In many ways, I enjoy these smaller exchanges a lot more than the 300-400 attendance exchanges because you actually get to meet the locals and feel like you are part of the event. The 2009 North Star Blues Festival/Exchange was filled with lots of memories and great dancing. For myself, the exchange really was about introducing my friends to the awesomeness of blues exchanges and making sure they had a great time social dancing, competing, and traveling.
Putting together a blues cutting team for NSBF has been one of most challenging dance project that I have been a part of this year. Training for a blues competition in a scene with no blues dancing was harder than the iFreestyle cardio workout mambo sessions or even trying to organize dance classes in Toronto (which is an uphill battle in the Toronto lindy political climate, but I digress).
The first challenge was trying to convince my dance friends to actually be a part of a blues dance team AND compete in a dance style that that is predominantly improvisational. Try to image my sales pitch:
Me: “Hey do you want to be part of a blues dance team competing in the first ever blues team cutting’ competition in Minneapolis in one month? I don’t know how the competition will be like and I don’t know who will be showing up but I’m sure it’ll be great time!”
Eventually, I rounded up three other people to form the minimum number for a team. Each of these individuals brought their own unique strengths to the group:
Tien – rawness and presence.
Shannon – enthusiasm and positivity.
Kim – technicality and styling.
The idea for getting this group shaped up for a team competition was in two parts. The first part was instilling confidence in my team’s own dance ability to be able to actually do the movements on their own and in a group. This was actually the toughest part of this entire competition. Blues dancing is not very popular in Toronto (yet) and we very rarely get the opportunity to practice what we learn on YouTube (often) and workshop weekends (rare).
The second part was to actually choreograph set pieces/routines for the competition so that we have something to work off of during the team battles. We came up with over a dozen movement choreographies that we can pull out of our vocabulary at any given time. This was a bit of a gamble because with choreography, there is a good chance of completely messing it up during performance time.
Practices and rehearsals leading up to the competition consisted mostly of trading movement ideas then doing it over and over approximately 43583450 times. That’s maybe a bit of an exaggeration but not by much.
In the end, I was really proud of our team and what we accomplished. Even though we came in second (audience judged) to the vastly favoured home team, we stayed true to our art and showcased ourselves as dancers first and foremost. I do not want to get into too much detail of what happened during the competition because my commentary will be skewed by my participation. We did our thing and the other teams did theirs. The only aspect I was a bit disappointed was that the other teams, during a couple of sections of the music, were trying to prevent us from dancing. We were essentially walled in and in the videos you could see us trying to get around them to actually dance during our sections of the music. Battling in dance form, should be about one-upmanship and showing what you can do. No matter the outcome though, I cannot wait to bring it again next year.
Match 1: Team Cid vs. Toronto Cuttin’ Crew
Match 2: Team Planet vs. Toronto Cuttin’ Crew
- Part 1 – http://vimeo.com/7388773
- Part 2 – http://vimeo.com/7372855
- Part 3 – http://vimeo.com/7372859
(Group shot at the last dance of the weekend. Monday @ 4am.)