Daily Archives: January 13, 2014

Hertfordshire: Letchworth

 

The Spirella Ballroom

Bridge Road
Letchworth Garden City
Hertfordshire
SG6 4ET
Most dance venues have you dancing on the ground floor.  At the Spirella Building you are on the fourth floor.
It’s a modern venue, with a gentleman at a desk on reception, lifts up to the fourth floor, and a modern hall (being refurbished in January 2014) with a stage at one end and a bar at the other.
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That’s it really – the hall is a lot less interesting that one might have imagined given the nature of the building and the swishness of the entrance, but it serves its purpose.
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Outside the carpark is more than adequate, and the whole location is only about five to ten minutes drive from the point where the A1 becomes the A1M (and of course vice versa if you are heading north).
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This venue is run by Ceroc Central so there’s the usual smoothness of production and organisation.  Dances on some fridays (about once a monthy) and a monday night dance club following the usual format.
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It’s not the most inspiring of venues, nor the best crowd in the Ceroc Central region, but it works.
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  • Air conditioning: 3 out of 5 – it can get warmish, but never excessively hot.
  • Atmosphere: 3 out of 5.  Somehow it never seems to take off in the way that St Neots (for example) can do.   It seems to get to a point, and then stop – there is no leap to that final level of excitement.
  • Do ladies ask men:  3 out of 5.  Yes they do – up to a point.  But only up to a point.
  • Facilities: 4 out of 5.  The bar is small at the end of the hall, but they cope very well and there never seems to be a queue.  The only things you can complain about are that the wine is either large or small (nothing in between) and the water comes in very tiny plastic cups.  Are the large ones really that much more expensive?  In the end most of us just take two cups.
  • Free water: Yes – see note above.
  • Friendliness: 2 out of 5 – it should be, because it is Ceroc Central, but it just isn’t.  Maybe it something about living in Letchworth.
  • Location: 4 out of 5.  It’s within a collection of roads and roundabouts, of the A1/A1M interchange.
  • Music: 3 out of 5
  • Parking: 5 out of 5.  On site, never full
  • Space:  3 out of 5. It does get crowded on dance nights.  
  • Venue overall: 3 out of 5

Leicestershire: Melton Mowbray

Run by Want2Dance this is a small club run in rooms above a pub in Melton Mowbray at  Royal British Legion, Keswick House, Thorpe End, Melton Mowbray, LE13 1RB

The club runs on Wednesday evenings, and also runs occasional dances.  From time to time the Wednesday event is given over to a dance, rather than the normal dance format.

It’s a small venue held over a bar, with a regular dedicated group of dancers, following the usual format most of the time.  The two dance instructors are friendly and clearly enjoying what they do, and there’s a warm response from those who attend.  The club has its regulars, but new faces appear regularly.   If the huge halls that Ceroc uses on occasion are a bit intimidating for you, then this could serve your purpose much more readily.

One nice touch is that although the music contains some of the regulars, it doesn’t always stick to that.  When the DJ realised my interest in a particular artist, he made sure that each time I turned up I got one of my favourite songs. A nice touch.

  • Air conditioning: 5 out of 5 – I have never felt hot there – there must be an air con system at work behind the scenes I guess, but I am not sure how and where it is.
  • Atmosphere: 3 out of 5.  This is homely rather than vibrant and exciting – it all depends on the sort of venue you like.
  • Do ladies ask men: 2 out of 5.   Yes they do, but in my early days at the club I did all the asking.  But then I was an outsider coming into a local club.  But for those who regularly attend I do think you do get to know your favourite dancers.
  • Facilities: 4 out of 5.  The bar downstairs is part of a large drinking area, so they have everything you might need.
  • Free water: Yes
  • Friendliness: 4 out of 5 – no one came rushing up to greet me as a newbie, but I wasn’t in any way excluded.  One night everyone had cake for a birthday celebration.  A nice touch.
  • Location: 4 out of 5. Town centre nearby Macdonalds (if that’s your idea of fun).
  • Music: 4 out of 5
  • Parking: 1 out of 5.  There’s no car park as such – we parked in a residential street three minutes away, so you might have to do a little bit of searching.  But it is not a busy area so you will quickly find something.
  • Space:  3 out of 5.  While the numbers are small it is perfectly adequate and they seem to stay at a reasonable level most of the time.
  • Venue overall: 4 out of 5

Northants: Kettering

Wicksteed Park Pavilion

Barton Road, Kettering, Northamptonshire, NN15 6NJ

It is a spacious venue in a delightful setting of a large country park, but it comes with the problem that there is so much space to sit away from the dance floor that people do get together in their own groups.  That doesn’t mean people don’t mingle, but it does show the one benefit of the more crowded venue – you are all forced together.

