A journey worth making

It’s a three hour round trip from Nottingham to Buckingham – that’s a lot of driving just for a dance class you may say. But this is no ordinary dance class. This is a class night run by one of the best Ceroc Franchises in the country and the music promises to be something special. For something special read Motown and Soul. That means I have a chance to relive my youth, and get in touch with my Inner Soul Boy. That’s why I, and my dance partner, were heading down the A422, towards The Buckingham Community Centre on Monday night.

More Motown at dance nights please

One of the earliest goals I set my self, when setting up this music and dance blog, was to get more Motown and Soul played at Modern Jive dance nights. This blog is littered with articles about Motown and I try to promote every event, where this wonderful dance music is played. There are two reasons why I have become an advocate for Motown.

The first is because I love it. It’s an age thing I know, but for many of us, the music of our youth has lasting significance. Whenever I hear The Isley Brothers’ This old heart of mine or Fontella Bass’ Rescue me I am back on the dance floor of the Nottingham Palais.

The second is that it’s so easy to dance to. Some music can be challenging at times, but the dance music of the late ’60s, recorded in Four-Four time is just so easy to connect with out on the dance floor.

Who wouldn’t want to dance to this wonderful music

It seems I’m not alone in my love of this music, and whenever these tracks are played at modern jive events the floor is as full as ever. Here’s one of the Soul tracks from Monday night. I can’t imagine anyone, no matter what age, not wanting to dance to Feel the need in me, the 1972 hit from The Detroit Emeralds.

A Ceroc Franchise run by people who ensure every detail is taken care of

Ceroc Beds & Bucks is run by Marc Forster and Rachel Pears, two people who learnt their craft helping to run other peoples class nights and freestyles. For many years I attended the Ceroc Passion Braunstone class in Leicester, where Mark was the teacher, and I have fond memories of the Fresh 3 Freestyles at Burton upon Trent Town Hall where Marc and Rachel taught the taster tango classes. I remember Marc and Rachel DJing at Rugby, and them being the mainstay of the balls at Rugby’s Benn Hall.

Now Marc and Rachel have their own franchise they have put their individual stamp on every aspect of it. From Rachel’s friendly welcome, to the spread of free food and drinks, to Marc’s relaxed style of teaching and of course to their fabulous selection of music. Marc and Rachel are veterans of the Ceroc Weekenders and only recently I wrote a review of their major contribution to the Red Hot and Sultry Daventry freestyle last month (see link below). I always know that I will enjoy Marc’s playlist, and last night was no exception.

Feeling relaxed in the beginners lines

Fortunately traffic on the M1 was surprisingly light and we arrived in good time for the beginner’s class. It’s never easy going to a venue where you know no one, so the rows of the beginners class are a good place to break the ice with your fellow dancers. I have to say that both myself and my dance partner were made to feel very welcome and we both soon felt at ease.

Marc is an experienced teacher and his relaxed style must be a great help to the beginners. It was great to see a lot of intermediate dancers in the lines. I remember the help the more experienced dancers gave me as I first braved the lines at my first dance classes. Marc used the Motown and Soul music throughout the class and picked a relaxed song to end it – always good when the beginners have to put together the three moves – Smokey Robinson’s Being with you.

 

Smokey Robinson, wasn’t just one of Motown’s greatest artists, he was also one of their most talented song writers. It was Smokey who wrote The Temptations greatest hit My Girl. Smokey Robinson was also Motown founder Berry Gordy’s business associate becoming Vice President of the label.

Classics from Motown’s ’60s heyday

Marc’s playlist featured classic tracks from Motown’s late ’60s heyday including Baby love from The Supremes, The Isley’s This old heart of mine, Mary Wells My Guy, and possibly my favourite Motown dance track Stop her on sight (SOS) by Edwin Starr. As always Marc surprised me, by playing a classic Motown dance track from this era that I’ve not heard before on the modern jive dance floor – Just a little misunderstanding by The Contours. Memories of the Nottingham Palais – nice one Marc.

