An invitation to a party

A couple of weeks ago I opened up Facebook, to find I had a message from Nardiya asking me to attend a surprise party for Ceroc Evolution Franchise holder and teacher Steve Thomas.  Now it’s a long way from my home base in Nottingham to Greenwich in South London, but there was something about Nardiya’s invitation that suggested the party might provide some interesting material for my blog.

The invitation included an intriguing  picture of Steve, and this explanation:

As most of you are aware, Steve is rather well known for his unofficial uniform of a white T-Shirt and blue jeans.  I thought it would be a fun idea to both celebrate his birthday, and take the piss out of him, by all turning up to Ceroc Greenwich in blue jeans and a white T-Shirt.

Now, should I wear the white one, or maybe the white one instead

Ceroc is more than just dancing

I’ve long thought that Ceroc was more than just dancing.  It’s a lifestyle choice, and it can enrich your life in so many ways.  One of the most important ways it does this, is to make you feel part of a large community where you are always welcome.

Many years ago I visited my daughter up in Aberdeen.  My visit co-insided with a Ceroc class night in Aberdeen City Centre.  I went along and felt as warmly welcomed as if I’d been at my local class in Derby.  I know many people, who sometimes work away from home, will find a local class night to save them sitting with nothing but a TV for company in their hotel room.

Communities are made up of like minded people and great characters

This community like any other is made up of like minded people, and in amongst them are the characters that give it added vitality – Steve and Nardiya are two of those characters.  Before I go any further I should perhaps add that all franchises have these characters.

They are the teachers who patiently taught us our first steps, and the Taxi dancers who supported us through those first scary days, when dancing didn’t sometimes seem the stress free fun we thought it would be.  They are the experienced dancers who made it their business to help and encourage the beginners, and the franchise holders who work so tirelessly to bring us the fabulous freestyles we are able to enjoy every weekend.  Let’s also not forget the DJs, who search through the music vaults, to find us fabulous new tracks to dance to every week.

We should not take any of them for granted, and now and again, why not throw one of them a party to remember.  That’s why I dug out a white T-Shirt and got on a train to St Pancras.

Can you keep a secret?

Nardiya had created a Facebook Page called TOP TOP SECRET BIRTHDAY SURPRISE FOR STEVE AT CEROC GREENWICH – it was here that Nardiya posted the pictures of Steve trying to decide which white T-Shirt to wear.  The page added to the sense of fun surrounding the occasion, and it was interesting to see people posting on it from all over the country, with their apologies for not being able to attend.

I can’t help wondering if everyone kept the secret, or whether it slipped out.  If Nardiya did manage to keep Steve in the dark then I’m very impressed.

It was after all a class night I could review

Another reason for me making the trip was that I could review my first class night of the year.  I’ve long held the view, that without the hundreds of class nights that take place across the country, this wonderful dance scene will wither.  It’s so important that there is a constant supply of new people in to the pipeline that leads to freestyles and eventually to weekenders.

Sadly many people don’t make it past their first few weeks – it must be quite disheartening for the teachers and Taxis sometimes – and that’s why I want to recognise good practice when I see it.  I’d seen Steve teach many times before (see my review of Ceroc Surrey’s Surbiton class below) and I didn’t doubt for one moment that the standard would be high, as indeed it was, but more of that later.

There are a lot of people in white T-Shirts

As I queued up to pay I saw the first of the white T-Shirts, and by the time I got in the hall there were quite a few, and I did wonder at what point Steve twigged that something was going on.   Here’s a picture from the Beginners Lesson – there are quite a few Steve look-a-likes in the lines.

This is a wonderful Community Centre

The picture above also gives a good idea of the size of the dance hall at The West Greenwich Community Centre.  This building is a thriving centre of activity, and a real asset to the local community.  Outside there is a notice board giving details of the many activities that take place in the hall.  It lists several dance classes.  Its good that other dance organisation use this hall, as it would be such a shame to lose such a wonderful facility.

Great to see experienced dancers in the Beginners Lesson

I’m always impressed when I see lots of experienced dancers in the lines of the beginners class.  I suspect that there were more intermediate level dancers than usual, because of Nardiya’s invitation, but from chatting to people it seems this class always has plenty of experienced dancers to help the beginners out.

I always try to make the beginners class as it’s my way of putting something back.  I remember when I first started being quite hopeless at times, and I remember very fondly the experienced lady dancers who were very patient with me.   There is no better way to improve than to dance with someone who is better than yourself, and that’s why its so important to have experienced dancers in the Beginners classes.

Sorry but Steve can’t dance tonight

As I mentioned above, one of the reasons for me accepting Nardiya’s invitation, was because it would give me a chance to see how the beginners were looked after, starting with the lesson itself.  It seems that Steve has recently had knee surgery, so he was unable to take the class.

I’ve seen Steve teach many times before (see link below) and his lovely manner and delivery ensure that the beginners in his class are relaxed and get the best from the lesson.  Steve’s style of teaching has evolved over many years, and I couldn’t help but wonder that who ever he drafted in, had big boots to fill.

