Dance Wars in the North – Editorial Comment

July 2, 2006

The dramatic take-over of Blitz’s Bowden club has far-reaching implications throughout the MJ world.

First, there is the concern about a repeat of this scenario with other Blitz clubs or indeed other clubs throughout the UK. Many public venues do not enter into binding long term contracts. Imagine going through all the pain of setting up several venues, finally making one of them start to pay off, then a rival just walks in and takes it off you? Is that the world we have now entered?

Secondly, is further promotion of the Bowden venue. Cinnamon Jive emailed dancers with details of its nights, but where did the database of addresses come from? On8 research indicates that the Cinnamon Club itself could not have had these email addresses. Some recipients say they have not even been to the venue. The only common factor appears to be that these people are on the Blitz database, but clearly Blitz would not use its own database to promote a rival club, so how were these dancers targeted?

Thirdly, why was Blitz not given more time to allow them to move its business? The late notice meant that the new club was able to inherit Blitz’s customers. Whether this was a deliberate tactic or not is unclear.

The most fundamental rules of etiquette have been broken. Previously, the worst that would happen is that a rival might try to flyer your car park … and that had, until now, been seen as being the lowest of the low. To actually go in and push someone out of their own venue and take over their club sets new standard in aggressive techniques. Lets hope that these techniques are never seen again.

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Danny and Jodie Fail to Turn-Up to Jive Event

July 2, 2006

Author: Jon is one of the longest established MJ Organisers in the S West, operating as Jive Magic. In adiition he is the web-master of UK-Jive.co.uk, the leading MJ website.

Strictly Dance Fever finalists Jodie Binsteed and Danny Last failed to turn-up to an event they’d been booked to perform at. Booked to perform cabaret at Jive Magic’s June freestyle, organisers Jenn and Jon White had no option but to refund customers’ money after the dance duo failed to turn up.

“I was a little worried just prior to the event”, said Jon. “We’d been unable to get in-touch with Danny or Jodie all day. All we could do was leave voicemails on their answerphone. By the time our customers started to arrive, we were calling them every 10 minutes, trying to get hold of them.”

Jon continued, “By 9.30, it was pretty obvious they weren’t going to turn up so I stood-up on stage and made the announcement to a disappointed crowd of dancers.”

“Over the last two years, Jenn (my wife) and I have booked many of the top dancers from Strictly Come Dancing and Strictly Dance Fever, including Anton and Erin, Darren and Lilia, Ian and Camilla, Paul and Natasha, plus Joseph and Sadie. In each case, it’s been a real pleasure meeting these fantastically talented people and our Cardiff dancers have really enjoyed seeing their performances. Dealing with Danny and Jodie however has been a real disappointment and really does leave a bitter taste in the mouth. We had so many people looking forward to seeing them.”

Jon conceded, “It’s unlikely we’ll book any more professionals for our events.” Having not yet received any explanation from Danny or Jodie as to why they didn’t turn-up, Jon has set-up a new web site for the Cardiff dancers to follow his attempts at receiving an explanation.

You can find out more by visiting: http://www.jodiebinsteed.co.uk


The evolution of Modern Jive – A dancers perspective

July 2, 2006

Author: Gadget is a dancer at the Ceroc Scotland Clubs. Though not a ‘Guru’, he has been an outspoken contributor to the Ceroc Forum for several years. He has been taught at many classes and events provided by Ceroc from many different teachers over many years. He has not competed, has little interest in competing and is a product almost solely of the ‘Ceroc’ teaching model.

Within the past few years, more and more people have been commenting that the over-all ‘level’ of dancing within Modern Jive (MJ) is getting better. I have to agree; the beginner dancer’s progression seems to be a lot quicker and the levels reached seem to be a lot higher than a few years ago.

But why? And what does this spell out for the future?

For a start, it’s really hard to pinpoint exactly what “getting better” relates to:

  • Is it that the leads are more confident and clearer? The followers are less anticipatory and more responsive?
  • Is it that the teaching is improving? What is being taught is changing? The music being played is more challenging?
  • Is it that more people are listening to music and being able to convey more musicality on the dance floor?
  • Is it that more people are going to other dance styles and bringing back influences into MJ?
  • Is it that more people are staying within the MJ framework to ‘develop’ rather than moving to other dance forms?
  • …Or it could just be that as I grow within my own dancing, I see things I didn’t before.

I think that most of the perceived improvement is down to the dancers and teachers having a growing understanding of the “fundamentals” involved – whether this is acquired from other styles, formal training or simply trial and error.

