Ceroc, Dancing, Writer's Blog

My Ceroc Journey: Confidence from Zero to Hero

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.

34111267_1877652775631451_1146894699122917376_o

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.

34018384_1877652475631481_6445219230810898432_n

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!

 

 

Advertisements
Ceroc, Dancing, Writer's Blog

Ceroc Christmas Party at the Carnegie Room, Thetford

Driving through sheets of windswept rain, attempting to keep the car from veering over the white lines, our spirits couldn’t be dampened.

We were headed for the annual Ceroc Christmas party with our Ceroc Thetford family, among others. Of all the parties, this was one we really didn’t want to miss.

Clive, ever the gentleman, dropped me at the door, allowing me to avoid as much of the torrential downpour as possible, and went off to park the car nearby.

We had arrived early, as arranged, to help Anna and Steve with the buffet preparations and lighting, along with Matty, so there was plenty of time for a chat before the guests started to arrive.

20181215_194144

And arrive they did. Prepaid party-goers were guaranteed, but we were surprised at how keen so many ‘pay-on-the-door’ dancers were, considering the dreadful weather conditions. Nothing was going to stop them last night and the dance floor was soon filled with festively happy faces.

20181216_075450

Sylvia and Rob arrived and were quick to set up their table which groaned under the weight of raffle prizes, continuing their fundraising to help the Ugandan orphans.

20181215_200521

With the dance floor warming up nicely, it was soon time for the customary ice-breaker class with Steve. Three packed rows of dancers soon became four and the fun lesson began. Steve’s three moves, intermediate and with a spattering of footwork, were enough to warm up the dancers and, for those who needed it, enable them to get to know one another.

By the time the twenty minute class was finished, the buffet was open and the party could begin.  Steve, as well as being the teacher, was the DJ for the evening and invited music requests while promising to throw in as many dance-worthy Christmas tunes as he could. He did a fabulous job and the dance floor was busy right up until the last tune was played at midnight.

20181215_194211

The buffet was kept well-stocked, with roasted vegetable crisps, sausage rolls, cheese straws, satsumas, mince pies and chocolate fingers being among the firm favourites.

Party outfits for the evening ranged from Christmas jumpers and tinsel wrapped dresses to sparkly party attire and be-sequined shirts often only reserved for the Strictly dance floor.

Following a gift of a mistletoe sprig from Sylvia, Anna had some fun on the door as dancers entered. As word spread, some of those who had missed the mistletoe fun, headed back to the door for a giggle.

20181216_075630

Dennis, Ceroc Fusion’s photographer, worked his camera tirelessly around the floor, capturing the mood of the evening. As you can imagine, photographing dancers mid-move while keeping both in shot and avoiding fuzzy movement pictures and tonsil-shots of the incessant sing-along-ers is not an easy task.

The second of the Ceroc Fusion Christmas parties was a resounding success. With one more party taking place at North Walsham next week, following the usual Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday regular class nights, there is still more Ceroc Fusion Christmas fun to be had this season.

20181215_192535

 

 

Ceroc, Dancing, Writer's Blog

So many dancing styles!

A funeral director dancing with an IT manager or a window cleaner dancing with a beautician. Where else but a dance class such as Ceroc could you find such a diverse group of people? But over and above the outside lives of the dancers, there are so many different types of dance personality to be found on the dance floor. I aim to describe some of them here.

Dancing to the beat of a different tune

Let’s begin with, in my opinion, the worst dancer. This is the one who cannot hear the rhythm of a track, the dancer who appears to be dancing to the beat of the previous track rather than the one everyone else is listening to. For the lead dancer, being able to track the beat is a must. Each set of moves begins with a step back, on the beat, and the follower is drawn in, on the next beat. Yes, the arms and body play a large part in both the lead and follow roles, but if the feet are moving out of time, it is difficult for the follower to keep up with where the lead wants them to move. Without a good connection to the music, the dance can look clunky, at best. More advanced dancers play with the music, pausing and breaking between moves, but its all done with musicality.

