The illustration I’ve used above shows the next date at this fabulous venue

Time for another Freestyle Road Trip

After completing my reviews of Southport is was time to get on the road again and visit a new freestyle venue. A quick look at UK Jive and I was pleased to see there was a Ceroc Beds & Bucks freestyle on at the Corn Exchange in Bedford. I’d been here many years ago but it would be a first time since Marc and Rachel took over the venue.

I’m a great fan of Marc and Rachel

Regular readers of my reviews will know that I’m a big fan of Marc Forster and Rachel Pears, who run the Ceroc Beds & Bucks. Their Buckingham Motown and Soul class night topped my list for 2016/17. I have also acknowledged their part in making the Daventry themed nights some of the biggest in the Ceroc calendar, with their legendary Blues Room sets. So I had no hesitation in asking my Dance Gang friend Ian to join me on the trip down the M1.

It’s going to be very friendly

I had no doubt that we were in for a good night, however when you go to a venue well away from your own local patch, there’s always a little anxiety as to how friendly it will be. That anxiety was a little more than usual because I had asked my friend along. Ian had given up going to one of his local venues where he knew all the ladies.

When you go local you know all the friendly faces and the ladies who will give you the best dances. ‘Don’t worry,’ I reassured him, ‘I’m sure it will be friendly.’ My confidence was based on my previous two vistits to a Beds & Bucks venues – the aforementioned Motown night at Buckingham and a 2016 visit to The Addison Centre, also in Bedford.

The music is going to be great too

Another reason why I recommended this venue to my friend was that I knew the music would be fabulous. I rate Marc as one of the best DJs around, and I’m always treated to some great new sounds when ever I visit. Here’s one of Marc’s finds that is a real favourite of mine.

Back where I belong by Jack Savoretti has had quite a few plays on the modern jive circuit since its release last year, but I heard it for the first time at The Addison centre last year when Marc was spinning the tracks. Not only was I pleased to dance to it again, but my friend Ian had seen Jack Savoretti the previous week in concert and had raved about him.

Will we get plenty of nice dances?

When you stay local you know you are going to have some fabulous dances. You know the ladies and they know you. Knowing your dance partner is an important part of having a good dance. There is not unsurprisingly a little tension when you walk on to the dance floor with someone you’ve never danced with before.

The rule that you should never refuse the offer of a dance is generally what makes modern jive venues such friendly places to dance. However as it’s usually the women who get asked to dance more than the men, I can understand that sometimes they would like the option to refuse. When you dance locally you get to know the people you feel comfortable dancing with and. more importantly. you get to know the people who feel comfortable dancing with you.

Let’s hear some of Marc’s great music

Imagine then what it feels like when you look realise you know no-one in the room! But more of that later – it’s time to listen to some of Marc’s great music. What makes Marc’s music so good is the variety and the freshness of so many of the tracks. Any DJ has to play the most popular current tracks and they always have to include a Jess Glynne one. Marc obliged with Glynne’s Hold my hand and also slipped in Justin Timberlake’s Can’t stop the feeling, and why not.

One track that is nearly always played is DNCE’s Cake by the ocean. It’s been around a while now, so I was pleased that Marc chose to play their new one instead. Most of us will remember Rod Stewart in his rather tight rousers singing Da ya think I’m sexy. Well he’s teamed up with the DNCE guys to do a modern version (thankfully the trousers are more relaxed).

Marc mixes in some great Latin and Tango tracks

Being a Tango teacher means that Marc knows lots of Latin and Tango style tracks that work perfectly for modern jive, and he always serves up a refreshing selection. I knew quite a few and they made for some lovely dances, but I’ll feature one that I must admit I didn’t know. It’s not been out for long and I suspect we’ll hear a lot more of Havana by Camilla Cabello.

We know the tune but what is the name?

How many times do you love dancing to a track, and just wish you knew what it was called, so you could download it and dance to it in the kitchen. One of the things that people tell me they love bout the blog is that it identifies a lot of the wonderful music we dance to, so here’s another gorgeous track from Marc’s playlist to add to the collection.

