After a recent bad floor experience, it seems a venue can make or break a class or freestyle night. I certainly won’t be returning to that venue to potentially damage my knees further. With ballrooms closing left, right and centre. And despite the numbers of those dancing encouraged by the popularity of dance and talent shows on television, finding a good venue which ticks all the boxes is hard.
Of course, the music is a big part of a good night dancing, and a good DJ will be one that plays the tracks that people want to dance to, and those new discoveries to keep people on their toes and challenges.
The venue team plays a part – who wants to see a miserable person on the front desk. We want to see smiles, a friendly welcome, and dance teachers and taxi dancers who’ll make themselves available for questions and dancing with. There’s plenty of classes where dancers will make the effort to travel to dance with and learn from a specific teacher – if they then don’t dance in the freestyle, that can put off people from returning.
But the venue itself makes a big difference to my dancing experience. And that of others. Because when you see a venue have to close for building work or other issues, and classes get transferred elsewhere (even a walk away), lots of people moan and don’t go with the venue. It amazes me how many people dislike dancing in schools for class nights, even if the floor and space is good.
A good dance venue (for me) has:
1, A good floor
Not too slippy but definitely not sticky. And flat. I’ve danced on floors with lumps, nails sticking out in areas, or sloping. They all take a lot of effort to think about and avoid. The worst was a really sticky floor recently which really isn’t good for being a smooth elegant dancer. Floors that make you more stompy than graceful, and isn’t gentle to knees, are not the sort of floors we want to be dancing on.
2, Air conditioning
I hear you all laugh, because so few places in the UK have air conditioning. But the ability to open doors and windows helps, plus fans that send out cold air are pretty much essential for summer dancing. 2 of the 3 local modern jive companies have fans, 1 doesn’t. It really makes it much more pleasant for the dancer and their partners. Plus I can dance for longer and so feel like I’ve got better value for my dancing.
3, Space to dance
Sounds obvious, but you don’t also want a massive venue with only a few people attending the venue because it means little atmosphere. Space for people to walk around the floor helps, and if there’s the option to extend and dance in other areas if it gets too crowded all the better. Oh and not having pillars in the middle of the dance floor helps
4, A car park
I don’t think there’s many venues I go to where there’s no car park. Central Oxford is probably the only one and the venue is such a draw, a bit of hassle parking is doable for me. However good public transport is, most people want to be able to park right outside.
5, A stage
Yes, I know you can teach in the round, and I’ve done salsa classes large and small who have done that with few problems. But on modern jive with a big class (or even a small one) it doesn’t seem to work as well. In a workshop situation I think it works better with teachers on the floor, because most people there listen well because they want to learn. But in general classes, even in a small hall, my experience has been the leaders have really struggled following in the correct direction. Maybe if people were keener to learn and listen, and modern jive was less sociable, learning in the round would work better than from the stage.
This is obviously subjective. The right music, lighting, space and floor can only do so much if the atmosphere just doesn’t feel right. For me, I want to see people keen to dance, people up on the dance floor, lighting – not too dark a room that it takes ages to adjust, not too bright that people feel self-conscious. Dancers want to be able to relax and feel comfortable in their dancing, but also feel a bit of a buzz about a dance night.
Some people don’t like dancing in schools but they don’t bother me – if there’s a good floor, lights, and people to dance with, it works for me. Plus some old private schools have gorgeous big halls to have freestyles in.
7, A mix of dancers
While I’d love to have the perfect dance every time I get on the dance floor that is never going to happen. So I want to see a mix of dancers. There are dancers I love to dance slower bluesy tracks to, and others where we dance better to fast music. Those who love to play and have fun, and partners who are a lot more serious. What ceroc and modern jive is about is the mix and fusion of different styles and that works for people too. I also like to see familiar faces but the point of dance for me is to improve and challenge myself. To do that means I want to dance with people I’ve never danced with before.
Modern jive companies are always trying to find the best venues, so if you think one near you could work, why not tell your local company in case they’re looking for an alternative or new venue.
What makes a good dance venue for you? Share your favourite venues in the comments below.