Close, but not too close

Some dancers just want to be up close and personal, whatever tune is playing at the time. They seem to have a somewhat smaller dance space than most and, of course, there is nothing wrong with dancing close. Most blues and smooth dancing dictates the need for closeness but some, especially inexperienced dancers, are not comfortable with the lack of space and, hopefully, a more experienced dancer would be able to spot and react to their discomfort. If the more experienced dancer does not react accordingly, the dance becomes uncomfortable and bordering on sleazy.

photo-1539821055359-3284d7de289e

Trying to pull my shoulder out of its socket?

Then there is the lead who repeatedly yanks on the follower’s arms until the follower is quite sore. The only way to avoid injury when dancing with a heavy puller, apart from walking away from the floor mid-dance, is to loosen your arms and give no resistance to the pull. At least that way you will not suffer any injury even if the dance does not flow as well as it could. Trying to look good on the dance floor is certainly not worth an injury, however minor.

Sing your heart out! 

Some dancers just cannot resist singing along as they dance. I have to admit, most photos taken of me on the dance floor, show me with mouth wide open singing my heart out. Sometimes, I just can’t stop myself. I know it doesn’t look cool but I love singing. Singing along can be fun if both dancers are enjoying it but some dancers don’t want my incessant warbling in their ear.

Full-on conversations

Its difficult enough to have a conversation with friends on a dance night. You will be in mid-flow and just reaching the punchline when someone comes along and whisks you off to the dance floor. Its hard to say no when they have plucked up the courage to come over and ask you to dance. Others like to have a full catch up during the dance. While its fine to mention you haven’t seen them at dancing for a few weeks or ask how they are, it is immensely difficult to respond to a full-blown conversation when you are being spun around and away from the person, in and out of earshot. I often nod and smile as I am dancing but have no clue what I am responding to.

The hop and skipper!

There are dancers who get hugely over-excited at the prospect of a particular tune, or dancing with a certain person that they simply cannot contain themselves. They positively leap onto the dance floor, their little feet kicking out at every opportunity, with no care for what they look like but, more worryingly, little care for those around them. They bounce through their dance with excitement and vigour.

photo-1528738984120-effa2ecf6abc

Unaware of all around!

Some dancers have no spacial awareness at all and can often be seen crashing into others on the dance floor. Of course, everyone has the odd bump from time to time, but a good lead will keep their eyes on what is going on around them and avoid mishaps with a change in lead or movement. There are some dancers who think nothing of leading a partner around the floor with no awareness whatsoever of those around them. I try to avoid such dancers as they are a danger to me and others.

The conveyor belt dancer

Often, more experienced dancers have no bounce at all and if you watched them from the waist up you would be forgiven for thinking they are dancing on a smooth belt moving from side to side with ease and grace. These dancers are wonderful to watch, have no bounce and every move is made to look effortless.

photo-1511804269794-309fade1da5d

The Clinger

We all know one of these. A dancer who holds onto their partner at the end of the dance, giving them no means of escape. I have seen one such lead, a man, who often likes to dance with the beginners, and he holds onto the new dancer through up to four or five dances. Its so uncomfortable to watch and unfair on the beginner who needs to dance with as many different partners as they can, in turn gaining much needed experience.

The Slotter

Guilty as charged, but only with a select few, including my husband. We love to dance on the slot and a lot of the more experienced dancers do this with style. Its a fabulous style of dancing where the follower dances backwards and forwards but in a line, while the lead dances around them and steps out of the way to keep the dance on the slot. I find that slotters often stick to the edges of the dance floor to keep them in their slot and away from other dancers’ space.

The Traveller

Yep! Guilty again. I love to travel with my moves and the lead often has to move to keep up with me. Travelling moves work especially well when dancing on the slot (see above) and a large floor area can be covered so spacial awareness is particularly required.

The Floor Crosser

Some dancers travel so far around the floor it is difficult to keep out of their way. They remain in one spot for a couple of moves and all of a sudden they are moving and can be found halfway across the room.  It makes it especially difficult for other dancers when the dance floor is crowded as most couples pick a spot and loosely stick within it, thus avoiding collision, but the floor crossers pay no heed to the dance space of others and dance wherever the mood takes them.