Given that it is such a nice place it is strange that as a location for dances (as opposed to club nights) it has declined over the years, and I get the feeling (perhaps unjustified) that the Ceroc Passion franchise doesn’t have anyone with drive and enthusiasm at the top, unlike Ceroc Central or Ceroc Buckingham – the local rivals.

The one thing that is wrong with the club nights, for the beginner is the fact that they put the beginners’ revision class in a tiny entrance lobby.  It’s too small, it’s a thoroughfare, and it just says “you ain’t important” in big letters.

Also I have noticed that sometimes the taxi dancers really don’t seem to care too much about beginners.  Some do, but to see some taxis dancing together or with their friends even in between the beginners’ class and the intermediate, doesn’t say much for the operation of the franchise.   It was the same issue that stopped beginners coming through at Wellingborough when it was at the Railway Club, and it was never dealt with there.

The bar is spacious and attractively set out (a major change after the last renovation), and there is seating a plenty.

One specific problem they have however is that because of the attractiveness of the venue, there are more frequent venue changes than there should be and it is common to find that the whole of December is written off, with Ceroc moving to the awful Athletics Club.

  • Air conditioning: 4 out of 5
  • Atmosphere: 3 out of 5.  There’s no problem – just that the venue is quite large for the numbers so the atmosphere can die.
  • Do ladies ask men: 2 out of 5.  Not that much, which is a shame.
  • Facilities: 3 out of 5.  A great arena, spoiled only by the dance floor which slopes at one end and often seems to be sticky in places.  It didn’t seem to be fixed in the last refurbishment.
  • Free water: Yes
  • Friendliness: 3 out of 5 – people tend to stick to their own small groups – possibly because there is so much room
  • Location: 5 out of 5 unless you don’t have a car, in which case it is impossible.
  • Music: 4 out of 5
  • Parking: 4 out of 5 – you can’t park on the road, but there are car parks at either end although the signposting is awful, with barriers up making it look like the whole roadway is blocked.  I wonder how many people have given up and gone home on seeing that.
  • Space: 5 out of 5 – never found it full
  • Venue overall: 4 out of 5

Have we been unfair?  Reviews are based on personal experiences.  If you want to add another opinion just write to Tony.Attwood@aisa.org and we’ll add your alternative review.  Alternatively just add a comment.

Rugby Indian Centre

Indian Centre,

Edward Street, Rugby, Warwickshire, CV21 2EZ

It’s the only dance venue I know which has a door coming off the main dance floor which says, “Temple”.

And it’s a nice enough venue.  But it has some problems.  When I first wrote a review of the club I said that itsonly problem is that on some occasions with its Friday night dances it can become so packed that it almost gets to be dangerous.  Now I would say that its problem is that sometimes at dances the numbers there are so small that it is hard to find enough dancers to last the evening.

Plus at the Thursday night club events the numbers can often best be described as modest.

There’s a decent on-site carpark, although on very busy dance nights that can get full, but much of it is on a slope, so do make sure your handbrake works.

One bonus they have is a really positive and caring lady on the door who not only knows people’s names, but also cares very much about the club.  When the lines for a class get long, she’s out there making sure that the man or woman coming off the end of the last line finds the way back to the start of the first one.

But there are two downsides.  One is that on occasion the toilets can be smelly, and the other is that the club will not abide by the requirements of the licensing act and offer free water.  Their excuse is that one can get it from the kitchen.  But this means a) finding the kitchen, b) finding the light, and c) having a container into which to pour the tap water.

It also went through a series of events in which the fire doors were blocked.  Visits from the local fire officer eventually sorted this out, but not straight away, which was most alarming.

Certainly the crowd is friendly, and all told it’s a decent enough venue except when allowed to get horribly overcrowded for a dance night.

 

  • Air conditioning: 3 out of 5
  • Atmosphere: Varies between 1 out of 5 and 5 out of 5.  It is currently going through a low period because of low numbers.
  • Do ladies ask men: 3 out of 5.  Yes – a certain standoffishness can be seen but by no means the worst.
  • Facilities: 3 out of 5.  Toilets have array of accoutrements, bar is generally big enough, and there is a spare room for food and drink on dance nights.  But there was a long period in which the ladies were complaining a lot about the faciliites.
  • Free water: No.
  • Friendliness: 3 out of 5
  • Location: 3 out of 5.  On a housing estate – no good without a car unless you live close by.
  • Music: 4 out of 5
  • Parking: 4 out of 5
  • Space: 5 out of 5 out of five at the moment.
  • Venue overall: 2 out of 5 – the history and the continuing refusal to offer free tap water in breach of the Licensing Act is a major concern.

