For details of the Tea Dance image see the acknowledgement below
I time travel back in time to Perth
This Sunday dancing at Ceroc Perth’s Fresh Weekender, actually took place even before I had the idea of going on my Tea Dance Tour. However, I’ve included it in this series of reviews because I realised that it had all the characteristics of a Tea Dance – chilled music, a lovely relaxed atmosphere and delicious cakes.
But we should also remember that this Sunday afternoon dance session also marked the end of what had been a very successful first-ever Fresh Weekender. In the proceeding two days I, and everybody else, had made new friends and here was a time just to chill out with them, and enjoy a last few hours together on the dance floor.
Susan gives her perspective on Sunday afternoon
Susan shared this sentiment that Sunday was a chance to relax and dance, to a more chilled music mix, with new found friends.
The weekend started with me feeling a little nervous on the Friday night, because there were so many new faces, but after all the Saturday workshops I felt I got to know more folk.
Come Saturday night, my mojo was on full throttle and I danced the night away. Come Sunday I was more than a little tired, so I appreciated the more relaxed feel.
I suspect every one appreciated the more gentler approach to Sunday afternoon. Here’s Susan again.
The overall vibe on the Sunday reflected how everyone was probably feeling. It was relaxed, chilled, slower, just the perfect antidote to the whirls and birls of the previous two days.
Folk were dressed down and suitcases were packed and waiting, but there was still a sense of not wanting it to end, but knowing it had to.
Susan was right there, for I’m sure no one was in a hurry to go home.
A chance to practice new techniques and moves
One of the memorable things about this weekender was the way that everyone threw themselves in to the programme of lessons – including the four Blues Room Toolkit classes run by Jo Hart, and three SILC classes run by Steve Thomas.
The two series of lessons were primarily about learning new techniques that would help you to dance to much slower chill-out music. Now on the final day we all had the opportunity to try these techniques out in a freestyle environment.
This link with lessons is another reason that I’ve included this review in to my Tea Dance Tour, as it seems that the teaching of Blues and SILC, and other smooth forms of Modern Jive are often included in Sunday afternoon dance sessions.
The Sunday music still had a main room feel
While the roster of DJ’s did slip in some slow bluesy tracks on Sunday, the majority of the music was still suited to main room dancing. The tempo was certainly toned down from the previous two late night sessions, but not too slow that everyone couldn’t still dance in their usual style, albeit a little slower, if they wanted to.
Here’s one of my favourite tracks of the afternoon. It’s from DJ Sheena’s Assiph’s set, which kicked off the afternoon dancing at one o’clock. It’s as funky as hell. You could SILC or even Blues to it, but you could also connect to it’s fabulous funky rhythm just by slowing the basic Ceroc moves down a little.
An opportunity to test myself
As well as Sheena, Nicola had lined up Dale St Rose (AKA Smood) and Blues Teacher Jo Hart to provide the tunes for this chill-out Sunday. With the music more leisurely paced, I realised that here would be my opportunity to put my new found skills to the test.
So I decided to ask Nicola for a dance. Now I’m sure that all the regular guys at Ceroc’s Perth and Stirling classes have had an opportunity to dance with their teacher Nicola, and that she always ensures it is as little of an ordeal as possible.
To improve we need to step outside our comfort zone
I didn’t doubt for a moment that Nicola would put me at ease, but I had deliberately put myself under a little extra pressure. You see, I wanted to see just how well I could dance in The Slot, and see if I could do a whole track without reverting to the easier Rotational style of dancing.
I wanted to see just how much of Steve and Nardiya’s SILC teaching had sunk in. I took a deep breathe and asked for a dance, politely adding an additional caveat.
Nicola, I wonder could I dance with you please. Would you mind if we did it in The Slot?
I suppose I could have just asked for a dance, and if I had slipped back to dancing in my rotational style Nicola would have been none the wiser. But that’s not how we learn. To become better dancers we have to sometimes take ourselves out of our comfort zone.
So how did I do?
I certainly had a nice dance, but whether I embarrassed myself or not, is not really the point. The point is that I dared to challenge myself, and take the opportunity to practice what I had been taught the previous day.
If we don’t practice the techniques and moves before we forget them, then lessons can sometimes be something of a waste. I’ll tell you about another dance where I put myself under even more pressure later.
