Ceroc, Dancing, Writer's Blog

Ceroc Fusion’s newest venue in Acle

One thing you can never guarantee is the weather and last night was no exception. Cold, verging on, but not quite, freezing, misty at the start and, irrelevantly, dense fog by the end of the evening. But Ceroc Fusion’s keen dancers are a hardy bunch, not to be deterred by a drop in temperature or dampness in the air.

The evening commenced for us with the Sat Nav which we programmed on a ‘just in case’ basis, but it wasn’t needed. The new venue, Acle War Memorial Recreation Centre to give it its full name, was no effort to find with a spacious car park onsite.

We arrived early enough to help Anna, Robert and Carol set out chairs and lighting and were greeted with a slightly flustered, but smiling,  Anna who, naturally, wanted everything to be faultless. The hall itself is perfect for the purpose, spacious and with a good-sized stage for the teacher and DJ. The floor itself, a sports hall style with badminton court markings, was very comfortable to dance and spin on. While obviously not a sprung floor, there was no pressure on the knees and it can be compared to the floor at the John Innes Centre for those who have danced there on a Wednesday night.

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The hall at its most basic – before we added chairs and lighting, a DJ and a class.

As you arrive, the toilets are on the right and to the left is an indoor bowls green. Following the corridor around there is a members-only bar on the left hand side, where dancers are able to purchase drinks and snacks throughout the evening. Opposite to the bar door, on the right, is the door to the dance hall. The overall feel of the venue was amiable and welcoming.

By the time we arrived, the others had set a number of chairs and a few tables around the edges of the hall. We focused on lighting, flags and banners, while Robert set up the stage with his DJ equipment in readiness for the lesson.

With the weather being so cold, a huge turnout wasn’t expected but eager dancers started to filter through the doors at a little after seven, with the hall quickly filling up as the minutes ticked by. When the beginner lesson started, there were well over 60 dancers lined up on the floor, including a number of nervous beginners who had signed up for their first night.

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A selection of dancers practise a move during the beginner session.

The beginners lesson with Gemma ran as smoothly as ever with three packed rows and, by the time it was complete, the hall was filled with more than 90 keen dancers. The floor was busy and everyone seemed to be enjoying the variety of classic and new tunes offered by the DJ, Robert.

It was apparent that we had underestimated the number of dancers who would turn out, and we deposited a lot more chairs after the beginner lesson, simply to allow everyone a spot to rest their legs between dances.

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Dennis, Ceroc Fusion’s photographer, took lots of photos of the opening night, which will appear on the Ceroc Fusion Facebook page.

Despite the room being so full, the high ceiling kept it cool enough to enjoy dancing without the need for fans at this stage, although some are likely to be needed when the warmer weather returns – it WILL come back I am sure. With this venue, there is also the option of opening up the side door (hidden in the above picture by the curtain on the right hand side of the hall) which will provide some air flow when needed. Last night, with the frost and fog swirling outside, was definitely not the time to test it out.

Friends, old and new, joined the intermediate lesson while Julie and Carol took the beginners out to enhance their learning from the beginner lesson. Good feedback was received from the new dancers and, when their session ended, they joined the main hall and freestyle dancing continued until 10.30, when it was time to say goodbye to this, our first night at Acle WMRC.

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After each move is taught, dancers move along to learn with a new partner.

As I mentioned at the start, the weather is always as diverse as the dancers who attend a Ceroc night. Our journey home from this great evening was cloaked in thick, almost freezing, fog but it had no impact on our evening.

Feedback from fellow dancers was positive, the beginners all keen to return – signing up for the offer of six lessons for the price of three before leaving. Sad that it was to have lost the venue at Great Yarmouth on a Friday,  Anna has done well to secure such a lovely, accessible venue on a Thursday night. Most definitely a great new addition to Ceroc Fusion.

For further information about Ceroc Fusion, my personal blog about some of our local freestyles or Ceroc in general click on these links to find out more.

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Ceroc, Dancing, Writer's Blog

Tips for a safer dance floor!

People sometimes display the strangest, often not the safest, habits on the dance floor and here are some observations.

