I can remember the class but not the year, you do have to remember that I am heading for fifty next year so am allowed a little memory downtime! It was either 2007 or 2008 when my husband and I spotted a Ceroc busk being held in the Castle Mall shopping centre in the middle of Norwich. We headed over to find out what the music and crowd was all about and one leaflet, a quick chat and a few minutes spent watching the demonstrating dancers and we knew it was something we needed to give a try.
It was a few weeks before we had plucked up the courage to go along to a local class – I have nothing but admiration for those who step through the door alone. Knowing what I know now, I would have been fine on my own, but the thought was daunting. We headed off for a hall at the local John Innes Centre on a warm Wednesday night in September.
Firstly, we were greeted by the friendly lady on the door who briefly explained the format of the evening, handed us the membership forms to complete (a very short form each) and pointed us in the direction of some comfortable seating in which to sit and fill out said forms. That done, we handed back our forms, paid our entrance fee (although I think I remember a ‘first night free offer’ with the leaflet we had been handed at the busk) and our membership cards were filled in and handed to us complete with an information pack.
The venue was already filling up, this was feeling more and more daunting and my nerves were slowly breaking. One of the ‘taxi dancers’ came over and had a chat with us and explained that, despite my desire to stay with my husband all evening, we would learn far more if we joined the full class and danced with everyone. Fear gulped down, we did just that. For those of you who are not aware, a ‘taxi dancer’ is a fun name for the helpers who look out for the beginners for the first few weeks, helping them to practice their new moves and generally answering any questions.
I was wearing a pair of low heeled shoes but noticed most ladies seemed to bring along a pair of dance shoes. That could wait – we had to find out if we liked it first! The first 45 minutes of the evening was devoted to the beginner class which everyone took part in, not just the beginners – after all the beginners needed someone to dance with. We formed three rows along the length of the room (usually this is boy/girl pairings but some ladies do dance the lead as an alternative) and anyone without a partner waited at the side of the room forming an orderly queue – their time would come.
There was a good ratio of male to female dancers, approximately fifty dancers that night and the room was quite crowded and warm. Soon, the side doors were flung open and the air started to flow again. During the beginner lesson, three of the small number of basic beginner moves were taught – the same three are always taught on the same night across all venues – there is a strict schedule for this. A move called the ‘First Move’ was the first one to be demonstrated by Gemma, our teacher for the evening and I admit to thinking it was the whole routine. I would never remember how to do that, let alone two more. After a couple of walks through, the ladies were asked to move on four partners in the given direction, allowing the ladies waiting at the side to have a turn. One…two…three…four. Oh great! What were the odds of that happening? Face to face with my ex-boyfriend who, it appeared had been dancing sometime and could laud it up over me. He didn’t, thankfully, and we were civil if a little uncomfortable. The moves were comfortably broken down into stages and once I was shown that I didn’t have to grip on for dear life, digging my nails into my dance partners hands, almost drawing blood, I was to find the movement far easier.
By the end of the lesson, with three new moves under our belts which we could repeat over and over, we were able to dance a whole track. What a result. Obviously, I felt I knew better than my husband (actually he wasn’t even my husband and that time but he stuck it out with me despite my dance floor bossiness) and we had a few bickers. I often look at beginners doing the same now and can completely understand how they feel.
The lesson was made so much easier, because the experienced dancers were so kind and patient, and they offered much encouragement. Everyone must have remembered their first night as they were all lovely – well that is how I remember it! After the lesson ended, we were told there was a session of freestyle where you could dance with other dancers. Boy, did I cling on to my husband like a limpet. I was way too scared to dance with anyone else. I even followed him when he went to the toilet. Well, not INTO the room, but I hung about outside on the pretext of grabbing some air.
When the intermediate lesson was announced, the beginners were rounded up by the two taxi dancers who took us to a separate area and we walked through the moves one at a time over and over, learning them by rote. When the intermediate lesson was over we were able to go back into the main hall and join the others for freestyle until the evening ended. I was asked to dance by someone and the etiquette is to say ‘yes’ as much as possible, every time if you can. So, ‘yes, thanks’ was my response and we headed for the dance floor. This next part is almost unheard of now because most dancers follow the strict etiquette of not dancing intermediate moves with absolute beginners, but this man decided he wanted to show off with advanced moves and leaned me to the floor which had me squealing like a baby pig – I think he mistook it for delight. He is in the minority and most dancers are completely respectful of their partners and take the time to help them learn at their own pace. Some people, as in all walks of life, just don’t listen!
My husband and I both enjoyed some dances with others during the evening and after each dance, we met up on the side-lines to excitedly talk about each one. He was brave and quite happy to go and ask the dance teacher and experienced dancers for a dance. I, however, still cringe now at the fact that it took me years, yes years, to pluck up such courage. Now I don’t care who I ask as I know I can handle dancing with anybody, but it took me ages.
The recommended time for remaining in the beginner’s class is six weeks, or six lessons. Us? We stayed there for almost three months. We found it hard at first, but we didn’t give up! So much so that we are both now competent dancers and I demo with one of the teachers some nights and hubby is a taxi dancer himself. He was even put forward as a possible teacher but, having headed to the auditions which are extremely grueling, and being given feedback to work on various areas and re-audition in the future, our lives at present dictate that he cannot devote the time required to do so. It wasn’t an absolute ‘NO’ and he would have probably made a good teacher but, with three dance nights a week, two aging mothers and five grown-up children between us we have enough to occupy our time right now.
I didn’t feel physically tired after the first lesson – mentally I was shot to pieces; my feet ached a bit, but this was down to the choice of footwear. However, the next day, my back, hips and joints which I was previously unaware of ached quite a lot.
You get a lot for your money when you attend a Ceroc class. Its under £10 per night and you get two lessons and endless dancing while making so many new friends you do start to lose track of them all. Most people drink very little alcohol on a class night as it makes the moves harder to take in, so a few waters or soft drinks, water sometimes being free at venues, keeps the cost of the evening down, too.
Some random photos (below) of some of the fun we have during lessons and freestyles. As with everything in life, you have to be there to understand!