Deaf to Instructions

One dangerous type of dancer is the more experienced dancer who takes to the floor with a beginner and, despite numerous please from the dance teachers to be aware of their beginner status (in our area they were fluorescent wrist bands) and only do beginner moves with them. Those who feel they are far more capable than the dance teacher like to drop new dancers into leans and dips and moves far more advanced than necessary, risking injury to a dancer who has no idea what is coming. they like to try and prove that they are top dog (often they are far from) and show off, which is definitely not what Ceroc is all about.

For the most part, these categories are simply observations I have made over the past ten years of dancing with Ceroc. There are so many dance personalities and styles that I have barely scratched the surface but these loosely cover a lot of styles. One thing is for certain, the dancers with bad reputations are few and far between. Most experienced dancers adhere to the rules and dance safely and with awareness of those around them. its certainly the place to meet people from all walks of life.

Ceroc, Dancing, Writer's Blog

Haunting Halloween freestyle

The image staring back at me was far from friendly, more fearful, frightening and shamefully forgotten. The semi-hidden, hollow eyes hid a previously untold tale of loss and grief and I sensed they knew only of wandering darkened corridors, searching for a happiness which was long-since departed. The dress hung tattered and torn to shreds, where once draped a beautiful wedding gown of ivory silk. The now-grey floral headdress flowed, with a darkened, somewhat smoky edge, into a delicate grey-edged lace veil.

Lifting the once-pristine, lacy mask from the desperately forlorn visage, I could almost taste the loss of a life she once knew, once planned for, and now only yearned for. Her delicately painted features now hidden under a desolate mask of spidery webs and blackened veins, so dark and mysterious, seeping from the corners of unseeing eyes, trailing across her sunken cheekbones and framing her purple lips. A trail of veins carrying their once-gushing deep blue life fluids, now blackened in death, led way to a shorter, darker, reddened trail which flowed around and from her delicate, white neck, telling the story of her final, excruciating moments before she was torn from her beloved and left suspended in a land of nowhere, the eternal space separating life from death.

With one more appraising gaze from top to toe, I was pleased with the reflection of my corpse bride outfit and make-up for this evening’s annual Halloween freestyle at Ceroc. My husband walked through from the bedroom, already wearing his skeleton t-shirt and sporting an eerie green face paint broken only with temporary tattoos of scratches, bloodied bullet holes and angry gashes. I helped him add the final touches, painting him a wicked mouth and we were ready to leave.

44916248_2097138770349516_6648849926736314368_n

Ceroc Fusion did not disappoint. With ghosts and skeletons, creepy spiders and pumpkins adorning the dance hall, bar and entrance, the venue was seasonally transformed into a ghoulish den of horror and fear. An array of edible treats were on offer which included chocolates, sweets, crisps and, for the healthier dancers, trays filled with a variety of melon slices.

The dance floor was soon filled with ghostly apparitions, witches of the friendly and the wicked variety, devils, skeletons, counts and even a Joker from Batman. A Cruella DeVil from 101 Dalmatians, resplendent in her two-toned wig and dress moving fluidly alongside spinning grim reapers, jesters and bleeding corpse brides. The facial make-up was both as intricate and varied as it was amusing and, for some, quite terrifyingly accurate.

Steve the evening’s teacher and DJ, playing a varied mix of floor-fillers to keep the dancing ghouls gyrating, was surrounded on his platform by severed limbs, spiders in their webs, pumpkins and even a giant flesh-eating rat. His fun lesson comprising of two moves, the Scream Switch and the Ghost Train, had dancers giggling and squealing and eventually screaming on cue, setting the scene for a truly gruesome party.

Freestyle. Ceroc Fusion.
Ceroc Fusion really know how to put on a great freestyle.

Later in the evening, the compulsory fancy-dress competition was extremely difficult to judge, with so many dancers having made such a tremendous effort but a shortlist of seven was drawn up, with fellow dancers carrying out a secret vote for the two deserving winners of a bottle of wine each. Every single person who adorned a costume and make-up was deserving of a prize but a choice had to be made.

It was lovely, as always, to welcome dancers from other areas including St Neots, Downham Market, Great Yarmouth and Bury St Edmunds to name a few of the non-locals.

Halloween freestyles are up there with my annual favourites, but a good freestyle needs good music, good hosting, a good venue and a good number of dancers and this one ticked all of the above. A ghoulishly, gruesome, garishly ghostly but genuinely glowing, great night.

