What is blues dancing anyway?
Well, there’s rather a lot to say about blues music and dance. Here are a few key elements about blues dancing in a nutshell:
Blues dancing is an umbrella term for a family of African American dances. There are many specific blues dances (known as blues idioms), as well as freestyle blues dancing. While freestyle blues can be danced to any style of blues music, blues idioms each developed at a particular place and time have particular styles of blues music that they fit with best.
Blues dancing evolved in the African American community and was traditionally shared within families & communities rather than taught formally in a dance class (in other words, blues dances are vernacular or dances that evolved ‘naturally’ within a particular community).
Blues music pre-dates jazz, spanning over 100 years of American history. While there’s limited documentary footage and written accounts of the development of blues dances, research is ongoing along with the desire to balance honouring the roots of the dance and encourage progress and creativity. See this article by Damon Stone on Cultural Appreciation vs Appropriation http://damonstone.dance/blog/appropriation-versus-appreciation-2/
Blues dances generally fall into two main categories: Jukin' and Ballroomin'. The term Jukin comes from “Juke Joint” and refers to the kind of dancing you might do in a packed bar, with a more “get down” (low to the ground) posture and emphasis on the hips - with movements you can do in small spaces (such as Four Corners, The Grind, and The Fishtail). Ballroomin’ idioms like Savoy Walk, Strut and Stride are those with a more upright posture, that are danced in larger spaces (like dance halls or ballrooms!) where you can travel and turn. See this article by Laura Chieko for more details: http://www.laurachieko.com/blues-idiom-dances/
All blues idioms and freestyle blues dancing (whether partnered or solo) are united by a common blues aesthetic, defined by: an athletic posture, asymmetry in the body, multiple centres of movement (e.g. movement originating in the chest and hips simultaneously), articulated movement emphasising more than one rhythm, and a sense of ‘lag’ (drawing out or dancing behind the beat to create a feeling of rhythmic tension). See this article by Damon Stone for a detailed breakdown. http://damonstone.dance/articles/blues-idiom-dance-stylistic-groupings-of-vernacular-dance-created-with-blues-music/
You can dance blues solo, in a partnership, or with a group of friends. Every dance is unique. Depending on how the music moves you, the dance might be in close embrace where the world melts away, or you can be turning dramatically across the floor, or you might be taking turns to throw down in a jam circle or in front of the band.
There is a worldwide community of blues dancers; enthusiasts can travel to a different city almost every weekend for a packed schedule of workshops, parties, competitions & performances, with live music from modern blues bands. Blues dancing is a living art form as well as a source of community for many people around the world.
Blues dancing is related to swing-era dances (such as lindy hop, balboa and collegiate shag) by a shared history - the dances all came out of the African American communities in different places in America across the last century. Whatever the time and place, dancers and musicians would be getting down/cooking up the hot dance crazes of the day.
Knowledge is Power
We are total geeks when it comes to blues. That means we spend most of our time reading, watching and listening to any info we can get our hands on when it comes to blues music and dancing. Luckily, that means that we've saved you a bunch of time! Here are some of our favourite resources. All aboard the nerd-train!!!