We need a chill-out circuit
One of the reasons for doing my tour of Tea Dance venues, is to see just how much opportunity there is for people to develop their smooth dance styles. Regular main room freestyles aren’t able to offer enough chill-out music, so it’s important that there is an additional circuit of venues that cater for slower and smoother dance styles.
In many ways this Fresh Sunday afternoon session offered a template for getting the music mix about right. There was certainly musical opportunities to practice some of the SILC and Blues techniques we’d been taught over the weekend.
Sheena plays a significant track
The track I danced with Nicola was quite a significant one. Let me explain. At February’s Ceroc’s Southport Weekender I had chosen to review Nicola’s late night DJ set in The SILC Zone (see link below). It was a set of chilled music that I realised I wasn’t properly equipped to dance to. My slotted style of smooth dancing just wasn’t up to it then.
The track Nicola opened her set with was Nobody by Niia. While regular Ceroc moves, when slowed down will still work, this track is crying out for a smooth slotted style of dancing. This is the track that Sheena played, and I danced with Nicola.
That I managed to get through the four minutes ten seconds of this delicious track, dancing in a more slotted style was in itself another small step forward.
Everyone is enjoying the relaxed dancing
Was any other man putting himself through a similar ordeal and putting his new SILC or Blues skills to the test. It was hard to tell, but what I could tell was that everyone appeared to be loving an opportunity to dance to slightly more relaxed music.
What’s more the chilled music was a breathe of fresh air. Even though I seem to spend every weekend reviewing DJs music, I have to say that most of it was new to me.
Take this next track from Sheena’s set Capital Letters by Hailee Steinfeld & BloodPop. This is a delicious tune, perfect for a gentle dance. Every so often you just want a nice easy dance – nothing too complicated, a nice easy tempo – just right for a Sunday Afternoon.
Opportunities to try out your Blues technique
Of course the human spirit didn’t evolve to take it too easy on a Sunday. There is still room for some challenging music, and Blues Dancing is just that kind of challenge. In my review of Jo Hart’s Blues Toolkits workshops (see link below) I’d mention that there had been little Blues teaching in Scotland.
All over the weekend, many people had thrown themselves in to Jo’s Blues classes, and now was an opportunity to give it a try. One of Sheena’s early tracks was Where the blues begins by Buddy Guy and Carlos Santana. Have a listen and then I’ll comment.
Blues Room Tool No 1
One of the Blues Room Tools Jo Hart taught in her lessons was the need to listen to the music. To hear when the rhythm changes and to spot the pauses and accents. This track has all these things, making it perfect to Blues to.
Nobody will be surprised that the dance floor didn’t suddenly morph in to a Blues Lounge. People don’t become Blues dancers over night – certainly men don’t. What happens is that you start to try out a technique for a few seconds – just when the music feels right.
As the lead you try to gauge if your lady partner is comfortable with the bluesy interludes, and if so you might try it again when the next suitable phrasing comes around. Progress will be slow, but it’s how most people’s Blues dancing starts out.
The Guys were giving it a go
At the recent Southport weekender I caught up with one of the ladies, who had done both the Blues and SILC classes at Fresh. I asked if the guys were experimenting with the new techniques they’d learnt during the Sunday Cill-out session.
There’s no doubt that some of the men were trying out little bits they’d picked up in the classes.
I think that’s a result, and great that the ladies they were dancing with, got to try out their newly taught techniques too.
The beginnings of a core of Blues dancers
This leads to another little problem. Let me imagine a little scenario. A lady goes to a Blues class, and she enjoys playing around with the music. At her next main room freestyle the DJ throws in a track like Where the blues begins. The lady looks around for a partner.
This is when you realise that it’s so important to have a core of male Blues dancers in a dance community. There were certainly some experienced Blues dancers at Fresh, but sometimes there just aren’t enough.
How you build that core is a topic for another day, but what I saw over the Fresh Weekend was an eagerness to embrace both Blues and SILC, that I hope can be built on.
Sarah has her bluesy dance
One person who really loved the Sunday afternoon chill-out session was Sarah, who had attended all of Jo’s Blues classes:
I really love the slower music, and it’s really great to now be able to dance blues properly without just dancing a slow Ceroc dance.
I asked Sarah for one of her highlights. Here’s what she had to say:
I really enjoyed the Tea Dance, as I felt the music was very mellow and suited the Sunday afternoon feeling. I particularly enjoyed one dance to a lovely chill-out track.
