Pink Martini Review

April 8, 2006

Who? Is it a drink? A BAND? What do they play? Will I like them?

Well, I can answer the first three questions, but the second two are far harder to respond to.

Pink Martini are an eclectic band, both in terms of membership and music. As described by the Bands own bio Somewhere between a 1930s Cuban dance orchestra, a classical chamber music ensemble, a Brazilian marching street band and Japanese film noir is the 12-piece Pink Martini. Part language lesson, part Hollywood musical, the Portland Oregon-based ‘little orchestra’ was created in 1994 by Harvard graduate and classically trained pianist Thomas M. Lauderdale

 

How did this style of music come to be of interest to the UK MJ scene?

Around 2003 people starting realising that Touch and Go didn’t just do a very suggestive, and very popular, single (“Would you …?). Partly through the persistence of DJ Peter Phillips, became popular. The album remixes of “Straight to Number One” and “Would you ..”. This music was far removed from the likes of Kylie, Enrique etc that seemed to pervade the MJ scene at that time. The many dimensions of the music actually gave the more accomplished dancers something to play with … and supported the growing movement towards dancing to the music rather than just executing a series of moves.

The ‘new’ Touch and Go is Pink Martini. Their music has been increasingly played on the London scene and has also caught the attention of the Scottish Ceroc scene. The tracks mainly played on the dance floor are ‘Amando Amio’, ‘Donde Estas’ and ‘Never stop falling in love’ though other tracks such as ‘Lily’ and ‘Hang on Little Tomato’ also have real potential. Aside from the MJ music, their other tracks are, to the believers, awesome … and synthesis of such different style that it really shouldn’t work …. But it DOES.

 

And so …. With a real sense of impending pleasure, I sat down for the Pink Martini gig a few weeks ago at the Barbican. I had seen them only last October (with around 25 of the London MJ set) and had been mightily impressed. Despite there was no new album, and I expected them to play a very similar set, I was up for ‘likin it’.

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The first surprise was a change in the band line up. Last time there were two in the brass section and a single violin … this time there was only one brass but the addition of a cello player, a visiting member Claude Giron’s from Orchestre de Paris, and what an addition she was …. But more on that later.

 

Things were also different from the start, the opening track, “Never stop falling in love” had a different vibe, a more Carnival feeling … not sure if I preferred it to the album version, but it was great fun. They moved through another few tracks on wonderful form … the voice of China Forbes is something to behold ….. it reaches places that you wouldn’t think possible.

The band themselves are animated enough to do away with any need for flash multimedia screens or backing dancers. The drums section especially look like they are all just this side of being certified … a brilliant, zany edge to them .,… people who love the beat they are belting out … all like a bunch of naughty schoolboys who have been let loose in the school chemistry lab to see what havoc they can create. These are the guys you really want to go to a tequila bar with and know that fun is sure to follow.

 

 

 

On backing vocals Timothy Nishimoto, seemed more subdued than the last gig … but his vocals are still a delight. On the piano was the main man Thomas M. Lauderdale,again with the feeling of a naughty schoolboy, really genuinely delighted to be able to bring this music to the masses. Gavin Bondy on the trumpet as usual was superb. A strong figure himself, his contribution by way of music was equally impressive.
China leading the vocals
Aside from the usual delights, one the high spots for me was a hard hitting rift during a ‘Lily’ from Dan Faehnle on the semi-acoustic guitar. Though he was part of the assemble last time I don’t even remember him being there … this time however, his superb supporting rhythm and occasional rifts were most welcome.

 

 

 

 

However, my outstanding memory was at the start of ‘U Plavu Zoru’. I must admit that on the CD I’ve usually skipped the intro, its never really held anything for me. Not after the concert. Claude Giron’s cello took the brought a whole new delight to the track. A friend recently said to that good art takes you to another place, one that you know, whereas great art takes you to a new place that you never knew existed. That cello solo was definitely in the later category. It was a piece that I never wanted to stop, literally causing tears to well up …. And then China’s voice came in like warm chocolate on a naked girls back ….. a wonderful rendition.

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Overall, what really struck me is that the albums, though treasured, do not do true justice to the band. Maybe it’s the production or just the limit of CD technology … but you HAVE TO hear Pink M live to appreciate just how good they are.

