I need to plan carefully

It’s just four more sleeps until September’s Ceroc Southport Weekender.  I’ve just had a weekend completely free of dancing so I’m particularly looking forward to this one.  But that’s more reason to plan carefully.  Every time I go I promise myself I won’t do too many reviews, and every time I find a new angle on it all.

The result is a notebook full of song titles, assorted comments and a whole pile of quotes from the many conversations I’ve had.  Sure I get to do loads of dancing, and I have a great time, but the bulging notebook means that I’ve promised myself to write too many reviews and articles.

Now I love writing, but meeting the deadlines I set myself can be a little bit stressful sometimes.  It also means that I spend too much time in front of my computer.  At times it feels more like a job than a hobby.

A new competition for a good cause

So this time I’ve decided to limit myself to three articles.  It’s not going to be easy because I’ve just had a look at the programme and there’s so much that interests me.  For starters there’s a new dance competition.  Out goes the ‘anyone can join in –  let’s not take it all too seriously’ format in favour of a more structured and serious ‘Lucky Dip’ competition, complete with numbers on your back.

This ‘Lucky Dip’ competition, where you end up dancing with a random partner, and get a chance to win £500, was introduced in June at the Camber Weekender.  It’s all for a good choice.  The £2 registration fee all goes to a charity of the winners choice.  Even though you had to pre-register the turn out at Camber was impressive.  I suspect it will prove just as popular at Southport.

I’m actually thinking of joining in myself.  Writing about the whole experience might make for a fun read, especially when I get knocked out in the first round.   Numbers are restricted to the first 120 couples who register (Saturday 9:00 in The Thunderball Room).  That’s 240 people!  That’s some competition.  I’ll be happy just to take part.

The ‘Lucky Dip’ competition proved very popular at Camber. Image courtesy of David Addis’ Camber Video Blog

The Spirit of Southport Volume 2

Southport is more than anything about the joy of dancing and that that’s what makes the music so important.  There are ten DJ’s on main room action in The Thunderball Room, and fourteen on SILC Zone duties in The Boudoir, plus three more in The Blues Lounge.

That’s some total – twenty seven DJs in all, and most have more than one slot.  That’s one hell of a lot of music, and you can bet these guys have taken a lot of trouble over their playlists.

There’s great competition amongst the DJs to come up with fresh music and to bring you their own exclusive finds.  The result is a non-stop binge of the very best dance music around.

In the past I’ve done as many as four DJ reviews in one weekend, and its a lot of hard work.  The Shazam App on my phone is red-hot and I’m constantly making notes about all their great tracks.  Sadly it impacts on my enjoyment of the dancing.  In June I came up with a better way of capturing the great variety of music on offer, by putting together a collection together I called The Spirit of Southport.

Each track illustrated a different aspect of this wonderful dance fest, and the collection I put together was, I think, a fair representation of what this amazing weekender was all about.  I’ll be doing the same this time round with a Volume 2.  I hope I can give some recognition to the time and effort the DJs put in to their playlists, and provide some lasting memories of what I have no doubt will be another dance music celebration.

A track that shows the true Spirit of Southport

Here’s one of my favourite tracks from that album that was played by DJ John Baker.  What made it so wonderful was that I danced to it outside The Boudoir at gone two in the morning.  June 18 Southport will always be remembered for its hot sunny days and warm balmy night.  To dance to such a lovely chill-out track in the open air, on one of the loveliest nights of the summer, was the reason I had to include it.  Here then is Silk and Lace by Rico Greene.

A new Boudoir Speciality Hour

In amongst the sixty hours of dancing in The Boudoir are a growing number of Speciality Hours.  Long term favourites are The Saturday and Sunday lunch time Swingers Hours, packed with Swing and Rock ‘n’ Roll favourites.  Then there’s one of my favourites – Vince Silva’s Funk Hour.  In February of his year Tim Sant-Turner launched his Motown and Northern Soul Hour which is now a well established tradition in the Boudoir programme.

I’ve reviewed all these Speciality Hours in the past (see links below) and I’m tempted to review the latest.  On Sunday after Tim’s Motown and Northern Soul Hour, DJ Ekow Oduro is doing a slot advertised as Back to Old Skool R&B.  Now I cut my teeth on the R&B that came out of The Stax and Atlantic recording studios, so this sounds intriguing.  What ever music Ekow features, something tells me this is going to be a memorable sixty minute groove.

The end green column shows the Speciality Hours on Saturday Afternoon in The Boudoir

Motown clashes with a SILC Class

Readers of my Tea Dance Tour series of articles will know that I’ve been trying really hard to get to grips with the smoother slotted style of dancing.  It was seeing people dancing in this style to chill-out music in The Boudoir (SILC Zone) at Southport that created my desire to learn to dance in this way.  Now I know that many other people struggle to dance to this slower funkier music, and like me just watch in awe at the dancers in The SILC Zone.

