The Dance Gang hits the road

Last weekend there was no dancing in the Nottingham area, so I did what I always do, and went on to the UK Jive Website.  I scrolled down the listings for Saturday, looking for a venue I hadn’t been to before.  That’s when I spotted The Northern Jive Barnsley freestyle at Worsbrough.  I was immediately in touch with the Dance Gang:

Who fancies a Road Trip on Saturday.  It’s about an hour and a quarters drive and the DJ is Kerry Bayley, so the musics going to be fabulous.

I’m a great fan of Kerry’s music, having reviewed it three times last year.  It would be interesting to see what my four other Dance Gang friends thought of it.

A Celebration of a long standing venue

The freestyle at Worsbrough was also a special night to celebrate the 10th Anniversary of Modern Jive dancing at this venue.  Northern Jive Barnsley is run by Ken and Cath – the evening also co-insided with Cath’s birthday, so it was a double celebration.  Ken and Cath started running Modern Jive lessons here ten years ago and were soon putting on freestyles too.

I’ve long been a supporter of dance organisations that run classes as well as freestyles.  Without the network of classes there would be no freestyle scene for us to enjoy.  I suspect that a lot of the people in the room had learned their first moves at these lessons.

This freestyle was busy from the word go

Talking with people it soon became clear that Ken and Cath are held in high regard in this area and this explains the great turnout.  When we walked in to the room at ten past eight, the room and dance floor were already busy.  I understand that there were well over a hundred people in attendance and it made for a great atmosphere from the word go.  My recommendation to my friends was looking a sound one.

My friends loved the music mix

As my friends and I travelled up the M1 Motorway, conversation soon turned to dance music.  My friends are avid dancers and like everyone always have an opinion about the music.  Within the first thirty minutes they were happy to tell me that they could understand my enthusiasm for DJ Kerry’s music.

They quickly appreciated the freshness of Kerry’s playlist and the variety of styles she drew from.  Here are a few of the early evening tracks that impressed my friends.  They came from so many different dance music genres.

There was the thumping 2009 club track from David Guetta and Kelly Rowland, When Love Takes Over, and in contrast Michael Buble with Some kind of wonderful.  There were picks from the ’60s including the Elgins’ Motown masterpiece Heaven must have sent you and then more up to date tracks like Clean Bandit’s Symphony and the Robin Shultz remix of Ed Sheeran’s Recent No 1 Perfect.

Kerry spins a Stax classic

One of Kerry’s early evening tracks is a real favourite of mine.  It’s the modern reworking of a ’60s hit from the legendary Stax studios.  I remember as a young lad dancing to the Wilson Pickett original, but the 1991 version from the sound track of the film The Commitments is much better suited to Modern Jive.

Be warned.  This next track is fast

I love that Kerry visits all these different styles of music.  It wasn’t long before Kerry gave us some rock ‘n’ roll inspired music from 1994, but it came with a warning.  I love it when DJs give us a little bit of commentary throughout the night, and Kerry made me smile when she announced:

I must warn you that this next track is very fast

You’re right Kerry it is fast, and that’s why I was so pleased that my Dance Gang friends had come along, because it meant I could ask my regular dance partner to join me on the floor for this rockin’ track.  We had a fabulous dance, and so impressed was Jo with the song, that she asked me for the details.  It’s The Tractors Baby likes to rock it (like a boogie woogie choo choo train). 

I chat with Ken about running successful freestyles

Kerry’s fabulous music wasn’t the only reason that the room was rocking.  It was obvious that Ken and Cath’s own passion for dancing had a lot to do with the joy being experienced out on the dance floor.  I was pleased that Ken gave me time to chat about what makes a successful freestyle:

I’ve always believed that when we put on a freestyle, we are providing more than just dancing.  When people go out on a Saturday night they want something more than a few good dances.

What they want above all else is to have a good time.  Good music helps, but the friendliness of the people is also very important.  Myself and Cath have always done our best to ensure that people have a great night out.

Ken is right – it is more than just dancing.  The friendliness of Modern Jive dancing is what in the end will sustain it.  In our chat we discussed how Modern Jive is so much more sociable than Ballroom dancing, where couples tend to dance with each other.  I love that everybody asks everybody else to dance at Modern Jive, and as a rule nobody refuses their offer.

Kerry’s music is fresh every time

I understand if DJs have their favourite tracks, and want to spin them occasionally.  What amazes me is that apart from the current crop of dance favourites, like the aforementioned Symphony, Kerry rarely seems to play the same tracks when ever I get to dance to her music.

As I said above I’ve reviewed Kerry’s playlists three times in the past year and I only spotted three non current tracks she’d played before. Considering I’d danced to over twelve hours of Kerry’s music that’s pretty impressive.

One of these tracks that Kerry had brought out before (at Tadcaster) was Sunchyme by Dario G.  This is one of my all time favourite Modern Jive tracks, and I know lots of other people love it too, so Kerry feel free to play it any time.

A reworking of an old track really impresses

Not picking from a narrow list of favourites means that Kerry has plenty of time to play fresh new tracks, and that means I’m guaranteed to hear something completely new that I will love.  One  track made a particular impression on me.  It’s a modern reworking of the ‘60s Nina Simone track Feeling good by Huff and Herb.