All the “fundamentals” can be found to different degrees in ballroom, flamenco, hip-hop, jazz, tango, salsa, ballet, and just about any other dance form you care to mention. These are things that can help any form of dance and can be taken from any form of dance, then applied to MJ. For example…

 

Weight transfer: Supporting your weight on one foot at a time while you are moving rather than ‘falling’ from one foot to the other. This allows placing the other foot before moving weight onto it. Adopting this concept into MJ increases a dancer’s control over their movement and allows more control over the timing of their movement. Since weight tends to be fully committed before moving, it can also lead to crisper entry and exit from turns/spins.

 

Balance, Control and Frame: Ties in with the above, but relates to being more aware of your own body – how each movement affects both you and your partner. Balance and awareness get better with practice and are specially helpful in spins. If you are aware of the cascading effects of a movement, you can be clearer in leading, more responsive in following and more subtle in your connection.

 

Timing: When to start a lead, when to divert or intercept a movement with minimal disruption to the flow. There is a small delay between action and reaction that can be inserted into your dancing to give the follower enough time to react.

 

Connection: Communicating through out the dance; both listening to your partners movements and conveying your intentions. The less ‘noise’ in this connection, the better understanding you will have of how your partner is dancing. The more responsive you are to the connection, the more subtle it can be.

 

Musical interpretation: Listening to the music; getting away from a repetitive stomp in time with the beat and actually framing moves to match the music. More than recognising and marking breaks/changes in the music in your dancing; but listening to the phrases, patterns, instruments,…

 

Awareness: Knowing where you are in relation to your partner, where you both are in relation to the floor and where other dancers are in relation to yourselves. Predicting how other dancers will move and using the space that is formed and vacated by other dancers around you. The dance is much more pleasant when you are not being jostled, bumped or trod on.

Pick any style of dance and strip out what makes it unique and defines it as that dance. What you are left with are core principles that dance can teach you: The fundamentals above.

For example an Argentinean Tango step: push the foot out; tilt the foot to lead with the toes; barely scuffing the floor; draw the foot in a constant line to it’s destination; knee and thighs brushing; place toes then foot; transfer weight so hip is over foot; take back foot to meet front with same principles. When put together with Tango timing of each movement, it becomes Tango. Strip out the timing, the tilt of the foot and the knee-brushing that predominantly define it as Tango, and everything else could be transplanted into MJ (or other dance forms). These same things are taught in specialist MJ workshops: precision in placing feet, smooth movement and weight transfer. Each element involved will help towards making your dancing more controlled.

MJ has very little to strip away – it starts from the core and lets you define your own unique form on top of it. The only real evolution of MJ in the last few years has been it’s awakening.

Classes teach moves and movements. But that is not their goal. Through these moves, they teach the fundamentals. Once a dancer can understand the core that the moves are based around, they can begin to step outside of “moves” and start dancing.

Where does this leave MJ to develop? I think that the evolution will be towards breaking down even more barriers between the fundamentals of dancing and the beginner’s teaching.

Beyond that, for the more advanced dancer, I can see more focus being given to control and timing. The focus in the past has been towards leading, following and the connection – now, these skills are being / will be enhanced by greater, more defined control and used as tools to explore how better to use timing.

I don’t see the dance evolving much, but I can see more and more dancers stamping their own unique branding onto MJ. What they will do is expand the vocabulary of MJ while trying to discover if there actually are any boundaries to this exciting and amorphous dance form.

“Vive la evolution”


Long path to the Podium (Part 1)

July 2, 2006

Steve Wong is one half of the current Ceroc UK Advanced championship. Although he and Donna are now recognised as the excellent dancers they are, few people realise the hard work that any top dancer has to put in.

Over the coming weeks On8 is proud to publish a serialisation of Steve’s very personal account of the path that has taken him to ‘Champion’ status.

Author: Steve Wong. Steve Wong has been involved on the MJ circuit for many years, previoulsy based on the London circuit during which time he won the Ceroc Intermediates. After years in the ‘wliderness’ of Liverpool, he and his partner, Donna, are now UK Ceroc Advanced Champions. Steve and Donna are regulars at Blitz Chester club.

Many modern jivers are interested in competing. Are you up for it? Well, hopefully this will help you make up your mind.

In summer 2004 I was looking for a dance partner. I had been out of London for over a year (was now living in Liverpool) and was concerned that I could not find the calibre of dance partner that I found in London. The sort that used to frequent the club that spawned what became known as Amir’s Jango (a fusion of Tango and Modern Jive) and from which I usually sought dance partners.

I was looking all over the place. I was even talking to someone from Nottingham but at that time I was not a great driver and didn’t fancy doing the long drive. My frustration was that I wanted to move on from the Ceroc Intermediate level champs which I had previously won.

