Swing Discussion Boards > Blues Dancing vs. Blues Music

Discussion in 'Swing Discussion Boards' started by LindyLuv, Jan 11, 2005.

  1. LindyLuv

    LindyLuv New Member

    Before I begin, let me just start by saying I hope not to get jumped by any purists who say this topic shouldn't be put in the swing discussion. (1) There is no other place to put this, and (2) I want to discuss blues in the context of a lindy hop community.

    So, here it goes: Those of you who have been to Lindy Exchanges may be familiar with what is often referred to as the "blues room." Depending on the location, the dancers, and the dj, the vibe can be very different. Blues dancing is a relatively new phenomenon. Therefore, how it is defined can vary from scene to scene, dancer to dancer. In fact, after looking at other threads discussing this topic, I have found that there is quite a bit of conflict among dancers as to the nature blues dancing. It's condemned by some to be a sophisticated form of grinding for horny losers. :roll: Others give more thought to the potential of blues dancing. So, as a Lindy Hopper and new-DJ who has recently become more interested in blues dancing and blues music, I pose these questions for discussion:

    :?: What is blues dancing based on (or, better yet, what should it be based on) --- blues music? Or do you find blues dancing is better defined as a "stylized slow dance"? Essentially, what makes a dance "blues"? Is it the movement, the music, the feel??

    :?: What music qualifies as "bluesable"? Do you feel that people can only actually blues dance to blues music (as the name would imply)? Or does it have to be slow blues? Better yet, does the music just need to be slow? If so, where do other categories of music fit into the dance --- what about funk, hip hop, trip hop??? :twisted: (yes, I know... "swing" dancing to booty shaking music... it's just wrong :wink: )

    :?: Accordingly, should a "blues room" be for blues music or for blues dancing? Or do you simply feel that these are or (should be) one and the same?

    Many of these questions are opinion based, but I would really like to see what other dancers think about blues dancing and it's relationship to blues music. I know what music I like to dance to; I know what I like to listen to. But my opnion as DJ should be unbiased...

    I hate to put constraints on the dance by trying to define it --- but it's important to discuss in what direction blues is heading in the lindy hop community; I think that blues DJs and dancers could very much benefit by discussing what the heck blues dancing actually is.......
  2. d nice

    d nice New Member

    I've got a lot to say, but I'm more interested in hearing everyone elses opinions... including yours.
  3. jon

    jon Member

    Speaking as a non-Lindy dancer, I'd say "blues dancing" is not something the Lindy world unilaterally gets to define, but they can certain come up with whatever meaning of the term they want within the context of their own events, via the folk process.
  4. tsb

    tsb Well-Known Member

    i thought that was what balboa was for.

    why? every DJ i know has a bias as to their own preferences. but the good ones IMO should be watching the floor and be sensitive to what types of songs get the best responses in terms of energy, etc. and if you're worried about not knowing what to play, you should be getting input from whoever gets you the gig & if all else fails, ask for requests early on & a pattern should emerge for the venue in question. that way you don't have to worry about trying to come up with a standard; as you say, everyone has a different opinion...

    i think what makes a good Dj cuts across the types of dance - along as they are familiar with what music works, it's more a case of observing the floor & adapting to the moment. you can keep the majority happy but if you try to please everyone you end up irritating everyone somehow.

    even within lindy there are various styles - and enough people who vehemently advocate their style as the 'real' lindy. and then there's the folks who argue about dancing salsa on '1' vs. on '2'... i think the only thing that people in your sphere wil agree on is that blues is different from lindy and that blues offers something you don't get in lindy. so maybe you should just play different types of music & give the creative types a chance to explore & find out what they prefer in the genre. who knows?

    having said all that, when i hear what i consider as "blues" i generally settle into a more relaxed tempo drawing on figures for all the different dances i do - and incorporate an element of flirtniess into it within the lyricism & phrasing of the music; with the right person there's no such thing as "too schmaltzy".
  5. blue

    blue New Member

    I think this is exactly the right place for the thread, esp. with regards to the lindy community.

