I wrote this post originally because I planned to enter a Ceroc blogging competition and then decided not to enter but thought I would share it anyway.
As I stepped out onto the stage, under the purple and blue lights of the Carnegie Hall, I knew I could do this. My heart was beating wildly in my chest and although I was only a small-part player I was still a player. I could possibly be one of a number of people who made the difference between a beginner returning the next week and catching the Ceroc bug which I had caught over ten years previously or that same beginner not bothering to return.
Since High School, I had never been a person to flaunt my talents publicly. One chance meeting had changed me from the young teenager who thought nothing of standing on stage with her cornet playing a duet, with a local brass band, in front of hundreds of people, the young teenager who laughed with her friends and been carefree and happy, to one who kept her head down at all times and hated school as much as she had loved it previously. I had walked into a lesson with my friends, confident and carefree, and the son of one of the maths teachers, who I had never even met before, had called me a name across the classroom, a name which highlighted a less-than-attractive part of my features, a name which was muttered to me by numerous bullies who caught on to his jibes, throughout my High School years after that day. I felt unworthy of anything more and kept my life understated and introvert, dreading everything from reading aloud in an English Literature class at school, to introducing myself on a training course as a working adult. My confidence was at zero.
My husband and I met when we were in our late thirties and happened upon a Ceroc busk in a local shopping centre, one drizzly Saturday afternoon. We were mesmerised by the dancers and chatted to one or two who were handing out leaflets and promoting the classes. We took away a leaflet, determined to join our nearest class.
A few weeks later we arrived at a class held at a local research park, both quite nervous and still unsure if this dancing lark was for us. We were given a run through of the class format and, with drinks purchased, we found a corner to wait with nervous anticipation. The class began and our teacher, Gemma, demonstrated the first move, which was, quite aptly, called The First Move. It looked so complicated that, in my complete naivety, I thought it was the whole routine. Newer members of Ceroc will know a different variation of this beginner move. We watched as she broke the move down into stages and then came the next scary step where we were asked to move along the rows to a new partner. I am not sure if I was destined to face my fears all in one night but I came face-to-face with my ex-boyfriend. I hadn’t even known he danced but we were civil and I coped, in fact it was quite amusing, in hindsight.
The lesson continued, three moves completed and the first of the evening’s practice freestyle sessions began. My husband and I went over those three moves as if our lives depended upon it and by the end of two tracks we felt like Fred and Ginger. We were nervous to leave the dance floor as we were convinced we would forget the moves. The session with the taxi dancers was immensely helpful and, without them, I may have left that night feeling rather overwhelmed. Not enough emphasis can be given to a good taxi dancer.
Needless to say, as we are still dancing now, we were hooked. We returned week after week, sometimes attending more than one class in the area, but almost always at least one. Before long, we had learned all of the beginner moves, around nineteen of them at the time if I remember correctly. However, neither of us felt confident enough to tackle an intermediate class and we continued with the taxi dancer sessions for at least twelve weeks. To this day, I am a firm believer that beginners need to complete as many taxi sessions as they feel they personally need, before embarking on the intermediates too soon. Those sessions give a dancer such a wonderful grounding of the basics which can be easily forgotten if a beginner moves on too early.
There were times when we didn’t go to Ceroc. I had to miss over three months after surgery when we had only been dancing about six months, and I thought I would never get back to dancing. We had been wandering in the city and we came across another busk in the same location as we had first seen it. A couple of our new friends from Ceroc were taking part in the busk and, while we were chatting about whether my husband and I felt ready to return, my friend whisked me onto the dance floor, still in my bulky winter coat. I knew, then, that I just had to return. It was just the push that I had needed and we returned with renewed excitement the same week.
Over the years, our dancing style changed and improved, and as forty-somethings we were keeping incredibly fit. Ceroc was doing us the world of good. We went to freestyles further afield in places such as Watford, Kettering and Colchester and we found we could dance anywhere, with confidence. It was always exciting to dance at a family party because, more often than not, we would be the only Ceroc dancers there and everyone was impressed. Who doesn’t like to show off their dancing skills, right?
There are currently six different venues in our local Ceroc franchise, Ceroc Fusion, and up until two years ago we had rarely ventured outside of the Norwich venues for a class night, instead sticking with the same one or two each week. We had encouraged some relatives of ours, who lived near the furthest venue in Thetford, to start dancing and we offered to go along for moral support. As with all of our venues, the team were a friendly bunch and the dancers were like a family. We loved it there, finding it well worth the few additional miles on the clock each week.
By chance, on one such dance night, the teacher’s demo was unable to make it and Steve, the dance teacher, grabbed me and asked me to demo at the last minute. I was nervous but he assured me I was a good dancer and I just needed to do what I do on a normal night; be led and style it up as required. I could do that! So, with heart pounding in my chest and a gentle flush seeping into my cheeks, I climbed the steps onto the stage as the class were being called to the floor for the beginners lesson.
Over the few weeks we had been dancing at that venue, we had made so many new friends – that’s the thing with Ceroc, you make many friends, far and wide – that I felt a warm reception from those closest to the stage who I dared to make eye contact with. Most of them had only known me for a few short weeks and so had no idea I hadn’t demoed with the teacher before now. The class began and I soon forgot I was standing on a stage, in front of upwards of sixty dancers, under purple and blue lights. I just danced as I always had previously, following the dance teacher’s lead and enjoying the experience. I didn’t even falter when he was demonstrating how NOT to do a certain part of the move. I just went along with it. I was actually enjoying the experience.
Over time, I covered for the regular demo when she was unable to attend and even covered at some of the other venues, too. It became second nature and I was surprised to find that it didn’t bother me in the slightest. Beginners would come over and ask for a dance or for advice and I was happy to share my experience with them. By this time, my husband was a taxi dancer. He, too, had been asked to cover when the regular taxi dancer was injured and now they cover duties on alternate weeks. We are often stopped as we exit the dance floor, to be questioned about a move they may have seen us doing or for general advice and it is heartwarming when we see those dancers taking the advice on board, to be able to help them progress from beginner to intermediate as we have all done ourselves, over the years.
The previous regular demo is unable to get to the venue on a Wednesday night, due to work commitments, so I have now become the regular demo for Steve when he teaches there, and on occasions I still help out at other venues when needed. Looking back, I could never have done this twenty years ago, my confidence still being at rock-bottom. Learning to dance with Ceroc has been a true game-changer for me. As the years have passed and my dancing has progressed, I have gained so much more than the multitude of friends in my dance family. My flexibility is good, apparently my heart and lungs are thanking me for the increased aerobic activity, my bones are stronger and I am keeping my mind active, thus keeping age-related illnesses at bay.
I am approaching my fiftieth birthday which I will be celebrating at a dance weekender, Swish, this coming February, and I cannot thank Ceroc enough for changing my whole outlook on life. I have a new-found confidence that I never thought I would get back. A confidence to do something I never thought I would be able to do, and to do it well.
I can dance!