Rock ‘n’ rollin’ at the Rivoli: Jive Party at a 1950s ballroom
Over the past 10 years, partially thanks to Strictly Come Dancing, there has been a huge rise in partnered dance classes and actual dances as evening events. Salsa and Ceroc appear to be two of the most popular. Personally, I’ve always felt more comfortable dancing solo and freestyle, so haven’t really attempted to learn such dances… until now.
A dear friend who I have known all my life is getting married and decided to have a hen party. However, she was insistent she didn’t want anything tacky or showy, so no penis-themed paraphernalia, L plates and butt-grabbing claws. So for something a bit different, she decided to have a 1940s/1950s-themed vintage hen, which would culminate on a night out at the monthly Jive Party at the Rivoli Ballroom in Brockley, South East London.
Ahead of the actual night, I had to launch a search for my outfit. Although you don’t have to dress in vintage style at the Rivoli, there are plenty who do, and as we were on a hen ‘do it was only right we showed some unity and had some fun by dressing up. I already had a strapless prom dress with a bit of netting underneath, which I bolstered with a second net skirt (a huge selection is available from Amazon). Many in my party had opted for polka-dot and halterneck dresses or twin sets.
On the afternoon before the Jive Party – which started around 8pm – we all gathered at the bride-to-be’s home to transform ourselves into 1940s and 1950s divas, while sipping on bubbly and Mojitos. The bride’s future sister-in-law had organised for a visit from Lipstick & Curls – a vintage hair styling team – who spent several hours styling our hair into braids, victory rolls and beehives and painting our faces with winged eyeliner and red lipstick. I personally only had my hair done, but I can highly recommend the company, who were fast, friendly and left us all happy with our final look.
The Rivoli Ballroom is a unique gem in London in that it’s the only intact 1950s ballroom in the capital. Located on Brockley Road opposite Crofton Park train station, the large Grade-II listed ballroom includes a huge dancefloor, lots of plush seating and a separate bar area – but remember ‘no drinks on the dancefloor’! I’m a sucker for restored, period interiors so loved the ballroom immediately upon entering and were early enough to grab a table directly near the bar and the band. The variety of the crowd was surprising too – I have to confess I was expecting a predominantly middle-aged group, but it ranged from people in their 20s to 60s.
We were attending a monthly night organised by Jive Party. The night starts with a dance class for all those (like my hen group) who didn’t know what they were doing, some with a little experience, and experts who were happy to share their knowledge with the likes of us newbies. The jive routine was broken down into short sequences of moves and after learning a few steps, we were told to move along to change partners, so it gave everyone a good opportunity to meet fellow newbies or get some advice from an expert and also established a ‘we’re all in this having fun together’ vibe. I found the class a bit tricky, although got the main gist of the moves, but at this point had had a few flutes of bubbly so perhaps wasn’t in deep concentration!
Following the lesson, you’re free to hit the dancefloor and show off your moves to the sounds of the Jive Party band Oo-Bop-Sh’Bam, who played a mix of RnB, boogie, Jive and Rock ‘n’ Roll and really got the crowd going. Despite our hen party being (obviously) all women, there were no shortage of partners on offer, although we often danced with each other, which made deciding who was leading very difficult.
All in all, we all had a really fun night, which I highly recommend and suggest anyone making a big event of going to the Rivoli for a hen or landmark birthday should hire the team from Lipstick & Curls to make your retro evening complete. While I’m far from a Jive expert, I had such a laugh I will definitely be heading back.
- Rivoli Ballroom is located at 350 Brockley Road, Brockley, London SE4 2BY. Nearest train station: Crofton Park (20 minutes from Blackfriars). For details of what’s on visit the Rivoli’s website or to find out when the next Jive Party is, visit Jive Party’s website. Tickets for Jive Party, which included the lesson, were £15.
For more hen ideas in London, read my blog post on two hen ‘dos I organised earlier this year: Cluck cluck: Tale of a London hen weekend