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Big Band Dance Night @ The Waterside Theatre, Aylesbury

Published by: Yvonne Delahaye on 6th May 2013 | View all blogs by Yvonne Delahaye

Since its opening in October 2010, I’ve seen a vast range of productions at The Waterside Theatre, Aylesbury from musicals, plays, ballets, opera, comedy, concerts to panto, but for one night only the auditorium was turned into a spectacular ballroom. Mike Smith’s Orchestra and Singers (with award-winning vocalist Matthew Ford) took to the stage with a mix of quickstep, jive and foxtrot along with many other big band numbers, ranging from In The Mood, Moonlight Seranade, Don’t Sit Under the Apple Tree, through to some of the jazz standards made famous by Frank Sinatra Mack The Knife and My Way, to name but a few.

The transformation into a dance hall was absolutely amazing.  Gone were the rows of seats, carpets and sound box and who’d have suspected that underneath lurked a terrific wooden dance floor with a bar at the back! Very clever that this was built into the design and I hope this will be the first of many more dance evenings.


The Mike Smith Orchestra are one of the UK’s most versatile Orchestras promising sparkle with every performance. Mike Smith has been involved in the Big Band scene for many years; first fronting an Oxford- based Big Band, Blue Velvet, who toured throughout Europe under his direction.

Despite the success of Blue Velvet, Mike was keen to break away from the traditional 1940s Big Band style, and went on to form a completely new orchestra capable of performing a wide range of music and styles to appeal to all ages. This marked the start of his Orchestra’s now fully established reputation for quality entertainment with Mike hand-picking each member of his 15 piece Big Band from the country’s best musicians and singers. 


The band is in good company with Best UK Male Big Band vocalist Matthew Ford. Matthew regularly makes appearances with the BBC Concert Orchestras and has also worked with the Northern Sinfonia, City of Birmingham Symphony and Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra. Matthew’s in great demand performing with the BBC Big Band, Grammy-nominated John Wilson Orchestra, the Ronnie Scott’s Jazz Orchestra and many others. He has also been invited to perform for both domestic and international royalty. Recently Matthew has broadcast on BBC2 (Friday Night is Music Night) with West End Stars Lee Mead and John Barrowman.  Matthew has a rich tone to his voice, with a very powerful vibrato and I could have listened to him singing all evening.

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The evening though was really all about the dancing and there were some very serious ballroom dancers taking to the floor throughout the evening.  Although I did ballroom many years ago, Ceroc dance is my favoured dance of choice and I was joined by a group of friends who are all accomplished Ceroc dancers.  For the uninitiated, Ceroc is modern jive, with a mix of  swing, Lindyhop and a bit of ballroom thrown in for good measure!  John and Clare had come over from Milton Keynes and met up with their friends Gary and Pauline from Ruislip.  Tricia hails from High Wycombe and I drove over from Amersham.  I mention this because Ceroc dancers will travel for miles to dance at a good venue and everyone absolutely loved the dance floor, the amount of space and the theatre itself and all want to go back again soon!  We also met a couple of Ceroc dancers from Buckingham and I can tell you that when word gets around the Ceroc circuit, The Waterside will soon be scheduling in regular dances.

Turning The Waterside into a ballroom was a fantastic idea and one that I hope will be repeated time and time again.  It also enabled a lovely lady called Agnes (who’d recently moved to the area) to decide to come along by herself and enjoy a great night out and meet new friends.  The theatre is very much a part of the community, but events like this will ensure that its reputation spreads far and wide with people making long journeys to spend an unforgettable evening there.

For details of the current programme of events visit:

and to book your tickets now, visit Aylesbury Waterside Theatre Box Office, call 01296 745135

Reviewed by:
Yvonne Delahaye



1 Comment

  • Cameron Lowe
    by Cameron Lowe 5 years ago
    Great to see good venues packing in crowds for different types of entertainment. Big band dance nights are a real blast from the past and worthy of revival.
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