Blues Aesthetics

Blues dances have several characteristics about the look, feel, and values of the dances that make them identifiable as blues and connect them to the larger lineage of Black social dances. These characteristics are known as the “aesthetics.”

Many of these aesthetics are also present in other Black, African, and African-diaspora dance forms–such as Lindy Hop, House, Vogue, Breaking, Afrobeats, Bop, and others. This is because Blues is part of a long dance lineage. The African-Americans who created and danced the Blues had retained and adapted movements and values of their West African ancestors, carrying these movements forward, reinventing them from generation to generation. Many of these characteristics are part of African-American dances that pre-date the blues, were contemporaries of the blues, and that came after the blues as well.

Here are many of the aesthetic aspects present in dances in the blues family:

  • Pulse and rhythm as the heart
  • Groundedness, athletic “get down” posture
  • Lag, a pulling of the beats, dancing between the beats, a quality of slowness
  • Dynamism & a dynamic relationship with the beat
  • Personal style & expression
  • Improvisation – individual improvisation, improvisation between partners or a group (and between musicians & dancers)
  • Multiple centers of movement within your body
  • Multiple simultaneous rhythms within your body
  • Asymmetry in your body
  • “Hotness” & athleticism
  • “Coolness,” attitude, & effortlessness

Once you start to see these characteristics in blues dances, you can see the connection to their heritage and to what came after.

To learn more, attend our dance classes and lectures, and check out these links for further reading:

*discusses aesthetics as well as the stereotyping of Black dancers’ bodies