A chance to go to a Premier venue

It seems my second home is now Surrey.  I’ve always come down regularly to see my best mate Neil,  who lives in Walton on Thames, and my eldest daughter who lives in Shepperton, but my visits have increased since the arrival of my first grandchild.

Each time I come down I look to see what freestyles are on.  When ever I’ve been to one of the Ceroc Surrey venues I’ve been told I should make it to their premier freestyle in Woking, but my visits never seem to co-inside.  But last weekend a visit to see my grandson for once did co-inside with the regular freestyle at The H.G. Wells Centre – I was full of anticipation.

This venue needs a lot of people

This is a large venue.  I was reminded of my visit to St Neots last year.  That too was a large hall, and like Woking it needed a lot of people to give it a real atmosphere.  St Neot’s filled up nicely and it delivered one of my Top 5 freestyles of 2016-17.  I was interested to see how Woking would compare.

Sadly the hot weather has had an adverse effect on numbers at both classes and freestyles everywhere, and as I walked in and saw the vastness of the dance space I did wonder whether it would fill up sufficiently.

I was soon introducing myself to DJ Keith Leigh-Jones.  Keith tells me that he has been running the venue, as well as picking up the DJing duties for some eight years.  Keith too shared my concerns about the numbers:

We’d normally get over two hundred people here Paul, but I think the warm weather will have an effect.  The thing is that this hall needs about one hundred and fifty people to give it an atmosphere.

From the stage I could see that at 8:45 they were well short of that number.  Still, there was dancing to do and I’d got a sense from the few tracks I’d heard so far, that Keith was going to serve up some dance floor delights.

DJ Keith gets it spot on

Before I go any further I’ve got to say that Keith got his playlist spot on.  One of the reasons that St Neots made it in to my Top 5 was because DJ Sue Astle played a great mix of tracks that included some well loved classics mixed between some fabulous contemporary ones, then impressed with some great exclusive finds.  This is exactly what Keith did.

I love it when DJs play new-to-me tracks that I can connect with the first time I hear them.  This Keith did time and time again.  Here’s a track I’ve never heard before, but it was so easy to dance to.  Tell my heart by Nora En Pure featuring Dani Senior, from 2016, has a perfect beat for Ceroc and a contemporary feel that made it a joy to dance to.

It’s more than just numbers

More people were arriving, but when I spoke to Claude, who runs the Ceroc Surrey franchise, at a few minutes past nine, he was a little apologetic about the numbers.  I can understand franchise owners being worried when someone like myself arrives to do a review that will be read nationwide, but I want to say now, that my reviews rarely focus on numbers.

What is more important is the music and just how friendly the dancers are.  Keith’s music was never going to be a problem, but the friendliness of the lady dancers is of some concern for me sometimes.  As when I travel round to new venues, it is often the case that I know none of the local dancers.

Surprisingly I recognised few dancers

Even though I have been to quite a few Ceroc Surrey venues this year, including freestyles at Guildford, Byfleet and Aldershot (see links below) I was surprised to see that I only recognised a handful of people.  I needn’t have worried, my previous visits to Ceroc Surrey venues had all been very welcoming, and Woking proved no different.

After my first few dances I began to relax and could really start to enjoy dancing to Keith’s fabulous music.  So it seems was everyone else, because there were few people sitting out any of Keith’s tracks.  Here’s one of the photo’s from my dance friend Tel’s wonderful album of the night (see link below), which captures the joy out on the dance floor.

My great friend Shazam

The more I review DJ music the more tracks I recognise, but where I struggle sometimes, is when they play their own exclusive finds or a specific remix of something. That’s when my great friend Shazam comes in.  This phone app identifies tracks within a few seconds of listening to them.

I’ve got in to the habit of ‘Shazaming’ as a track starts up, and only when Shazam has identified it, do I ask someone to dance.  If the track, or dance, is worthy of note, I have a quick look at my phone when I come off the dance floor, and make an entry in to my notebook.

My ‘What was that track’ moment

The list of Shazams also gives me an opportunity to bring the freestyle back to life as I write, as I listen to the standout tracks on YouTube.  Occasionally I don’t get a chance to Shazam before I go on to the dance floor, and so I sometimes find myself in the middle of a fabulous dance wondering what it is I’m dancing to.

I know that many readers of my blog use the standout tracks in my reviews to compile their own lists of their favourite music, so when ever I don’t recognise a track that gave me a great dance, I feel duty bound to ask the DJ ‘What was that track?’.  So it was on Saturday night.