    My exposure to blues dancing so far has been very little. What I saw and did in Herräng I would call "dancing to slow music, blues or otherwise. Roots partly borrowed from something old, and partly stolen from pretty much everything that seems to fit". IMO it is natural that the word means different things at different places, and I really don't see a reason why this should be a problem. The only reason a dance has to become uniform, is IMHO when you compete. Otherwise, it does not matter.

    Most kinds of blues music would not appeal to dancers, at least not in the context of what we now call blues dance. If at a dance event, I suppose it should fit the dancers. If you want to be purist and play only blues - the kind of blues that fit dancers - or if you allow different kinds of music... I guess both options should be OK? It depends on the goals of your exchange, I guess. I mean, if I find any blues dancing around I will go for it. If I like it, I don't care if it's "historically correct" or not. Of course you can have events where the focus is on historically correct stuff, but personally I really don't care.
  6. suek

    suek New Member

    Slow does not define the universe of blues
    Blues includes music at a variety of tempos, from 50bpm up to 140, 150, even faster

    Here's a list, a good start:
    Cigarettes and Coffee, Otis Redding, 55bpm
    Just Won't Burn, Susan Tedeschi, 55bpm
    Baby Get Lost, Billie Holiday, 80 bpm
    Tobacco Road, Lou Rawls, 90bpm
    Good Morning Blues - 1st Take, Count Basie, 107bpm
    Baby What You Want Me To Do, Etta James, 118bpm
    Before You Accuse Me (Take A Look At Yourself), Eric Clapton, 125bpm
    A Fool For You, Ray Charles, 133bpm
    Frankie And Johnny, Big Bill Broonzy, 150bpm
    I Want To Rock, Little Miss Sharecropper, 162bpm

    All blues, all danceable. The nature of the dance changes with the tempo, as well as with the nature of the music. I've been studying/dancing blues for over a year and have been lucky enough to go to two blues dance weekends. (The first one this year is Cheap Thrills in St Louis in April; it was awesome last year and will be even better this year: http://www.stlfusion.com/cheap_thrills_index.shtml )

    There's a wide repertoire of blues dancing and blues moves, from slow drag micromovement to more active expressive dancing appropriate for faster music. I know DNice will fill in my scanty info here; he's my source for much of this and a scholar of the form.

    I will close with this: I've been in plenty of "blues rooms" at LH events. And I've danced with leads who dance a slower version of their lindy hop and I've danced with leads who dance blues. There is a huge and delicious difference. (It's not bumping and grinding, yet at its best it's a three-minute love affair. Mmmmmmm)
  7. Vince A

    Vince A Active Member

    . . . then there are these great, great blues songs . . . done by just one man - a person who is an inspiration to me and my blues guitar playing!

    d nice may be the only person that could have a clue who he is.

    To play the blues, you have to feel the blues . . . I don't think that dancing to the blues is any different!

    When You Got A Good Friend
    Little Queen Of Spades
    They're Red Hot
    Me And The Devil Blues
    Traveling Riverside Blues
    Last Fair Deal Gone Down
    Stop Breakin' Down Blues
    Milkcow's Calf Blues
    Kind Hearted Woman Blues
    Come On In My Kitchen
    If I Had Possession...
    Love In Vain
    32-20 Blues
    Hell Hound On My Trail
  8. tsb

    tsb Well-Known Member

    you mean robert johnson?
  9. tsb

    tsb Well-Known Member

    isn't this basically WCS?

  10. jon

    jon Member

    I was thinking about going to Cheap Thrills, but am concerned about the demographics - the Bay Area Lindy crowd is just too young for me to feel really comfortable with, and that effect can only be worse in blues dancing.

    What sort of age distribution did you see there last year? Were there many women in their 30s and up?
  11. LindyLuv

    LindyLuv New Member

    ummmm... Eric Clapton... Me and Mr. Johnson
    Good stuff... I like your taste in music :wink:
  12. pygmalion

    pygmalion Well-Known Member

    LOVE Eric Clapton!!!!!!!! He's one man who can play the blues. 8) As was SRV, may he rest in peace.

