My 2016/17 Modern Jive Highlights
It’s a year since I started my modern jive blog, and in that time I’ve danced on average three times a week. I must have visited over fifty different Modern Jive venues and written reviews on most of them. That’s a lot of dancing and a lot of writing.
With this in mind I thought readers might be interested in hearing about my highlights of the past year, and so I’ve decided to publish a Top 5 Picks in four categories – Best Classes, Best Freestyles, Best Music Track and Best DJ playlist. In this first part I list my Top 5 Classes
The Top 5 Classes
The sustainability of this wonderful dance scene relies on new people joining the ranks. This means that class nights are vitally important and so I’ve made it my aim to visit a fair number. It’s also important that the more experienced of us have the facilities and teaching to improve our dancing skills, and so in this list I’ve also considered workshops and weekender classes.
No 5 Ceroc Heaven: SILC in 6
I’ve long wanted to be able to dance to chilled music. Unfortunately I’ve never really got Blues dancing, as I’ve always been uncomfortable with the close hold thing. About four years ago I did try my hardest to get to grips with West Coast Swing (WCS), another dance format suited to chilled music. WCS isn’t the easiest of dance styles to master and sadly I eventually gave up on it.
When the SILC dance syllabus was launched I did see it as the answer to my prayers, and I would attend the taster classes put on by Ceroc Heaven. Once again I made little progress, even though I participated in a day long workshop. Looking back I don’t think Ceroc really knew the best way to teach it. A lot was made of the compression/release compression technique required at the end of the slot, but there seemed to be little idea of what the actual moves were.
In the summer Ceroc Heaven ran a ‘SILC in 6’ course of three hour lessons, which I signed up for as a last resort. The lessons were taken by Ashley Davis, a very capable dance teacher, with a lot of experience in chilled out styles of dancing. I remember being apprehensive, but suddenly Ashley was teaching us moves as well as technique. We now had what Ashley called a ‘basic move’, in fact we had about four simple moves that strung together could form the basis of a sequence to get you through a three minute song.
While Ashley probably taught us about twenty moves in the six weeks, I only came away with about six. However these were six moves I could do well and more importantly lead my partner in. At last I could now dance to a chilled out track. My moves might be duplicated over and over again, but it looks and feels like dancing. Progress is progress no matter how small, and thanks to Ashley’s lessons I now have a basis to build upon.
No 4 Ceroc Passion: Higham Ferrers
The Ceroc standardised class night format is in my opinion the best way to teach Modern Jive. I’ve been to a lot of very good Ceroc classes, and I’m an advocate for them as being the best place to start your modern jive dance journey. I’ve picked out the Ceroc Passion class at Higham Ferrers because it just ticked every single box.
Firstly it had a nice vibe. The dance hall is a nice size, with plenty of seating around the perimeter and a bar in the corner of the room. I felt very welcome and it was very friendly. Visiting from outside its catchment area I knew no one in the lines of the beginners class, but by the end of the lesson I felt very included.
It just so happened that the week I visited, the regular teacher (Hayley) and DJ (Phil) were on holiday. I have no doubt that the friendliness I experienced was down to their regular weekly input.
In Hayley’s absence the class was taught by Josie Limback. Now Josie is one of the best. There were a lot of recent starters in the beginners’ lines, and Josie’s expert delivery meant that everyone seemed confident with the three move sequence by the end of the lesson.
What also made this lesson stand out for me was the music of stand-in DJ ‘Chad’ Bloomfield. I’d already got ‘Chad’ down as a favourite after he had provided an outstanding playlist at the Ceroc Passion Motown and Soul themed class night at Peterborough a few weeks before.
Once again ‘Chad’ played it just right. The playlist was varied and included some real highlights for me, but more importantly it was pitched perfectly for a class with a lot of beginners – something I think is very important.
To read my full review of this class night please follow the link at the bottom of the posting
No 3 Ceroc Heaven: Grange Hall
I attend this class on most Mondays, but I’ve picked out the Cowboys and Indians themed night in the run up to Christmas as one worthy of inclusion in my Top 5 List. One of the traditions of Ceroc Heaven is that the night closest to Christmas has a fun class instead of the normal intermediate class. There is no Beginners refresher class either as everyone, no matter what standard, is invited to join in the fun.
