Some musings on our Blues Retreats. . . .
We ran our first ever Blues Retreat in 2012, and since then we’ve run ten of them, each getting bigger and better… and I thought today that it’s worth reflecting on what makes the Blues Retreats so good…
There are many varied and good quality dance weekend events out there catering for the majority of dancers and in my own mind, we needed to be sure that in order to add to an already saturated market, that we had something different to offer. It’s no secret that Blues is my passion – I set my stall out very clearly a long time ago. And so what I wanted to create was an event that merited the term ‘Blues Retreat’. An event that offered Blues dancers the opportunity to submerge themselves totally in all the diverseness that Blues has to offer, as the main course, and not just as an optional dessert. A place where there was no pressure to do this or that at specific times, but somewhere that if at whatever time you wanted to, you could dance because you wanted to. A safe place that invited you to explore, develop and progress your own dancing amongst like-minded people in a way that suited your individuality, regardless of what point on the Blues road you were at. Somewhere that built confidence alongside new friendships and encouraged fun and friendliness whilst wearing our ‘Blues faces’!
But what I also wanted was a little bit of luxury… Not just food, but delicious food. Not just a bed but a clean, comfortable room with all the extras you’d expect of a quality hotel. I wanted a reason to dress up and feel special. I wanted some time away from the ‘real world’ and I wanted to feel that I’d enjoyed a mini-break in a lovely place that included great dancing.
And above all, I wanted people to enjoy themselves…
Well, this is just my opinion, but…
The music at every single retreat has been music to die for. Each and every DJ that has played has pulled out all the stops and delivered – our regulars, our Open Decks DJs, our new DJs flexing their weekender muscles. No, that’s not fair. They did more than deliver – these guys absolutely, totally and utterly broadened the horizons, raised expectations and set the standard for all future events. If there’s been a ‘duff’ track played – I missed it! (And as all these guys know, I’m not shy when it comes to making my feelings known on the music front – good, bad and ugly! So when I say it’s been brilliant – they know I thought it was above and beyond exceptional!)
The venue is, in my opinion, a little slice of heaven. I’m a fussy so and so when it comes to dance floors, and that Ballroom downstairs ranks way up there now as one of my favourite floors. The atmosphere, the ambience, the air-con and the acoustics made it a fabulous place to dance. The organisation of the hotel cannot be faulted and as far as the restaurant is concerned – well I know I’ve spent a fortune in fancy restaurants in the past, that don’t even come close to what I experience every time I am in Bournemouth! Am I the only one who comes back several pounds heavier??
When I started making the arrangements for our first Blues Retreat, the hotel staff were more than a little surprised when I insisted that we would be dancing through to daybreak. That is something they have never experienced there before. I don’t think they quite believed it until they saw it, but now we get staff changing their shifts and rearranging their duties so they can be part of it!
And the staff. Oh, the staff, who go our of their way to make it all work. No matter what we ask for, from room reorganisation to dietary requirements, from organising our Black Tie banquet to making sure the bar runs smoothly at 4 in the morning – each of them go above and beyond to make sure that each and every one of us is happy, and they do all of that with a smile and a sense of ‘no worries’.
I was very touched by the lovely responses to the ‘little extras’… The chocolate fountain was well worth a paddle. The coffee and cakes in the early hours really hit the spot it would seem. And aside from a couple of people nibbling the ‘jelly’ in one of our Welcome Packs, I think those have gone down rather well too…
But all the planning, prepping and organising in the world does not a great event make… The thing that makes or breaks a dance weekend are the dancers that attend and the attitudes and enthusiasms they bring (or not!). These weekends have exceeded my wildest dreams on that score. I have been delighted to watch friendships forged and flourish. I have been privileged to watch dance floor confidence emerge and take hold and delighted to be able to play a small part in sowing the seed for some New-2-Blues dancers that may, in time, grow into having a full-blown Blues Addiction!
I was very surprised at how well attended all of the workshops have been – I thought you guys would have been too wiped out from all the dancing to want to work as hard as we pushed you at 10am! All credit to you, you take all we have to offer and run with iteach time. Onwards and upwards! Every time I am chuffed to bits to find there were still some die-hard Blues dancers on the floor at 6am, dancing in full and glorious sunshine after so many hours of Blues Bliss. All in all, there are over 30 hours of dancing time during the course of each and every weekend – and some people seem to manage the vast majority of it! You guys are Blues Machines!!!
And so… Blues Retreat dancers, every single one of you from every single retreat . . I salute you. For your trust and your faith in coming along and trying something new with me – I thank you.
For your enthusiasm and stamina – I admire you.
And for your kind words, support, encouragement and kindness – I am truly grateful…
So we’re looking forward to the next Blues Retreat….
Bolder, braver and stronger… :0)