 

 

Leicester: Braunstone Town

Civic Centre,

Kingsway, Braunstone Town, Leicester, Leicestershire  LE3 2PP

The Civic Centre sounds grand – if you don’t know Leicester you might expect a major venue at the heart of the city.   This isn’t – it is a civic centre in a suburb.

It’s none the worse for that but it does mean that as you approach Kingsway, and find it a narrow street with only just enough room for cars to try and get past each other (what with all the cars parked by the side of the road)  you might well wonder if you are in the right place.  Especially as the road stretches on for much further than you might expect.

The Civic Centre is easy to miss – I certainly did not see signs to it as I tried to make my way there – and ultimately only saw it by chance, because several other cars were turning in.

There is one site that pronounces that the Centre has on site parking.  Which is true – but nowhere near enough to cope with a freestyle which means that you are either trying to find the last single space in the on site parking, or searching for a suitable road on the housing estate that surrounds the Centre.

And while I am on the complaints (which will be countered in a moment by positive comments) the pictures of the venue from the inside are taking with only a modest number of dancers in what looks like a big space.  It’s not – it is one of the smallest Ceroc venues there is.

Indeed friends told me not to bother with it when I went, not least because of the crowdedness.  “Bumper cars” was one comment.

It wasn’t that bad when I went – and I went on a night when the Ceroc dance in Northampton had been called off with just a few days to go, and there was nothing much else around.

Yes it was full-ish but that’s not really a problem, for it means you get a lot of choice of dancers.

And there was a strange tendency of the locals to crowd down one end of the room where you really could hardly dance.  Down the far end, by the stage, there was much more room.

The bar itself is in the dance area – which is not so clever – but that’s how its been around.  The staff were friendly, and although there were often long queues, they really did do their best.  The water is free – good for them.

The key plusses – and they are big ones – is that the place was very friendly, and the music was just what was wanted.  Old favourites with a smattering of new songs through a good sound system.

One amusing moment I had – a sophisticated lady came up to me and said, “Shall we boogie?”  Now I take that to be a phrase that means the speaker has a certain level of old-time experience at dancing, maybe going back to the original days of jive.  This lady, bless her, had none of that – in fact she had very little idea about what modern jive was about.

Now I do try and dance regularly with beginners – I’ve no problem with that at all, and I remember those people who helped me when I was trying to unlearn traditional jive and learn modern jive.  Indeed the first lady I danced with on my evening at the venue said she was pretty much a beginner, but she was far from that – a light touch, and following every move as I made them more and more advanced through the two dances we had.

But trying to suggest you are cool and know it, when you don’t is odd – and sometimes amusing.

  • Air conditioning: 3 out of 5 – I have seen it mentioned that there is air conditioning but I’m not sure about this.  There are certainly fans around, but they were not switched on.
  • Atmosphere: 5 out of 5
  • Do ladies ask men: 3 out of five. Not bad, although one request was the boogie lady (see above) and one from a lady who told me to hold her more tightly as my touch was too gentle.  Ah well.
  • Facilities: 3 out of 5
  • Free water: Yes.
  • Friendliness: 5 out of 5
  • Location: 3 out of 5.  Great if you live in Braunstone, difficult to find and park otherwise.
  • Music: 4 out of 5
  • Parking: 2 out of 5
  • Space: 3 out of 5
  • Venue overall: 3 out of 5

St Ives, Dance Excess.

St Ives, Dance Excess.

The Corn Exchange, The Pavement, St Ives PE27 5AD

Beware the web site – because of the over the top design you can’t actually copy anything from it – which maybe is their idea but which makes life annoying if you want to cut and paste the address or anything like that to send on to a friend.

They also insist on writing everything IN BLOCK CAPITALS which makes it incredibly hard to read once you get into the second line.  I think that a designer has been having them on.

What they do is have a club in the normal format on Monday nights, and Friday night freestyles.   This puts them in direct competition with Ceroc at St Neots which also has Friday night gigs, and there have even been some occasions on which Dance XS and Ceroc Central have both been running events on the same Friday night in St Ives!

I’ve heard each side blame the other for the clash, but it seems that in 2014 Ceroc is pulling out of St Ives, which is a shame because the dance hall they used is a sensation and well worth a long journey to go there and enjoy.