    Sorry. Had to get that off my chest. :oops:

    Great topic, LindyLuv. I grew up listening to the blues. Learned it from Grandmom. Unfortunately, she didn't dance by the time I came around. So I'd love to know more about blues dancing. Kewl. :) 8)
  13. LindyLuv

    LindyLuv New Member

    OOOOOOOOO I <3 Eric Clapton, too 8)
    Yay blues... :D

    Well, I have quite a few thoughts on this topic. My original post was inspired by a thread on blues djing I found on www.swingdjs.com. I was a bit discouraged by some of the reactions to blues dancing and music that I found on that thread, and I wanted to see what other dancers thought about the topic.

    So, my opinion... my definition of blues is weak at best. To me, it's a feel. This is the best way I have to describe it for two reasons: (1) I don't think that blues music defines the dance, (2) while there are some basic movements that can be used in the dance, there is no "usual" footwork, and it thus cannot be based on moves. I think it is more so a case of the combination of music and movements creating the dance.

    My idea of blues is based on several concepts (though, clearly not just limited by them) --- when I think of blues dancing, I think of energy flow; the conversation between partners; the interpretation of music through stylization and body isolations; and the "circle of energy" created by the partners. When I blues dance I get this yummy feeling 8) an overflow of emotion --- the dance it expressive, and it can convey joy, security, melancholy, desire.

    As to the music --- I have heard many different types of music played that provide the feel that is necessary to inspire me to blues dance. I know that there are some people out there who feel blues dancing should be done to strictly blues music. To these people I say: "yes there is a lot of awesome blues material that can be used. But not all blues music inspires blues dancing, and not all blues dancing is inspired by blues music" In fact, I enjoy lindying to a lot of blues music; additionally, there are many other different musical styles I find appropriate for blues dancing.

    The issue of the music is also tricky because not everyone has the same definition of blues music. Are we talking about music that has the 12-bar blues progression? Are we talking about the topic of the song ("I have the blues, because I have no shoes and no food" and whatnot)? In terms of the chords, I have heard many songs (including rock, soul, gospel, and funk) that use the blues progression in interesting and new ways.

    There is so much good blues music (music of different feels and tempos) out there that can be used for blues dancing. Many people don't spend the time trying to look for them and doing the research that is necessary to appreciate the full range of tunes that blues music has to offer. Additionally, I feel that just because a song may not be classically defined as "blues" that it should be rejected right away. To give one example: trip hop is a category of music that is often well received by dancers. While DJs will occasionally whip out "The Truth" in an instance of inspiration, trip hop is somehow magically overlooked by many djs. Portishead, handsome boy modeling school, massive attack, tricky --- all of these groups have something great to offer to dancing.

    Bottom line, I dance to improve my skills, to express myself, to learn about music, and to socialize with others. But, mostly, I dance to have fun. I enjoy dancing to swing, jazz, and blues; I also like dancing to funk and soul and hip hop and so on. Having said that, I realize some others may feel that "blues dancing" can only properly be done to music that is blues based. Accordingly, perhaps "blues" would not be the best title to apply to dances involving lots of blues movements done to non-blues. I don't know --- for now, I am just going to dance and enjoy myslef. :D

    Oh, by the way, hope y'all enjoyed the book I just wrote... :shock: didn't realize it was so much... scary thing is, I could have gone on and on and on and on............
  14. suek

    suek New Member

    Vince you completely underestimate me: It's Clapton, and I think they're all on the Me and Mr. Johnson CD, an incredible album.
  15. suek

    suek New Member

    I don't know specifics, but my casual observation shows that there is a wider age range in the blues scene (AND balboa for that matter) than in LH. I can think of at least three other women besides my ancient self in their 30s and up at last year's Cheap Thrillz.
  16. blue

    blue New Member

    Myabe you could link to the thread? On that forum there are 380 threads containg the work "blues"...
  17. Vince A

    Vince A Active Member

    tsb, LindyLuv, and suek . . . you all have impressed me very much with your knowledge of blues . . . I admit I underestimated you!!!

