For details of the Tea Dance image see the acknowledgement below

It seems that I under-estimated the coverage of Tea Dances

A few weeks back, prompted by a visit to Ceroc Beds & Bucks Te Amo, I wrote an article about the growing popularity of Sunday afternoon Tea Dances.  In my article I included a few venues I’d found on UK Jive and Facebook.  It seems I under-estimated just how many Tea Dances now take place, and several people got in touch to give me details of their own events.

I have no doubt that I’ve not got to the bottom of this subject, but I hope this follow up article will fill in a few gaps and give you an even better insight in to this world of Sunday afternoon dancing.

Sunday dancing is as varied as Friday and Saturday night freestyles

When I went to my first Ceroc class night some eight years ago, I had no idea about the different styles of dancing the modern jive world embraced, and even less idea of the different genres of music I would later encounter.

It’s the same for Tea Dances.  The only common thread seems to be the tea and home made cakes, as the music varies from main room sounds through chill-out to modern blues.  In this follow up article the 5 venues I’ve chosen to feature show the diversity of music and dancing.

Rhapsody at Minstead Village Hall

After reading my first post on Tea Dances, John Dunlop got in touch to tell me about his Rhapsody Tea Dances in The New Forest area.  John has been running his Sunday Tea Dances for three years now and he describes the dancing as Modern Blues.

John gave me a little background to the origins of Rhapsody:

Before I started Rhapsody there were very few Sunday Tea Dances in the area.  There was some Tango and the occasional Modern Jive one, but nothing for Modern Blues.

It seems that John was keen to get something going for Blues dancers but it seemed no one in the area was willing to give it a go.

So after two years of badgering other people to get something going, I eventually bought some kit, hired a hall and eighty people showed up on the first Sunday.  Since then, it has become pretty popular with people travelling up to three hours to come and dance for the afternoon.

It wasn’t long before I found this comment on Facebook from Terence who confirms the lengths people will travel for John’s music.

I attend John Dunlop’s Rhapsody Blues regularly, my round trip is 180 miles – about 2 hours each way.  It is worth every mile and minute.  Great Music, you probably won’t hear anywhere else, great group of dancers and friends, and great value for money.

Kaz was another one of John’s regular who travels some distance.  Here is her posting on Facebook:

Rhapsody is an amazing Tea Dance.  Always come away on a high.  I travel over two hours to get there and have been going since it first started 3 years ago.

These two comments represent one hell of an endorsement.  I asked John for a little more detail about his music

The music I play is generally intended for the dancers to be able to express their musicality, and I mix all genres with a fair amount of Blues.  I tend to play more expressive tracks towards the last hour.

John kindly gave me the names of a few favourite Rhapsody tracks – I Was Wrong   by Keb ‘Mo’, Helium by Sia and The Perfect Storm from Elles Bailey.  The one I’ll feature from his list is I’ll Take Care Of You by Beth Hart and Joe Bonamassa.

 

Regular readers of my blog will know that I’m not totally comfortable with Blues Dancing, but I have now made it a goal of mine to learn some basic techniques, so that I can enjoy dancing to this wonderful genre of music.

To this end I attended a couple of Jo Hart’s Blues Toolkit classes at the recent Fresh Weekender in  Perth.  John also tells me that he provides a Modern Blues workshop at one of the two monthly dances:

We call the workshop Rhapsody Plus.  The two-hour class is run by Taina Wilds, who has also held classes at Coralie Green’s Jive+ and Oxford Blues.  Teachers that have influenced her are Sara White, Nath and Essie-Jo from Stokies and David Zilkha (one of the founders of traditional blues dancing in the UK).

Having Blues classes and workshops running before a Blues Tea Dances is something that I’m continually coming across, and it can only be a good thing.  I’m hoping to take up John’s offer to visit Minstead and I’ll make sure I go when there is a workshop before hand.

John also makes sure there’s a good supply of cake on show.  Here’s Terence again:

I often supplement the biscuit and cake supply. This Sunday it might be homemade cheese cake.

Like many people I go dancing as a way of burning calories.  I’m going have to be careful not to over indulge if I’m going to make a point of trying to get round some of these Tea Dances!

To learn more about John’s Tea Dances please visit the Rhapsody Facebook Page

 Serene Sunday in Aylesbury and Maidenhead

Matt Cox also got in touch to tell me about the Serene Sunday dances he runs with Jo Mortimer.  These are held on a monthly basis in Maidenhead, with additional dates in Aylesbury.  The dances run from three in the afternoon until seven in the evening.

I also note that the 3 June Maidenhead date marks Serene’s first birthday and the dancing goes on until ten at night.

The Serene name suggests that the dancing is of a more chilled nature.  Matt explained the style of dancing you can expect:

The music we play caters mainly for Smooth Modern Jive and West Coast Swing.  We also have people doing Zouk.

