SILC plays a big part in The Southport Experience

SILC is all over Southport.  There are three different level SILC lessons, and the first of these – Foundation is one of the most popular of the weekend.  Most of the DJ slots in The Boudoir area are now branded as SILC Zone ones, and there are also specialised sessions called SILC Gold, SILC Vibe and SILC Lyrical.

Because of my own interest in SILC, and my ambition to dance to slower more chilled out music, I thought I’d try to give you a perspective on SILC at Southport by sharing some thoughts that developed in my head over and immediately after the weekend.  These musings should give people who are not familiar with SILC some idea of what it’s all about, but they’ll also give me an opportunity to explain where I think SILC fits in to the bigger scheme of chill-out dancing.

But first some chill-out music

It’s the music that is driving the development of smoother dance styles – particularly slower contemporary tracks, so let me start by playing one that hopefully sets a scene of chill-out dancing at The Southport Weekender.

I like me better by Lauv from 2017 is gaining lots of plays on the chill-out circuit, and was chosen by DJ Nicola Di Folco to open her Sunday Night SILC Zone set.  It’s got a soothing catchy vocal, but I love the Tropical House instrumentation that kicks in after each chorus.  It adds a level of musicality that invites you to play with it.

Do we all know what SILC is?

Surely anybody attending a Ceroc Weekender knows what SILC is.  Sorry, it’s not necessarily the case.  It’s worth remembering that not all the people who come to Southport are in the Ceroc fold.  The SILC syllabus was developed by Ceroc, but it was never going to be promoted by the independent dance classes who have their own approach to smooth chill-out dancing.

But there is another reason that many people have never really heard of SILC, and that is because many Ceroc franchises just didn’t really run with it.  They all probably gave it a bit of a try, but many seem to have given up on it.  This idea that not everyone might be familiar with SILC and its slotted style of smooth dancing, was triggered by a conversation I had with a lady dancer, I had met several times on my dance travels.

I’ve no idea where this lady learnt to dance, but I’ve danced with her at three different Ceroc venues.  She is a very proficient dancer, and as I danced with her in The SILC Zone on Saturday afternoon I asked her if she was familiar with SILC.  The fact she answered ‘No’ surprised me, so I asked a follow up question:

How are you at dancing on The Slot?

I got another bemused answer.  I left it there and enjoyed a lovely dance, but it got me thinking.

Why no videos of SILC on Social Media?

The rolling out of SILC was hardly a PR success and it seemed an age before instruction videos were produced.  I remember going to my first SILC taster lessons and there being nothing to look at to refresh my memory as to the techniques and moves.  It’s not an easy technique to master, particularly if you’ve also had little previous instruction in the slotted style of dancing.

Once the instruction videos came out I wondered if they might leak online and give us all an opportunity to dip in to them.  They didn’t.  I can see why Ceroc might want to protect the teaching content of the videos, but it’s a very dated approach to marketing, particularly in an age where can stream what ever music we want for free, and instruction videos for all the other dance formats are available on YouTube.

I’ve written many articles about SILC in the past and everyone has been devoid of any video content.  I’m surprised that Ceroc didn’t at least produce a brief teaser video of someone dancing up and down the slot in the smooth SILC style.

Just think the number of times Ceroc franchises could have used such a video to promote their SILC Classes and Workshops.

Social media outlets like my own blog could have made great use a video like this to promote this modern style of Ceroc dancing

Without any video I’ll struggle to explain just what SILC is.  Thankfully I came across a video on YouTube featuring Steve Thomas and Tamara Domb from a Camber Sands Teacher Cabaret.  While not exactly SILC, the video gives you a very good idea of what the smooth contemporary style of dancing looks like.

The backing track is Sexual by Sean Reynolds featuring Red from 2016

Dancing in The SILC Zone is a fusion of styles

What you see in the video of Steve and Tamara is not pure SILC, but there are elements of SILC fused together with lots of other smooth jive styles.  What strikes me about Steve’s dance style is the way he constantly opens up the slot for Tamara to move smoothly and gracefully up and down the dance floor.

I’ve long wanted to wanted to dance like that, and to be able to offer my lady partner the opportunities to move smoothly and elegantly up and down The Slot.  I suspect I’m not alone.