For the first minute the tracks is a beautiful bluesy journey, but you sense something is going to happen, and sure enough it explodes in to a full on club style track, that takes you on a trance inducing ride with some wonderful electronic effects.  The song takes another break with the same bluesy feel, but you know its just a chance to chill out a little, before the electronic energy implodes again.  Loved it.

Let the dancers relive their younger days

One of my lastest crusades is to ask DJs to reflect the age of the dancers out on the floor, and play some (though not too many) tracks from their younger days, when they first set foot on the dance floor. The age range on Saturday night suggested that quite a few people started their dance journeys in The ‘60s and Kerry’s playlist pleasingly reflected this at times.

There was the occasional foray in to a The Motown back catalogue – really enjoyed Stoned love from the Supremes – and a classic track from rival Stax – Green Onions by the studio house band Booker T & The MGs.

There were also tracks from Roy Orbison and The Beatles.  I’ll feature the Roy Orbison track, which has a lovely bouncy Rock ‘n’ Roll rhythm, that is not too fast, and it certainly went down well on the dance floor

I avoided the temptation of the fabulous spread of food

I’m still trying to dance off the calories from the festive season – it’s amazing how I keep finding Christmas chocolate biscuits in cupboards, so you can perhaps excuse me from not indulging in the fabulous spread of food, that included Cath’s birthday cake.  Most people must have long finished off the festive season goodies, because the food proved very popular.

In the meantime I was dancing to a favourite that I’ve not heard for a while.  Love is the music by FR, featuring Jenny B, was really popular about four years ago, but I don’t remember hearing it lately.  Kerry picked out the Club Mix.  It was just great to hear it again.  Hopefully it won’t completely disappear and other DJ will bring it out now and again

This is a friendly venue – ask the girls

When you are new to a venue, you can quickly realise that you recognise very few faces.  So it was on Saturday night.  As a man you just have to get stuck in, and hope that your offers of a dance are accepted with a smile.  Well, they certainly were on Saturday night, and I soon got  a sense that this was a very friendly venue.

It’s not so easy for the ladies to ask though.  I know Modern Jive encourages women to ask the men, but not every women is completely comfortable with this, and I was curious to see how my three lady friends from Nottingham would get on.  Here’s my regular dance partner Jo:

I recognised a couple of faces when I walked in, but neither of the other two had that advantage.  It helped enormously that we had gone as a group, and so were assured of some dances from Paul and John.  We girls were also happy to sit, and chat whilst watching the dance floor

A couple of us are reasonably comfortable with asking and did so from early on.  We were accepted graciously and enjoyed our dancing.  As the evening wore on, we received more and more invitations to dance, many of them from chaps we had originally asked – which was really nice.  We had a very enjoyable evening.  Many thanks to those chaps who made us feel so welcome and shared our dances.

 It seems that Ken and Cath have indeed created a friendly venue.  Not surprising really as I noticed both Ken and Cath trying to get round to chat with as many people as possible.

Kerry’s music kept the dance floor packed

I know that Kerry regularly DJs at this venue, and has quite a following in this part of Yorkshire, and I suspect that the fact she was spinning the tracks helped swell the numbers on Saturday night.  One thing I know for sure, is that she pitched her playlist perfectly, because the floor was packed from eight thirty until we left at half past eleven – I bet it was still packed as the last track was played.

There is so much of Kerry’s music I’d like to feature, but the ever increasing word count means I’ll only have space to mention two more.  The first is Sleep walking by Lissie.  This track, with it’s Country & Western feel, has a perfect rhythm for Modern Jive.  It’s got a catchy lyric and it was a joy to dance to.  I can’t help wonder where Kerry comes across great tracks like this, but then that’s a sign of a good DJ.

When necessary Kerry slowed it down

Because of the numbers the dance floor was very busy, and Kerry had to keep slowing the pace down, so that we all didn’t get too excited.  Kerry played a great mix of slower tracks, again from all parts of the dance music archives.  From The ’60s came Sam Cooke Wonderful world and from The ’70s George McCree’s Rock your baby, but my favourite was one straight out of the charts – Paloma Faith’s Crybaby.

Earlier I talked about playing tracks from our teenage years, but those tracks need to be balanced by more contemporary tracks.  I have  a saying that ‘You are only as old as the music you dance to’ and I loved the fact that I had the chance to dance to the Paloma Faith track.

From the moment this track starts you can easily connect to its strong, if gentle beat.  The instrumentation is so contemporary, and its no wonder its proving to be a very popular Modern Jive number.

Pudsey is next on the list

Sadly we had to leave before the end as it was a long trip home, but we all enjoyed it so much, that we have vowed to make a pilgrimage to Northern Jive Barnsley’s other freestyle venue at Pudsey Civic hall, near Leeds.  I have been told about this venue many times, and there is really no excuse now, but to put it near the top of my list of venues to review.  Here’s Ken again:

We’d love to see you all at Pudsey Civic Hall.  It’s one of the premier venues in the area, and it attract around two hundred dancers every time.  The freestyles are held on the 1st and third Saturday of every month.

I know that Kerry DJs this venue alternatively with Cath.  Perhaps we should try to go when Cath is behind the decks.  Who ever is spinning the tracks, I’m sure it’s going to be another great night.