 

 

 

Its something about the stage presence, you don’t feel that you are 50’ away … you feel that these performers are friends who’ve dropped round to your house party and just started jamming. They manage to bring with their music a sense of intimacy that brings you in makes you feel part of it. In the cold light of day there are some of their tracks that aren’t my real cup of tea … BUT, once you are there, with Pink M playing before you, you only want to hear everything they play and never want the night to end.

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The best news of the night is that they intend to release a third album later this year and will be on tour in Europe again. Make sure you book your tickets early!

Visit the Band at www.PinkMartini.com


News and Rumours – April

April 8, 2006

Well, first of all lets start with the latest BIG rumour we’ve heard. Apparently the word being passed round is that Ceroc HQ have bought all the LeRoc clubs in Bristol for £3m!!! Amazing news, would be even more amazing if there was any truth in it. That is more than it is believed it cost to buy the WHOLE of Ceroc™ when it was sold by its founders in 2004. The other slight flaw in the story is that LeRoc is loose federation of individual clubs, not a single organisation … oh, that and the fact that all the aforementioned clubs are still being run as LeRoc !

So … other rumours? I’ve been reliably informed that the entire Blitz organisation has been sold on to a key franchisee and that Ceroc Nantwich has been sold on … of course these two rumours are as factual as the rumour that Elvis has been spotted and is setting up a Modern Jive club in Accrington, playing only his greatest hits!

 

Any proper rumours?

Ceroc’s move into the Weekender market has caused a bit of a stir. After the huge success of their STORM weekender, the word on the street is that Ceroc will be putting on 8 weekenders next year. If true this is sure to have an impact on the current market. Apparently the number of weekenders is only limited by the amount of meteorological words that can be used (current events have been names ‘Storm’ and ‘Breeze’).

We are anticipating, ‘Gale Force 7’, Tornado, ‘Mild Flatulence’ and ‘El Nino’ with sponsorship coming from Tums. However, in coming to the 8, its unclear whether this number while include Ceroc’s existing portfolio of events including MJC, Rebel Yell and the Ceroc Spain weekenders.

 

On the southern scene, major changes at Jango …. Well actually it’s a case of back to the beginning. DJ TWK is moving on to do his own thing (Funky Lush) after a year of so of DJing at this Monday uber-club. At the same time the much loved Will & Kate teaching team are stepping down. This paves the way for Amir, the originator of Jango to return to running the venture. He will be teaching with Kate with DJ Sheepman manning the decks. May the fun continue.

 

Anticipation builds for the Ceroc Championships. There are many looking forward to the rematch of newcomers Simon Rich & Nicole v the established champion couple Phil & Yuko. This mouth-watering competition should be made even more interesting if Will and Kate are entering. There is still the possibility for an unknown couple to emerge from obscurity and produce an upset. The awesome Scottish couple, James and Melanie are also a force to be reckoned with.

As usual, if you hear anything interesting or you are in a position to confirm or rubbish a rumour, pleased feel free to contact us at On8.co.uk


Ceroc Champs – 1999

April 3, 2006

The place was the Empire, Leicester Square and the time was 1999.. the first Ceroc championships. Like the vast majority of the 1000 or so dancers there, it was all very new. Coming from the relative backwater of Ceroc Stoke, I had no idea what the competition scene was like … and to be truthful very few there did …. Outside a small elite, competition in MJ was very new, to some an anathema (in those days the Ceroc Teacher contacts still had a clause banning them from taking part on competitions).

I was still feeling quite chuffed. My partner and I has competed in the intermediates and had got through the first round … much to our amazement. We had now secured a great position on the balcony to watch the event that had really caught our attention, the Spotlight a couple dancing a pre-choreographed routine to their chosen track. What all my friends were waiting for was Steve and his partner Lucy. We had seen a preview of their routine at Ceroc Stafford the previous week. A nice and simple routine based around Saturday Night Never … Steve in the compulsory John Travolta White and black suit, his partner in a lovely halter neck dress that splayed out in fine style every time she spun. They were ok intermediates … nothing special … but at that time that’s about as good as it got in our region. We had no reason to believe that everyone else was not at the same standard.