I’m equally sure that many ladies will want to learn to dance in the same free flowing style as Tamara.

When you stand watching the dancing in The SILC Zone, you soon realise that there are very few people dancing in a pure SILC way.  Most are doing their own thing, but just like Steve and Tamara the good ones make it look beautifully smooth.  Most are dancing on the slot, but not exclusively.  There are people mixing in Blues moves too.  What you see in the SILC Zone really is a fusion of a lot of different styles of smooth dancing.

The people dancing outside The SILC Zone are all doing their own version of smooth dancing

The music is a good place to start

Many first timers to Southport stand in awe as they watch the dancers in the SILC Zone.  It was the same for me, and it’s only recently that I’ve gained the confidence to dance in this area.  The SILC Zone can be a little intimidating for inexperienced dancers, and sadly many people never get the confidence to dance there.  So where do you start?

An obvious place is at a SILC Class, or alternatively at what many independent dance organisations call Smooth Jive Classes.

But can I suggest that you start with the music.  The music in The SILC Zone is generally thought of as slower music than that heard in the adjacent Thunderball Room, or at the main room freestyles that most of us are familiar with.  The music has a more contemporary flavour and the DJs tend to play tracks from the last ten years with the majority often from the past two or three.

The music gave me my motivation

It was my desire to dance to this much slower modern music, with its modern instrumentation and sometimes funkier rhythms, that was my motivation to learn to dance in the smoother slotted style.  I’ve made a lot of progress, but when ever I struggled or seemed to go backwards, I would simply remind myself how wonderful the music was.

I know some people don’t necessarily like the more contemporary styles of music.  I can understand that, but I think it’s important that you enjoy the slower and funkier types of music.

It’s worth immersing yourself in chill-out music.  It will grow on you.  My love of this music was certainly my motivation to keep on trying to develop my dancing.

This love of contemporary chilled music also took hold of my regular dance partner Jo.  Like myself Jo realised that her regular Ceroc moves just didn’t work with this modern music.

Music was changing and I realised I needed and wanted to keep developing my dancing.

That both of us wanted to learn to dance to this slower music, meant we could accompany each other on the same dance journey.

A track I wasn’t equipped to dance to

Here’s another track from The Southport Weekender.  It was played by Ashley Davis during his Friday night SILC Zone set.  When I first came to Southport, it was tracks like Body Like A Back Road by Sam Hunt from 2017, that made me realise that I wasn’t equipped to dance to them.

My main room moves, even slowed down, just wouldn’t work.  The thing is, I love everything about this tracks contemporary vibe.  It is as laid back as hell, but has a strong beat that is so easy to connect with.  No wonder I had to learn to dance to tracks like this.

Let’s hear it for the DJs

Before I go any further I want to give a shout out to all the DJs, who ply their trade in the SILC Zone.  There were thirteen DJs on duty over the last Southport weekend, and that doesn’t include the ones who put their names down for a thirty minute ‘Sack the DJ’ slot.  These guys and gals spend serious amounts of time finding great fresh tracks for us to dance to, and it’s a mark of their endeavours that there is very little duplication.

My reviews of Southport are littered with examples of the wonderful music I’ve heard in the SILC Zone, and even if you aren’t going to dance there, it’s worth just listening to the DJs sets.   No matter who is on the decks you’ll get yourself a wonderful musical education.

My favourites include Ashley, Nicola and Vince

I have many favourites, and Ashley Davis and Nicola Di Folco always seem to get plenty of mentions at the moment, but I would recommend that everyone takes the time to spend some time in the SILC Zone when Vince Silva is on the decks.  Vince has built himself an enviable reputation on the Chill-out circuit in the south of the country and it’s easy to see why.

Vince is very protective of his playlist, but I feel compelled to feature one of his tracks from his late Sunday night.  The track has a lovely gentle beat with a country feel that was so easy to dance to.  This is not a funk infused track, and their is no thumping bass line, you could even say it’s rather pretty, but the song has something else that makes it worthy of consideration.

