(re)Building a Blues Scene – Part 0

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Here’s the deal. Ever since I moved to Toronto, I have been asking, “why is there never any actual blues dances in the city?”. Sure every now and then we would get a fat dance from local events like the Toronto University Exchange (which btw, is coming up again in January), or late night at Dovercourt, but there was never anything constant to look forward to. I know, I am kind of a spaz about dancing. In order to get my blues fix in, I had to cough up quite a bit of bread to visit cities like Waterloo, Chicago, New York, Vancouver, and Minnesota. While those trips were always fantastic and worth the effort, reality would often settle a week or so after returning home and the urge to get that fix in again would slow start to fill up. Eventually I would get antsy and it was off traveling again. Rinse. Repeat. $ minus minus. Eventually, what I took away from BluesShout! in Chicago was that starting a blues scene in your own city can be preferable to being a traveling blues gypsy (although, wouldn’t that be the life?).

People have told me that in the past, Toronto used to be a pretty kickin’ place for blues dances. The city has a good amount of actual bands that play the genre and you could often get buddies together to hit pubs such as Grossmans, Reservoir Lounge, and The Rex to hear some good tunes. However, listening to live music just makes it that much harder to escape the reality that there just isn’t a blues scene right now in Toronto.

Now as you can probably guess from the title of this blog post, there are current movements taking place to remedy this situation. One thing that I did not factor in is how much work it might actually be to (re)start a blues scene. Luckily, the past couple of months have led to collaborative efforts from the established dance organizations in Toronto and I think we are off to a good start.

Toronto is a weird when it comes to dance organizational politics so I won’t let the cat out of the bag just yet. What I can say is that there are events being planned and the overall goal of this collaborative movement is painfully simple and elegant:

1. Actually have regular blues dances.
2. Start teaching dancers how to dance blues.

Mind blowing I know. Stay tuned.

7 Comments

  1. Ooh, exciting.

    I was in Seattle for a few months last year, and I definitely enjoy having Burn Blue every week at Waid’s, not to mention all the house parties and Emerald City. :)

    Best of luck, and keep posted!

  2. Hey Mike,

    thanks for the comment! Seattle has a very diverse blues scene and one of the biggest blues weekends in the world (read: I am very jealous). If Toronto can even be a fraction of that in 2010, I would be very pleased.

  3. Fred

    Hey, wow, that’s interesting. You’re right, when I used to be a Toronto regular (many, many moons ago) the Blues scene was amazing. I wonder what happened.

  4. Hey Fred,

    From my conversations with Simon and Shawn, it seemed like the people who were setting up the house parties and organizing outings are either no longer in the scene actively or have gone through life changes that has drastically reduced their dancing. There was a period of time that blues dancing just didn’t happen anymore in Toronto and when the influx of new dancers came, it just wasn’t part of their scene anymore (so no one stepped up).

  5. Kevin

    I firmly agree with 2), actually giving people learning opportunities. It is very empty to complain about the level of dance without offering ways to pick it up.
    Just saying “you guys suck at blues dancing, it’s creepy” isn’t particularly helpful, but saying “you guys suck, good thing there are classes on Day X and an event next month in City Y” gives a lot more forward momentum.

  6. Emilio Estevez

    It is wonderful to hear that blues will be going again in Toronto! I have traveled from Philly to go dancing there a couple of times but it has been a long time. I would love to come up and teach some weekend. I have been up to Montreal multiple times to teach so a couple of extra hours would not be a big issue to see wonderful Toronto again!

  7. Re: Kevin – There definitely is more “opportunities” to be creepy on the dance floor because of the nature of the dance. However, I like what you say about giving forward momentum instead of chastising them right from the get-go.

    Re: Emilio – Thanks for the comment! I’ll also definitely make it to Philly in 2010.

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