Great ’60s Dance Tracks

In-between these Motown golden oldies Marc mixed in Soul tracks from the same period. The best of these was Rescue me by Fontella Bass. I’ve heard this song, with its distinctive bass line, at every Modern Jive Motown Night I’ve been to, but surprisingly never at a regular freestyle. Another of Marc’s ’60s picks was a well loved song by a British group. Not only is Build me up buttercup, by The Foundations, great to dance to, its also a song we know all the words to. I’m sure if Marc had turned the volume down you’d have heard everyone singing Why do you build me up (build me up), Buttercup baby, just to let me down (let me down) and mess me around. Oh, the lament of a million broken hearts! Feel free to sing along.

These are well loved songs that bring a smile to our faces

Songs like Build me up buttercup bring a smile to your face. Marc’s playlist was full of these feel-good songs and not surprisingly he played what I consider to be one of the best feel good songs ever – Aint no stopping us now. It is an anthem that has launched a thousand dreams and since its release in 1979 has accompanied mankind through its greatest achievements. I know what you’re thinking – Paul, its just a song. OK we love dancing to it. Yes, it puts a smile on our face but don’t get too carried away.

Trouble is I do get carried away. Dance music has always been a great escape for me and I’m sure for others too. Modern Jive seems to be a dance form that allows us all to connect easily with the music in a way that other forms of dancing don’t. Its free style form allows a much easier expression of movement than the stricter ballroom formats, and its got to be more fun than dancing round your handbag (not that I ever did that of course). OK enough said – time to enjoy McFadden and Whitehead.

Let’s not forget Rachel on the desk

What I love about Marc, as with most modern jive teachers, is that he’s out on the floor dancing in between his DJing duties. We shouldn’t under estimate the value of this, and Marc makes a point of dancing with people of all abilities, including the beginners. While Marc is working hard on the dance floor (well someone’s got to do it), we shouldn’t forget Rachel on the desk. The greeting we get at the start of our evening out can set the tone for the rest of the night. As I travel around to new venues I’m always interested to see how welcoming a venue is. Rachel learnt a long time ago the importance of a friendly welcome. Not only is it appreciated by regular dancers, it must help settle the nerves of those coming to their first lessons.

Modern re-workings of vintage tracks

Back on the dance floor Marc was mixing up the decades to keep the music fresh. A whole night of ’60s Motown and Soul tracks, no matter how good, would end up being a bit samey – not everyone spent their formative dance years at the Nottingham Palais or the local equivalent. Tracks like Earth Wind and Fire’s Boogie Wonderland from the late ’70s and Diana’s Ross’s Chain reaction from the ’80s made sure everyone got to a chance to dance to their favourite types of dance music.

One trick that Marc uses to stop the music becoming stale, is to play modern re-workings or remixes of vintage tracks. Its never easy to get these remixes correct, so apologies to Marc if I get them wrong. Stevie Wonder’s Superstition was a ground breaking track, but Marc treated us the 2011 Funkanomics remix. Marc also played a remix of Marvin Gaye and Tammi Terrels Ain’t no mountain high enough. The original doesn’t quite have the right rhythm for modern jive, but this Reflex remix is just perfect.

A packed room on a Monday night

From the start of the Beginners’ Class the room was busy, and by the end Marc had four full rows that filled the room. I understand there were about one hundred and twenty people there. Not bad for a Monday night, and even better when you consider two hundred and forty people had been at a freestyle there just two days before. In the freestyle sessions the room was always full – testament surely to the great music on offer – and it seemed no one wanted to go home.

Even at ten thirty there must have been sixty people still on the dance floor, and when we left at ten forty-five (The M1 beckoned sadly) there were still about forty people dancing. It seems that this is par for the course and proof, if it were needed, just how well Marc and Rachel have built up their following. Buckingham itself is a town of just thirteen thousand people in a sparsely populated rural area – hardly bursting with dancers. The venue no doubt pulls from Milton Keynes, but people must be travelling a fair distance. I danced with one lady who came regularly from Witney, almost an hour away. That’s one hell of a compliment.