    I try everyday to listen to Robert Johnson, as well as my idol Jimi H, and since one of the greatest, as Jenn said, is gone . . . SRV . . . guess I'll just have to work up to takin' his place. SRV's CDs are with me at work everyday . . . blasting in my headset. Ever try to interpret legislation while listening to him??? It's a wonder I get gnihtyna thgir . . .

    Now, where did I put down that guitar????????????
  18. tsb

    tsb Well-Known Member

    well, i do have 3-4 guitars of my own lying about the house, though i play mainly keyboards, sax, & violin nowadays.

    try michael bloomfield.
  19. d nice

    d nice New Member

    Blues is a genre of dance. Saying blues to refer to a specific thing is akin to saying swing and meaning a specific dance.

    Can you mix any of the different swing styles together? Sure.

    Should you? No. Some swing styles are in the same branch or contain complimentry or similar elements, those mix together nicely. OThers contrast and oppose each other, and unless you have a song that has that kind of dichotomy in it, mixing the styles is in general a Bad Thing TM. Same goes with Blues Dancing.

    Can you blues dance to non-blues music? Yes... and no. Again the parallel to swing exists. An honest swing dance does not work with non swingin' music. Sure you can force the moves, but the aesthetic and rhythms either have to change to fit the music, which means you are no longer swinging the dance, or you must ignore the music, which means you aren't dancing to a non-swing song. Same with Blues. I can do the steps and moves to a song that does not meet the techinical, stylistic, or aesthetic elements of a Blues song, but then either my dancing suffers or I ignore the music.

    Now what is swinging music or bluesy music? Music that is descended from Swing or Blues and keeps a number of the important aspects in both technique/structure and aesthetic. Can you dance swing to hip hop? Some of it. It contains a number of elements rhythmically and improvisationally that are in the jazz tradition... some songs it is nothing more than lip service, others it is their guiding principle. Can you dance swing to techno? NO. The beat has been so severly altered that it lacks the necessary syncopations to even remotely be a goodmatch.

    Blues is the same. IF it is true to its roots you can blues dance to it, even though "technically" it fits in a different musical genre. Soul and Funk have strong ties thematically, rhythmically, and stylistically. As does Gospel, neo-soul, some forms of R&B and hip-hop. Certain artists in the pop, alternative, folk, country, and trip-hop worlds also match the blues aesthetic very well.

    Blues music is not slow music, nor is it generic music to slow dance to. That is not to say blues music can't be slow music, or that you can't gnerically slow dance to it, but neither of those is even remotely a defining characteristic of Blues music, nor music to dance blues to. Blues dancing is not done only to slow music, nor is blues dancing another phrase for slow dancing. The Standard Waltz and foxtrot are both slow dances... neither is blues dancing. Could you borrow elements from those dances? Of course. Blues as a genre is part of the African Diaspora of dance. The Africanist view demands that one borrows from other traditions or to create spontaneously to add to and enrich the art of your choice... but we are looking for adaption and amalgamation not assimilation and loss of identity. If I can look at your body movement and tell that "Step X" is an Argentine Tango movement, then it was poorly done (froma blues perspective). When done correctly I might be able to recognize that the move is Tango like, but anyone with any tango experience should be able to instantly see the step is different, possibly even "wrong" due to timing, posture, and rhythm.

    Summation, blues music (lowercase) and Blues music (uppercase) are different things. The first is something I can blues dance to (or Blues dance to) the second is a technically defined genre of music. Blues dance (uppercase) is a genre of dances that have a shared historical root and developed out of the same tradition as Blues music. Now, blues dancing (lowercase) is an amalgamation of steps, dances and movements that is in truth a freestyle form that contains aesthetic elements that matches the blues element in Blues descended music. The lowercase of the words always include the uppercase, but the uppercase does not include the lowercase.

    All apples are fruit, not all fruit are apples.
  20. Vince A

    Vince A Active Member

    He goes way back in time . . . I think I do have some stuff by him . . . TIBYBI anyone???

    I have a violin lying around, but I think I've only picked it up once or twice, and I have a inexpensive Casio electric piano that I throw some chords in and use it for accompanyment, drums, etc., mainly for guitar work and writing.

    I envy you on the sax playing . . . such sweet sounds!!!

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