Then, one night in May 2004, at Nantwich Ceroc, I had the fortune to meet an attractive young lady who had not been dancing very long (about a year) but had a natural athleticism and desire to learn. Some time later, one of my friends watched us compete together in a fun blues competition run by Gus and said that we looked good together. We thus started to practice together.

Having won two Ceroc competitions, I was a little choosy in who I would compete with. Nevertheless, I was influenced by the Chinese philosophy that a hard working beginner could become better than a seasoned pro (watch king fu films and you will see what I mean). I thought that if Donna had the desire, then we would be able to overcome her (then) relative lack of dance experience by intensive practice. As we watched videos together and learnt moves, I was amazed how quickly she picked things up. She even showed me her own choreography. We also shared a deep interest in music.

During those humble beginnings we were privileged to be asked by Gus to compete at his “Best of the North ” competition at Northwich for dancers with a competitive record and it was Donna’s first taste of a more serious competition. We practised for that for a few months and although we did not get through our round, we did get to a level of product that was reasonable. I have seen footage of that performance and I still enjoy watching it, even though Donna thinks it was poor.

We practised consistently at our local clubs and even hired time at a local sports centre. Donna then put us forward for Strictly Dance Fever. In front of the trainer Kevin, we managed to get through the first round at the Cardiff auditions. Kevin seemed quite please with what we were doing and gave some positive feedback.

We had to stay in Cardiff and unfortunately both of us had an awful night’s sleep because of noisy neighbours. We were both feeling really unwell but still had to go to the BBC’s day of dance workshops, This is where we started to really learn about dance.

There were so many really, really good dancers from different styles. They picked things up so quickly and were so athletic. It was a humbling experience and we both got knocked out. Many people in our small class got through including the brilliantly talented Gemma.

The problem with Dance Fever was that it wrecked our practising regime. For Dance Fever, we had spent a lot of time making up a routine and now Blackpool, our first major UK Comp, was upon us. I drove up on the morning and we tried to rest before going to the venue.

As it turned out, we did not get onto the floor until our competitive heat (hint, don’t drive long distances on the day of the comp and make sure you get on the floor to practice!) and promptly got knocked out!

Editor’s Note: So end part 1 of Steve’s story. Part 2 should be published in the next two weeks. See how they bounce back form the disappointments to date.


Blitz lose Prize Club – Follow Up

May 25, 2006

Following on from our previous news flash

A new team has taken over running freestyles and club nights at Bowden’s Cinnamon Club in dramatic fashion.

 

Blitz has run its club night at the venue for over ten years, recently on Tuesday and Thursday nights, with the occasional freestyle. Blitz is the dominant MJ organisation in the north of England, running nights at around 12 venues.

 

On Saturday April 29, about 10 minutes before its midnight finish, two ex-Blitz employees, Claire and Rak Kapur and their son, flanked by the venue’s security staff, entered the freestyle and handed out fliers to the 80+ dancers attending.

 

The fliers promoted “Cinnamon Jive’, taking over Blitz’s established Tuesday and Thursday nights at the venue. Fliers also had been placed dancers’ car windscreens in the car park.

About the same time, Blitz venue manager, Suzzanne, was called to the office of Cinnamon Club’s manager. She was told that Blitz’s agreement was cancelled with immediate effect and that the Cinnamon Club would be taking over the nights.

 

Within days, an email was sent to many Blitz customers, informing them of the changes and promoting Cinnamon Jive.

 

Dancers attending the freestyle criticised the way the changes were announced. "In all the years I've been coming here I've hardly ever seen the security guards. Tonight they came in like the Gestapo … it was very intimidating. I've no doubt they were there for the benefit of the team handing out the flyers, not for the benefit of the customers,” one dancer said.

The attitude of the new team handing out flyers was also criticised. A Blitz crew member said: "I was most disgusted and shocked on how this takeover has been done. I was there on Saturday when it all happened and felt that (Blitz Franchisees) Rob and Suzanne handled it with professionalism and grace. Which was most different from Claire and Rak attitude which was to me over the top and like "up yours".’

Cinnamon Club Director Neil Hughes explained the reasons behind its takeover of the club. In his eyes, Blitz had brought the problems on itself. It hadn't entered into a formal contract with the Cinnamon Club and, in his opinion, had not managed the venue well. This was evidenced by the numerous changes of franchisee managers in 2006 and customer complaints.

Mr Hughes said he was totally legitimate in protecting 'his' customers by taking the club over and putting his staff in to the run the nights. When asked about why he was putting in staff that Blitz had allegedly sacked for poor performance and customer complaints, he said that that was Blitz's opinion, not his.

Blitz declined to comment on this story.

