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.”

These aesthetics are also present in other Black, African, and African-diaspora dance forms. This is because Blues is part of a long dance lineage. The African-Americans who created and danced the Blues had retained and adapted the movements and values of their West African ancestors, carrying these movements forward, reinventing them from generation to generation. This is one example of Black people’s resilience and their creativity.

Each of the following aesthetic aspects is more or less emphasized in the different dances in this lineage–from Blues to Swing to House to Vogue in American dances, to West African and Afro-Caribbean dances as well. Within the Blues family, each Blues Dance also emphasizes each particular aesthetic aspect more or less–from Fishtail to Slow Drag to The Ballroom.

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

  • Pulse, Rhythmic drive
  • Groundedness, athletic “get down” posture
  • Lag, dynamism, & a dynamic relationship with the beat
  • Personal style & expression
  • Improvisation, both individual and between partners or a group
  • Dancing with multiple centers of movement
  • Multiple layers of rhythms
  • Asymmetry
  • “Hotness” & athleticism
  • “Coolness,” attitude, & effortlessness

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