But back to Dance XS.  It’s an independent club in a smart venue, which has undergone a total overhaul in recent years.  The only problem they have is that the turnout is modest.  Those who are there are always friendly and jolly, and the Friday night freestyles do get a decent turnout of better dancers – and the food at 11pm is nice.

So if you want a smaller quieter club where you’ll soon get to know everyone, and where everyone is friendly, this is great.  The hall is fine, the air con good, and for the classes, the teacher brings in some unusual and unexpected moves.

Car parking in the immediate vicinity can be difficult, but there is a larger carpark only a few minutes walk away.

There’s no bar however.  Coffee, tea and tapwater free.

  • Air conditioning: 5 out of 5
  • Atmosphere: 3 out of 5.  Friendly but not what you would call buzzing.
  • Do ladies ask men: 4 out of 5.  It’s a smaller crowd, so there’s a lot of asking, and newcomers are always welcomed.
  • Facilities: 5 out of 5.  It’s very modern, very smart throughout.
  • Free water: Yes.
  • Friendliness: 5 out of 5
  • Location: 5 out of 5.  Centre of town.
  • Music: 4 out of 5
  • Parking: 4 out of 5
  • Space: 5 out of 5
  • Venue overall: 5 out of 5

 

Peterborough – Parkway

Parkway Sports and Social Club

Maskew Ave., Peterborough, Cambs PE1 2AS

The first thing to say about this venue is that if you don’t know the area, it can be hard to find.   It is on a business and industrial estate which at night (especially in winter) can seem not just deserted but also spooky and unwelcoming.

A variety of car businesses, Kwik Fit, Halfords,,taxi firms and a PC company undoubtedly bring the place to life by day, but by night its grim.

Worse, I’ve used two different sat nav systems to find the location of the club.  One told me I had arrived when I reached a roundabout on the main road in and out of Peterborough, the other took me to the right road, but I was totally unable to find the club from there.   What Ceroc, who operate the venue, need to do is provide a very detailed map showing exactly where the centre is.  Maybe their site contains that information but I certainly can’t find it.

Just to add to the confusion I think Maskew Ave runs both left and right off the main roundabout, so that can be confusing too.  If heading into Peterborough from the ring road turn right.  Coming out of town, turn left at the roundabout.

I did however make it, bearing in mind Ceroc’s claim the club has a “great atmosphere…” and provides an “unforgettable experience… in the lovely city of Peterborough.”

I’m sorry but I have to disagree… sometimes.  I’ve been quite a few times now and never once did I find a “great” atmosphere although on occasion it has been good.

Part of the problem is that there is a regular clientèle who dance with each other.  It’s not a huge number, but then it’s not a very big venue, and so getting to know anyone can be hard as they are already in their own social groups.

But persevere and it is possible to get good dances and even make a few friends… you just have to work at it.   What this venue doesn’t do, and indeed what most venues don’t ever do, is say to the regulars, “To keep this venue alive and growing we need to welcome new dancers – not just beginners but also people who are experienced and who are trying us out for the first time.   So please, if you see a face you’ve not seen before, do ask him or her to dance.  Just one dance a night with a new face… it will make all the difference.

As for the lovely city of Peterborough, this might technically be a reality in Peterborough (I’m really not sure if it is) but in truth this is an out of town industrial and business estate.  The “lovely city” comment suggests that it is in the pedestrianized area in the heart of the city with its cafes and bars, the theatre and the cathedral.  In terms of atmosphere it is 100 light years away.

In my original review I wrote that there’s more atmosphere on the moon.  That’s not right, but coming in on your own from the outside, you have to expect to work at getting dances.

I’d congratulate the club for putting on the only Christmas Eve dance anywhere in the area in 2013 – but the turnout was modest in the extreme, and once again it was a case of little groups of friends huddled together and it just didn’t work.   But 10 out of 10 for trying, and maybe other venue will take up the cause.

If you can push yourself forward, fine.  If you like to be invited, maybe better try somewhere else.   I still go sometimes – but then I do go around and ask for dances.

  • Air conditioning: 4 out of 5
  • Atmosphere: 2 out of 5
  • Do ladies ask men: 1 out of 5.
  • Facilities: 4 out of 5.  It’s got a bar, chairs, tables, a stage, and the loos are clean..
  • Free water: Yes – although they did charge for a short time.  They don’t now.
  • Friendliness: 1 out of 5
  • Location: 0 out of 5
  • Music: 4 out of 5
  • Parking: 5 out of 5 – although it can take a moment or two to find it, but when you do (just keep going til you can’t go further, and turn left in the car park).
  • Space: 2 out of 5 – it is small and could easily get crowded
  • Venue overall: 3 out of 5 – if you recognise you have to make the effort.