The drinks carrier

Why would you even consider crossing a dance floor, whether it is packed or empty, with a drink in your hand? I can, in some small way, understand crossing an empty hall but when the same hall is likely to be packed with scores of dancers later in the evening, surely even the slightest of spillages is going to be a hazard? During busy dance nights I have often witnessed people carrying drinks straight across the floor, through dancers spinning and moving in all directions and I can but wonder whether they stop to think what would happen if one of those dancers were to plough into them with their drinks. Liquid spillage would cause untold mayhem, and often does, when a simple walk around the edge of the room would cause far less danger.

Ignoring your partner

When you learn to partner dance, one thing you are taught early on is to keep eye contact with your partner and especially with their hands. Without such observation, the follower would have no idea what move is coming next, which direction to move in and which offered hand to hold onto. Interaction between dancers is key to reacting to such visual cues and leads. As the lead it is important to look at your partner for safety reasons to allow you to gauge how to be an effective leader. Its no use zoning out midway through a dance, and then expect the dance to go well.

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Trying to lead a partner who is drunk

Partner dancing requires concentration and coordination (see above) and dancers who come along to dance events well under the influence of alcohol are often putting other dancers in danger of injury. While it is not seen very often, once now and again we see a dancer arrive at a dance having had quite a bit to drink, and then to continue drinking throughout the evening. Their dancing becomes more erratic and they pull harder as they try to stay upright because of impaired balance. My own husband has suffered a shoulder injury when trying to lead a clearly inebriated lady who was flinging herself around with abandonment. He politely asked her if they could finish the dance early, and he led her back to her seat but a lot of dancers do not have the confidence to do that. It is our responsibility to remain alert and capable of leading or following.

Bumping into other dancers

Inevitably, bumps will sometimes happen although not as often as you might imagine. Most dancers are aware of the space around them and lead their partners into free space with confidence. However, the odd bump is always going to happen and the only way to resolve such incidents is to check over your shoulder (for example) that all is well with the other couple, smile and politely mouth the word ‘sorry’ and move on, a little more carefully. Minor collisions can mostly be avoided but do happen. Be kind and remember nobody bumps into you intentionally.

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Treating a beginner like an advanced dancer

Dance teachers cannot reiterate enough, how important it is not to dance above your partner’s level. This is more applicable when your partner is a beginner but always be aware of limitations. Some dancers do not want to be dropped almost to the floor or may have injuries which restrict some moves. Mostly, the dancer will tell you if they need you to be careful, but always be aware of your partners level which you can often gauge by how comfortable they appear. In general, when dancing with someone for the first time it is good etiquette to start off with easier to follow moves, progressing until you feel you have matched their level. Most dancers do want to be stretched (figuratively) to their limits and learn new moves but do it with manners and take it down a level or two if they appear to struggle.

Let’s have a lesson right here, right now

If a partner doesn’t follow your move, don’t stop the dance and try to become a teacher in the middle of the dance floor. Unless they ask you to show them by stepping through the move, they would more than likely prefer you to carry on dancing and either sneak the move in again with a clearer lead or leave it out. Its quite embarrassing to be stopped in the middle of a crowded floor to be shown how to do a move which you have clearly not followed, often because it was not led well in the first place.

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The hand hold pressure

One of the first items covered in a beginner class is the hand hold. Ceroc dance leads are told to offer their hands at waist height with palms facing inwards and with thumbs as far away from the follower’s hands as possible. Thumbs are not there to press on the back of the follower’s hand and they are most definitely not there to stroke your partner! The grip should be loose enough for escape to be possible but just firm enough to push against each other and for the lead and follow to take place with ease. The follower drapes their hand over the lead’s offered hands in a hook shape with wrists low. Again, thumbs should be kept well out of the way. Neither one of you should be squeezing the other’s hands, a gentle grip is far more conducive to a flowing dance, whereas a tight grip can hurt the dance partner.

Be honest if you are being manhandled!

If, during a dance, you feel any physical discomfort – maybe a move twisted your shoulder or your lead is being unintentionally rough – you should feel able to mention it quietly. Most dancers will be more than happy to adjust their moves to prevent this from happening but if it continues, never feel afraid to make your excuses and leave the dance floor. Nobody should suffer injury or feel unsafe on the dance floor.

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Don’t dip if in doubt

If you plan to dip your partner, make sure there is plenty of room around you and you have a firm grip on your partner, who you will already have ensured is capable. On occasion, ladies being dipped have hit the floor and injured themselves, actually been dropped or crashed as they are dipped int someone else’s dance space. You look a fool if you don’t do this properly and you risk injury and embarrassment to your dance partner. If in doubt, leave it out!