As the song slowly builds to its climax it generates a wonderful feeling of wellness and is a perfect example of how chilled dance music can create joyous feelings as strong as uptempo main room sounds.  Beautiful tracks like Beulah’s Sweet Kinda’ Something are the reason why I had to learn a new style of dancing.  Like I said – the music is a great place to start.

I get confirmation of my view of the dancing

One evening at Southport I had a lovely slotted dance with a lady in the outside area of The SILC Zone.  After the dance we got chatting about my blog, and I asked her about her own smooth dance journey.  She first explained that The SILC Zone was her favourite place to dance:

The Boudoir (Queen Vic) is the place I am happiest in at Southport.  The music varies during the day and into the night.  I tend to love it all.

The next bit I found particularly interesting.  The lady went on to talk about the guys, who also dance mainly in The SILC Zone:

The dancers who tend to dance there make it for me.  I feel they are not dancing SILC, Blues or even a slow form of Modern Jive, but more a fusion of many dance styles including West Coast Swing, Tango and Bachatta.

The dance is not based on ‘moves’ or style but is strongly dictated by the music, and the dancers are more expressive and free.

I like mixing it up.  Whatever the music and partner dictates, I guess I just aim to follow and have fun.

This was confirmation of my view that what we see in The SILC Zone is indeed a fusion of dance styles.  I’ll talk later about the influence West Coast Swing, but it’s interesting that the lady also includes Tango in her list of dance formats that people bring in to their chill-out dancing.

Is it more difficult for the guys?

I then asked the lady what dance classes had prepared her for her excursions in to the SILC Zone with its smoother styles of dancing.  It seems she simply threw herself in to it.  That’s something I could never have done, but I suspect her experience may well be shared by a few other lady dancers:

I haven’t been to any Blues or SILC classes, so I don’t think I could spot a SILC dancer.  If one was to dance with me he’d probably work that out quite quickly.

It’s interesting that, like the lady I spoke about earlier, she had no real concept of the SILC style.  I’m sure that many ladies develop their smoother dancing by simply jumping in, and let the men lead them through the different styles.   I know that many ladies don’t have the confidence to be so brave, but more on that later.  Perhaps it’s a bit harder for men though, as we have to lead the moves.

What held me back was the worry that I just didn’t have enough moves to get through a dance without too much repetition.  I’d watch the ladies being led through the dances by accomplished male dancers, and just feel that a dance with myself would be a little boring to say the least.  I know many men are put off dancing in The SILC Zone for similar reasons.

More music please

Before I start to give my thoughts about how best to start your smooth dance journey, it’s perhaps an opportune time to listen to another example of the chill-out music that the DJs serve up for our dancing pleasure.  Here’s a track that is at the other end of the scale to the Vince Silva’s Beulah track.   It featured in Neil Strugnell’s late night slot on the final Sunday night.

Bikini Body by Dawin has a rawer contemporary feel, and is packed with modern R&B and funk vibes that get to every part of your dance brain.  It’s the type of track that I suspect gets pulled out at musicality classes, because it is packed with breaks and changes of tempo that expressive dancing is a slave to.

Start with The Slot not SILC

So what lessons should you start with?  Of course if you are at Southport, then it makes a lot of sense to do the first Foundation SILC class. but I want to make a suggestion that I think will help inexperienced dancers get more out of this SILC lesson:

Start with The Slot.  Start by picking out those dancers in the SILC Zone who are dancing in a slotted style.

Watch how the men open up the slot to allow their lady partners to move up and down an imaginary track.  Notice how occasionally the men block the ladies progress down the slot, and how this allows each some time to play with the music.

Get a sense of the smooth flowing nature of the dance style.  Note that there is little pushing and pulling, or stirring that we associate with the regular Ceroc style of dancing.

Now, when you attend that first SILC lesson, see SILC not as a separate dance format, but as a series of techniques that will help you learn to dance to slower music in a slotted fashion.

I thought that SILC was a different dance genre

Now I make the SLOT – BEFORE – SILC point because I hope it will help people, new to chill-out dancing, avoid the mistake I made.  When SILC came out it seemed to be presented as a new style of dancing, quite separate from Ceroc, in the same way that West Coast Swing is very different. Perhaps that was not the intention, but it was my perception.