I’ve heard of Zouk before – from memories there have been lessons at Southport.  With Matt mentioning it I thought I’d find out a little more.  I found this video on YouTube which saves me from trying to describe Zouk in words.  I can see that it sits nicely with Smooth Jive and West Coast Swing.

 

I wondered about the music played at Serene, and found this quote on the Serene website:

 Our music is a good mix of smooth, funky, lyrical, contemporary, challenging and expressive.

I asked Matt, who DJ’s the event along with Jo, for some more details about the music.  He kindly gave me a sample of some current favourites, which included Niia’s Nobody, and Charlie Puth’s River.  The one I’ll feature is a delicious piece of contemporary chill-out music from Khalid called Location.

 

What I’ve found with my look at Sunday Tea Dances is that there is a link with classes for Smooth Jive and Blues.   I found this posting from Matt on the Serene Dance Facebook Page very welcoming.

A few people have asked for myself personally to teach a smooth Modern Jive workshop before a Serene Maidenhead so they can feel better when dancing to more of challenging music.

I’ve said it many times that dancing to slower music is not easy, and I noted that Matt got a lot of positive response to his Facebook question, and it’s good to see that Matt and Jo now run a regular lesson before the Maidenhead dances.

Without a national programme of lessons aimed at helping people dance to the music at Chill-out Sunday dances like Serene, the Tea Dance scene will not continue to grow.

This subsequent Facebook posting from Simon just shows how important classes are even for experienced dances.

Matt Cox and Jo Mortimer you guys are absolute stars.  I cannot begin to thank you enough for your expertise in teaching me to dance. I thought I could dance until I met you both.

You have both taken me to heights I did not know existed, my journey has really only just begun I am so looking forward to my future lessons with you.

Anyone looking to take their dance to higher levels, do get in touch with Matt and Jo – you will not be disappointed.

A fabulous endorsement, and if I get a chance to visit Serene I’ll let you know how I got on with the lesson.

To learn more about Matt’s Sunday Dances please visit the Serene Website

Flava Tea Dance in Newport, South Wales

Flava run by Ceroc South Wales is another well loved Tea Dance that I missed.  Lyndsey Bennett got in touch with some details which took me on a journey that ended with me finding this video of a Sunday dance in December last year.

 

The video tells you a lot about what you can expect at Flava.  Firstly it’s very popular.  I spotted this posting on the Flava Facebook Page:

BIG thanks to everyone who contributed and attended Ceroc South Wales festive FLAVA! A great turn out, the weather did not beat us Wales, Bristol, the Midlands, Thames Valley, Plymouth, Somerset and Llandeilo – you all came.

That people travel a long way to some of these Tea Dances is becoming more apparent.  The other thing the video tells us is something about the style of music and dancing.  The dancing reminded me very much of The late Night SILC Zone at the Ceroc Southport Weekender, rather than a Blues Room.

I’m becoming increasingly interested in how the concept of ‘dancing in the slot’ is being adopted across the country, and the video shows notably more people dancing in this contemporary style than in many of the venues I visit in The Midlands and The North.  (more about Dancing in The Slot later)

The video features three tracks that again suggest that this is more a SILC/Smooth Jive freestyle than a Blues one.  The track that is featured for most of the video is Nobody by Siia.

This track is becoming a Chill-out favourite. I first heard this track when I reviewed Nicola Di Folco’s SILC Zone set at February’s Southport, and Matt Cox also mentioned it in his list of tracks from the Serene Tea Dances.

The other two tracks, Juice by Chromeo and the acoustic version of Strip that down by Liam Payne, also suggest a SILC vibe rather than a Blues one.  However knowing that the music at Flava is spun by DJ Neil Strugnell, I suspect there would have been a few Bluesy tracks thrown in.

Of course Tea Dances are also about cake, so I smiled when I read this additional comment on Facebook:

. . . the cakes were AMAZING thanks to all the Welsh ‘Bake Off’ bakers. Finally, a special mention to poor Collette who did loads of baking, but was snowed in on her mountain top! Maybe bring them Monday night?!

Hearing all about the cakes again has given me an idea.  Every time I go to a Tea Dance I’m going to photograph the cakes.  In September I publish my Top Ten Lists – Top Class, Top Freestyles, Top DJ Playlist, Top Tracks.  I’ve decided to create a new category – My Top 5 Cakes.  I’m deadly serious.

To see the dates for Flava visit The Ceroc South Wales’ Diary

Strictly Ceroc SILC Sunday in Bristol

With the development of Ceroc’s SILC dance syllabus many Ceroc franchises are now using the SILC branding to promote their Sunday Chill-out sessions.  Caine Langford got in touch to ask for a shout out for Strictly Ceroc’s very popular Sunday Tea dance in Bristol.

 

Again I see a pattern that is emerging with Sunday afternoon dancing – there is often a lesson proceeding the freestyle dance session.

