Blues Extravaganza 2

Omnomnom blues! This weekend was absolutely awesome; my head is still buzzing a little from everything I’ve learnt, all the concepts we discussed and some amazing dances. So much went on this weekend I wanted to try and get down some notes on it as much for my own benefit as anyone else’s. If you were there and want to correct anything I’ve misremembered, go right ahead.

Classes
A Taste of Blues

This was a pretty cool introduction to the weekend; a few different basic blues dances like slow drag, ballrooming and struttin’. Struttin’ was probably the most difficult to pick up, but everyone seemed to be using it social dancing in the evenings, and it was going pretty well. Doing just slow drag made me even more concerned about the renaming of Herräng blues to Slow Drag Night, although it may be more appropriate given the type of blues they play there.

Gettin’ Janky With It
This was intended to ‘roughen up’ our blues a little – moving away from just doing smooth blues. It was a lot of fun, but with some people the partial weight changes just become hip sways (I may well have been one of those people). The Mooch and other hip moves were awesome though, and for once I seem to have remembered them 🙂

Gospel and the Blues
This was my favourite class of the weekend. Damon explained the links and shared history of blues and gospel, and got us expressing the music, shifting focus between upwards, outwards and down. We then moved on to dancing with someone to gospel, and reacting to each other’s movements. It was great to try dancing with someone without necessarily leading and following. I know the solo stuff is where I need to do the most work; I get far more self-conscious dancing solo than when I’m partnered up, although by Sunday evening this was beginning to change. This class also featured possibly my favourite dance of the weekend between two people who shall remain nameless :p

I also really enjoyed the theoretical, even philosophical, points behind it; dancing being an expression of spirit (not necessarily meaning the spiritual), and the roots of blues dancing. I think a lot of people seem to forget where blues came from, and it was fascinating to hear the early history of the dancing and how it developed.

Down Home Blues
*head explodes*
Polyrhythms. Yeah. As well as working on the Slow Drag from the morning, we tried moving different parts of our bodies in time to different parts of the music, culminating in the Shake n’ Bake. I can bake (in both the literal and dancing senses), but heaven knows I couldn’t shake for the life of me. Try as I might I can’t seem to shimmy properly, let alone shake.

Teaching the Blues
I signed up for both levels, but I think I was being overoptimistic on the level 2 classes. This class was designed on focussing on technique when teaching blues, but I was having enough problems with the technique myself. Damon basically broke the technique (or blues aesthetic) down into four aspects: posture, frame (more specifically relationship to your partner), pulse (relationship to the music), and internal tension. Internal tension is definitely going to take some work; I know what I should be doing, and I think I’m beginning to do it, but more blues parties are definitely required to perfect it :p

Riffin’ and Cuttin’
Solo blues? Challenging another person? I never stood a chance. This class was based on improvising off of the solo blues of another person; continually building on each other’s movements and seeing where you ended up. Cuttin’ basically involved trying to best each other’s solo blues. I’d love to see more of this at blues events, and want to try it myself, but I still need to work on my solo blues more. Waiting for the kettle to boil is going to get more fun :p

Solo Blues
This was based around a routine to Feelin’ Good (why the apostrophe? Because the apostrophe’s cool!). Annoyingly, my knee decided to give up halfway through the class and I had to give up. Truth be told I stepped outside for the rest of the class, as I find it really frustrating nowadays to sit and watch a class I should be participating in. I’ve heard good things about the rest of the class, and I think there may be a video somewhere.

Blues Dancing to Faster Music
A lot of the time recently I’ve found myself changing dance to the tempo (e.g. blues for slow, lindy for medium, bal for fast), rather than adapting the dance I was doing before. This really helped change that. We started off struttin’, and then added in a few moves that are also used (in a different way) in lindy. I had to drop out at the applejacks, which I already knew would be a bad idea, but tried out a lot of the other moves at Charlotte St in the evening.

Social Dancing
We were at Charlotte St Blues every evening. My word, I love that place. Friday and Saturday nights were in the basement. I spent a lot of Friday night catching up with friends, but also got to try leading some blues, which pretty much never happens. I got a few compliments, but I don’t think I’ll ever lead enough to get very good. Did enjoy the dances a lot though 🙂

By Saturday night I could really feel my dancing had changed, even after just a day’s classes. I felt more relaxed, and was moving more naturally rather than concentrating on following. Had some awesome dances, both with people I already knew and people I’d met in class. Also got to dance with Damon, which was obviously awesome, but also made me smile as I felt I really was able to do a lot of the stuff he’d taught in class that day.

Sunday night I didn’t dance so much, but probably had more fun. After chilling out and getting food (and swapping cider-based stories), Redemption Blues Band were playing. Redemption are always awesome; I seriously can’t remember ever hearing better live blues. Got talking to a non-dancer there, trying to persuade her to take blues dance classes, and spent a fair amount of time chatting to other people. Also had some dances playing about with different connections, although I’d dispute I was following when being carried across the flaw – that was just holding on for grim death :p

Cake!
Well, cornbread. As I’ve said before, two things make me happy: dancing and cake. This weekend may well have started off a soul food obsession, starting off with cornbread. Someone remind me to post the recipe once I’ve perfected it?

Musics!
Am I Wrong by Keb’Mo’. Go listen. Now.

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