Sadly I think it was the perception of many people, and that’s one of the reasons that it failed to gain traction in many parts of the country.  The point was made that here was a dance style that was suited to slower chilled out music, and it’s a reason that lots of us signed up to the taster lessons and workshops.

Because I thought SILC was a completely new dance format, I felt I needed to learn enough moves that I could put together in to a three minute routine.  That was never going to happen.  It can take weeks to perfect a new move.  Just think how long it took us all to learn enough basic Ceroc moves to get through a track in our beginners class without too much repetition and mistakes.

SILC is a technique to help smooth your dancing out

What should have happened was that SILC was presented as a technique to smooth out your regular dancing.  We all know the Travelling Return move.  All we needed to do was SILC-ify it and we had a smooth style move.  It’s the same with the Ceroc Spin.  He all had loads of moves, that we could smooth out and dance on the slot, but this was never mentioned in the early days of SILC.

SILC needed one more factor to have a chance of success – some proficiency with the slotted style of dancing.  SILC seems to have been adopted better in those franchises that had already taught the idea of slotted dancing.  Sadly most of us dance in a rotational style, and there is often little mention of the slotted style of dancing even in intermediate classes.

As I’ve travelled round on my Tea Dance Tour of Sunday dance venues I’ve noticed that there are SILC or Smooth Jive Hot Spots.  It seems that these areas where SILC has got established always had a Slotted bias in their lessons.  I’ve noted one other thing.  SILC seems to have taken off in those areas that have a tradition of West Coast Swing – a dance format that is based round a slotted style of dancing.

Time for more music me thinks

I’ll leave my musings about the roll out of SILC alone for a moment.  Best to have some more music me thinks.

As DJs search round for new music, one rich vein is to seek out reworkings or remixes of old tracks.  Dionne Warwick’s ’60s classic Walk on by has been given a new lease of life by Seal.  However DJ Ian (Sorry Ian I don’t know your surname) featured a fabulous 2017 Master S&K remix of the song  during his ‘Sack the DJ’ slot on Saturday, just before Swingers Hour.

Seal’s soulful vocal delivery gives new life to this catchy tune, but its the modern instrumental injections that give it the necessary contemporary vibe for a fabulous chill-out track.

The starter SILC lessons are a must

Having understood that SILC is a technique to help smooth out your dancing let’s take a look at the lessons on offer.  The Southport programme offers three levels of SILC lessons.  Forget the third Developmental one unless you are very experienced, but the first two – Fundamental and Progressive are a must.  This Southport, the baton of teaching SILC was passed to Ashley Davis, who teaches at The Ceroc Heaven classes I attend in Nottingham.

I’m very appreciative of the help Ashley’s given me in the past.  Last year my smooth slotted dance journey really got going, when I attended a SILC in 6 course of lessons, that Ashley taught in Nottingham.  Looking back, I think that the teachers needed time to work out the best way to explain the SILC techniques.  Ashley is one of the teachers who has really got to grips with the way to teach SILC, and I was pleased to see him get his chance on the main teaching stage.

The first Fundamental SILC lesson is always one of the most popular of The Thunderball Room classes and this photo from the stage shows that Ashley’s lesson proved as popular as previous times.  You can spot me near the front inviting my partner to set off down the slot.

The guys open up the slot for their lady partners to move smoothly down it.  This view from the stage shows how popular the SILC class was

Ashley gets across the fundamentals

It’s not the aim of this article to review Ashley’s lesson, but I’ll mention one thing that really pleased me:

At the start of the lesson Ashley explained that more than anything, SILC was a technique that would help you smooth out your general dancing.

I only wish I had heard this when SILC was first rolled out, instead of me getting the impression that it was a new way of dancing.

As I danced with a new lady partner every time they moved one partner up the line, I got the impression that they were all slowly picking up the basic techniques.  This is how I have understood three of the main fundamentals of SILC:

The idea that SILC is performed on the slot

That the lady should wait to be invited to move down the slot by the man releasing compression in the hand hold

That the lady should always be given time to settle at the end of the slot, with her weight on her back placed right foot.