So … as we waited for Steve and Lucy, apparently on as the second couple, a totally unknown couple (coached by now legendary Sue Freeman) walked into the arena …. Dan and Lisa. They looked very strange. Cyber/punk outfits …. The guy had real odd hair, heavily tattooed … definitely not your typical middle class Ceroc type. And instead of starting form the regulation upright position facing each other they started from the floor! My concerns at this stage were nothing compared to my disbelief when the music started …. Like a raw remix from the Matrix … harsh, loud and totally undanceable.

Except for Dan and Lisa. In the next 4 minutes I had everything I ‘knew’ about MJ dance blown away. It was hard, aggressive, different ……beautiful!…. An amazing fusion of street, hi-hop dance with MJ and Lindy moves. we saw the best EVER execution of ‘travelling washing machine move’ (don’t try this at home!) …. At the end of it I knew I’d witnesses something very special;. The crowd went berserk …. a truly deafening response and I shouted approval along with everyone around me … we knew we’d seen history made. It was truly an awesome cabaret, in my humble opinion, in all the years of competition since no-one has come even close to matching it.

 

Then the cheering stuck in my throat as the next couple walked out …. Steve and Lucy. They were now standing in the loneliest place on the planet …. With clear dance floor surrounding them they were looking out on all sides at a thousand plus dancers, knowing full well that their routine was massively inferior to the display that had just been seen. And from the way Steve stood trying to get his composure everyone in the audience knew it aswell. I felt sick in the pit of my stomach … I knew what was going to happen … Steve was not the most confident of characters. They would struggle through the opening bars of the sequence, make a few mistakes then just loose it … or he was going to do what I know I would have done, let the nerves get to him and just flee the floor before the grotesque humiliation began. The seconds of silence that passed before the music to start weighed heavily in the air.

And then the routine started. The Night Fever music started Steve looked up, and something happened I never expected to happen … he smiled. He shuffled into the simplistic routine, threw in a few hip shimmies and did what he came to do ….. and the crowd loved it. By the time he threw in a very basic first move drop he got rapturous applause as if he’d just executed a double doughnut aerial! At the end of the routine they left the floor to a thunderous round of applause that nearly matched that for Dan and Lisa. People knew what Steve and Lucy had achieved, realised just how much guts it took form them to go through with the routine, and they thanked them for it … a truly wonderful response.

 

The memory of that performance still brings tears to my eyes. I suppose it was an epiphany, a realisation what the Modern Jive world should be all about. Rapturous praise both for those who can create living art on the dance floor AND for those who have gone out, done their best and enjoyed it. Despite all the politics and disappointments since that wonderful day, these memories keep me going, keep my faith and I still remember Steve’s glowing grin as he left the arena …. Steve and Lucy will never known that feeling of being ‘the best’ dancers but I bet no amount of gold medals could match the applause and support they received that afternoon in Hammersmith.

 

Dan and Lisa’s routine can be seen on the Ceroc Championships Compilation DVD available form Ceroc™..


Fashion Posts

April 3, 2006

This section will bring you the latest looks from the dance floor. Some of which are to die for, some of which to be avoided at all costs!

The fashion of the dancfloor is a moving feast. In the early 90s jeans and T shirts were de rigueur. As the swing influence grew black and white shoes, stripped baggy trousers and braces were to be seen on the most fashionable dancers. Come the start of the new millennium, and promoted by the arrival on the scene of Dan & Lisa, combats and cyber gear (Cyberdog, Punkyfish etc) became fashionable. This led to the birth of a new fashion trend, fashion disasters. When you’re in your 40s/50s, it takes a certain style to dress like a teenager and pull it off …. And sadly many tried and failed.

So …. What are the current dance fashions? Our roving reporters are ceaselessly scouring the land to bring you the new styles and advice …. photos to follow!

 


Does the current ‘Ceroc’ teaching model work?

March 24, 2006

Sometimes its good to challenge the status quo. Its not necessarily because there is something inherently wrong with it but in reviewing the ways things are done we can either affirm that what we do is the best way or can develop new approaches.

The ‘Ceroc’ model has been with the MJ scene for many years and has been shameslessly copied by nearly all of its rivals. We all see it, beginners class, freestyle, intermediate class, freestyle, teacher on a stage teaching to a proven formula, taxi dancers on hand to help beginners …… but is it the best way?