There is also a fancy dress theme and the Ceroc Heaven faithful really go to town. This evening it was Cowboys and Indians and there were some fabulous costumes. To see pictures of the best of these and to read a full review of the class please see the link at the bottom of the posting.
The reason I had to feature this night in my Top 5 was the fun class itself. Kali had choreographed a fabulous routine to a wonderful piece of funky music from Funkstar De Luxe’s Ignition.
Now its very difficult to describe the moves that Kali had us doing but it involved a lot of wiggling-and-a-giggling. It took us all out of our comfort zone, but everybody was up for it, and I’ve never heard so much laughter in the lines of a lesson. If there is one time to go a little bonkers on the dance floor it’s Christmas.
No 2 Ceroc Escape: Simply Slotted
My runner up selection was actually a workshop from Ceroc’s Southport Weekender in June. This was an excellent class in itself, but I’ve picked it out because it marked the beginning of my own ‘Dancing in the Slot’ Journey. For all my experience I always struggled with the idea of dancing in the slot – I just didn’t have the right moves or technique.
I’d also long realised that one of the best ways to dance to Chilled Out music tracks was to dance in a ‘Slotted’ fashion, and for this reason I had tried to get to grips with the SILC dance syllabus. Sadly I really struggled with SILC and at this stage had given it up as a bad job.
When the programme came out for the Southport June Weekender I spotted this class. Its title ‘Simply Slotted’ seemed just perfect for me and it was. The class, which proved very popular, was taken by Caine and Danni. These two teachers have built quite a reputation for themselves when it comes to performing and teaching this ‘Slotted’ style of smooth jive, and it didn’t take me long to see why.
Caine and Danni are both excellent teachers. They broke the moves down in to easily understood segments, and by the end of the session I could do the four moves with a high degree of fluency. But I got more from this lesson than a few moves – I’d at last fully understood the concept of ‘The Slot’ and this class gave me the confidence to have another go at SILC (see No 5 in this list).
I now regularly dance to chilled out music in a ‘Slotted’ way, mixing Caine and Danni’s moves in with the moves I learned in Ash’s SILC in 6 workshops (see No 5 above). In the past I would have had to sit these slower tracks out, but Caine and Danni kick started me on a journey where I can keep adding to my repertoire of moves, and really enjoy dancing to chilled out music.
To read my full review of Caine and Danni’s class at Southport please follow the link at the bottom of the posting
No 1 Ceroc Beds & Bucks: Buckingham
It was a three hour round trip from Nottingham to Buckingham, for what was just three hours of dancing. Was I mad to drive so far? Not really because I knew I was in for a treat.
I started my dance journey at The Nottingham Palais at a time when Motown ruled the dance floor. While I love the contemporary music that DJs serve up for us, my Soul Boy roots mean that any DJ who spins a few Motown and ’70s Disco Soul tracks will always get extra marks in my reviews.
I understand that Marc Forster was one of the first people to introduce Motown and Soul class nights, when he taught and DJ-ed at Peterborough, so when I spotted this class I couldn’t wait to set the sat Nav for Buckingham.
This class tops my list for many reasons. The first is the warm welcome from Rachel on the door. The venue itself is one of the nicest I’ve danced at, and is very popular. So popular in fact that the dance floor was as busy as a freestyle and the standard of dancing was equally impressive.
But it was after all a class night and the teaching was in the hands of someone who had learnt his craft doing the very same for other franchises. I’m so pleased that Mark and Rachel have their own Ceroc franchise, and on the evidence of this night alone I could see that Beds & Bucks is going from strength to strength.
I have to make one more mention of the music. Mark is a very experienced DJ and he created a great vibe on the dance floor. It was easy to imagine myself back at The Palais in 1973. In amongst all my musical memories, and I suspect a lot of other people’s too, Marc played possibly the greatest Disco Soul anthem ever recorded – McFadden and Whitehead’s Ain’t no stopping us now. I think I sang it all the way back to Nottingham.
In my next posting I’ll be listing my Top 5 Freestyles for the last year
To read more about the classes featured in this Top 5 List please follow the links
No 4 Ceroc Passion, Higham Ferrers: Friendly class with Josie and Chad
No 3 Ceroc Heaven, Grange Hall: Cowboys and Indians have fun with Kali
No 2 Ceroc Scorch Weekender: Caine and Dannie teach me how to dance in The Slot
No 1 Ceroc Bed & Bucks, Buckingham: Marc and Rachel bring back my Motown memories