Ashley has a wonderful fun approach to his teaching, and aided by his regular SILC demo Jo, his Foundation class gave everyone a good place to start their Smooth Chill-out dance journey.

What happens next?

I understand that not everyone in that first SILC lesson was necessarily on a dance journey like myself and Jo.  For many people the lessons are just part of the fun of the Weekender experience.  Even if you never do the things you have been shown in the class, it will have been both a challenge and a lot of fun.

I know that a lot of people use the lessons as an ice-breaker, with the aim of  meeting new people and hopefully recognising them later in the evening freestyle sessions and enjoying a dance together.

Later that same afternoon Ashley and Jo did the next level up Progressive class.  In between I made sure that I spent some time in The SILC Zone to practice the moves Ashley had taught.

I couldn’t help wonder whether other people from that first Foundation class lesson had done the same thing.

In the second lesson one of my partners was a lady, who I recognised from the first lesson.  I asked her whether she’d got a chance to practice the moves from the first lesson in The SILC Zone.  The answer was a polite ‘No’.

The lady had done really well in that first lesson, and I thought it a shame that she’d not been able to try out her new techniques on the dance floor itself.  Of course she may simply have been at the lessons for the social and fun experience, but it got me thinking.  Just how easy is it for a person with just one or two SILC classes under their belt to get themselves on to the floor and to do the dance for real?

The SILC GOLD playlist

Before I give some attention to the challenge of making the leap from the lesson to the dance floor, let me take a break for some more music.  The majority of the music played in the SILC Zone is very contemporary.  There are two possible reasons for this.  The first is that much of today’s music has a beat and instrumentation perfect for a smooth chill-out dance.

The second reason is the age of the dancers in The SILC Zone.  As a group they are noticeably younger than the demographic that you find in the main Thunderball Room.

It’s a bit of a chicken and egg thing.  Are the younger people in the SILC Zone because of the contemporary music, or is the music very current because of the age of the dancers?

What ever the reason, the DJs in The SILC Zone seem driven to fill their playlists with great new music, and this can mean that some of the tracks that were favourites a few years back get little exposure.  The SILC GOLD slot at eight o’clock on the Sunday is an opportunity to dig out some of these well loved tracks from the past, and give them another spin.

This time round DJ Tim Sant got the chance to play some of these slightly older tracks and I picked this one out as one of my favourites.  It’s from 2009 and it has a much lighter feel than the often heavily laden contemporary tracks with their Tropical House instrumentation.  The gentler acoustic instrumentation of Come on get higher allows the melodic vocals of singer Matt Nathanson to stand out and create a beautiful relaxed dance track.

Experienced dancers want to help

Time and again Southport first timers talk about watching in awe at the dancers in The SILC Zone, and admit that they find the idea of asking for a dance a little intimidating.  I felt the same, but I want to make the point that experienced dancers actually want to help beginners.  The Ceroc dance community is very friendly and everyone remembers what it was like to be a beginner, and the experienced dancers want to put something back by helping out.

After Tim Sant’s Developmental Level 3 SILC lesson – I merely watched, I might add – he kept the music playing, so that people could take the opportunity to practise the techniques and moves they’d been taught in the lesson.  A few people did indeed take this opportunity.  In amongst a group of people, who were trying things out, I noticed Andrea Twamley.

I keep to the very basic moves

Andrea is a medal winning dancer and I’ve watched her many times in the Southport Teachers Showcase during the Saturday night Cabaret.  Andrea is an exceptional dancer and dazzles every time she takes to the floor in these showcases.  I’d recently met Andrea in the lines of an excellent beginners SILC class taught by Caine Langford and Danni Moore in Bristol.

I was impressed that Andrea had joined the lesson to help out the less experienced dancers like myself.  That gave me the confidence to invite Andrea to dance there and then.  As we walked on to the dance floor I asked if I could try out the moves I’d learnt in Ashley’s lessons.  I stuck to the basic moves that Ashley and Jo had demonstrated, always trying to remember the fundamental techniques.

Keep on the slot Paul, and allow Andrea free passage to move up and down it.  Try not to pull Andrea, but invite her to move down the slot by releasing opposition, and ensure she has time to settle on her back placed right foot.