 

On8 will be publishing an editorial about this incident and the current competitive state of the Modern Jive Buisness in the coming week

 


Breaking News – Blitz kicked out of home club

May 1, 2006

In a shock move last Saturday (29/4), the Blitz organisation lost its prime venue, the Cinnamon Rooms in Bowden.  This club was the genesis for Modern Jive in the North West and has been in Blitz’s hand for around 10 years.  In an unprecedented move, the owners of the venue, The Cinnamon Club, cancelled the contract with no warning, bringing in a team of ex-Blitz crew to run the Jive nights for them. 

At the time of writing there is no confirmation of who will be the resident teachers nor what response Blitz will be taken.  The impact on dancers is unclear at the moment though eye-witnesses reported several Blitz crew members being visibly upset by the surprise change. 

On8 is currently contacting all parties to establish the facts before publishing a full report next Saturday, including a full account of the events on the night, which included two security guards being involved!


Response – Does the Ceroc Model Work?

May 1, 2006

This is a readers letter. This is not purported to be an ‘expert’ view on a topic, but rather an opportuntity for a reader to counter the view of one of our ‘Gurus’. Brave man! 🙂

Author: Gadget is a dancer at the Ceroc Scotland Clubs. Though not a ‘Guru’, he has been an outspoken contributor to the Ceroc Forum for several years. He has been taught at many classes and events provided by Ceroc from many different teachers over many years. He has not competed, has little interest in competing and is a product almost solely of the ‘Ceroc’ teaching model.

In Tribal’s previous article, he posed some questions and gave a quite good description of what goes on in a regular Ceroc night. But the conclusion that simply because there is little taught on a regular class night about connection, frame, musicality does not automatically mean that there is nothing to learn on a regular class night about these things.

Some people time turning up specifically to miss classes; solely because the dancing environment allows them to practice, dance and have fun. This is part of the Ceroc model. Some people turn up for the beginner’s class and leave as soon as it’s over. This is part of the Ceroc model. Some people turn up before the DJ and have to be kicked out. This is part of the Ceroc model.

The whole thing can be dipped into and pulled out of at any point in the night without disrupting the night it’s self. People can immerse themselves or simply dip a toe in. The model allows people choice and flexibility in how people learn, at what rate they learn, at what times they can attend, it is all things to all people.

One minority that Tribal highlights are not being catered for on a standard night are those that want to focus on specific techniques and style. But is this better learned while stuck in a mass of people watching the top half of a dot on stage, or be in a closer environment where the numbers are smaller and more focus can be given? Is there a better place to practice and advance your own technique than during a class where you already know what is being taught?

A harsh statement within Tribal’s article says “Whether you like it or not, if you are the person who doesn’t get-it you are the reason the class is going so slowly!” conveniently laying the blame for slow teaching at our feet rather than the teachers: If what is being said is above people’s heads, then is the fault with the person speaking, or the person listening?

What does “going slowly” actually mean? That the teacher has to explain some fundamentals of what they are teaching? If a class is advertised that the pupils must meet a certain criteria, then why should the teachers dip below that? If it is advertised that pupils must know X,Y and Z, then the fault would lie at the pupil’s feet. However, if some ambiguous terminology like “suitable for advanced intermediate dancers” is used, how are we meant to know what that means?

Tribal’s closing statement is “The Ceroc teaching model is a good one. It works well but it will only take the more serious dancer so far. After that dear reader you are on your own.” This is true up to a point. If you take “The Ceroc Teaching model” to mean from the time you step into the venue to the time you leave it. But what it fails to take into account are all the satellite things that go on outside of this (like workshops & events) and the general willingness/eagerness of students to help and learn from each other.

The Ceroc teaching model does not teach you how to dance Modern Jive; it can’t. No teaching model can. What it does is give you the building blocks and foundations, then shows you how you could put them together. It gives you guidelines not rules. After you learn these dear reader, you are on your own. You have to find the classes; you have to turn up; you have to learn.

While the Ceroc model may not teach every technical nuance of movement, timing and style from the stage on a class night, it does gives you every opportunity learn these through specialist workshops and individual coaching.

The whole crux of Tribal’s article seemed to stem from the fact that Ceroc is more of a social dance it rather than a formalised dance style. Which is true. But this fact has no relevance to the quality of teaching available, or the technical aspects that can be contained within it, or the musicality that can be expressed, or the connection, or anything else. The Ceroc Model of teaching allows me, the punter, to learn as much or as little as I want to (or am able to). It allows me to dance as much or as little as I want to. It allows me to socialise and enjoy myself. The model is as flexible and forgiving as the dance it teaches us.

Does it work? Yes. Is it the best way? Don’t know. I can find very little to improve upon, but it’s not a fixed model it evolves and changes. It may not be the best way yet. But it is trying to be. It will give you everything you want and nothing that you dont!