.

Some of the Tea Dances I attend will include SILC, Smooth Jive and Blues lessons, but even where there isn’t a class I’m hoping that the provision of plenty of chill-out music will at least give me a chance to practice and perfect some of the techniques and moves that characterise these more relaxed styles of dancing.

My first goal – conquering the slot

I recently went to Strictly Ceroc’s Switch freestyle at Bristol.  At midnight DJ John Baker switched the music to a more chill-out tempo.  I looked around and a great number of the people were dancing in a slotted style.

Now, I’m working hard to develop my slotted style of dancing, but I’ve a long way to go.  So far in fact, that at Bristol I had little confidence to ask any of the ladies I saw dancing so smoothly in this manner.   Since then I’ve done a few more lessons and my confidence is growing slowly.

In this series of articles I’ll tell you about the difficulties I encounter, as I strive to be a better chill-out dancer.  Hopefully I’ll also get to tell you about the little steps of progress that I hope to make.  Maybe I can give a little inspiration to other people who are struggling with this more contemporary style of dancing.

It’s not easy asking for a slotted dance

Here’s the first problem I’ve encountered – actually asking a lady to dance in the slot.

When I’m on my travels I know few of the ladies in the room.  I certainly don’t know what their level of dancing is, and therefore I have no idea if they are used to dancing in the slot or not.

I remember being at a freestyle some way from home, and hearing a chill-out track that I knew would suit the SILC moves I’d been taught the previous week.  As is usually the case, I wasn’t familiar with the dancers in the room, so I politely asked the lady I approached if she could dance in The Slot.

Needless to say my question was met with a quizzical response – that was the last time I asked so ineptly for a chill-out dance in that manner.  Thankfully I found a better way.

A Te Amo light bulb moment

When I was at Te Amo I chatted with a lady about what she got out of doing workshops, like the Smooth Moves one we’d both just participated in.  One of her comments provided a real light bulb moment:

For women it’s not about learning the moves Paul, it’s about learning to recognise the signals the man is sending.

We then moved on to the matter of dancing in a Slotted Style rather than a Rotational one:

If a man wants to dance, as you say, in a rotational way, I soon realise that from his signals and the way he positions himself.  I can’t change his style, so as a follower, I’m just happy to dance in the same way.

But if he starts to dance in a slotted style, because of lessons like this, I can quickly recognise this and have a better idea of how to follow him.

This, thankfully, gave me a possible alternative to my previous clumsy way of asking for a slotted dance.  I gave it a try at Afternoon Delight.  Here’s what happened.

Marc spins a chill-out track ideal for the slot

One of Marc’s chill-out tracks was Bruno Mars Versace on the floor.  This track has a lovely relaxed if funky feel, ideal for a slotted dance.  I found a lady who was free.  I politely asked for a dance and she graciously accepted.  I led her on to the dance floor.  It was very busy, but I found a little bit of space in the middle.

Of course most people who want to dance in the slot usually find some space at the perimeter of the dance floor.  We didn’t have that luxury – remember this freestyle was very busy – space was at a premium.

My lady partner follows my slotted lead

I started to dance.  Of course, I don’t really know how the lady approached the dance, but looking back I can’t help wonder if, as was suggested to me by the lady at Te Amo, she was watching my moves and signals, and working out my style of dancing, and how best to follow it.

As I started to dance in a more slotted style, it seemed that the lady started to pick up on this, and followed accordingly.  This encouraged me to try to keep all my moves in the slot, and again the lady followed me very fluently.  It was as if we were having a conversation, with only my lead and her interpretation of it, as the only audible part.

Amazingly, considering that we were in the middle of a busy dance floor, a slot opened up for us, allowing the lady to smoothly transition from one end of the slot to the other.  Now I probably only did about six different moves (my repertoire of slotted moves is a little limited), but it seemed to matter little.

I can’t help but give a little speech

What mattered was that the moves were hopefully executed in a smooth style and they allowed the lady the opportunities to express her own musicality.  Now remember, this is my interpretation of the dance – the lady could have seen it completely differently, but for me it was a big leap forward.  I’d danced in the slot with someone I had never danced with before.

I thanked the lady and couldn’t help but make a little speech – something about complimenting her on how she had picked up on the slotted style of dancing, and how it was a bit of a first for me.  I can’t help thinking that she was probably a little bemused by my oration, but graciously listened as I marked another step in my progress to be a better smooth dancer.

That’s the thing about dancing – our improvement is only ever gradual.  My progress to dance in the slot has been painfully slow, but here was a step in the right direction, and it boded well for the rest of the Tea Dance Tour.  Here’s the track that Marc played as the back drop to this wonderful dance.