One of the ideas I had for this Southport, was to talk to people about their own Slotted Dance Journey, and to see how they went about learning this smoother style of dancing.

I also expected to chat with people that still struggle with it.  For this reason I thought I’d join the lines of the first two SILC classes run by Ashley Davis in the main Thunderball Room.

If you look at the section of the programme above you can see that the first of these SILC lessons cruelly clashes with Tim’s Motown & Northern Soul Hour.  That’s often the way at Southport.  Most of us love the idea of the Speciality Hours but also want to through ourselves in to as many lessons as possible.  Clashes like the one I face are often inevitable.  Seems I might have to change my plans.

Because the SILC Classes are very popular they are always going to clash with something else

SILC Lyrical causes another clash

I keep seeing SILC Lyrical listed as a speciality slot in The Boudoir programme, and thought this was the time to find out what it was all about.  I managed to miss it in June when Marc Forster was the DJ on the decks.  This time Tim Sant-Turner is on duty and something tells me that this could be a big serving of smooth tunes ideal to practice my ever improving slotted dance techniques.

Sadly it clashes with Ashley’s second SILC class.  I like the idea of my Slotted dance journey article, and the SILC lessons will be a place I can meet people who are trying to improve their own skill at this style of dancing.

There’s another reason that I want to get to one of Ashley’s SILC classes.  Ashley Davis  is one of the teachers at The Ceroc Heaven Classes I attend in Nottingham.  Because I was there at one of his first ever lessons, I couldn’t help but follow Ashley’s progress as a teacher.

To be passed the baton of doing the SILC Foundation and Progressive level classes on the main teaching stage is a sign of the high regard that Ashley is held at Ceroc HQ, and I’d like to show my support by attending his lessons.

Other teachers catch my eye

Over the past year, on my travels around venues across the UK, I’ve met some wonderful teachers, whose love and enthusiasm for dancing is so important to the well being of our wonderful dance community.  One of those teachers is Jo Hart.

I was lucky enough to be invited to the first ever Ceroc Perth Fresh Weekenders in Scotland by organiser Nicola Di Folco.  This proved to be the most enjoyable of dance weekends.  The success of Perth was down to the fabulous team of teachers that Nicola put together.

Jo Hart’s three Blues Room Toolkit classes were one of the great successes of that weekend.  So many people turned up for Jo’s classes that Nicola had to switch them to the larger room.

Now Blues dancing scares me.  Well it did before I attended the first two of Jo’s classes at Fresh.  Jo managed to relax everyone, including myself with her wonderful humour, and her classes rightly got a lot of well deserved feedback (see link below).  Seeing Jo’s name on the Southport programme I immediately decided to attend at least one of her classes again, and I’d recommend anyone wanting to make a first step in to The Blues Room to make it to Jo’s lesson.

Thankfully nothing clashes with Jo’s first lesson which takes place in the smaller Cyclone Room at ten o’clock on the Friday night.  I notice that after the hour long class, Jo is also DJing a one hour Blues practice session, before Marc and Rachel take over with their midnight to four thirty Blues session.  These classes mark Jo’s debut at Southport and I wish her all the best.

A Thunderball Room Debut

Having been at Ceroc Perth’s Fresh I can’t help noticing Nicola Di Folco’s name whenever it crops up in the weekend programme.  Nicola was first been brought to my attention when she DJ-ed a chill-out session at Medfest.  I would later review one of her wonderful chill-out sets at Southport (see link below).

I saw Nicola as a chill-out DJ.  How wrong was I?   Back in March I watched her set the floor on fire at The Fresh Weekender, and wondered how long it would be before she was given an opportunity to do the same at Southport.  Not long it turns out, as on Sunday night Nicola gets to kick of the dancing in The Thunderball Room.

Nicola kicks off Sunday night

Sunday night at Southport can be the best dancing of the weekend.  There’s no cabaret or dance competition to interrupt the dances as they slowly build themselves up for a final night of dancing.  Nicola has the first shift at eight.  It usually takes the room a little time to fill up, but by the end of Nicola’s ninety minute shift I expect that she will have the room rocking, and will have set it up nicely for Hayley Epps and Tony Riccardi and the other DJs who follow her.

I want to fully immerse myself in the joy of dancing on Sunday night, so I won’t be doing any full length reviews, but I have no doubt that tracks from this roster of DJs including Nicola will fill some spaces in my Spirit of Southport record album.

DJ Caroline Houlton rocks the Thunderball Room floor on a previous Sunday night.

Other Thunderball Room Debuts to watch out for

One of the things that makes the music in Thunderball Room so exciting is that the DJ Roster is constantly being shaken up with new faces  As well as Nicola, two other new faces make their debuts in the main room – Kevin Hyde and the aforementioned Ashley Davis.  It must be a bit scary to get up on that stage for the first time.  There can be as many as four hundred people dancing in this room.

