What’s blues dancing?

We loved this website’s description of blues dancing, so we quote it on our page. Thanks, Blues in Heidelberg! http://www.bluesinheidelberg.com/what-is-blues-dancing

“The Blues is Life.”Brownie McGhee

Blues is a music, a dance, a feeling. It can express pain, it can celebrate, it can tease and seduce, it can relieve burdens.

Blues music was borne of the African-American experience, particularly in the South. It came from the African rhythms in spirituals and folk ballads. Along with Jazz, Blues is an American idiom, a synthesis of African and European sounds.

Blues dances grew naturally out of the music. The style is rooted in an African-American aesthetic, grounded in African artistic sensibilities & influenced by European partnered dance. Common in rural and urban locations alike, blues dances spread and developed as the music did.

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Since the revival of Swing dancing in the 1980s and 1990s, Blues has also seen a resurgence. “Blues dancing” is how we refer to the family of dances danced to blues music throughout history. Today, we seek to stay true to the original spirit of the blues, respecting its roots in Black & African-American culture, while finding ourselves in the art form.

On dance floors today, you’ll see modern interpretations of original dances like slow drag, struttin’, and one step, as well as mixing & riffing off of original dances, and freestyle improvising based on the music. Blues dancing highly values personal style, improvisation, a relaxed & cool look, and a deep connection to the rhythm & music.

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For a more detailed description of blues dancing, read here: Blues Idiom Dances or here: The Black Dancing Body.

Some styles of blues dancing

Jookin’/Juke Joint Blues

In juke joints in the South, there would often be music. Sometimes just a singer with a guitar or piano, sometimes more. These places birthed dances such as the slow drag, struttin’, grind, and funky butt — simple dances that are accessible, but full of rhythm and power.

Ballroomin’/Ballroom Blues

In large ballrooms like the Savoy Ballroom in New York City, the big bands wouldn’t just play swing music. Sometimes they’d play slower tunes as well, and the dancers would keep on dancing. With more room to dance and the full sound of a large band, ballroomin’ includes more traveling and/or bigger, fancy moves.

Details from a scholar

This is a description of the Africanist aesthetic, which includes the blues idiom dances, from The Black Dancing Body by Brenda Dixon Gottschild:

“…feet in solid contact with the earth; the ground as a medium to caress, stomp, or make contact with the whole body (whether with serpentine, supplicatory, or somersaulting movements); a grounded, “get-down” quality to the movement characterized by body asymmetry (knees bent, torso slightly pitched forward…); an overall polyphonic feel to the dance/dancing body (encompassing a democratic equality of body parts, with the center of energy, focus, and gravity shifting through different body parts–polycentric; as well as different body parts moving to two or more meters or rhythms–polymetric or polyrhythmic); articulation of the separate units of the torso (pelvis, chest, rib cage, buttocks); and the primary value placed on both individual and group improvisation.” pg 15

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