Time for another road trip

In my first year of writing freestyle reviews (to September 2017) I visited twenty five different freestyle venues.  In the current year since September I’ve only visited six, and three of those I’d visited in my first year.  Three new venues doesn’t give my blog much credibility when there are hundreds of venues across the country.  It was time to get on the road and visit a new venue.

You’ve got to review the freestyle at Woking

Regular readers of my reviews will know that my best mate Neil lives in Walton upon Thames in Surrey, and one of my daughters lives close by in Shepperton.  It’s the reason that I’ve made Surrey my second base, and explains why reviews of Ceroc Surrey class nights have featured twice in my blog recently.

Back in October I visited a Ceroc Surrey class night in Byfleet (see link below).  It was the most fantastic night and in my discussions with teacher Jacqui I was told about the freestyles at Woking:

You have to go to Woking, Paul.  The freestyles are fabulous.  You’ll have a great time, I guarantee it.

Realising I had an opportunity to visit my daughter I eagerly looked through the freestyle listings on UK Jive.  Sadly I’d picked the wrong week, but Ceroc Surrey were holding a freestyle at Guildford.

I’m getting a bit picky

I know I’ve got to get to more places, but I want to be sure that the venues I pick are well attended and worthy of a review.  Other than my own blog I don’t know of any website that reviews freestyles, so its a bit hit and miss sometimes.  There wasn’t really anything else on in the area so Ceroc Surrey’s Fairlands freestyle at Guildford it was then.

How do you fancy another Road Trip

Just before Christmas I’d gone with my dance pal Tel to a venue in Glasgow.  We’d shared the driving and had a fabulous time:

How do you fancy a road trip to Surrey? We can share the driving again.  We’ll do a couple of venues – one I’ve been to before, but there’s one on Friday at Guildford.  We can stay at my mate Neil’s house, and it will be a bit of a boy’s weekend.

The boys are back in town

Now I should say that a boy’s weekend with me is hardly rock ‘n’ roll.  The only drinking is orange squash and the only coke is Diet!  On our last trip to Glasgow, the finale to a night’s dancing had been a banana milk shake in MacDonalds.  When me and the boys are in town there is no need to lock your daughters away.  We are more Smokey Robinson and The Miracles than Thin Lizzy!

You can’t help wondering what the turnout will be

It’s very rare to turn up to a venue and the floor be buzzing at quarter past eight, and it was no different here.  As we plonked ourselves down on an empty row of chairs, I couldn’t help wondering what the turnout would be.

When you stay local you know everything about the venue.  You have an idea of the numbers, and of the music too.  You know if it’s friendly, but more importantly you know the regulars.  That means you can be assured of plenty of dances, and who to ask for the real full on dances.

That’s the thing about constantly going to new venues – you just never know.  There were however two good omens.  We had received a particularly warm welcome on the door, and that’s something that helps relax you when you are new to a venue.  The music sounded pretty good too.

My mate Neil isn’t very confident

Now I’m a confident asker – so is my friend Tel, but Neil is not so confident.  That lack of confidence comes from a worry that he doesn’t know too many moves, and that anyone he asks to dance might not be particularly impressed (we men so want to impress!).  Neil will ask, but he tends to sit out a lot, and that’s a recipe for feeling even less confident if he ends up sitting out too many tracks.

Of course it’s the job of your mates to boost you up, and I’m constantly reminding Neil that, while he may not know many moves, those he does know he does well:

Look Neil, you can keep to the beat and your moves are smooth.  Most ladies would prefer a straightforward dance to one where the man does a load of fancy moves that don’t link together that smoothly, and they come off the dance floor feeling like they’ve been in a battle zone.

I know my friend should perhaps man-up and go ask, but I can understand both men and ladies worrying about the asking thing, and it’s a measure of how friendly a venue is, as to how the dances are shared out, and how often people have to sit out.

The place warms up and Neil is soon on the floor

I didn’t need to worry about the numbers, because by the time I’d got my dance shoes on, I was asked on to the floor.  By the time I came off, the room was looking a lot busier.  Indeed, by 8:45 the  dance floor was very busy.  But more importantly, by this time, my friend had been asked on to the dance floor several times.  It was all set up for a great night of dancing.

A great night’s dancing needs several things

The best nights are one where there are plenty of people to dance with, and so you are assured of plenty of different dances.  The second thing is that the people you ask on to the floor are friendly.  There is nothing worse than asking someone for a dance and then wishing you hadn’t.  The third thing is a varied DJ Playlist.  I’ll have more to say about the friendliness later, but let me say now that this venue had fabulous music from the word go.

