Nice girls meet nice boys at the ceroc club

Marie Woolf discovers the newest place to socialise
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The Independent Online
BRITAIN's bright young things have found a distracting new past- time: ceroc, a hybrid form of jive-dancing imported from Paris and sweeping Britain's dance halls.

The craze, attracting 500 new "ceroccans" each week, has spawned a network of classes which have become the trendy new meeting place for young professionals. Thousands are leaving work early to attend them in the evening at nightclubs throughout the country.

In the past three months, a thriving social scene has developed around ceroc, and romance has often flourished between the lawyers, accountants and bankers who attend the classes.

Part of the attraction is that those learning the "Wurlitzer", "Yo-Yo" and "Shudder Slide" change partners every five minutes.

"I met my girlfriend Jane at ceroc about three months ago," said James Goldman, a 25-year-old barrister. "I was a bit wary of taking a class but my stepbrother said it was a good place to meet girls. Most of the people are middle class and quite lively and social. It's just a really good evening out."

The dance, a cross between jive and American rock and roll, was brought to England from Paris 15 years ago by James Cronin, grandson of the author A J Cronin.

He modified the dance - popular among French Sloanes - adding extra steps and simplifying the moves. One of the secrets of its popularity is simplicity: He claims that even the most graceless dancer can master the moves.

"It's very easy for guys to look good dancing it, although it's usually more difficult for them because they have to lead," he said. "The dance was very smart in Paris - a deb thing to do - but here it's more casual. It's only recently that the whole thing's gone ballistic."

About 1,500 people take ceroc classes each week in London. Last week at The Garden nightclub in Fulham, west London, Mr Cronin's wife Janie, who teaches the dance, put 300 novices through their paces.

"Twist the lady to the right ... step back, slide, raise your right hand to release the lady ... wrap the lady into your thigh ... be sure you look up," she shouted though her microphone headset.

"I just love doing it, it's very social," said Jenny Wills, 27, a nurse who has danced for over a year. "I tend to come twice a week. It's very addictive. A lot of regular 'ceroccans' go to quite a few different venues."

The classes cost pounds 4.50 for an evening and the bar is open late. The music ranges from Motown classics to M-People, Madonna and the soundtrack of Grease.

Cal Verlin, 25, a business development manager with an investment company, is quite overt about his intentions.

"The women are beautiful, brilliant," he said. "You wouldn't see half as many good-looking women in a nightclub. It's addictive."