44932772_256036165058029_1318305568300990464_n

Just a note, for the four people who asked me last night about my dance shoes (and for the many who have asked before), I have added a link to both colours below. I think they are available in blue, too.

 

Ceroc, Dancing

Dancing! On a school night?

Must leave on time, not let work us delay,
Quick shower, fresh clothes, then we’ll be on our way.
Maybe make time for some crackers with cheese,
Rush from the door, grabbing dance shoes and keys.

Some journeys are long, destinations quite far,
After a work day, we’ll just rest in the car.
Take time for ourselves, watch our energies soar,
For when we hear music, we’re straight to the floor.

Pulsing and rhythmic, we cannot resist,
Friends we see each week, and some we have missed.
Blood, now is pumping, to learn we are ready,
Beginners and newbies, some can feel unsteady.

Class, normal format, a welcome routine,
Rows of new faces, to learn they are keen.
Moves broken down into steps, made so easy,
Danced to the rhythm of tunes, not so cheesy.

Pump of the music, adds flair to the strut,
Arms adding style to the movement of foot.
A wiggle, a roll or a tilt of the head,
Tuning the movements which smoothly are led.

Varied our dance nights, and rarely just one,
Weeknights a-plenty, just can’t be outdone.
Where else can you enjoy a school-night out, such fun,
For less than the cost of a burger and bun?

Shaking our booty or dancing in hold,
Mentally keeping us from e’er growing old.
Strengthen the core, posture long through the spine,
Fitness over fifty will surely be mine.

Dreadful, we feel, if a week we must miss,
For dancing promotes such a feeling of bliss.
Wouldnt be without it, life no longer would rock,
Such a huge family, our friends from Ceroc!

Ceroc, Dancing

Summer Freestyle – Ceroc Thetford

After a slightly tumultuous day which we won’t waste time and energy focusing on, we decided we would go to the Summer Freestyle which was being held at Carnegie Room, Thetford. We had already danced a few times during the week at venues in  North Walsham, Thetford and Great Yarmouth,  so what harm could one more night do to us when we love dancing so much?

We were so glad we went as it was a truly fabulous freestyle with so many wonderful dancers from near and far. The far included dancers from Gloucester and Brighton and some from just over the border in Ely. Nearer ‘locals’ visited from Attleborough, Bury and Norwich to name only a few.  It was lovely to see many new faces along with the regulars from the area. As I have mentioned in previous posts, we don’t attend freestyles to meet with only one group of friends, instead we go to the freestyles which are convenient to us, to meet up with any number of a huge number of Ceroc friends and have a great time with whoever is there, as is the norm with Ceroc venues across the country.

Anna was putting on the tunes and Kayleigh greeting the dancers on the door. At this stage I have to mention that I really didn’t eat ALL of the sweets on offer on the greeting table. I may have plunged the scoop in a few times as I passed and for this I hold my hand up, guilty as charged. Baiba was extremely busy as always,  behind the bar but, as ever, served everyone with her infectious smile.  Matty kept tabs on the tables of fresh fruit platters which Anna had painstakingly (quite literally) chopped up earlier in the day.  The fruit was a very welcome treat, along with the air conditioned hall, as the temperatures outside had started to climb once more.

39536126_1963472420382821_3950980534879911936_n

I lost count of the number of people who were complimentary of the music and can only agree, wholeheartedly. When dancers travel from far and wide to be with fellow dancers and friends, the music is always a possible game-changer with the DJ facing the difficult task of keeping everybody happy. With the diverse range of dancers by both age, taste and style, it certainly takes more than a passing thought to get it just right! The mix was  a blend of modern and funky with some old favourites and a cleverly choreographed combination of tempos to suit all styles and energy levels. With approximately a hundred dancers turning out this evening, it was refreshing to see the dance floor full at all times with only just enough space to avoid collision.

39535855_1963472380382825_894345141739847680_n

The Carnegie Room is one of my personal favourite venues with its air conditioned hall,  high ceilings and a fresh, new beech wood dance floor but without the friendly staff and dancers, these events would be nothing at all.