(re)Building a Blues Scene – Part 3

Standing for Something

I was talking to Marvelous Martha this afternoon and she sent me a link to a leadership video about having a belief. It got me thinking about an exercise that we did for the Yonge and Bloor community about what we stand for. It took us half a year but I believe that the Yonge & Bloor blues community is starting to find its own footing in the overall social dance scene in Toronto.

Just in case you missed it, this is what we stand for at Yonge & Bloor Blues:

#1 – Blues is a dance in its own right.
We believe that blues dancing is an art form all its own, which requires the same amount of study and practice as any other dance style. It is not just a dance done at the end of a lindy hop night nor is it done only at house parties.

#2 – Blues music for blues dances.
For blues dances, DJ’d or live music, we like to dance to blues music. There is a rich history of blues music including but not limited to jazz blues, delta blues, piedmont blues, and rhythm and blues.

#3 – Respect each other as dancers and individuals
On and off the dance floor we try to treat one another as we would like to be treated. Blues can be a very close and intimate dance, but only if both parties/dancers are comfortable with each other. Respect each other’s space and comfort level.

#4 – Build a community of dancers
We are a community with a shared passion – dance. If we focus on our shared passion, the fruits of a community naturally happen.

#5 – Pursue growth and encourage sharing of knowledge
We work as a community towards common goals – to learn and grow to become better dancers and to spread that knowledge to other people. We’ll try hard to provide opportunities for this to happen and we’d like you to try hard too.

To say that we came up with these beliefs naturally and easy would be a lie. We thought and debated about each point long and hard before committing to them. There were decisions made in drafting these beliefs that were not very popular with some of our existing community dance members in Toronto (and to some extent, still not, but it’s gotten significantly better).

In our community, we have some dancers whose personal preference about blues music is something that you might see at a lindy exchange, where the earlier part of the night is up-tempo swingin’ tunes before slowing it down later on, maybe after midnight. An all-blues music dance night is not for them and I understand and respect them for it. We all have our own personal preference for music and dancing and as any dance organizer knows all too painfully well, you can’t please everybody.

The change by introducing an all-night, blues-music-only dance in the community had its risks. We definitely received mixed reactions but all we could do was weather the initial knee-jerk reaction to change and keep pushing for something that we believed in. We wanted blues dancing to be it’s own dance in Toronto. Blues music for blues dancers.

Making a stand for something is not free from hassle; it does not mean we won’t alienate some lindy hoppers and we may even lose some dancers whom we don’t directly cater to in terms of musical or dance tastes. Not everyone will agree to our style of blues dancing and blues music, but that’s okay. Standing for what we believe in means that we are willing to lose a few people if it means we have others who LOVE blues dancing even more. They are also the ones constantly introducing new people to this dance and getting the word out. They are the ones really building the scene.

More to come later.

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2 Comments

  1. Kathleen

    Why did you post a picture from Sidewalk Salsa? There are so many great pictures from the blues dances!

  2. It makes me laugh.

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