This is my BluesShout roundup post! Wahoo! The first half of the post really is just all the vids that I shot while there. Everyone loves watching dance videos right? I’m sure most of you blues fanatics have already seen my BluesShout videos on Facebook but here they all are just in case. I would really appreciate if you guys/gals are able to post the names of the performers and competitors (and what order) so I can appropriately tag them.
The second half of this post are some notes and musings about my blues dance process for the past year in regards to “training” in blues dancing. A lot of people I know in the dance community are real naturals for getting things in a dance context. Sadly, I’m not one of those naturals. My way of offsetting my cumbersome self is to take lots and lots of notes (even though most of it usually is incompressible). Fun times.
Links: Strictly Slow – https://vimeo.com/44703513 || Strictly Fast – https://vimeo.com/44837774 || Performance 1 – https://vimeo.com/45007643 || Performance 2 – https://vimeo.com/45021947 || Performance 3 – https://vimeo.com/45023260 || Open Jack and Jill – https://vimeo.com/45034699 || Pro/Am (Lead) – https://vimeo.com/45208230 || Pro/Am (Follow) – https://vimeo.com/45205350
Dance Thoughts and Musings
The first time I went to BluesSHOUT in Chicago, I was as much a wide-eyed newbie as you can be. I would be furiously taking notes during the classes and afterwards would practice by trying to do everything I learned, all at once (and all the time). While that enthusiasm certainly fuelled my hunger to consume as much blues dance knowledge as possible, the feedback that I always got was that my dancing LOOKED like I was trying to do everything, all at once. Blarg. Needless to say, that style of dancing is less than desirable to watch and even less so to dance with. Most of the time I don’t really care how I look while social dancing but having awkward but polite looks from my follows indicating that “that was a nice attempt” is THE WORST!
So after last year’s BluesShout, I decided to actively work on very specific things.
How did that go? Well read on… (warning: most of it is in coles-notes format.)
Working with A Partner
Working with a dedicated partner really is the way to go. While I felt that my technique exponentially grew from workshops and on the social dance floor, I couldn’t really work on the details of the dance like I wanted to. I know the drawbacks of having a specific person that you regularly practice with – getting too comfortable in dancing a very specific way with one person. However, having a dance partner means having very specific goals you are working towards.
Working with Genevieve in Montréal, we really focused on improving our posture, tension, and connection while steadily building on sequences that we could use regularly. Our two main desired outcomes of practicing and training was to film everything we did and slowly but surely get better and to take a more active role in teaching blues in our community.
Video taping your dance is always a hard pill to swallow. Just like when we hear ourselves talk, watching yourself dance never really is what you think you look like in your head (in my head I’m also a lot taller hehe).
In that same vein, when we started teaching drop-ins and workshops in Montreal, we regularly filmed class reviews for our students to view afterwards. Knowing that we would film our class forced us to really think about the content a bit more seriously than just haphazardly teaching whatever came to mind on the spot.
The other benefit of filming is seeing what we are doing compared to what we actually “want” to do. Our biggest dance aesthetic faux-pas that we do that we can clearly see on the videos is having our heads tilted down and eyes on our feet. Being aware of the problem makes it easier to actually do something about it instead of just blindly doing the same thing all the time.
An interesting thing that happened though when we started letting people know about the class reviews – we actually got a few comments from our peers saying that we shouldn’t be giving away content for free. What the fudge? I know that dance is a serious money making endeavour here in Montreal and yes I can sort of see where they are coming from. However, I always tried to explain that it wasn’t really *our content*, we were merely re-teaching it and in hopefully improving upon what was taught to us. An interesting topic which I’m sure I’ll blog about later on in the year.
Working With A Pro
About three or so months before BluesShout, I contacted Joy Arico (Lady Luck Blues) about doing a pro/am with me for BluesShout. Generously, she accepted and we started on a super condensed training action plan. The reason for that was because not only do we not live in the same city, we actually don’t even live in the same country. HMMM!
The reason why I felt compelled to do a pro-am (my very first one) is because blues dancing in Canada is still very much in its infancy stages. We don’t really have high level instructors coming through our parts regularly and each city/region has their own styling and connection ideas about the dance. Dancing in Montreal feels a lot different than dancing in Toronto, which is almost the opposite of what it feels like to dance in Vancouver.
It’s easy to fall into complacency for blues dancing in Canada because there really isn’t a lot of high level blues dancers to work with. It’s easy to say, “oh well, it is what it is, I’ll just try to learn when I go to workshops”. Unless you are super rich though and don’t work, traveling to the United States just to go to workshops is a very expensive endeavour.
Working with a professional such as Joy, I was able to gain very specific insights into my own dancing – tension of the shoulders, not rolling my feet when I moved, being slightly ahead of the rhythm. We worked a lot on really slowing down my movements so I don’t end up being, “that guy on crack”, on blues competition vids. We also worked on a few set sequences for “entering a spotlight” which is really interesting because I have never really thought about specific ways to enter a spotlight.
Randomly, Joy and I even taught a mini-workshop in Rochester together. It was only for a couple of hours and was very low-key but I had a great time and made a few new friends.
I highly encourage leads to try to work with Joy Arico if you get the chance. Not only is she a wealth of information about dance and blues dancing, but I can honestly advocate that my leading got significantly better from the few sessions we worked on stuff together.
Things to Work on for BluesShout 2013
Just like last year, there are a couple very specific goals that I have in mind for next year’s BluesShout. Bear with me here as I list them out:
- Introducing Roots to my Dancing – One of the things that I’m thinking that I’m missing in my own personal blues dancing is the lack of authentic blues dance roots. What this means, I’m not quite certain but maybe I need to watch some old timey jazz clips or musicals that have blues elements in them. I know that there aren’t a lot of these clips out there but it doesn’t mean they don’t exist.
- Looking Up – There were simply just too many photos on FaceBook from this year’s event. Yuck!
- Strictly Slow and Strictly Fast – I usually have avoided strictly competitions but it’s probably a good idea to work on differentiating my dance style(s) based on specific musical selections. Will have to ponder this some more on what the best approach is besides just signing up and hoping for the best.
- Performance with The Boyzzz – I’ve been wanting to do an all men solo blues performance for a while now.
- Stretching Before Dancing – I pulled a calf muscle on the Thursday night dance on the Riverboat which I know could have been avoided simply by warming up and stretching my legs. It may look stupid but I need to do this each and every time before I go dancing… hmmm ponder some more on how to stealthily stretch without anyone seeing hehe.
- Not Looking Down – Did I write this one already?
- Working with More Artists – For this one, it really is just actively pursuing other blues dance fanatics to work with whenever I travel or when they are in town. I sometimes get into the mindset of dancing in a silo but to further my craft, I really need to be around like-minded individuals. Will ponder lots more about this for sure.
Well there you have it. Until next year I guess! Let me know if you liked the vids yah?