My great dance turns out to be Madonna

I should say that a great dance takes more than a great music track.  It takes a partner who connects with the music just as much as you do, and that’s what happened when Keith played a track that turned out to be by Madonna.  I should have recognised Madonna’s voice, but my dance brain was connected to the pounding hypnotic beat.

Madonna has created some great dance tracks over the years and its great that there is room in DJ playlists for her music.  Listening to Celebration again I realise that this track does get a few plays and rightly so.  I loved it.

The room keeps filling up

It seems that neither myself, Keith or Claude needed to worry about the numbers, for even at 9:30 people I noted that people were still coming in.  Indeed, well before ten o’clock the dance floor had sufficient numbers to create the atmosphere that this venue is so well known for.

After ten o’clock the dance floor was certainly busy, but not too busy.  Sometimes dance floors can be become a little too crowded and it can be unpleasantly so.  Here’s where the size of The H.G. Wells Centre’s large dance floor came in to its own, and even with close on two hundred dancers there was still space for everyone to enjoy their dancing.

By ten o’clock the dance floor was pleasantly busy

Keith plays many of the latest favourites

I’m always interested in the balance DJs make between the older and classic tracks, and the newer contemporary ones.  It’s probably fair to say that Keith played more tracks from the last ten years than the decades before, but I still think he got the balance just about right.

I’ll talk about some of Keith’s classic tracks a little later, but first here’s a selection of some of the current Ceroc favourites from Keith’s playlist.  These included New rules from Dua Lipa, No roots from Alice Merton, Me too by Meghan Trainor, Paloma Faith’s Til I’m done and one of the biggest hits of the year There’s nothing holding me back by Shawn Mendes.

Ceroc needs to stay young at heart

Now I’m no spring chicken, but I know that if we are to sustain this wonderful dance community, it must stay young at heart.  It’s important that it keeps attracting new people in to its ranks, and that means young people too.  There is no better way to do this than to maintain a high degree of fresh contemporary music.

When I started my blog I was an advocate for DJs dipping in to the dance music archives.  I still appreciate when they dig out tracks from the Motown back catalogue or ’70s disco, but I increasing enjoy dancing to contemporary tracks.  Perhaps as I get older, I believe more in the adage that ‘You are only as old as the music you dance to’.

For this reason I loved that Keith played tracks like this next one.  Sexual by Neiked featuring the vocals of Dyo has become a bit of a Ceroc favourite since it was released in 2016, and I have to say that I love its contemporary sound and modern production techniques.

3 out of 10 Classic tracks

It was important that in amongst his selection of contemporary track Keith also played homage to the classics.  Last week I published a list of Ten Classic Ceroc Tracks.  To make the list, the tracks had to be at least five years old and I had to have heard them in at least three different venues.  They also had to be good in my opinion.

The list met with great approval on Facebook, so much so that I’m planning on a volume 2.  Keith’s playlist was the first I’ve reviewed since I published that list, and interestingly Keith played three tracks from it.

The Stamping song always brings a smile

The first was La Galleguita, or as it’s known affectionally – The Stamping Song.  This spanish guitar instrumental has a simple repeating pattern that invites you to stamp your feet at the end of each section.  It’s great fun, and a special thanks to the lady who couldn’t stop laughing every time I stamped like a deranged flamenco dancer.  To hear this and the following track please follow the link to the ‘Ten Ceroc Classics’ below.

The Bongo Song shows me up

The second track from my list that Keith played was Played alive (The Bongo song) by Safri Duo.  Back in 2000 this track conquered clubs across Europe and has since become a much loved Ceroc favourite.  The track has a two hi-energy passages.

Before the second passage is a break – a chance to pause, before launching yourself into the second trance inducing section, and mark the break with a frozen poise.  I know every note of this great clubland track, and I hit that break every time I dance to it.  I asked my partner to listen out for the break, so we could mark the break in a synchronised display of musicality.

Needlessly to say I missed the break completely, and my partner couldn’t help but laugh at my glaring mistake.  I laughed too.  Such is the joy of partner dancing, and a reminder that great music can get you a little carried away sometimes.  Well it certainly gets me carried away sometimes.

Keith’s third Ceroc Classic backs Tel’s Fab Video

The third track that Keith gave a spin to, is the one from my list that I consider to be one of the greatest Ceroc classics of all time – Drizabone’s Real love.  In my article I go in to some detail about the background to this track, but I’ll just give one factoid about it.  The song’s creator named his group after the Japanese clothing brand Driza-Bone.

