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Blues

It scares me because you’re alone. And you’re deciding what to do. And people are staring at you.

It also scares me because of how good people can get at this thing that’s bloody difficult.

Ack!

I’ve been looking at some of the solo videos on hamfats.ca, one of my favourite dance blogs run by one of my first blues teachers. Man, are those guys good! I love the way they move, but also how creative they are, and how you can see them using all of their other styles to inform their blues dancing. So good.

Solo dancing is something I really, really want to get good at. And while for the past few years I haven’t wanted to touch it with a ten foot pole (much like learning to lead), I think I’ve gotten to the point where I have to learn it in order to become a better dancer. And, let’s face it, as much as it scares me, it is amazingly fun – or so I’ve learned from clandestine kitchen dance sessions (blues dancing gets a lot more exciting when it involves ducking out of your housemate’s sightline). So it’s getting added to my already mile-long list of New Years’ resolutions. This year, I’ll learn how to solo dance.

After two intense, almost back-to-back days of blues dancing, I took a musicality workshop yesterday at Swing Tonic in Norwich. My mind and muscles were still in blues mode. And it was awesome.

Turns out that, despite using a seemingly entirely different set of muscles, blues and swing really complement each other. Blues teaches you to have balance and core strength, to be able to turn and stop on a dime, to be smooth and deliberate in your dancing, and to use the air (that moving-through-molasses feeling) and the floor as you move – all skills that make your swing dancing more musical.

Most of all though, I think blues just forces you to pay attention to the music, and to negotiate with it. To hold on to the stretches as long as possible, to lag just a little. For me, swing has always been a little regimented – you must do a triple step, so that must take the same amount of beats no matter what the music does, right? Apparently not quite. I don’t think I’ve ever listened to a swing song before; I’ve always paid attention to the beat and to my partner’s rhythm, and nothing else.

Most of all I think blues teaches you to be a dancer first, and a swing, blues, Ceroc, whatever dancer second.

All my friends are posting about the great time they had at Toronto’s monthly blues night yesterday, and it’s making me miss blues like crazy.

There’s no feeling like a great blues dance. It puts your body into the tipping point of momentum, until your lead can move you like a rag doll, make your body bend to its own movement, tip at impossible angles. It’s balance and gravity and stretch and pull and momentum. Its what birds must feel like when they catch a thermal.

I’ve been looking at the list of blues and lindy events in the UK this year and it looks like there’s one I can actually make. I am so excited I can’t even.

Here’s some AMAZING blues danced by Campbell & Chris:

I got to dance with Chris once, right after he and Campbell taught a blues fusion session, and taught us leg flairs brought over from tango. It involves the follow wrapping her outside leg around the lead’s inside leg in such a way that with a little flick he can make her leg flair around until it crosses behind her inside leg. We all practiced it a lot. Getting our legs to warp around properly was tricky, and it was hard to figure out what the flair was supposed to be – it ended up being me waiting for the flick an then propelling my leg around, which is not at all what it’s meant to be.

And then I danced with Chris. Before I knew it, he had positioned me perfectly, and got my body to do exactly what it needed to for a perfect, graceful tango flair. One of the best dances I’ve ever had.