Remember, every dancer deserves to be treated politely and safely on the dance floor. let’s keep it a friendly, fun and accident-free zone.

 

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.

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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.

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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.

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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

Dance shoes – comfort is a must!

“You have so many pairs of dance shoes!”

I hear the above exclamation often but in reality, while I do own lots of dance shoes, I make them count and I make them stand out and be noticed.

I have not counted lately, I have thrown away a few pairs which were so well-worn even replacing the suede bottoms wasn’t going to cover up the threatening hole or the weakened heel. Nobody wants a weakened heel, especially not me. While it might bring about a ripple of laughter if I tripped and fell off the stage while demoing, or fell flat on my derriere on the dance floor, I don’t relish the possibility of an injury, thank you very much.

Specialist shoes for dancing can be expensive but I prefer quantity and most often it doesn’t result in lack of quality. Yes, there are local shops which offer standard, less than glitzy in my eyes, dance shoes but they can cost upwards of eighty pounds a pair. If I spent that on every new pair I would need to apply for a new credit card!

I choose to by cheaper dance shoes online, always ensuring there is an easy-to-follow process for returning should they not fit. Some of my purchases require a patient wait for a delivery from China but there are equally reasonable shops online which ship from the UK.

My first port of call is always Amazon. My favourite shoes at the moment are a bright yellow pair which are sparkly with diamante studs and an important glove-like fit. They are flexible and snug but look amazing. While I am not a fan of yellow, it has never suited my pasty complexion or blonde hair shoes sit, obviously, far enough away for that not to matter. Those yellow shoes have an elasticated side band, snugly fitting side panels and, importantly, they zip up at the back unlike so many other dance shoes which have the alleged quick-fastening slide buckles.

I have three pairs of black shoes, a pair each of silver, white, blue, pink, red and two pairs of multi-coloured shoes. I save the black for my more difficult to match outfits but I do try to coordinate. They are, after all, a part of the overall look.

It is always useful to have at least one neutral-coloured pair on hand and I also have a couple of lower heeled pairs of which I keep one in the bottom of my dance bag for those nights when aching feet take over, although my preference is to dance in at least a small heel, so my shoes usually have at least a 2.5 inch heel.

All of the above is down to personal preference and I realise some dancers have to buy wider fitting shoes and are reluctant to buy online. Some are simply reluctant to buy online anyway and I completely understand that. Everybody has a choice.

The other shoe subject is, of course, the flamboyant dance shoes worn by my husband and dance partner. He loves to be the centre of attention (he really does!) on the dance floor, it’s no secret, and he adores colourful shiny shoes which often outshine my own.

Again, we source many of his via Amazon, although some of his are simply stunning shoes which he has purchased suede bottoms for. He is the shoe bottom suede-sticker in our house. I simply have no patience for such tasks but he does a good job. We buy the suede bottoms (around a fiver per pair) and a pair of reasonably priced everyday shoes are instantly transformed.

Unless the weather is dry, its best not to chance wearing suede bottomed shoes outside, especially if you are heading for a dance night. You might as well have not bothered, as your feet will stick to the dance floor, increasing the possibility of injury due to impaired movement.

Beginners, take heart, you do not have to buy dance shoes when you first start lessons, but please be warned that trainers tend to have too much of a grip on the floor to allow you spin and move freely. If trainers are your thing, there are specially designed ‘dance sneakers’  with suede bottoms which are both comfortable and stylish. Flip flops are not advisable, but as long as you wear comfortable shoes, your dancing will be more enjoyable.

Dance shoes can be sourced online from Amazon and eBay or specialist dance wear websites. It might take an order or two to gauge the best size, heel height or style for you but it is worth the effort to find an online source which you can return to again and again (and again, if you are anything like me!) If you are lucky, you might find friends who will allow you to try on their dance shoes for size. You have all the time in the world because, once you start dancing, it is likely you will be dancing for years to come.

When you start to go to some of the bigger freestyles, you will be pleased to find they often have dance shoe companies who bring along their wares for you to try and, indeed, buy.

Please message me in the comments section if you have any questions and all that remains for me to do is to wish you ‘happy dancing, on comfortable feet’.

Ceroc, Dancing

Our first Ceroc lesson

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!