This track has the most wonderful relaxed rhythm and is so easy to dance to.  That it is so easy to connect to the song’s beat, is probably one reason why it has a universal appeal on the Ceroc dance floor.

Tel used Real Love to as the backing to his fabulous video of the evening.  So listen to this classic track as you watch the dancing at Woking.

Keith finds more classic tracks

I’ll be working on a Volume 2 of Classic tracks soon, and in his playlist Keith provided a few tracks for me to consider.  Earth Wind & Fires ’70s and ’80s disco tracks always have wide appeal.  We all know their September title, but Keith served up the equally wonderful Boogie Wonderland. 

Keith also played a swing track that I perhaps should consider.  Ain’t got no home by ‘Frogman’ Henry is a favourite at Swingers Hour at the Ceroc Weekenders, and it had the floor truly rockin’

Keith keeps the dance floor rockin all night

By ten o’clock the floor was rockin’, and it stayed that way right up to the very end.  It must have been wonderful to be sat behind the decks and know that your music is contributing to a great atmosphere out on a packed floor below.  I can see why people said that I must do Woking, and why it is considered a premier venue in this part of Surrey.

Keith sets up his next track for the dancers who packed the floor

Keith keeps the fresh music coming

I just loved the fresh music that Keith kept offering up between the regular favourites.  Here’s another contemporary track that I’d never heard before, and just like Keith’s other new-to-me tracks I instantly connected to it’s well defined rhythm.

As I said above it’s very important that Ceroc stays young at heart and Adore by Jasmine Thompson is just the kind of track that it’s important to keep slipping in to playlists.  It’s got a real contemporary feel and it’s great to dance to.

One last rockin’ track had me on the stage again

When I heard the electrifying guitar intro to this song burst out of the speakers, I knew I had to dance to it.  I had no idea what it was, but there was no time to Shazam it – I needed to find a partner quickly and one that would do it justice.  I remembered the lady who had partnered me in The Bongo Song.

In between me messing up the break, the lady had shown a great energy and the music now blasting out of the speakers needed the same kind of input.  I got lucky – the lady was free, and once again accepted my offer to dance.

The track was a modern piece of Rock ‘n’ Roll, but unlike many of the traditional R ‘n’ R tracks this wasn’t too fast.  It still had the bouncy R ‘n R feel, but its pace was perfect for standard Ceroc moves.  I kept them simple.  Hand Jives, Man Spins followed by Ceroc Spins.  Lots of Step Across and Spot Turns.  The simpler the better, just hitting the beat bang on, and so getting an uplifting buzz.

This was a fabulous dance, and after thanking my partner I ran to the stage.

Okay Keith, what was that amazing track?

Keith looked back at his track listing on his computer.

‘Pride and Joy’ by Stevie Ray Vaughan and Double Trouble

That was one hell of a track.  Oh and while I’m at it.  Fabulous playlist!

I can get quite excited sometimes.  I suppose we all can.  It just takes the right kind of track, but the vibe has to be right on the dance floor too.  Add a dance partner that shares your joy at dancing to the track, and no wonder we sometimes overdose on the endorphins in our system.

I doubt you can replicate the vibe this track created last Saturday night, but turn the volume as high as you dare, clear the floor in the lounge and give yourself up to the beat.  Alternatively ask your local DJ to play it at your next freestyle.

This venue is worthy of its premier rating

This is a venue with a large dance floor, and needs a lot of people to create an atmosphere.  Seeing the numbers who turned up on a very warm summer evening I have no doubt that it always attracts a large crowd, and that the same great atmosphere is generated every time.

Having carefully assessed Keith’s music and loved it, I am also confident that the dancers are assured a wonderful balance of contemporary and older tracks every time.  Here’s another picture from Tel’s album.  It captures once again the joy of dancing out on the floor.  There is no doubt in my mind that this venue deserves its premier rating.

Tel’s photo album shows the joy on the dance floor

My thanks to Claude for giving Tel permission to take his photos and videos


Related Links

Tel’s complete photo album

Ten Ceroc Classic Tracks

Other Ceroc Surrey reviews

Surbiton Class Night

Byfleet Class Night

Guildford Fairlands Freestyle

Aldershot Potters Freestyle

Aldershot Potters Video

Byfleet Tea Dance