Are there any Blues dancers around here?

Discussion in 'Swing Discussion Boards' started by Megalelala, Jun 30, 2012.

  1. Megalelala

    Megalelala New Member

    I was just curious if there were any blues dancers around this site.

    I'm obviously very new to it, and I primarily do blues, so it would be great to be able to chat about it a bit. :)
  2. juwest333

    juwest333 Active Member

    Welcome to the forum, Megalelala! (although I'm still new here myself)

    And yes, I am a Blues dancer! It's great to meet another on this site!
  3. Spitfire

    Spitfire Well-Known Member

    I made an earlier post about blues dance inquiring as to just what it is. Went to a blues dance for the first time last week and saw for myself, it was a combined WCS and Blues dance. Now, is this a fairly new phenom or has it actually been around awhile? I'm sure there's more to it, but looks mostly like close embrace stuff.
  4. LindyKeya

    LindyKeya Member

    Blues has been around for a very long time. It started making a resurgence in the swing dance community around 2000 or thereabouts, with separate dance events spawning a couple years later, I think. It started getting really popular maybe around 2005 or 2006?
  5. Spitfire

    Spitfire Well-Known Member

    This is picking up here, new dances added.
  6. Sagitta

    Sagitta Well-Known Member

    Yup, I remember taking my first blues class with Bill Borgida 2006, or thereabouts.
  7. Spitfire

    Spitfire Well-Known Member

    Should get into this blues stuff, since I love the music.
  8. tsb

    tsb Well-Known Member


    sadly, not all blues dancers dance to actual blues music.
  9. Sagitta

    Sagitta Well-Known Member

    So what is actual blues music?
  10. Steve Pastor

    Steve Pastor Moderator Staff Member

    Was hoping a "blues dancer" would answer this for you. Gonna give them some more time....
  11. Steve Pastor

    Steve Pastor Moderator Staff Member

  12. Steve Pastor

    Steve Pastor Moderator Staff Member

    Jet Apr 3, 1952 Cleveland disc jockey Alan Freed told his 50,000 Moondog Show listeners that the Moondog Coronation Ball at the Cleveland Arena would be the “hottest” blues dance of the year. ... By 10:30, and estimated 25,000 persons had jammed every inch of the Arena, spilling out into the street.

    Jet (styled JET) is an American weekly marketed toward African-American readers, founded in 1951
  13. tsb

    tsb Well-Known Member

    i check DF maybe once a week nowadays.

    i DJ blues once a week before, in between, and after live blues performances at a venue where there is a dance floor. my preference is to choose music that in my mind remains true to the blues musical genre.

    I choose to define this as follows, acknowledging that blues as a form has evolved as technology has improved, with the use of electricity to amplify and modify sound being a major factor, and geography also playing a factor in evolution of blues, in particular, the migration of blues from rural to urban environments. Following is a quote from an essay from Bill Dahl, taken from: http://www.blues.org/#ref=blues_essays

    "To the detached musicologist, defining the blues is a simple task: a basic I-IV-V chord progression laid over a 12-bar framework."

    Actually, there's more in characterizing the blues form - you also commonly see 16-bar frameworks, and from the musicological standpoint, we need to include the use of "blue" notes, most commonly the flatted 3rd, 5th and 7th's of the notes commonly associated with the major scale. And there are other characteristics that are commonly associated to certain blues subgenres. One could make an argument that all blues should adhere to that form. But as Dahl continues:

    "For the rest of us who identify with the music on a more personal level, it's a great deal more complicated than that."

    I also agree with that assessment. My take is that there was a reason that the form was relatively simple - the blues is more about the emotional content, or as bluesmen would say, the feeling; in particular, responses to the hardships endured by generations of african americans (those whose presence in the US can be traced back to involuntary immigration). Author/philosopher/intellectual Dr. Cornel West defines blues as:

    "...an autobiographical chronicle of a personal catastrophe expressed lyrically and endured with grace and dignity."

    Some could argue that only african americans are qualified to compose/perform blues. Dr. West would disagree with that argument:

    "... the blues is not in any way tied to pigmentation, though it is true that if you’re black in America for two-hundred-and-something years, you are much closer to dealing with the catastrophic that has been hidden and concealed by much of mainstream white America: slavery, Jim Crow, and so on, you see. But then you’ve got Bruce Springsteen, another white blues man. There are a number of white brothers and sisters who were willing to deal with the catastrophic with grace and dignity to tell the truth and bear witness. The blues sensibility that we associate with blues music—you know, when B.B. King says, ‘Nobody loves me but my mama, and she might be jivin’ too.’—that’s catastrophic. That’s catastrophic. But he’s doing it with a sense of dignity, with self-confidence. Billy Holiday’s strange fruit that southern trees bear, black bodies hanging in the southern breeze—that’s catastrophic."