Marc slows it down for the last hour

My wonderful slotted dance was undertaken in the final hour when Marc had seemingly slowed the tempo down somewhat.  I got to chat with him as he played his final tracks.  I asked whether he and deliberately slowed the pace down:

I always slow the pace down during the final hour, but not too slow.  Upstairs, in the second room, Rachel will have really slowed it down for the Blues dancers, so I tend to keep to chill-out tracks that are ideal for SILC and Smooth moves.

I did nip in to the second room, and as Marc had explained, Rachel had indeed slowed the pace considerably and close-hold Blues dancing seemed to be the order of the day.  I have also set myself the goal of trying some Blues dancing on my Tea Dance Tour, but at Afternoon Delight I was more than happy dancing to Marc’s fabulous main room sounds.

Just how good is Afternoon Delight?

Numbers aren’t everything.  When I’m reviewing venues, I’m also looking at the friendliness of the dancers and of course the music.  However the fact that on one of the hottest days of the year so far, this this venue was so busy says a lot.

I always try to get the views of other people to balance my own view point.  Here’s Helen, who travelled an hour and a half from her home in Nuneaton.

I went to Northchurch for the first time last summer, again on a crazy hot day… but loved every moment of it… and I went alone… lots of faces I didn’t know .

It’s impressive that Helen enjoyed it so much, even though she didn’t know many people.  But that’s one of the things I felt about Afternoon Delight – the friendliness.

For all my dancing trips in this part of the country (I’d been to three Ceroc Beds & Bucks venues in the past year alone), I surprisingly only knew three ladies.  But it mattered little for I felt very comfortable asking for dances.  Here’s Helen again on the social side of this Tea Dance.

This is what’s so good about Afternoon Delight.  Tea dances are more social, and it feels easy to get a cup of tea and sit with anyone for a chat… the vibe at this venue is one of my favourites… hot, easy, friendly and comfortable … even though it’s such a journey it’s worth it for that, and there’s also the chance to meet more dancers!

It’s interesting that Helen mentions the easy going social side of Afternoon Delight.  My research in to Tea Dances suggested that this would be the case, and Afternoon Delight certainly lived up to this.  Helen hadn’t finished with her praise.  She picked out something I also want to agree with.

Their music is superb too😊.

My apologies to Rachel that I didn’t get in to the second room to have a proper listen to her music, but I found it very difficult to pull myself away from Marc music, particularly in that final chill-out hour.

Helen hints at other reason for the success

In Helen’s assessment of Afternoon Delight, she also pointed out two other factors that explain the success that Marc and Rachel have brought to their franchise.  The first was something everyone comments on:

I almost forgot to mention the food and drinks too!

All the people I spoke to mentioned the great spread of food, but there was one other attribute that Helen mentioned.  It was mentioned by another person I spoke to at some length – Sue from Northampton, who’s favourite Ceroc Beds & Bucks venue is Buckingham.

Less like a business and more like a family

I’m sure that Ceroc Beds & Bucks is a very successful franchise, but Sue was at pains to tell me, that she thought that the guiding principal, was to run it for the benefit of the dancers rather than as a business:

Marc and Rachel make you feel part of their family.  They are dancers themselves and know what dancers want.

Helen also made this same pertinent point:

Marc and Rachel really care about their dancers

As I travel round I spot the differences, like Sue, that mark out the difference dance organisations.  One thing that always impresses about Ceroc Beds & Bucks venues is that there is always deodorant in the men’s toilet.  I’ve also seen plasters and sewing kits too.

Supplying deodorant in the men’s toilet is one thing.  Whether the men use it is another thing.  It was incredibly hot, even steamy, on the dance floor that Sunday, and I’m pleased to report that the deodorant completely ran out.  Well done guys – I’m sure the ladies appreciated it.

One last chill-out track

That last hour on the dance floor provided some wonderful chilled dancing.  I’ll finish off my review by featuring one last track from Marc’s main room playlist.

Squeeze, an album track from US girl band Fifth Avenue, has a wonderfully contemporary relaxed feel.  This is the kind of track I know that Main Room DJs can’t afford to play too many of least they clear the floor.  On this sweltering Sunday afternoon it was the perfect track.  Loved it.

Related Articles

Tea Dances grow in popularity

More Tea Dances than I realised

Other Ceroc Beds & Bucks Reviews

Te Amo Sunday – Smooth Moves Workshop

Te Amo Sunday – Role Reversal Workshop

Addison Centre Freestyle

Bedford Corn Exchange Freestyle

Buckingham Motown & Soul Class Night

The tour now rolls on to Scotland with Ceroc Perth.  Watch this space.

Get the Tea Dance Jigsaw

The image at the top of this posting is by artist Jason Juta, and was used for a 1000 piece Falcon de luxe Jigsaw entitled Tea Dance. The jigsaw is available on line. Here’s a link to one of the many sites that sell this popular jigsaw.