A good friend of mine, who knew of my love of slow music, asked me to dance to a track he was confident I would enjoy. He was right, and I loved dancing to it.
It’s now one of my favourite songs and takes me right back to our brilliant Perth Weekender.
I don’t doubt that lots of people had the same lovely dances to Sheena, Dale and Jo’s chilled music on that Sunday afternoon, and like Sarah, went away with their own favourites tracks and memories.. Here then is the track that holds some Fresh memories for Sarah – Breath in by Daddy was a Milkman.
A wonderful track that works for all styles
Breathe in has become quite a favourite in the Ceroc circuit over the last eighteen months. It’s a track that is fabulous to SILC to and ideal for Blues too, but I have good memories of dancing to it with basic Ceroc moves just slowed down. No wonder it’s become a bit of a modern classic.
It’s always good for me to take note of other peoples’ top tunes as they sometimes throw up something I might have missed. Later I’ll tell you about another wonderful track, this time picked out by Susan, but first I want to tell you about another of my own dances.
I’m trying not to be so Rotational
Regular readers of my blog will know that I’m what’s known as a Rotational dancer. I dance around my partner in a pattern likened to the spokes of a wheel. So might I add do ninety percent of other men, but it’s not the best way to dance to chill-out music.
At the end of this Tea Dance Tour I’m hoping to be a more accomplished dancer in the more modern Slotted style of dancing, and be able to ask anyone for a dance in the chill-out venues I visit.
In many ways my journey to be a better dancer was kick started by doing two of Steve Thomas and Nardiya’s SILC lessons while at Fresh (see link below). And the first real test was to ask to dance with Nardiya herself.
No excuses Paul, just do it
As Steve’s demo, Nardiya had shown a graceful fluency as she moved up and down the slot in response to Steve’s seemingly effortless lead. Now I can only dream of showing the same level of proficiency as someone like Steve, but that’s not enough of an excuse not to ask Nardiya to dance.
Like all the teachers at Fresh Nardiya was very approachable and she was happy to dance with anyone, what ever their ability. Even so I still felt I needed to psyche myself up, so after trying out a few SILC and Slotted moves with other dancers, I took a deep breathe and headed in her direction.
Nardiya saw me coming and smiled knowingly and just took my hand. Here’s the track from Dale’s playlist that we danced to. It’s See you by Charlie Pugh and Khalifa. It’s fair to say it’s the type of track I just couldn’t dance to a few months back – some challenge then.
You have to dance with people at a higher level
Now again it’s not important how well I got on. What is important is that I actually asked Nardiya for a dance.
When I give advise to people about how they can become better dancers, I will always say that you have to dance with people who are at a higher level than yourself. Most people are agreed that you’ll never improve if you always dance with people of the same ability level.
It goes without saying that dancing with someone with Nardiya’s experience will always benefit the likes of someone like myself – and so it was. One unexpected benefit was that it gave a boost to my confidence. I would find it a lot easier to ask other people above my level to dance in this style in the future. Thank you Nardiya.
So how were the ladies getting on?
I suspect that quite a few of the guys were putting themselves through the same stresses as myself as they sought to build on the lessons they had attended. But what of the ladies? I asked Susan what she got from the weekend, and I was interested to hear about her perception of Blues dancing prior to her coming to Fresh:
I was drawn to the Blues, because there is usually a Blues room at the party nights, and I had no idea what went on in there, and was more than a little nervous about ever venturing in.
I have no doubt that having participated in all four of Jo Hart’s classes Susan will have conquerored that particular anxiety. But I’m also sure that Jo’s classes have prepared Susan to actually enjoy her Blues dancing.
Susan picks out a Bluesy track
Susan also tells me that she loved the chill out music on Sunday afternoon, and the opportunities it gave her to dance in a style that she’d not really danced before. Susan also gave me the name of a track that she had enjoyed dancing to from Jo Hart’s Sunday afternoon set.
Rather like me and the Charlie Pugh track, I suspect that this was a song that Susan would have struggled to dance to before her Fresh Blues adventure. It’s a bluesy delight by Paolo Nutini called Smokey Joe’s Cafe.
Dale brings more fresh music to Perth
While I’ve seen Dale St Rose (AKA Smood) do many a set at Southport I’ve never really listened to his music in depth, so now was a chance to do so.