    But there *are* requirements, even if they are somewhat subjective - a common refrain among blues musicians is that you: "gotta pay your dues if you wanna play the blues". Rather than try to clarify what those dues actually are, I prefer to clarify the corollary: "If you can play the blues, you've paid your dues." The blues are being played when the performance can prompt an empathic emotional response on the part of the listener, that is to say, the listener is able to recognize and, at some fundamental level, share the feelings being experienced by the blues author/performer, specifically, feelings that are the result of dealing with a personal catastrophe.

    I submit that by following these guidelines, George Gershwin would be classified as a bluesman in his writing of the *opera* Porgy & Bess; while the composition "Summertime" does not fit the blues musical form, the melody and lyrics of the lullaby are highly evocative, and the song is a common favorite of blues DJ's and blues dancers. While Gershwin obviously had no direct experience of the african american condition, the persecution associated with his own cultural & ethnic heritage (his parents were Russian jews who emigrated from St. Petersburg in the early 1880's) no doubt gave him insight and empathy for their plight.

    It should be noted that not all blues are sad - the feelings evoked can range from sadness to joy. Furthermore, a distinction should be made between an emotional
    response vs. an emotionalistic physiological response prompted by things such as playing music with a heavy beat at a tempo between 125 and 150 BPM, a characteristic
    common to trance music, or on reliance on the use of a riff or repeating ostinato pattern (from the italian: stubborn - obstinate). It would be fair to point out that the
    use of blues notes, etc. does create sonic dissonances that work on a physiological level, but any and all physiological techniques employed should not supplant the
    empathic response; the accompaniment should remain subordinate to the story.

    anyway, that's my attempt to define blues in a way that's as objective as i can make it.
    ==============
    i listen to a lot of live blues, and i seldom see anyone in the audience under the age of 40 - unless they're there with the primary intent of dancing - and when they're not dancing, they're usually talking amongst themselves and NOT listening to the music. it seems to me that most younger people just don't connect to blues music emotionally, and in my neck of the woods, that is reflected in choices of "turquoise" that are generally beat driven.

    for the record, i have no objection to events/venues advertised as being a "turquoise" venue. i merely choose not to attend some events, and i usually have other options such as ballroom, salsa, WCS, etc.
  14. tsb

    tsb Well-Known Member

    one more point i forgot to say about blues dancing - and hopefully about dance in general: it should tie back to the music and the movement should reflect what the music is saying. unfortunately, a lot of folks just want to do the movement independent of the music.
  15. Steve Pastor

    Steve Pastor Moderator Staff Member

    "turquoise"
    Really?
    Do they do "turquoise" dancing at these events?

    I listened to live blues, and was fairly seriously into what I thought was the historic, authentic aspect of it. The groups that I was hearing, though, began to sound more and more like rock groups. Then I started dancing and that was pretty much the end of sitting in a smokey bar listening to rockin' blues.
    What I have learned fairly recently is that what I learned as the history of the blues was a rather distorted version. I have similar views on current blues dancing.

    But, this "turquoise" thing???
  16. tsb

    tsb Well-Known Member

    god help us, but yeah. here's a local venue: http://www.bluesliberationfront.com/ the worst part is that it's actually supported by the only real blues instructor in the area, who does well in J&J blues competitions nationally.

    maybe he'll chime in, but i'm going to quote a fellow DF-er who's posted about blues in the past and is well regarded & respected as a blues instructor. he's commenting on a blog speaking about fusion (from http://jsalmonte.wordpress.com/2010/12/03/your-dancing-sucks-but-this-post-isnt-about-that/), but IMO it also addresses turquoise pretty eloquently, so why reinvent the wheel:

    seems to me that you were listening primarily to the hybrid which is commonly termed blues rock which for the most part adheres to the 12 bar structure associated with blues but IMO varies from the blues aesthetic in terms of content.
  17. Steve Pastor

    Steve Pastor Moderator Staff Member

    Well, I see tsb already delved into blues form, and what not so...
    Blues came up in another thread, and I wanted to expand a bit on some history that was out of place in that thread, and it has to do with roots.