Author: Tribal (anonymous.) Tribal has taught at many classes and events for various modern jive providers around the UK. He also teaches regular weekly classes at a local dance college in the north (not following the ‘Ceroc’ model!) and has successfully competed at both regional and UK level.

Tell me what the average Ceroc night consists of?

Arrive by half past seven-ish, depending on work, traffic etc. Enter the venue, normally somewhere large with a good floor and a bar! Pay the venue manager your hard earned, typically about £7. Then go into the venue and meet up with old pals in this most familiar of environments. The class begins. Firstly though you require some form of regimentation. In this instance lines of men and women appear, almost like clockwork. Completely unprompted, ready for action.

Quick intro from the teacher followed by the Ceroc Essentials. A necessary warm up brought into being due to legal reasons of undertaking what could be strenuous exercise without a warm up! Into the main body of the class, 4 beginners moves in 45 minutes or less!

Some treat this like a challenge. Teachers I mean. And rush through it all as if their life depended on it. Missing out all the good juicy stuff, life connection, leverage, tension, compression, musicality, rapport…this list goes on.

But then again do you need to know all this, because Ceroc is more of a social dance isn’t it rather than a formalised dance style?

Taxi dancers are on hand to keep you on track. These are people who are particularly good at Ceroc who assist the teacher and take a review class later on. Like everything else though the ability of the much abused taxi dancer can be a matter for discussion. Unfortunately and in cases I have often found myself witnessing, the taxi dancer is normally just somebody ‘popular’ rather than somebody capable… But hey, like we’ve said already, Ceroc is a social dance isn’t it?

The class itself is well laid out in a clear understandable style, employing visual demonstrations followed by the theory and the practise. A lot to take in, in just 45 minutes don’t you think? Next comes the freestyle element of the evening, leading into the review class or the intermediate class depending on ability of the pupil.

All this goes towards making your night out at Ceroc as enjoyable as the company, the franchisee, the venue manager, the teacher, the taxi dancer and the dj can make it. You might have noticed the variables there. All these different people make up your night out dancing. And it is at this point that the model can sometimes fall down. A team is required to process the often large number of ‘punters’ through the door, and they all play an integral part to your evening.

As a provider of this information, I have many thoughts on the rights and wrongs of dance and its teachings. These are all personal opinion and have arisen from my own teaching experiences. One of my biggest stumbling blocks was that Ceroc was more and still is more of a social dance than a formal dance. Yes it’s a hobby for many and a way to meet new friends but when it costs £7 per person per lesson and the possible outcome of slapdash teaching is an injury to a patron…should it be classed as being ‘just something to do for an evening’?

Because of the this foggy area surrounding the formal/social dancer it is nigh on impossible to ensure that weekly classes and specialist weekend workshops are attended by those capable of completing them. 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! Pretty harsh I know, but true. If we did have a more formal class environment, dare I say, some form of grading system or categorisation, then the classes could run more smoothly, they could be more challenging and you the punter could get more out of them. This is of course, speculation. Personal opinion laid down in words for you to think over.

As it stands at the moment, your average Ceroc class should be well taught, it should be clear and understandable, and it should last for 45 minutes at beginner level and 30 minutes at intermediate level. The taxi dancers should do everything the teacher can, with explanations to boot!

In the perfect world the Ceroc model works and it works well. It works well at getting new people through the door. It works well at turning you the punter from beginner into intermediate, whether you are one of the social mob or something a little more serious. If you want to do anything more however, you’ll probably find yourself going elsewhere…like salsa or ballroom. Why these ones? Well, because they have some formal recognition, they have set foot patterns, they have grading systems and they’re often recognised by a formal UK or world organisation. Ceroc doesn’t and isn’t. They provide the pupil with a confirmed understanding that what they are doing they are doing correctly and no further progress can be made until a certain standard has been achieved.

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. As for the social dancers amongst the reading public, please continue to enjoy your Ceroc class…it will give you everything you want and nothing that you don’t!

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The Future of West Coast Swing in MJ

March 17, 2006

The inaugural topic for On8 was the question “What is the future for WCS”. Over the last year West Coast Swing (WCS) has received far a higher profile on the MJ scene. Once seen as the domain of the Line dancing community, nearly every top level MJ competitor has had WCS lessons to improve their style. Ceroc Australia are now promoting WCS as part of their syllabus.