A song from my Beginner days

We should perhaps hear some music before we go any further.  The best dance music has a beat you can easily connect with, and my first dance was to a track with just that.  It’s not a track that’s ever going to make a ‘Top 20 Hot Dance Tracks’ list, but it’s a lovely track to get warmed up to.  This track is also a favourite, and it’s a favourite for a reason, because it accompanied me through my first scary days as a beginner.

You can’t beat dancing to music that has a special place in your dance journey.  I suspect a lot of people learnt to dance to this track, or tracks like it, and no wonder, because it has a beat that is so easy to dance to.  Like I say, it’s never going to win an award, but Will Young’s Over you is one of those tracks that guarantees you a lovely dance – something we all appreciate.

DJ-ing is a real art form

Since I start reviewing freestyles I’ve developed a real appreciation of the craft of being a DJ.  I recently published a list of my Top 5 DJ Playlists from last year (see link below), where I explained what I think makes a great music selection.  One of those things is variety – a variety of styles and a variety of rhythms.  The DJ on duty this night was Howie Pelling, and he got the variety thing spot on.

Remember the first time you had your heart broken

Ceroc DJs are appreciated for mixing in a lot of contemporary tracks in to their playlists, but they have to take care not to over do these tracks from the last five years.  Because of the ages of the people out on the dance floor, it’s also important that they mix in tracks that reflect the dance floor memories of them all.

We all love the modern stuff, but its nice to dance to records that hold memories for us.  Music accompanies us through our lives, and we attach songs to the best and worse of the events that mark our passage through it.

Songs remind us of the key moments in our lives, our adventures, our children being born and even the day they finally fly the nest.  Some really special songs remind us of our school days, of our first kiss, and the first time we had our heart broken.

Howie plays two top tracks from the ’80s

I’ve long campaigned for more Motown to be played at freestyles, if only because many of the songs remind me of an unrequited school boy crush.  Realising that many people on the dance floor have similar coming of age memories from The ’80s, I’ve now started to show an interest in music from that decade.

Interestingly then that Howie played two ’80s tracks that I really loved.  The first was Everywhere, a lovely track to dance to from Fleetwood Mac track, but I’ll feature the second of Howie’s ’80s picks.

I was never really a fan of Blondie, and I would never have picked out Heart of glass as a Ceroc track, but I soon connected with its strong yet mellow rhythm, and I have to admit that it gave me one of the best dances of the night.

Howie plays the favourites we love

In my article about what makes a great DJ playlist, I talk about the need to play the Ceroc classics we all love.  Familiarity with a track helps make for a great dance.  We quickly connect with its beat, and this allows us to relax in to our dancing.  If the track has changes in its rhythm, we know when they are coming, and this gives us opportunities to express our musicality.

Howie played plenty of these favourites, including the Adam Freeland remix of Sarah Vaughan’s Fever, the recent chart smash from Walk the Moon Shut up and dance, BWO’s infectious Sunshine in the rain, and the track that has now established itself as a real Ceroc favourite Years and Years King.

This is a lovely venue, perfect for dancing

Fairlands Community Centre is a perfect Modern Jive venue with a wooden sprung floor that was a joy to dance on.  The floor is a nice size too.  There must have been over a hundred people there, enough to create a nice atmosphere on the dance floor and still not be too crowded.

The building also has a separate bar area, where people could take a well earned break from the dancing, and a kitchen where the Ceroc Surrey Crew laid on quite a spread.  Now sadly I was still on a campaign to burn off the festive season calories, so I kept well away, but I know many people really appreciated the great selection of food.

I didn’t want to miss any dancing

Another reason I didn’t indulge in the lovely food, is that I found it difficult to drag myself off the dance floor.  The music was that good.  Every one of DJ Howie’s tracks was a floor filler, and I was lovin’ dancing to them.  Time to tell you about another great track then.

Dance tracks from Bakermat, the Dutch record producer, have been popular with Ceroc DJs over the past few years, and his Living became a real favourite of mine last year.

His most recent outing Baby is another great piece of hi-energy dance music.  It’s lyric is taken from the Harold and The Bluenotes ’70s classic Don’t leave me this way, to which Bakermat has added a thumping drum and bass backing.  Once again he uses the technique of building towards a climax, when a saxophone solo explodes in to the mix.  The result is a dance track with a trance like vibe that rocks the floor.

Neil is having a ball too

Remember my shy friend Neil, who spends most of his time sitting out – well not this night.  It seems that he’s been asked on to the dance floor a lot more than usual.  Now this could have been due to his new after shave, but it says more about how friendly this venue is.  It was something that I found myself congratulating venue host Christine about:

You have a really friendly crowd here.  Myself and my friends have been asked to dance more than usual and we’ve all had some really nice dances.