We’ve all danced to this track many times, and I was amazed to find it was recorded by Swedish artist Lisa Ekdahi. Vem vet is a lovely piece of dance music with a relaxed Latin feel that works perfectly for modern jive. So pleased I know what it’s called now.

For a change there are more men than women

Rachel tells me that the numbers were in the end perfectly gender balanced, but in the first hour there was definitely more men than woman. When we first arrived there were nine guys and just one lady. Marc played a real disco favourite of mine Feel the need in me by the Detroit Emeralds – I had to be very quick of the mark to get a dance to it.

As the room filled up there were still men over, and I remember Marc playing another track I wanted to dance to. I leapt to my feet and looked for someone to dance with. This time I missed out and I had to turn round and return to my feet, somewhat crest fallen. My friend was standing out too. Oh dear, perhaps I shouldn’t have dragged him away from the Nottingham freestyle.

Very soon the balance was perfect, and both my friend and myself were able to have plenty of good dances. However my experiences during that first hour focused my mind on the fact that on many occasions the ladies have to sit out more than they would choose to. I like to think that when this happens the guys ask one of the ladies who’ve just sat out to dance, rather than choose a lady coming off the dance floor.

Guys love it when they are asked to dance

It’s understandable that ladies will choose to dance with people they know, and so two strangers are not going to get asked to dance as much as the locals. We can only hope that if we dance nicely with a lady the first time, she may feel comfortable enough to ask us later on. Ian is a lovely dancer and I was pleased that he was asked to dance by several of his previous partners.

I know it’s up to the guys to do most of the asking, but we love it when we are asked to dance, particularly when we visit a new venue. It also tells you something about the friendliness of a place, and my friend would not disagree with me, that this venue proved to be very friendly.

I have the most interesting dance to a top tune

I’m not exaggerating when I said initially that I knew no one at this venue, but one hour in I was asked to dance by someone I did know. Now, I’m not in the habit of naming the ladies I dance with, but you’ll see why I mention this particular dance. I was asked to dance by Sue Astle, who was the DJ when I reviewed the outstanding Ceroc Cambs freestyle at St Neots.

That night Sue had spent some time chatting with me and gave me some background to her DJing career. Sue was a dancer long before she was a DJ and this explains why her selections are so good. The track we were dancing to on Friday night had a particularly great beat. We both found ourselves trying to identify it. It sounded very familiar but I just couldn’t put my finger on it. Sue beat me to it. ‘It’s Papa was a rolling stone.’ Of course it was, but this was a very funky remix and I still had no idea. Sue again filled me in, ‘ It’s Dr Heinz Funkenpumpe.

It’s great that DJs share great tracks

Suddenly I remembered that I had not only danced to it before, but I had included it in one of my reviews – it’s that good. I tried to remember which DJ had played it. ‘I’ve reviewed this, but I can’t think who played it.’ Sue graciously put me out of my misery. ‘It was me Paul, at St Neots.’ I felt somewhat embarrassed that I’d forgotten. Here’s what I wrote about it in my review of St Neots.

Papa was a rolling stone is one of the greatest pieces of music from the Motown back catalogue, but sadly its too slow to modern jive to properly. Sue played a modern version that was underpinned by a more forceful backing track, making it work perfectly for modern jive moves. Sue was happy to acknowledge that she had been pointed to this track by Marc Foster another favourite DJ from the neighbouring Ceroc Beds franchise.

I remember being impressed that Sue had given credit where credit was due, and I was equally impressed that Marc had shared this wonderful track. I know some DJs are particularly possessive of their great finds and I have to be careful in my reviews that I don’t give away all their top floor fillers. Hopefully Marc is happy for me to spread the word about this fabulous dance track.

