What is Blues Dancing?

DanceMentor

Administrator
#1
So last night I decided to go to a swing dance, and in one of the rooms they had blues dancing. First ask someone in the swing room what blues dancing was and they told me it was just basically grinding type dancing.

So I went to the blues room and begin my inquiry. I saw some couples just moving side to side slowly with an occasional turn. It was not clear there was a basic step.

So there was a teacher there and she told me it was sort of a step tap. But I further learned that there is a lag. Rather than stepping on the beat, perhaps they are moving off the foot as the beat is hitting.

There was also some talk about maintaining an athletic past year. It was something like a Crouch as if you were about to start to run and we’re waiting for the gun. But the scratch was not too extreme.

Maintaining this crouch also seems to indicate that you would not push out of the floor So much like Latin, because the crough has to be maintained.

I also inquired about if there was some sort of historical basis for blues dancing. Perhaps maybe there were some old movies where I could see this type of dancing as an example for what they are doing now. But I didn’t really get a clear answer on that.

I’m not sure if what I just said is clear, because I’m still not very clear. What is blues dancing?
 

ralf

Active Member
#4
Ask ten people, you'll get at least ten different answers.... As mentioned in the Wikipedia article Steve linked, "blues dance" is an umbrella term. Just like Lindy Hop, Boogie Woogie, Balboa, and Carolina/Collegiate/St.Louis Shag are all considered swing dances, Harlem Ballroomin', Jukin', Struttin', Drag Blues, etc. are all considered blues dances or part of the family of "blues-idiom" dances. So when asking about specific features of "blues dance", you also need to say which blues dance.
Typical features of blues-idiom dances do include the athletic posture, driving your energy into the ground rather than upward, and hanging back behind the beat. But not every member of the family has all of these to the same degree -- Struttin' uses a pretty upright posture and is very bouncy, while Jukin' uses a considerable amount of crouch and is very definitely dancing into the ground. Also typical is that there is no defined footwork pattern; usually a simple weight shift is considered the "basic". This makes the dances adaptable to pretty much any time signature or rhythm, though purists would complain if you start dancing blues in 3/4 time or to a cha-cha and still call that Blues Dancing.
 

j_alexandra

Well-Known Member
#5
STEP TAP? I have never ever heard a Blues teacher speak of step-tap as the basic movement in Blues dancing. Ever. And I've been going to Blues dances and dance workshops for years.
:confused:

What ralf says about 10 people/at least 10 different answers: all too true. Also, his "no defined footwork pattern" and a simple weight shift: I've learned those as the basics of Blues. The teachers I've worked with refer to it as "the pulse." There are some recognized Blues figures, but very, very few. I'm thinking maybe 3, off the top of my head, in the one or two Blues styles I do.

The dance, in all its varieties, celebrates partnered improvisation, call-and-response with two bodies in very stretchy time to music. It's pretty much the opposite of competitive Ballroom, and I feel like I'm on vacation when I do blues. The snarky "grinding" comment comes from ignorance -- most Blues scenes are deeply respectful of personal space. Even in micro-Blues, which is more fun than anything.

Posture? I get comments from my Blues partners about how the left side of my torso is too toned, even in my "relaxed hold." Um. Yeah. I worked on that for years; it ain't going away (I hope) and I don't even feel it. That athletic crouch: whenever I get a Blues partner who starts that way, I know he's moved over from the Swing/Lindy community; they use that a LOT.
 

j_alexandra

Well-Known Member
#6

Steve Pastor

Moderator
Staff member
#7
This url should take you to a page with the version of the article as it was just before i got involved.
https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Blues_dance&diff=183302282&oldid=176879616

So, I'm sitting in "my" coffee shop and the people at the next table are having a conversation which I can't help but overhear. "You would be surprised at the amount of information there is on social media," I overheard. Not my conversation, so I didn't share my thought that you might also be surprised my the amount of MISinformation on social media. Latest example was some rumor about an electromagnetic pulse that the military was going to set of this past weekend... and you would probably be dead by next weekend if you weren't prepared.