Tamara steps in to Steve’s big boots

The task of teaching, to what must have been one of the biggest classes for a long time, fell to Tamara Domb, who normally teaches at Ceroc Evolution’s Hove venue.  Aided by resident Taxi dancer Konrad as her demo, Tamara rose to the occasion, and delivered a flawless lesson.

It couldn’t have been easy with so many people on the floor, and the routine itself included one of the hardest beginners’ moves – The Shoulder Spring.  Tamara took the Beginners class, and the later Intermediate lesson, in her stride, and reading her posting on Facebook the following day she obviously enjoyed herself:

Ceroc Greenwich was absolutely on fire last night. It was so wonderful for me to teach the classes, to that many people and you were all totally fantastic!!

Being the demo with so many people watching every little move, must also have been a little daunting, so well done to Konrad too.

Nardiya gets me in to the Beginners’ Refresher Class

As I mentioned above this was a chance to review a class night, and one of the key elements of a successful class night is how the Beginners’ Refresher Class is run.  I wondered how I might get myself in to it, knowing that I wouldn’t get away with pretending to be a total beginner.

At this point in the evening only Nardiya knew of my presence, so I asked her if she could get me into the lesson on the pretence of just wanting to help out.  I sometimes wonder if the Ceroc organisation is happy that I’ve essentially set myself up as a Mystery Shopper but hopefully I haven’t trod on anyone’s toes yet.

The lesson was run by Andrew assisted by Taxis Ruth and Georgie (who I understand was making her Taxi debut).  Before I go any further I should perhaps say that I’ve got myself in to quite a few beginners refresher classes in the past.  Most have been very good, but some have been awful.  This class was one of the best and was run by the book.

Get the moves in to your muscle memory

By repeating moves over and over again you hopefully get them in to your muscle memory.  This is the key to learning new moves and is the central thrust of the by-the-book Refresher Class.  Andrew ran the class very efficiently and after demonstrating the moves with Ruth or Georgie, gave everyone the chance to keep repeating them over and over again.

I could see with my own eyes all the participants making good progress and also having fun at the same time.  Andrew had a very friendly delivery, and I was particularly impressed when Ruth and Georgie chipped in with their Top Tips – particularly those for the ladies.

Good Refresher Classes are crucial to keeping new starters

I’ve commented before that its sad how few beginners stay the course and make the jump to the intermediate lessons.  The help and encouragement beginners receive in these refresher lessons is crucial, when they invariably make their decision whether to continue with their lessons.

I have no doubt that some of the people in this class will make it to the next stage, as Andrew, Ruth and Georgie did everything expected of them to back up Tamara and Konrad’s well delivered lesson at the start of the night.  I’m sure Steve would have been impressed with his Taxi crew, as much as I was, if he had been watching.

Andrew with his team of Taxis Ruth and Georgie after delivering an excellent Beginners’ Refresher Class.

The dance floor is rockin’

As I came out of the refresher class the dancing in the main freestyle session soon got started.  Steve being unable able to dance was on DJ-ing duties and soon had the floor rockin’.  I knew that Steve was a fabulous teacher, but I had no idea he was a top drawer DJ as well, though I’d had a flavour of his music at the Ceroc Surrey class I’d reviewed at Surbiton (see link below).

So good was the vibe out on a packed dance floor, that I’m tempted to say that Steve set the floor on fire after about three tracks, but I’m going to let Tamara’s Facebook posting again do the job for me:

Ceroc Greenwich was absolutely on fire last night.

It’s like the Thunderball Room out there

Tamara wasn’t exaggerating.  This night had a real party feel and the presence of so many experienced dancers gave the dance floor a vibe that I couldn’t help but compare to The Thunderball Room at a Ceroc Weekender.  It’s the Southport Weekender coming up in a few weeks (can’t wait) and if Steve’s not fit enough to teach can I suggest Tim Sant gives him a prime DJ slot.

The vibe out on the floor was as good as any weekender

A great mix of no nonsense dance music

Steve created this fabulous vibe by playing a run tracks from across the decades that had one thing in common.  They were all no nonsense dance tracks with thumping beats that you could easily connect with.  This first track gave me possibly the best dance of the night, and I’m still wondering why I’ve never danced to it before.

As soon as the dance was over I rushed over to the stage, to ask Steve what it was.  ‘So many times by… ‘.  Sadly I missed the name, and I couldn’t afford to get it wrong.  There is nothing worse than going on to YouTube and realising you’ve written the details down wrong. ‘Sorry Steve could you spell it please.’ ‘G-A-D-J-O.’

This is a thumping club anthem, from German producer Gadjo with Alexandra Prince on vocals.  Listening to it now on my headphones I can understand how it rocked the clubs across the globe in 2005.  Just love it when the heavy drum and bass kicks in.

Steve shows his Soul Boy Credentials

Anyone who loves modern dance music, understands the need to occasionally pay homage to the dance music of Motown and Stax.  Steve must have a Soul Boy streak because he mixed in Motown greats The Temptations’ Ain’t too proud to beg, one of the great tracks to come out of Stax – Soul man by Sam and Dave, and the Northern Soul anthem Lets wade in the water by Marlena Shaw.