In this case it’s a SILC Progressive Level lesson.  The mentioning of this lesson prompts me to offer a few thoughts about SILC, particularly in relation to Tea Dances.

The first thing is to say, that while the music will be suited to the slotted style of SILC, it doesn’t mean that you have to dance in this way.  For me the mentioning of SILC simply indicates a style of music that is both contemporary and slightly slower paced than what we know as Main Room music.

Go back to the three tracks featured in the Flava video.  I think that these give a real flavour of the music you can expect at a SILC dance where ever it’s located.  You won’t hear hi-energy Ceroc classics like Safri Duo’s Played alive (The bongo song), or Edwin Starr’s H.A.P.P.Y. Radio.  Think Justin Timberlake’s Say something or Breathe in by Daddy was a Milkman.

The lesson itself is a SILC Progressive one.  This is the level that comes after the beginner’s Foundation class, but before the more advanced Developmental class.  I asked Caine for a little more detail about the way this workshop is run.

Danni and I dual teach the workshop, and we think of it more like a monthly masterclass that people can regularly attend and still learn new things every time. We start by touching on the 3 SILC foundation fundamentals.

Good to see that the fundamentals are touched on each time.  This will make the lesson and following freestyle accessible for beginners.  Caine went on to explain a little about the moves he and Danni teach:

The moves are a mixture of the SILC progressive syllabus and other moves that suit the slotted style.

I initially struggled with SILC – I could never remember the moves.  I then came at it from a different angle.  I realised that more important than learning the SILC moves was to adopt the idea of ‘Dancing in the slot’.  In fact I was helped with this by a lesson I attended at Southport run by Caine and Danni called Simply Slotted (see link below).

I’ve then used the concept of SILC’s no-push-no-pull opposition to smooth out my slotted style.  Interestingly Caine mentions that his and Danni’s workshop also includes teaching other moves that are suited the slotted style of dancing.

So, think about ‘Dancing in the slot’ before you worry too much about SILC.  The idea of ‘Dancing in the slot’ is slowly gaining ground, particularly in those areas where teachers like  Caine and Danni are offering these kind of workshops.  I suspect that as a result a large proportion of dancers at the Bristol Tea Dances will be dancing in a slotted style.

Caine also tells me that he DJs the freestyle himself.  Remember Matt Cox also teaches and DJ’s for his Serene dances.  I love the idea of teachers being the DJ.  It ensures that every track passes the suitability test.  Not surprising then that the feedback to Strictly Ceroc’s SILC Sunday on Facebook included references to Caine’s fabulous music:

The best dance event I’ve been to in at least five years . . . extraordinary range of music, a wonderful set of dancers and cake to die for.

Fabulous time at SILC this afternoon.  Scrummy cakes & your music was awesome.

This Tea Dance has grown in popularity and Caine tells me that they have had to add an additional room to cope with the number of dancers.  I’ll finish by quoting one more glowing comment – you’ll see why in a moment.

First time I’ve been able to make it here, fabulous afternoon.  Great music and dancers.  I’d heard good things about this event, and it deff lived up to its reputation . . . and OMG the cakes.

‘Oh my God the cakes!’  Caine tells me he was once a chef and bakes all the cakes himself.  Like I said above, as I travel round to as many Tea Dances as I can this summer, I am going to photograph the cakes so I can select the best.  Here’s Caine with his own entry.

For more details about SILC Sunday visit the Strictly Ceroc Bristol Facebook Page

Sunday Afternoon Delight, Northchurch

I’ll finish this article in the same way I started, with a brief look at another Ceroc Beds & Bucks Sunday event.

You’ll remember I started this feature on Tea Dances after I got a chance to visit Ceroc Beds & Bucks’ Te Amo Workshop and Tea Dance (see link below).  Marc and Rachel who run Ceroc Beds and Bucks alternate Te Amo with Sunday Afternoon Delight at Northchurch in Buckinghamshire.

Looking at the description above the event is a two room affair, with a structured timetable in the second smaller room, starting with a tango lesson and culminating in an hour of Blues.  Here’s Rachel comparing it to Te Amo:

The set-up at Northchurch is a bit different to Te Amo, as we have two rooms there (albeit a very small – ‘cosy’ – second room) with a scheduled music policy.

We had a great event there last Sunday with a larger than normal turnout.

 I started this article by suggesting I had underestimated the coverage of Tea Dances.  I also, it seems under estimated just how popular they are.

Acknowledgments

I’d like to thank the following people who responded to my requests for more information – John Dunlop, Matt Cox, Lyndsey Bennett and Caine Langford.  My thanks also to Rachel Pears who is always happy to contribute to my articles.

Related Articles 

Read my first article Sunday Tea Dances grow in popularity

Read my review of Caine & Danni’s Southport Simply Slotted Class

Read my review of Te Amo Role Reversal Class

Read my review of Te Amo Role Smooth Moves Workshop

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.