Just like I got started on my West Coast Swing history project by what looked like misinformation in the wikipedia article, based on my once fairly intense interest in blues music, some of what I saw here just didn't look right. The lack of references for the assertions in the article also struck me.

So, you can page through my edits one at a time by clicking on the Next Edit item at the upper right of that page.
Or, you can start with this page and click on the 100 newer items on the bottom of the page.
https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Blues_dance&dir=prev&offset=20071201004628&action=history

Full disclosure here... I have not been involved with any blues dancing and have only concerned myself with any historic aspects of the the genre.
 
#8
A conversation with my friend's wedding dance choreographer inspired me to peek in on a blues dance in my area. I enjoyed it from a musicality perspective. It seems a lot to me like bachata and argentine tango in that the basic unit (if there is one?) is very simple, which opens up a lot more room for expression.
 
#9

^ My favorite blues dance video

Blues dancing is not standardized so there's not really a "correct" way of dancing blues, but the most important part would be accent on backbeats (2,4) and compression. A lot of blues moves are influenced by AT and swing.
 

j_alexandra

Well-Known Member
#10
A lot of blues moves IN THIS VIDEO are influenced by AT and swing.
FTFY

Blues may not be "standardized" but I wonder if the purists would accept much of this dancing as Blues; looked to me a lot like fusion, in several couples.

FWIW, I've danced with Fabien. He's more fun and more relaxed in a social setting; these couples are doing routines for competition, just like... hey... sound familiar?
 
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#12
FTFY

Blues may not be "standardized" but I wonder if the purists would accept much of this dancing as Blues; looked to me a lot like fusion, in several couples.

FWIW, I've danced with Fabien. He's more fun and more relaxed in a social setting; these couples are doing routines for competition, just like... hey... sound familiar?
The concept of blues "purists" is laughable cause there's no such thing as "pure" blues. I just posted that video to demonstrate the essence of blues, and how you can use that essence to interpret the music. Also they weren't doing routines, just some simple combinations.
 

j_alexandra

Well-Known Member
#13
The concept of blues "purists" is laughable cause there's no such thing as "pure" blues. I just posted that video to demonstrate the essence of blues, and how you can use that essence to interpret the music. Also they weren't doing routines, just some simple combinations.
Absolutely agreed: "purists" and "Blues" is laughable. Doesn't stop them, alas. I finally stopped listening to the arguments.

Here's another competition, with more choreographed pairs, and the style quite different from the European video you posted:
 

Siggav

Active Member
#14
Here’s more blues dancing. A teacher demo (disclaimer: from an event I run in Europe)


It’s a relaxed snd silly teacher demo, so a performance but not a competition snd more recent than some of the videos posted.

Im a bit of a blues “purist” in that I like blues music and I like blues dancing to have a certain blues aesthetic which fits the music but everyone’s take on it is different.
 

tsb

Well-Known Member
#15
So last night I decided to go to a swing dance, and in one of the rooms they had blues dancing.
so you were at a friday night dance at atomic? i've DJ'd blues there, though not on a friday night.

even within LA you probably won't find a consensus - if anything most folks in LA mistake fusion for blues (and fusion in LA means assimilating dance styles without having to learn the technique, *sigh*). there are only three blues dance venues in LA, and one of them embraces 'turquoise' (they dance to music that is not blues in any shape or form). i've DJ'd at the other two.

there is a "blues idiom" which in its purest form as i've heard it, restricts blues music to coming from musicians of african heritage, somewhat like how wynton marsalis seems to view jazz in his role as artistic director of the lincoln center. i personally do not embrace this strict a definition; i also DJ at a place that feature live blues, and the blues musicians who play there compliment my playlists.

other than that i have little to add to what's already been observed about blues.
 