Dance music would keep on evolving and by the ’90s club culture had taken over from discos, and Steve played an early club anthem that always proves popular on the Ceroc dance floor – Finally by Ce Ce Peniston.  Interestingly the version we dance to is not the original but a remix specially created for the dance floor.

Tori is on hand to capture the joy on the dance floor

It’s amazing how many people use pictures of them selves dancing as their profile picture on Facebook – and why not.  Best to have a photo showing your love of live, and what better way then when you are dancing.  For this reason I was really impressed that Nardiya had a professional photographer on hand to capture the joy of Tuesday night.  I’ve put a link to the photo album below.

What impressed me even more was that the photographer, Tori Hallett, was a Ceroc dancer herself, and I understand made no charge for her services.  I am sure that Tori’s fabulous photographs will be shared all over Facebook, and what better way to spread the message about the fun we all have at Ceroc classes. (I’ve put a link to Tori’s Website below)

This wonderful image, from Tori’s album, captures the joy on the dance floor

These images are a priceless marketing tool

I know I’ve said it before, but excuse me while I say it again – without new starters this wonderful dance scene will slowly disappear.  For that reason I’m always asking people what got them started.  While in the Beginners Refresher class I asked one of the ladies what had brought her to her first lesson.  Here’s what she said:

A few of my friends were always talking about the fun they had at Ceroc, so I thought I’d give it a try.  This is my fourth week and I absolutely love it and so pleased they recommended it to me.

A friend’s recommendation is one the most powerful marketing tools that Ceroc has, and its worth reading what one Ceroc Franchise holder told me recently:

The thing is Paul – people love posting pictures of themselves having fun on Facebook.  That’s why so many photos of dancing get shared.  Then their Facebook Friends see these photos, and want to join in the fun.

We are lucky to have a photographer amongst our dancers, and so we get photos of most of our Freestyles shared all over Facebook.  This really works for us.  You’d be surprised how many people tell me they saw their friends dancing, and this motivated them to give Ceroc a go.

So please share these photos on your own Facebook page, and caption them with a sentence about the fabulous time you had.  It will help spread the word.

Steve mixes in some great contemporary tracks

Steve’s playlist had it all, and that meant there were some cracking contemporary tunes.  Havana by Camila Cabello and Kiss the sky from Jason Derulo were two tracks that gave me fabulous dancers – a thanks to my lady partners by the way.  Here’s a track from Steve’s playlist, that was released at the back end of last year, that the floor really loved.

British record producer Jax Jones has made quite a name for himself over the past few years, and many of his tracks have crossed over to Ceroc playlists like You Don’t Know Me.  Here’s his latest Breathe featuring Ina Wroldsen on vocals.

Blogger spotted in Red Shirt

Here’s another of Tori’s great shots of the packed dance floor.  It was certainly hot out there, and it was soon time for a shirt change.  Sadly I have only one white T-Shirt to my name, so I was soon changing in to a red polo shirt.  Spotting myself in the only non-white shirt, made me realise just how much effort every one had made to follow Nardiya’s party dress code.  It just shows the high regard for Steve is this part of London.

People come from everywhere

It is clear that Steve is held in high regard in quite a few outposts of the British Isles, not surprising when you think of his and Nardiya’s involvement in Ceroc’s nationwide weekender programme.  There were people from beyond this corner of London, including several from Hove on the South Coast, where Steve also holds Ceroc Lessons.

I was impressed to see that someone had come even further than myself, and it was great to see Linda on Facebook thank Sharon for making the trip:

It was wonderful to see you Sharon, I’m so glad you had a great night. I still cannot believe you came all the way from Edinburgh, You’re a Superstar

A big thank you to Nardiya

While the night was a wonderful tribute to Steve and his legendary White T-Shirts, it should be remembered that none of this fantastic night would have been possible without Nardiya’s input.  I suspect that Nardiya was part of a team who came up with the idea for the party night, and on behalf of everyone I’d like to extend my thanks to all of them.

I would also like to show some appreciation for Leigh, who ran the door.  It was quite frantic when I got there, with quite a few new people having to fill in forms, but Leigh still found time to give every one, including myself, a very warm welcome.

When ever I’ve seen Steve teach, Nardiya has always been his demo.  At September’s Southport Weekender I attended Steve’s Masterclass on Whips and I remember Nardiya being very patience with me and the rest of the guys in the room.  It’s only right then that I propose a toast to Nardiya as a way of giving her some recognition for her own contribution to Ceroc teaching.

One last picture sums up a great night

Tuesday night was a great way to mark Steve’s birthday, and I know that the celebrations continued down at the pub, and possibly even later in to the night.  Here’s one last photo from Tori’s fabulous photo album that captures the spirit of the whole occasion.  Now everybody wave at the camera!

Nice grin Steve!

For more info and to view the full set of photos please follow the links.

Review of Steve & Nardiya teaching at Surbiton

 Tori’s photos from the night

Tori Hallett Photography