I kept repeating the basic moves adding in a few simple smooth moves I’d picked up along the way.  It worked, and Andrea moved with graceful fluidity up and down the slot.

I tell this story to remind everyone that there is no better way to improve than to dance with someone who is a lot better than yourself.  Thank you Andrea, you made me look and feel like a reasonable smooth dancer.

Dance with a regular partner

Of course the easiest way to get some practise is to dance with a regular partner.  Myself and my regular dance partner Jo went to five of Ashley’s SILC in 6 classes last summer.  When we came to the next Southport Weekender we tried out our techniques and moves together as much as we could.  At that stage I was never confident to ask a stranger to dance in The SILC Zone.

Many people come to Southport with people they know, and this can be a great help when trying to find someone you feel comfortable with to practice with.  But many people find themselves without that luxury and its a reason that they aren’t able to fully follow up the lessons with some real time practice.

Jay’s video shows some lovely smooth dancing

Before I suggest ways that people can follow up on their SILC lessons it’s worth watching a video of the dancing at September’s Weekender.  The video was lovingly put together by Jay C Low.  It actually shows dancing in both The SILC Zone and the larger adjacent Thunderball Room.

The first one and a half minutes of footage were shot in and outside the SILC Zone, and it shows the mash up of styles that have evolved to accompany contemporary chill-out music.  What comes over is that the ladies get a much smoother dance experience and the best leads give them opportunities to indulge in some fabulous ladies styling.

My thanks to Jay for giving me permission to use his video.

The backing track is 2002 by Anne-Marie from 2018

So who do you ask?

The brave of course will ask a stranger to dance, but here-in lies another problem.  As you can see from Jay’s video, dancing in The SILC Zone is a fusion of styles, with everyone doing their own version of smooth chill-out dancing.  Very few people are doing what we might call pure SILC, and you would be hard pressed to spot anyone doing the moves that were taught in the first SILC Fundamentals lesson.  So who do you ask when you are inexperienced?

I think you have to remember that SILC is just one element of the smoother chill-out dance style.  So don’t expect to find someone who is an exclusive SILC dancer, however most will have an understanding of the techniques and moves that you’ve been shown in the lesson.

Ladies, know that the techniques you learnt in your SILC lesson will help you sync with your lead’s smooth technique, and that you will recognise some of the moves.

Guys know that the ladies will appreciate that you are opening up the slot for them, and regardless of whether you know many moves they will love that you give them a smooth dance.

It may be worth explaining you are a bit of a novice at smooth dancing – there’s probably no need to mention the SILC word though.  Remember many of the experienced dancers may never have been to a SILC class themselves.  It’s just smooth slotted dancing to them.

Jo knew she wanted to dance with other people

I’ve accompanied my regular dance partner Jo to many SILC and Slotted dance classes, and we would practice together whenever we heard chilled tracks at the freestyles we were attending.  This gave us both a good grounding, but Jo soon realised that she would have to dance with new people if her dancing was to develop, but the first thing she did was watch the dances in the SILC Zone very carefully:

I always loved watching the dancers in The SILC Zone, and I would try to work out how they were dancing.

I also looked for friendly faces that I could ask to dance.  People who didn’t appear to take it too seriously and didn’t seem to mind when their partners went wrong

When I did dance with someone new I felt a great sense of achievement and it boosted my confidence.

Remember the lady, who told me that she had never been to any SILC or Blues lessons.  She had picked up her smooth dance style simply by following her male lead.  Likewise Jo was developing her own smooth dance style in the same way, but again it wasn’t pure SILC.

How about SILC Taxis?

I suspect that many women have learnt to dance in this way, and I don’t want to knock it.  But is it different for the men, who after all have to lead.  Some men are fearless and will blunder through in the beginning, and their grim determination will see them emerge as good smooth chill-out dancers in the end.

But most men are not so confident, and because many of us have egos that are easily dented (it’s tough being a man sometimes) we chose to play it safe and stand out.  Sadly what we learnt in the lessons is soon forgotten.  I can’t help thinking that there is a case for what I’ll call SILC TAXIS.

Might experienced SILC dancers and even teachers don SILC TAXI T-shirts and offer to join the lines in the SILC Classes.