Like Nicola and Sheena, Dale is regular in the late night SILC Zone at Southport, which just makes you realise just how much chill-out musical experience was behind the decks on Sunday afternoon. Just as with Sheena, Dale brought a freshness to the musical proceedings.
This was a mix of contemporary tracks, including a few classics like Kaleida’s gorgeous Take me to the River, but most were completely new to me. Many had the modern laid back Topical House treatment including a reworking of One Direction’s Perfect by Matoma.
I’ve picked out Survivors, a Tropical House flavoured track, by Selena Gomez as an example of Dales contribution to the wonderful vibe on Sunday afternoon. Needless to say I’d never heard this track before and I loved it.
Is this the best Tea Dance cake ever?
Readers who are following my Tea Dance Tour will know that I’m voting for the best cake selection – cake is very much part of The Tea Dance story.
On the Sunday afternoon there was a wonderful spread of cakes provided by Ceroc Perth regulars Denise’s and Pauline. The highlight was teacher and DJ Shaun’s birthday cake. Something tells me that I’m not going to see anything to match this on my travels.
All good things must come to an end
Sadly all good things must come to an end. At around three o’clock people were preparing to leave, myself and Tel included, as we faced a six hour drive home. Before people started to drift away, Nicola invited all the people who had made Fresh so successful on to the stage to take a bow.
As well as the DJs and teachers, Nicola made sure that her backroom team also got the applause they rightly deserved. This had been a very professional operation from the moment we all arrived and the Fresh team of Iris, Elaine, Colin, Kayleigh and Zoe ensured the whole weekend ran very smoothly.
Nicola then invited the remaining dancers on to the stage and Tel was on hand to capture the roll call of all the people who were part of this amazing weekend.
The dancing wasn’t finished yet
Even though I had to leave soon after the photo was taken, the dancing still had another two hours. It was now the time of Blues teacher Jo Hart to take her turn behind the decks, and then Sheena had another stint to bring the curtain down.
I wondered how Jo would play her time on the decks. I knew that a lot of the people had really enjoyed her lessons and would want to know some of the tracks she played, so a few days after the event I messaged Jo about her playlist. Jo kindly got back to me to say that she had played a mainly Chill-out set, but did included two of her current favourite Blues tracks.
Jo’s two Blues favourites
The first is A Sunday kind of love by vocalist Beth Hart backed by Blues guitarist Joe Bonamassa. This is a dreamy piece of music, that I’m sure everyone would love to be able to dance to, and hopefully after Jo’s fabulous lessons some people gave it a real go.
The second track, Down by Marian Hill, I first struggled to get in to, but after listening to it several times, I can see why some one as enthusiastic about Blues dancing as Jo would love it. Listen to the first change of pace and mood at 56 secs in. This is what makes this track, one that any lover of Blues music, will want to aspire to dance to.
So how did you get on with Blues dancing, Paul?
I think I chickened out if I’m honest. Just as I had set myself the challenge of dancing some SILC with Nardiya, I had also put a Blues dance with Jo on my to-do list. The way to do it was to take a deep breathe, and walk in to the late night second room where Jo was spinning the discs.
Sadly my courage failed me, but I was determined to give it a go the Sunday afternoon. Sadly time ran out as I chatted with people about their weekend experience for the reviews I would go on to write.
Just take on little thing from every lesson
Attending two of Jo’s lessons as I did, or even all four does not turn you in to a Blues dancer overnight. Like many teachers, I believe in the mantra that if you take one or may be two things from a class and put them in to your routine, you have got your money’s worth.
Jo will be pleased to know that I have now started to use a couple of the techniques I learnt in her classes, in to my Slotted Chill-out dance routine. At the recent Southport Weekender I again stayed out of the Blues Lounge, but using these techniques helped me feel more confident in the late night SILC Zone.
The Tea Dance Tour Rolls on
The Sunday afternoon dancing at Perth was a perfect example of what a Tea Dance should be – chilled music, a relaxed atmosphere, friendly people and of course wonderful cake. Next the tour rolls in to Lickey End at Bromsgrove.
Other Ceroc Perth Fresh Reviews
Jo Hart’s Blues Room Toolkit Workshops
The Tea Dance Tour Articles
Get the Tea Dance Jigsaw
The image at the top of this posting is by artist Jason Juta, and was used for a 1000 piece Falcon de luxe Jigsaw entitled Tea Dance. The jigsaw is available on line. Here’s a link to one of the many sites that sell this popular jigsaw.