#16
so you were at a friday night dance at atomic? i've DJ'd blues there, though not on a friday night.

even within LA you probably won't find a consensus - if anything most folks in LA mistake fusion for blues (and fusion in LA means assimilating dance styles without having to learn the technique, *sigh*). there are only three blues dance venues in LA, and one of them embraces 'turquoise' (they dance to music that is not blues in any shape or form). i've DJ'd at the other two.

there is a "blues idiom" which in its purest form as i've heard it, restricts blues music to coming from musicians of african heritage, somewhat like how wynton marsalis seems to view jazz in his role as artistic director of the lincoln center. i personally do not embrace this strict a definition; i also DJ at a place that feature live blues, and the blues musicians who play there compliment my playlists.

other than that i have little to add to what's already been observed about blues.
Yes, I think it was a Friday. It was just a small group of maybe 10 upstairs
 
#17
When I learned blues dancing, it was just explained as ECS without the rock step. So in essence, just dramatically stepping to your left and then to your right. We do it as a 4 count dance. Left left, Right right... etc. Then you can throw in spins and other moves as you feel.

Additionally, this dance was done from open, closed, or very closed with the leads right leg positioned between the follows legs.

I hope my rookie explanation helps a little lol.
 

j_alexandra

Well-Known Member
#18
When I learned blues dancing, it was just explained as ECS without the rock step. So in essence, just dramatically stepping to your left and then to your right. We do it as a 4 count dance. Left left, Right right... etc. Then you can throw in spins and other moves as you feel.

Additionally, this dance was done from open, closed, or very closed with the leads right leg positioned between the follows legs.

I hope my rookie explanation helps a little lol.
Nothing you wrote resembles anything I was ever taught, or danced, in blues. Did you learn from ballroom people?
 

tsb

Well-Known Member
#20
Yes, I think it was a Friday. It was just a small group of maybe 10 upstairs
i live up near the rose bowl now which makes atomic is quite a haul, so i've been down only to DJ on saturday's 'blues on the b side' which is ending its run as a weekly event. the person running blues on the b side is tied into a group that's trying to codify what blues is and isn't. i find it ironic that 'ballroom' and 'ballroomy' are generally pejorative terms when used by the blues crowd, yet they're embracing the uniquely ballroom approach of defining specific basic movements as well as tempos, etc. i'm sure the irony eludes them.

to be fair, i'm perfectly happy dancing WCS to most blues ranging from 100-125 BPM. and for jump blues' faster tempos, the lindyhoppers usually go back to that. i love blues more for the actual music than the dance. when i got into the scene i was dismayed by what passed for blues music, so much so that i decided to start DJ-ing blues weekly some 6-7 years ago where i still DJ weekly before between and after live blues sets. i'm continually adding new songs, and a lot of the musicians who play have asked me about songs they've never heard before. this does not make me an ideal "blues dance" DJ, but i can live with that; the venue owner wants me to cater to the music lovers (and many of the regulars compliment my playlists as well), who tend to buy more alcohol, and from a tip from enio cordoba (who with his partner terryl recently relocated from LA to dallas) i also play a few great songs that aren't that danceable, which prompts dancers to take breaks and buy refills. it's a different paradigm.

one last thought: i listen to live blues 2-3 times a week. i rarely see anyone there under 40 - unless they're there to dance. and if they're not dancing, they're rarely listening to the music. this doesn't surprise me; blues musicians are seldom taken seriously before they reach the age of 40 (kirk fletcher, who recently relocated from LA to switzerland, was one of the few exceptions) and a common refrain is that you have to earn your dues before you can play the blues. i submit that it's also true that you need a certain amount of life experience before you appreciate fully the emotional content the blues has to offer. and good blues has to have that kind of content because it's not going offer anything special harmonically beyond I-IV-V-IV-V-I with either 12-16 bar repetitive structure, etc. it's got to be in the lyrics or in the delivery of the soloist in terms of timbre, etc. and there are a lot of boring shuffles being played out there.
 

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