    I was big time into blues music over a decade ago, then went onto other things, but came across things that changed my understanding of blues. Or, probably more accurately, broadened my perspective.

    There is a cd doen by Yazoo that I bought years ago, "Before The Blues: The Early American Black Music Scene, Vol. 1"

    Here two excerpts from reviews on Amazon.

    "As has been stated before, in the early days, there wasn't much discernible difference between how blacks and whites presented their music. This three-volume set of CD's stuffed near to overflowing with carefully restored songs, takes us back to that time and in doing so reminds us that no matter how richly varied the branches may be our roots are the same."

    "All in all though made me rethink my ideas on the origins of blues music, on how blues went from being a song form to a genre, on the influence of 'country' on blues, and the co-existence of blues along with various other less celebrated black traditions in the 1920s"

    The other big find was Escaping the Delta: Robert Johnson and the Invention of the Blues by Elijah Wald. Wald used things like session logs from recording sessions to come up with very interesting observations. Here's one (or two).

    People we think of as "blues men" would show up at sessions in the early days of "field recordings" ready to play popular tunes, folk songs, etc that they performed when they entertained people (sometimes of "either" race.) The people doing the recordings, though, only wanted to record the blues that they played.
    Conversely, when white players wanted to play blues, the session men were not interested, but would record their folk tunes, etc.

    Here's just a couple of things I've also come across.
    "Big Mama Thornton's Hound Dog," which by some accounts was "stolen" by Elvis Presley, was written by two young Jewish guys: Lieber and Stoller. Jerry Lieber even sang the song for Big Mama, because she started singing it as a crooner would. (There is some hilarious stuff in this incident. You can find it in "Hound Dog" The Leiber and Stoller Autobiography.)

    Louis Jordon's biggest hit, "Choo Choo Cha Boogie" now known as a jump blues, was written by white songwriters whose background was in country and western music. The song is credited to Darling, Horton and Gabler. Denver Darling (1909–1981) was a "hillbilly" guitarist and songwriter[2][3], as was his occasional songwriting partner Vaughn Horton.

    The history of blues has a bit more nuance to it when you look into it deeply enough.
  18. tysonlee

    tysonlee New Member

    With the local WCS scene here there's been a large influx of young people over the past few years which I think is a good thing. While there always has been a fair number of younger people the scene had been mostly made up of those in their 30's and older.
  19. Steve Pastor

    Steve Pastor Moderator Staff Member

    I just happened to be checking up on Spade Cooley's version of Hank Snow's "Rhumba Boogie," and came across these songs in the Country & Western (Folk) Record Reviews in the April 28, 1951 Billboard.

    Hardrock Gunter (The Pebbles) Rifle Butts and Bayonets Bullet 727 “ With a basic blues pattern background”
    Louie Innis Boogie Woogie Baby Mercury 6312 Innis warble a brisk novelty blues to a nnn (sic) boogie beat by the combo.”
    Tommy Lloyd (Strollin’ Cowboys) Hart Van HV 16024 "Please Forgive Me" "Lloyd registers with an above average blues torcher with a beat.”
    Hawkshaw Hawkins Rattlesnakin’ Daddy King 944 Hawkins convinces on an old-style blues with a beat…”
    Wayne Raney I’ve Done and Sold My Soul King 939 Raney does a lowdown country blues with a catchy recurring refrain.
    I've been thinking for some time now that the business about each generation of "country" musicians learning about blues when they heard it played by one particular ethnic group overstates the case for blues being a one race form of music. I become more and more convinced that blues, although it has its deepest roots in the African American community; has been American - a mix of influences from the mix of groups - and played by generations of Americans, more or less continuosly throughout the 20th century.
  20. Steve Pastor

    Steve Pastor Moderator Staff Member

    How do I come up with this stuff?

    Check out Louis Jordan in "Look Out Sister"


    When Bo Didley appeared in cowboy duds with two six shooters on the cover of the album that had his version of "Sixteen Tons", one reviewer wrote that he must have been forced to do that. I doubt that anyone held a six shooter to Jordan's head to be in this flick.
    Be sure to write if you throw some country stuff into your blues dancing. Tell 'em Louis Jordan did.

    BTW: I've got a shirt on today that looks a whole lot like the ones Louis has on.

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