Marc plays a Soul Boy Triple

I’m sure that Marc is a lot younger than myself, but he’s proved to be a real fan of ’60s and ’70s disco music. That he started the Motown and Soul class nights gives him real Soul Boy credentials, and he showed again on Friday night that he knows his stuff. One hour in Marc played a triple straight out of a ’70s disco. He started with one of the iconic tracks from that era Rescue me by Fontella Bass and Marc followed it with Jackie Wilson’s I get the sweetest feeling. Marc then topped it off with a track straight out of my Top 5 Disco tracks – The Trammps Hold back the night. Thanks Marc, I loved all three.

This is a wonderful venue

The Bedford Corn Exchange is a lovely venue, and has a long history of hosting Ceroc freestyles. Rachel tells me that it wasn’t the busiest of nights but there were more than enough people to dance with, and there was a lovely atmosphere in the room. The Corn Exchange has a good sized dance floor and even with well over a hundred people in attendance it has plenty of seating and room to dance.

By ten o’clock the gender balance was, as Rachel said, very even and myself and my friend were having a great time. Was everybody else? I can only judge it by the people I danced and chatted with, and as a result I would have no reservations in recommending other people make the same road trip to Bedford as myself and my friend.

So much refreshing music I loved dancing to

There was so much music that was new to me – it’s always the case when Marc’s on the decks. Sadly the word count will not allow me to feature much more of it, so I’ll list a few highlights. One of my best dances was to the famous ‘Dirty Dancing’ song I had the time of my life. I’m surprised this is not played more often as it has so many opportunities for musicality.

Charlie Pugh’s Attention has proved to be a great favourite this year, but Marc found a remix with a much stronger beat that I just loved. The Join Us modern club reworking of Kate Bush’s Cloud busting with its thumping bass line was another favourite, and Bobby Darin’s Call me irresponsible added some appreciated American Songbook into the mix.

Marc slows it down with picks from his Chill Out Set

The last hour of this freestyle was advertised as ‘Mostly Chilled and Smooth’. This is where Marc really shows his worth. Marc and Rachel have built up quite a reputation with their Chilled Out playlists. I mentioned earlier that Marc and Rachel’s music for the Chill Out Room at Daventry is one of the reasons that this venue is so popular. They are also trusted with providing all the music for the Blues Lounge at the Southport Ceroc Weekenders.

That’s quite a pedigree and means that the people at any Beds & Bucks freestyle get to dance to some of the best chilled and smooth tracks around. It’s important to note that this is not an hour of music only suited to close hold Blues dancing. There were people dancing in this fashion – more perhaps than at my local freestyles (possibly due to the fact that Marc and Rachel offer local lessons in Blues dancing), but the music was pitched so that you could still modern jive to it, as long as you slowed the moves down a little.

Something delicious from Marc and Rachel’s playlist

Marc played some lovely tracks from his and Rachel’s chilled playlist. Sadly again I only have time to feature one of them. This track I first heard during their Daventry set in March, and it also proved a hit at Southport. Breathe In by Daddy was a milkman is a delicious piece of music. So lovely to dance to that I’m going to request it back home in Nottingham.

The last hour was suited to SILC

As I mentioned above the last hour wasn’t just about Blues dancing, The music was also perfect to SILC to. Regular readers will know about my own ambitions to dance in this wonderful relaxed style, and the struggle I’ve had with it at times. I do sometimes wonder if it will ever really take off. During the last hour I tried to take note of anybody dancing in this slotted way, but I can only remember one couple dancing in a style I recognised as SILC.

This surprised me as the music was perfect for SILC, and Ceroc seem to have made big strides recently in getting the style established. There were, as I mentioned above, noticeably more people dancing in a close hold Blues fashion and I’d be interested to know what people think about SILC and whether it can really get established.

In the car reliving the night

Myself and my friend Ian actually stayed in a hotel not far from the venue, but in the short distance in the car we were keen to hear each other’s opinion of the nights proceedings. We were both in agreement it had been a good night and well worth the trip down. That leaves me with one last thing to do, that is to thank all the ladies who accepted our offers of a dance. We had some wonderful dances and we were made to feel very welcome. It’s never easy going somewhere where you see no familiar faces, but once again it proved just how friendly modern jive venues can be.