So …. should it be increasingly incorporated within MJ, should it strive to maintain a separate identity, do we need more teachers, will standards drop, will a hybrid style emerge? The following authors, Chris and AAA have looked at this question from their own perspectives and each made a number of telling points.

Author: Chris Taylor. Chris is the leading (or possibly only) West Coast Swing (WCS) instructor in the North West. He is an accomplished line dancer and choreographer, with six years of Modern Jive (MJ). I rate him as the best technical MJ instructor in the North West. G.

Firstly the future of WCS is in my opinion guaranteed, as a major dance style in the US and a part of western couples ( through linedance ). In this country as a separate entirety it can only get stronger.

The core principals of WCS can and should be incorporated into MJ ( in varying amounts ) :-

Slotted dance style:- many of the moves in MJ are slotted or can be given the look of being slotted, learn to share the slot ( don’t jump to one side ) turning as a couple makes it look real smooth. This is also useful on crowded dance floors!! ( this is where the style originates, in busy dance halls dancers were allocated slots on the floor ).

Grounded dance style:- Apologies in advance to the bouncier jivers !! with the increasing use of latin, r&b and funk etc, the grounded ( feet not leaving the floor ) footwork of WCS and the gliding motion of WCS ( and latin — Phil and Yuko, need I say more ). This is achieved by never stopping, think counting one and er two and er three and er four and er rather than 1-2-3-4, also emphasising even numbers in WCS gives whats known as Kodak moments ( hitting poses ) gives a classy look but never actually stopping allows each move to breath into the next! add to this musicality ( which I freely admit to being pants at ) and you have a great way of adding grace and style to your MJ.

Now to the biggies:- Looking after your partner !! By far the most important. show her off to HER best advantage, whether in social or competitive dance it should be the lady thats being watched !! The man should be stylish and in the right place at the right time ( leading but not over powering ) its always nice to get told that the lady always knows where she should be even if she doesn’t know the move !! So look after the lady, I guarantee she’ll be back for more.Lead and Follow:- Books have been written by far better than I, but here goes:-

Connection:- To be able to lead and make the lady feel secure, finger tip connection just will not do !! True you don’t need thumbs but fingers of lady should mould into mans ( little finger behind palm knuckles, the others moulded to the mans ) so that not only can the man lead the lady forward but the heal of the hand can compress into the ladies knuckles to change her direction ( if you compress into just finger tips things crack and break ).

Compression and Elasticity:- These are the hardest to grasp for many !! To realise less is more and to lead from the spine ( not with the arms ). there should be the slightest tone in the muscles of the arms ( no joint tension ), just enough to feel change of direction of partner. It is not the mans job ,to quote WCS mentor of mine, ” to drag the ladies butt around the floor “.


To get technical for a moment:- A semi-circle in any direction to someone unfamiliar is not going to make them step back ( even if they are a dancer ) but if you incorporate a slight body compression into the lady after count 8 but before count 1 ( think 5-6-7-8 and er 1 ) where and er is the compression and 1 is the step back, then allow lady full range of motion by allowing your elbow to come away from your side, if you’ve maintained good posture the combined elasticity generated between the two bodies creates a recoil into the next move ( you don’t need to pull with your arms at all ).


Your job is to set the lady in motion, then cushion and redirect, ( think of your arms as bungee cords connecting your spines ) feeling gentle stretch across the back of the shoulders and lats ( the large muscles below the shoulder blades ) but no tension in your biceps or joints !! The ladies centre of gravity is 5cm ( 2 inches ) below her navel, move this centre while moving from your own and the rest will follow.


These are not just WCS fundamentals, they apply to all disciplines but if incorporated into MJ you will improve in leaps and bounds.

Need for more teachers:- Time constraints on class nights means that the format of a class only covers the basic shape of moves!! teachers however should be able to teach fundamentals of lead and follow on 1:1 basis or in workshops. MJ instructors would benefit from trying other dance disciplines to appreciate how basic ( and thats the appeal to the masses ) MJ is, not just WCS but salsa, tango, latin and ballroom, all of which incorporate MJ arm movements along with having to think about mans feet, opposing ladies feet and musical rhythm of whichever dance style.