These two guys have been given pretty good slots, when the dance floor will be heaving.  Kevin kicks his slot off on Friday night at 11:30, and Ashley has his spot at midnight on Saturday.  I don’t doubt they will be very prepared and I’m sure they’ll enjoy their time behind the decks.  We all wish them both the best of luck.

So how many classics will they play?

From what I understand their is a little bit of structure to the Thunderball Room DJs playlists.  Because this is the place that most people dance, and particularly the first-timers, I always get a sense that the Thunderball Room playlists are carefully crafted.   Because there are the adjacent Boudoir Areas and Cyclone Room that are geared up to play the slower chill-out and Blues tracks, the Thunderball Room playlists are very up beat.

Like most regular Ceroc freestyles, the playlists have a contemporary feel, and most of the music is selected from the last ten years.  In amongst they modern tracks the DJs will always manage to find something to surprise me, that brings joy to the dance floor.

In the interest of balance I understand the DJs are asked to mix in a Soul or Motown track and a Swing or Rock ‘n’ Roll one.   The DJs are also asked to find room for a couple of Ceroc Classics that we all know and love.

I recently issued two volumes of these Classic tracks (see links below), and I’ll be interested to see how many of the twenty tracks I featured, actually get played over the weekend.  Oh, and if I can have a request it would be track 10 on Volume 1 Last night by Chris Anderson featuring DJ Robbie from 2000.

I get to experience a dance full of passion

I mentioned above that on my travels I’ve met many of the people who add vitality to the Ceroc community.  One such person was Maja Kocanova, who I met at The Ceroc Addiction freestyle in Perton near Wolverhampton.  This was one of the best freestyles I’ve attended this year.  That fabulous night had Maja’s passion for dancing stamped all over it.

I was fortunate to get a dance with Maja.  This is what I wrote in my review:

Within the first few moves I could sense that Maja was up for a full-on dance, and I wondered for a moment if I might feel a little out of my depth, but that wasn’t ever going to be the case – Maja saw to that.

Maja is of course a Ceroc teacher, and it is a sign of a great teacher that they can make everyone they dance with, what ever their ability, feel good about their dancing.

I remember thinking how good the connection was between us, particularly considering we had never danced together before.  I tried to explain this connection in words:

My partner was dancing with a passion that matched my own.  As the dance progressed I found more opportunities to give Maja a little space and time to express her own musicality.

It was a joy to experience the way she expressed the music through her own movement, and through our total connection, I was able to share the uplifting spirit of it all.

For the full text of my appreciation of the dance with Maja, please read my review of the Perton Freestyle (see link below).

You can tap in to Maja’s passion for dancing

I was pleased to see that Maja is teaching again at this Southport, so that everybody will get a chance to see for themselves the passion she has for dancing.   Maja is running an Intermediate Plus Class in the Cyclone Room midday on Saturday listed as Beautiful Leans – Elegant Counterbalances.

Maja is also running an Intermediate level Connection & Creativity Masterclass in The Cube on Saturday afternoon.  That’s the one I’ll see if I can get to.

So what is Tim’s Camp Attack?

There were two more DJ slots that caught my eye.  The first is in the SILC Zone on Sunday at 4:00 when DJ Danny Gallina is doing something called SILC Vibe.  I’ll see if I can get a chance to check it out, though I see it clashes with Maja’s Masterclass.

The other is in the main Thunderball Room where at two thirty in the morning Tim Sant-Turner is doing a Camp Attack.  Rather than let my imagination run away with itself, trying to work out what this may entail, I asked DJ Ashley Davis if he had any idea.

From what I can gather it will be the best cheesy/guilty pleasure tracks that people like, but wouldn’t necessarily admit to liking 😂

I’ll go with that Ashley, and it’s a reason to stay up on Saturday night.  I might want to do a full review of that one.  Just trying to work out what my guilty track might be.  How about this one from The ’70s.  It was actually played last time by Tony Riccardi, and just about blew the roof off.  Here then is my guilty pleasure track Tim – Haven’t stopped dancing yet by Gonzalez

It’s going to be a blast

I hope that’s given you a taster of what’s in store for you this weekend coming.  Now I’m just left with working out how to avoid all the clashes, and put together a programme that will give me my three reviews or articles.  What ever I decide to do, I know it’s going to be a blast, and I hope the three ensuing reviews portray the essence of this wonderful dance fest.

Other Southport Taster Articles

Boudoir Music Taster

Your 10 Must do Things

The Spirit of Southport in 10 Tracks

Southport Music Reviews

Swingers Hour

Vince Silva’s Funk Hour

Motown & Northern Soul Hour

Nicola Di Folco SILC Zone set

Other Related Articles

Ceroc Addiction Perton Freestyle

Jo Hart’s Blues Room Toolkit Classes

Ceroc Classics Volume 1

Ceroc Classics Volume 2