Might they then spend time in the SILC Zone after the lessons so that they can offer help to people who ask for it.

It’s a system that has been so beneficial to Beginners at class nights.  It could help more of us make the leap from the lines of the SILC lessons to enjoying some wonderful dances in the SILC Zone

I know there will be SILC Zone timetabling implications, and possibly cost ones too, but this would surely give the people from the lessons who are serious about developing their dancing just the support and confidence they need.  My dance with Andrea after the lesson gave me a great boost, and surely having confidence is half the battle when it comes to learning new dance styles.

The SILC Lyrical Hour

Not only is the dancing very varied but the music is too.  In the examples I’ve embedded so far I’ve tried to give you a flavour of this music.  Mixed in with deliciously slow vibes are tracks like Bikini Body that have a much heavier modern R&B feel.  However some people love their chill-out music extra chilled, so the Southport programme now includes a SILC lyrical hour on Sunday afternoon.

This Southport Neil Strugnell was behind the decks serving up these super chilled tracks.  I’ve selected the 2018 track Carnation by Yumi Zouma to illustrate just how mellow this music can be.  While Carnation is a little slower than most chill-out tracks, it still has a very strong beat that makes it perfect for a chill-out dance.

Musicality and Expressive moves

When you watch Jay’s video several times you begin to notice clips of ladies expressing themselves to the music, as they reach the end of the slot.  This is another technique that Ashley taught in his Foundation SILC lesson.

When the lady gets to the end of the slot ensure that she is allowed to settle on her back placed right foot. But guys, you don’t have to invite the lady back down the slot immediately.

Wait a few moments and give your lady a chance to play with the music.

This is where all those techniques taught in Lady’s Musicality Classes come in to play.  I soon realised that the ladies love this freedom.  It’s one of the reasons that many women prefer the slotted style of dancing to the regular Ceroc style where they seem to be forever following the man’s lead.

I give myself another challenge

On Saturday afternoon I was enjoying dancing to more wonderful music in The SILC Zone.  While sitting a dance out, I found myself watching a lady taking every opportunity to express herself by playing with the music.  Two years ago I would have just watched in awe and left it at that.

Now I set myself a new challenge.  Still feeling good from my earlier dance with Andrea I asked the lady to dance.   I ensured that I gave the lady, I now know as Helen, plenty of opportunities at the end of the slot to do her own thing.  Helen took every opportunity and then some!  Even as she moved down the slot she found ways to match her flowing movement to the music.

The Smooth style of dancing is forever evolving

When the dance ended I felt compelled to ask Helen about her dance style:

I’m always listening for the breaks or any change of mood in the music .  It’s these that I want to reflect in my movement.

I suppose we all listen to the music, if only to ensure we keep in time with the beat.  But some people are listening more intently than others, and this gives them more opportunities to express what they hear through their movement.  I then asked Helen where she had learnt to dance like this:

I’ve done lots of different styles of dancing, including West Coast Swing and Salsa.  I’ve learnt something from all of them.  I’ve also learnt from the people I dance with.

Once again I was realising that the dancing in The SILC Zone was anything but SILC.  It was indeed a fusion of so many different styles.  But Helen had hinted at something else.  It seemed that the dancers themselves are constantly trying out new things.  The world of Smooth Dancing it seems is forever evolving, and it was dancers like Helen who were ensuring it never stood still.

West Coast Swing shows its influence

Helen had brought my attention once again to West Coast Swing.  This dance style, so named because it was devised on the West Coast of America, was developed around a slotted smoother form of dancing.  Its smoother style became one of the favoured progressions from Ceroc.  The attraction of Ceroc is that it is easy to pick up, but for some people it can soon lose its appeal, and they look to move on to more challenging formats.

West Coast Swing drew a lot of people away from Ceroc, so much so, that it is felt by many people that SILC was developed to stop the drift to West Coast.  Indeed I have often described SILC as West Coast Swing without the triple step.  No wonder then that West Coast has influenced the development of the chill-out dancing we see in The SILC Zone.