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Author: AAA(anonymous). AAA is the self confessed WCS addict who has been actively involved in the WCS scene for the last year and a half and is still enjoying the learning and being a beginner again. At the same time she has been an instructor for over 2 years with a major MJ organsation in the South East .

So the million dollar question is posed “What is the future for WCS”. Of course rather than just posing the question I suppose some clarification of the context of the question is required. WCS as a dance style has been popular in the US for some years and similar to the rest of the partner dancing scene has seen changes and progression of the dance from influence to influence. The current popularity of dancing WCS to slower music can be seen as one such influence of the current and younger generation. Do we see WCS as ‘standing alone’ or should we aim to incorporate it into MJ?


There are several points of view to raise here, firstly I know it make come as a shock but there are some people who are horrified at the thought of MJ – yes I’m sorry to inform you but there are people out there who don’t or won’t, only WCS (or some other partner dancing) and when asked will recoil in horror at the thought, that maybe that is a slight exaggeration but you see where I’m going, and then there are those that are more than happy to try. On the opposing MJ side there are perhaps three schools of thought, those that love WCS and have embraced it (I’ll talk about them later rather than indulging myself now), those that like it and appreciate it and may even have tried it, and finally those that have no interest in WCS whatsoever. In my opinion (and only mine) that it is those in the middle category who will provide the impetus for change those who appreciate it but don’t or won’t for whatever reason take it any further than that basic appreciation. .


I’ve spoken to lots of people regarding WCS – being a self confessed WCS nut I have to try and convert everyone else to one of my favourite pastimes – the responses I’ve received are often varied, from the ‘oh yes I like it and we tried that but the footwork is just impossible/ I couldn’t get it etc’ to ‘I like the look of it but I’ve never tried it’ and through ‘oh I tried that at a weekender it was fun, but there are no classes near me’.


WCS seems to be attracting attention within the MJ community and most people seem to appreciate the dancing style. In some areas we are already seeing the influence of WCS on MJ, there have been numerous discussions previously regarding the ‘bouncy v smooth’ styles of MJ that seem to almost seem to be in opposition of each other, the smoothness of WCS I feel is creeping into mainstream MJ, there are those who will always just dismiss WCS as ‘just another fad’ but there is a core of people who are willing to make that extra effort. This change is not only limited to the style, we are already seeing changes in freestyles with the provision of separate rooms for different genres of music, rooms normally reserved solely for ‘Swing’ or and ‘Blues’ are now moving towards including WCS music and advertising a separate WCS room. With the operators of the venues actively making this change and encouraging the emerging WCS scene, support for the future of WCS can be clearly seen.


This support from operators also extends to the actual teaching of WCS, there has been an increase in the number of venues and classes currently running, with operators now promoting and advertising WCS classes and workshops. The same applies to weekender events, operators are seeking out WCS teachers from the US and bringing them over, which can only aid the sustainability of WCS for the future.


I’ve already mentioned the influence of WCS on MJ, and feel this is a positive one, however although the influence upon the style may add a new dimension to MJ, there will I feel remain the need for WCS to remain as separate entity. There will probably emerge a mix of the two styles, creating some form of hybrid. However this is not the first time an influence would have appeared within MJ, there have been influences from Hip-Hop, Ballroom and Tango-esque that have all been incorporated and together with music influences the MJ style from 20 years ago is very different to MJ today.


Many dancers – myself included – tend to be searching for something more, be it they have reached a level within their dancing and are now trying to find that elusive missing part that will move them up to the next, or they may be seeking a new challenge in whatever form, WCS offers this opportunity to them, however it also comes with the drawbacks. From being a competent dancer, you are now back in the realms of beginner-dom. WCS offers a challenge, a need to overcome basics and achieve a level of ability, which most of us thought we’d left behind. For me the strength that WCS offers MJ is the connection and the lead and follow, which is taught at all levels within WCS, for me personally this has had the most positive effect upon my MJ.


My view is that WCS will move from strength to strength, within the dance community there exists the support and demand for WCS to remain as a separate entity, although I welcome the influence of the WCS style upon MJ. Those of us who are self confessed WCS-holics are normally to be found travelling considerable distances to attend a WCS event, which shows there is the support within the dance community for WCS to remain a separate dance form.

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