You’ll remember that I commented on the particularly warm reception we received on the door, and I put it to Christine that this is one of the reasons the venue has a nice feel:

Myself and Claude try really hard to make everyone feel welcome, and you are right that we have a nice crowd here at Fairlands, and it’s lovely to think that the people here have made a lasting impression on the three of you.

In the beginning of the review I had noted my disappointment that I’d missed out on Woking.  This was no poor substitute – this was turning out to be a top night, and Howie’s music was one of the reasons.

The ‘What was that track’ moment

DJ Howie was playing some cracking tunes.  Here’s a few of my favourites from his playlist:  The great upbeat version of Gabrielle’s Dreams by Alex Ross, the wonderful reworking of the Motown classic Ain’t no mountain high enough by Freischwimmer featuring Dionne Bromfield, and a new version of a Marvin Gaye track – Kygo’s fabulous Tropical House remix of Sexual healing.

Regular readers of my blog will know, that one of the marks of a great playlist is when, after a fabulous dance, I’m dashing on to the stage to ask the DJ ‘What was that track?’  After what was one of the best dances of the night, I couldn’t help but dash to the stage to find out what I’d just danced to.

Howie was happy to give me the details.  ‘It’s the Sam Feldt & Bloombox Remix of I am oak.’  The track has a gentle intro, but a thumping bass line soon kicks in, along with a tropical house muted trumpet riff.

It all makes for a superb contemporary dance track that I’m amazed I’ve never danced to before.  But that’s another sign of a great playlist, when a DJ treats us to their own exclusive floor fillers.

Howie lets me in on some of his exclusive floor fillers

Howie was mixing familiar tracks with a lot of contemporary ones that I just didn’t know.  Needing a bit of a rest, I went on to the stage and chatted with him about his musical taste.  I asked him if he might give me a list of three tracks from the night that typified his approach to selecting tracks for this freestyle.

In the end Howie gave me a list of five tracks from his playlist that I didn’t recognise.  It’s been great checking them all out on YouTube and there are some great tracks in the list.  It wouldn’t be fair to just publish them all, but Howie has given me permission to feature one that I remember from Friday night and really loved.

Until we go down by Listenbee is a fabulous contemporary track, that is so good I’ve been listening to it on repeat, as I’ve been writing the last part of the review.  It’s one of those tracks where the producer uses changes of tempo and instrumentation to slowly build the intensity of the track – perfect for you to display your musicality and lose yourself in as the thumping bass kicks in.

Time to cool it down now and again

Even I can’t dance to full on tracks all night.  From time to time DJs needs to cool the tempo, and Howie did this at regular intervals.  During one of these gentler sessions he played a real favourite of everybody’s at the moment –  Take me to the river by Kaleida.

I’m going to feature another chill down track that Howie played.  It’s one I think would top any poll of people’s favourite slow tracks.  The beauty of this track is that it it’s not too slow.

Some of us find it difficult to dance to tracks who’s rhythm is a little too relaxed, but this track has enough pace, that you can still do the regular Ceroc moves, if you just slow them down a little.  I think this is part of its appeal.  So I’ll finish by playing 40 years by Tone Damli.

Lets hear Neil’s take on this freestyle

This was a wonderful freestyle.  It ticked so many boxes; not least a wonderful mix of music and some very friendly dancers.  You don’t need to take my word for it.  The fact that the floor was still busy at 11:30 said it all, and I’m sure that most of the people would have wanted it to go on a lot longer than the 11:45 finish.

We should though ask my friend Neil – remember he’s the shy one out of the three of us – what he thought of it.  ‘So Neil, how was it for you?’

I had a great time, but do you know what the best thing was Paul?  I got asked to dance more than you and Tel put together.  So I’m very happy.

So it had nothing to do with the fabulous music then?

We men are quite shallow at times, and even if it doesn’t really mean anything, it is nice to be asked on to the dance floor.  I must admit to being impressed that my friend had so many dances, because it went a long way to proving what a friendly crowd the people were.

All three of us had a fabulous time, and on behalf of my friends, I would like to thank all the ladies who joined us on the dance floor.

Thanks also to Christine and Claude, and all the Ceroc Surrey crew for putting on a great evening.  A special thanks too. to DJ Howie for filling me in with details of his fabulous music.

Please follow the links to the related articles

Review of Ceroc Surrey class night at Byfleet

Review of Ceroc Surrey class night at Surbiton 

My Top 5 DJ Playlists