If you’ve ever wondered what West Coast Swing looks like, then this video is a fabulous advocate of its smooth free flowing style.  It’s simply titled This is West Coast Swing and it shows you everything you need to know about this smooth dance style.

The backing track is Fire by Gavin DeGraw

I try and fail at West Coast

I first came to Southport before SILC was devised.  I remember asking what the wonderful form of slotted dancing, that I kept seeing in The Boudoir, was called.  The answer was West Coast Swing.  My first attempt to dance in a smoother way was by joining a West Coast Swing Class.  Sadly after six months I gave it up as a bad job, but I learnt enough to recognise that many of the dancers in The SILC Zone are integrating a lot of West Coast Swing in to their dancing.

On Saturday afternoon I had a particularly lovely dance with a lady who would always settle nicely at the end of the slot with impeccable timing.

A little later I caught sight of her dancing with someone else.  She was dancing in the same slotted style, but at she came to the end of the slot I saw her do a Triple Step, or as it’s called in West Coast The Anchor Step.

Once again I found myself watching in awe as the man opened up the slot for her to move up and down it.  The addition of the Triple Step at the end and in the middle of the slot gave her movement a gracious flow that was a joy to watch.  I then noticed that her male partner was wearing a T-shirt advertising a West Coast Swing Club.

SILC Hot Spots have a West Coast Tradition

Regular readers of my Tea Dance Tour series of reviews will know that I’ve commented that there are SILC Hot Spots around the country.  One of these is Bristol where I visited the SILC Sunday Tea Dance run by Strictly Ceroc’s Caine Langford and Danni Moore.  In trying to understand why Bristol was such a SILC Hot Spot it was explained to me that the city also has a strong West Coast tradition.

I’ll be happy to just crack the SILC style rather than have any ambitions to give West Coast another try, but I’m going to feature one last track as a tribute to my failed attempt at West Coast Swing.  Back to the middle by India Arie was one of the tracks I danced to at my West Coast dance class.  This track was played by Neil Strugnell during his Sunday afternoon SILC Lyrical set.

Hopefully I’ve been helpful

I hope my musings about SILC have been helpful to those people who are still wondering what it’s all about.  I also hope it will help Southport first-timers approach The SILC Zone with a little more confidence.  In this area the DJs play some awesome contemporary music, and the dancers show their appreciation by displaying the very best of the smooth dance styles.

Somewhere in these great displays of dancing, to the very best chill-out music, are the techniques that underpin SILC.  At the next Southport many first-timers will once again stand in amazement at the dancing in this area.  Hopefully they will come to love the music and, like myself and Jo, set themselves the ambition of dancing in this wonderful contemporary way.

A promotional video please

While I’ve described SILC as just one strand of the ever evolving smooth jive genre of dancing, it is a good introduction to the slotted more contemporary way of dancing.  A little more thought is perhaps needed about the way it is perceived by the majority of dancers, and to the way it is marketed.

I can’t help think that a video in the style of This is West Coast Swing, freely available on all the social media platforms, would be a great asset.  Not only would it give people a clearer idea of what it was all about, it would offer the franchises putting on a SILC workshop, class or freestyle a wonderful promotional tool.

One last dance

You’ll remember the lady I met in the two SILC classes, who had not had a chance to practice her SILC moves between lessons.  On the Saturday night I spotted her watching the dancing in The SILC Zone.  As the next track started up I asked her on to the dance floor.  I kept the moves simple, trying to include as many of the moves I could remember from Ashley’s two classes.

The lady showed a proficiency in the SILC techniques and moves, and we had a lovely dance.  I hope that she, and all the people who seem to do so well in Ashley’s classes, will continue to build on what they have learnt.

I have said it many times.  We should not take this wonderful Ceroc dance community for granted.  To sustain itself it needs a constant supply new recruits.  The Smooth Jive dance scene needs the same input of new enthusiasts.  Lets make it easy for them to get the Chill-out Bug.

I’ll leave you with a selfie that Ashley took at the end of his first SILC lesson.  There is joy on so many faces.  Hopefully this feeling of euphoria will be transferred to the SILC Zone itself.

Hopefully many of the dancers in this class will get the Chill-out Bug

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The Spirit of Southport in 10 Tracks

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