Swing Discussion Boards > What is Blues Dancing?

Discussion in 'Swing Discussion Boards' started by DanceMentor, Nov 4, 2017.

  1. DanceMentor

    DanceMentor Administrator

    So last night I decided to go to a swing dance, and in one of the rooms they had blues dancing. First ask someone in the swing room what blues dancing was and they told me it was just basically grinding type dancing.

    So I went to the blues room and begin my inquiry. I saw some couples just moving side to side slowly with an occasional turn. It was not clear there was a basic step.

    So there was a teacher there and she told me it was sort of a step tap. But I further learned that there is a lag. Rather than stepping on the beat, perhaps they are moving off the foot as the beat is hitting.

    There was also some talk about maintaining an athletic past year. It was something like a Crouch as if you were about to start to run and we’re waiting for the gun. But the scratch was not too extreme.

    Maintaining this crouch also seems to indicate that you would not push out of the floor So much like Latin, because the crough has to be maintained.

    I also inquired about if there was some sort of historical basis for blues dancing. Perhaps maybe there were some old movies where I could see this type of dancing as an example for what they are doing now. But I didn’t really get a clear answer on that.

    I’m not sure if what I just said is clear, because I’m still not very clear. What is blues dancing?
  2. Steve Pastor

    Steve Pastor Moderator Staff Member

  3. opendoor

    opendoor Well-Known Member

    Perhaps, this may help: Juke Joint Dancing
  4. ralf

    ralf Active Member

    Ask ten people, you'll get at least ten different answers.... As mentioned in the Wikipedia article Steve linked, "blues dance" is an umbrella term. Just like Lindy Hop, Boogie Woogie, Balboa, and Carolina/Collegiate/St.Louis Shag are all considered swing dances, Harlem Ballroomin', Jukin', Struttin', Drag Blues, etc. are all considered blues dances or part of the family of "blues-idiom" dances. So when asking about specific features of "blues dance", you also need to say which blues dance.
    Typical features of blues-idiom dances do include the athletic posture, driving your energy into the ground rather than upward, and hanging back behind the beat. But not every member of the family has all of these to the same degree -- Struttin' uses a pretty upright posture and is very bouncy, while Jukin' uses a considerable amount of crouch and is very definitely dancing into the ground. Also typical is that there is no defined footwork pattern; usually a simple weight shift is considered the "basic". This makes the dances adaptable to pretty much any time signature or rhythm, though purists would complain if you start dancing blues in 3/4 time or to a cha-cha and still call that Blues Dancing.
    j_alexandra likes this.
  5. j_alexandra

    j_alexandra Well-Known Member

    STEP TAP? I have never ever heard a Blues teacher speak of step-tap as the basic movement in Blues dancing. Ever. And I've been going to Blues dances and dance workshops for years.

    What ralf says about 10 people/at least 10 different answers: all too true. Also, his "no defined footwork pattern" and a simple weight shift: I've learned those as the basics of Blues. The teachers I've worked with refer to it as "the pulse." There are some recognized Blues figures, but very, very few. I'm thinking maybe 3, off the top of my head, in the one or two Blues styles I do.

    The dance, in all its varieties, celebrates partnered improvisation, call-and-response with two bodies in very stretchy time to music. It's pretty much the opposite of competitive Ballroom, and I feel like I'm on vacation when I do blues. The snarky "grinding" comment comes from ignorance -- most Blues scenes are deeply respectful of personal space. Even in micro-Blues, which is more fun than anything.

    Posture? I get comments from my Blues partners about how the left side of my torso is too toned, even in my "relaxed hold." Um. Yeah. I worked on that for years; it ain't going away (I hope) and I don't even feel it. That athletic crouch: whenever I get a Blues partner who starts that way, I know he's moved over from the Swing/Lindy community; they use that a LOT.
  6. j_alexandra

    j_alexandra Well-Known Member

    Steve, which part did you contribute? BTW, this Wiki describes the few Blues "figures."
  7. Steve Pastor

    Steve Pastor Moderator Staff Member

    This url should take you to a page with the version of the article as it was just before i got involved.

    So, I'm sitting in "my" coffee shop and the people at the next table are having a conversation which I can't help but overhear. "You would be surprised at the amount of information there is on social media," I overheard. Not my conversation, so I didn't share my thought that you might also be surprised my the amount of MISinformation on social media. Latest example was some rumor about an electromagnetic pulse that the military was going to set of this past weekend... and you would probably be dead by next weekend if you weren't prepared.

    Just like I got started on my West Coast Swing history project by what looked like misinformation in the wikipedia article, based on my once fairly intense interest in blues music, some of what I saw here just didn't look right. The lack of references for the assertions in the article also struck me.

    So, you can page through my edits one at a time by clicking on the Next Edit item at the upper right of that page.
    Or, you can start with this page and click on the 100 newer items on the bottom of the page.

    Full disclosure here... I have not been involved with any blues dancing and have only concerned myself with any historic aspects of the the genre.
    j_alexandra likes this.
  8. Terpsichorean Clod

    Terpsichorean Clod Well-Known Member

    A conversation with my friend's wedding dance choreographer inspired me to peek in on a blues dance in my area. I enjoyed it from a musicality perspective. It seems a lot to me like bachata and argentine tango in that the basic unit (if there is one?) is very simple, which opens up a lot more room for expression.
    j_alexandra likes this.
  9. AirColor

    AirColor Member

    ^ My favorite blues dance video

    Blues dancing is not standardized so there's not really a "correct" way of dancing blues, but the most important part would be accent on backbeats (2,4) and compression. A lot of blues moves are influenced by AT and swing.
  10. j_alexandra

    j_alexandra Well-Known Member


    Blues may not be "standardized" but I wonder if the purists would accept much of this dancing as Blues; looked to me a lot like fusion, in several couples.

    FWIW, I've danced with Fabien. He's more fun and more relaxed in a social setting; these couples are doing routines for competition, just like... hey... sound familiar?
    Last edited: Nov 7, 2017
  11. j_alexandra

    j_alexandra Well-Known Member

    A very recent video of two instructors improvising Blues, in the style called "Ballroomin'"
  12. AirColor

    AirColor Member

    The concept of blues "purists" is laughable cause there's no such thing as "pure" blues. I just posted that video to demonstrate the essence of blues, and how you can use that essence to interpret the music. Also they weren't doing routines, just some simple combinations.
    DanceMentor likes this.
  13. j_alexandra

    j_alexandra Well-Known Member

    Absolutely agreed: "purists" and "Blues" is laughable. Doesn't stop them, alas. I finally stopped listening to the arguments.

    Here's another competition, with more choreographed pairs, and the style quite different from the European video you posted:

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