Taking me back to my Soul Boy Roots

I know Marc is a lot younger than myself, but I often wonder if he has some Soul Boy DNA in his system, because he knows his Soul Music. I could go on forever mentioning his great picks, but I’m already up to 1,800 words and I need to get the lawn cut. So I’ll restrict myself to two more Soul Boy tracks from the ’70s and one song that gave me the best dance of the night.

Jimmy James was a British artist, originally from Jamaica, who could easily pass for a Motown artist. His hits include I’ll Go Where Your Music Takes Me and Now Is The Time but Marc picked out A man like me. On first listening you’d think this track was a Billy Ocean song. This track was produced by Indian born producer Biddu, who would later have his biggest success with Carl Douglas’ Kung Fu Fighting (thankfully Marc chose the Jimmy James track).

The Trammps take me to Soul Boy Heaven

If there’s one song guaranteed to take me to Soul Boy Heaven it’s the Trammps’ Disco Inferno. Sadly this track was missing from Marc playlist, but he played the next best thing – The Trammps’ Hold back the night. Created in the Sigma Sound Studios in Philadelphia this song was part of the wave of disco music we affectionately know as the Sound of Philadelphia – a sound that came to rival Motown in the ’70s. Marc played two other Philly tracks The love I lost by Harold Melvin and The Blue Notes and Love train by The O’Jays, but its Hold back the night, with its long instrumental intro, that really took me to Soul Boy Heaven.

Surely we can have more of these nights

I know I’m a bit of a Motown and Soul Junkie, but I’m sure I wasn’t the only one lovin’ Marc’s music. I have long been an advocate of more Motown and Soul tracks being played at Modern Jive events, and I wish that more dance organisations would put on nights like this. If they do I would ask that they always play this next track. Recorded in 1988 for the soundtrack of the film Buster, it features the greatest voice to ever grace a Motown song. I’m talking of The Four Tops’ lead singer Levi Stubbs.

I’d like to finish this review with a tribute to Levi by featuring Loco in Acapulco. The Four Tops had long left Motown when they recorded this track. The song was co-written by Phil Collins (who starred in the film) and Lamont Dozier. Dozier was one third of the famous Motown song writing trio Holland – Dozier – Holland, who wrote so many of the greatest Motown songs – The Tops Same old song, The Isley’s This old heart of mine, The Supremes’ Baby love – the list is endless. Fitting then, that Lamont Dozier should conclude my review of this wonderful night, with a song that gave me the best dance of the night with the biggest smile across my face.

Thanks to a great team from everybody

On behalf of all the dancers who turned out at Buckingham Community Centre on Monday night, I’d like to express my thanks to the whole Ceroc Beds & Bucks team, including demo Ruth, the two taxis and of course Marc and Rachel. One last word to Marc – Keep the Faith Soul Brother and please dig out Billy Butler’s Right track for next time.

A thanks to the dancers too

I don’t often comment on the standard of dancing. It can seem a little patronising, but both myself and my dance partner were truly impressed with the standard of dancing. It says a lot for Marc and Rachel’s teaching, but there are times when the dancers should take some of the credit themselves. So thank you to the ladies and gents we danced with. You and the music made it a great night. We are hoping to make it to one of Marc and Rachels Buckingham Freestyles soon – hopefully we can get some of the Nottingham Dance Gang down too. I’m sure they will love it as much as we did. Thanks again to everyone.

Use the Quick Links below to read more about Marc and Rachel’s music

Bedford Freestyle: My review of my visit to a Freestyle at The Addison Centre

Daventry Chill Out Room: A review of Marc and Rachel’s Red Hot & Sultry set at March’s Daventry Freestyle

Use the Quick Links below to read about other Motown & Soul Nights

Peterborough: With DJ ‘Chad Bloomfield on the decks

Derby: With DJ Roy Goodall selecting the tunes