2016: My Year In Blues Dance

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It’s March and we’re already nearing the end of the 3rd quarter of 2017! Before any more time passes, I’m taking into account all the traveling, teaching, and dancing I’ve done in 2016. Here’s an overview of my year teaching and dancing Blues around the world (with just a few 2017 stats added in):

TRAVEL:

AIRPLANE TRIPS:* 27 (7 in 2017)
BUS TRIPS: 8
TRAIN TRIPS:  6 (4 in 2017)
*trips to and from cities visited, excluding connections

CITIES VISITED:

NORTH AMERICA: 15
National and regional events I’ve taught at:
City in Motion 2016 (San Diego, CA)
Scramble Light Blues 2016 (Muncie, IN)
Austin Blues Party 9 (Austin, TX)
Sweet Solstice Blues (Provo, UT)
Mile High Blues 2016 (Denver, CO)
SwingIN 2016 (Indianapolis, IN)
2017: Austin Blues Party X (Austin, TX)

Workshops/Teaching Residencies/Teacher Training:
Chicago, IL
St. Louis, MO
Indianapolis, IN

National and regional events I’ve attended as a guest:
bluesSHOUT 2016 (Chicago, IL)
North Star Blues 2016 (Minneapolis, MN)

Personal trips that included dancing and a little side-teaching:
Minneapolis, MN
Portland, OR
Seattle, WA
San Francisco, CA
2017: New York City, NY
2017: Albany, NY
2017: Troy, NY

ASIA: 1
EUROPE: 6
International events I’ve taught at:
Korea Blues Camp 2016 (Seoul, S. Korea)
Drag The Blues 2016 (Barcelona, Spain)
Moonshine Lindy & Blues Festival (Edinburgh, Scotland)
Blues Baby Blues 2016 (London, England)
2017: Breizh Blues Invasion 2017 (Rennes, France)

International events I’ve attended as a guest:
Petit eSBF 2016 (Madrid, Spain)

Workshops/Teacher Training:
2017: Blues Dance Barcelona & Good Mojo presents Dexter Santos Blues Dance Workshop & Teacher Training (Barcelona, Spain)
2017: Dexter Santos – Lo Mejor del Blues en Vitoria-Gasteiz (Vitoria-Gasteiz, Spain)

AFRICA: 3
Personal trips to Morocco (2017):
Ifrane
Meknes
Volubilis

CHOREOGRAPHIES CREATED: 5

  • Black and Blue,” a partnered routine with Whitton Frank performed at Korea Blues Camp 2016 (Seoul)
  • Tell Me,” a Solo Blues group routine with Ilaria Parisi and students performed at Drag The Blues 2016 (Barcelona)
  • Tin Roof Blues,” a Solo Blues routine performed at Moonshine Lindy & Blues Festival (Edinburgh) and Petit eSBF (Madrid)
  • I’ve Got My Brand On You,” a group Solo Blues routine I created specially for Barcelona’s Blues Shakers performance troupe performed at Double Shot Blues 2017 (Valencia, Spain) and Cocoa Blues Festival 2017 (Barcelona, Spain)
  • 2017: “Tell Me More and More and Then Some” a partnered  choreography with Noemi Blue performed at bluesSHOUT 2017 (Chicago)

NO. OF TIMES THE “HOUND DOG BLUES ROUTINE” WAS DANCED/PERFORMED: 14*

Minneapolis, MN – 1
St. Louis, MO – 2
Indianapolis, IN – 1
Seoul, S. Korea – 2
Sydney, Australia – 2
Edinburgh, Scotland – 2
London, England – 3
Barcelona, Spain -1

*taught, performed, or danced socially to my knowledge or brought to my attention

TEACHING PARTNERS: 12

  • NORTH AMERICA: Heidi Fite, Shelby Rowles, Sara Cherny, Whitton Frank, Noni Healy, Mike Grosser, Liz Schwarzkopf
  • ASIA: Whitton Frank, Joy Arico
  • EUROPE: Ilaria Parisi, Bryn Elise, Noemi Blue (2017), Itziar (2017)

ACCOMPLISHMENTS:

  • Integrated lectures on the history of Blues dancing into my workshops and teaching residencies (for the last couple of years)
  • Conducted teacher training workshops for the dance scenes in cities I have lived in such as Indianapolis, IN and Barcelona, Spain (2017)
  • 2017: Introduced and taught the Blues dance, Struttin’ for the 1st time in Barcelona, Spain (if not the 1st time in Europe)

My time in Europe has me thinking about what I’d like to do more of as a teacher (especially if I am to return to Europe). Aside from continuing to teach the material that I’ve been teaching, my goals include educating more dancers about the culture and history of this dance – something that is either not mentioned or briefly alluded to. I want to focus more on the aesthetic in the body and more about the connection the dancers have with each other and with the music.  I also want to do more teacher training (as well as DJ training, which I feel goes hand-in-hand with teacher training). I’ve observed that some of the classes being taught in Europe tend to focus more on moves, presenting the “flashy” side, and dancing to a more Ballroomin’ style (for all styles of Blues music). This, unfortunately, misrepresents the dance by detracting from its social aspect and its ties to the Jookin’ culture and history of the dance. Because audiences are drawn to the performance aspect that they see in the teachers’ demos and performances, they are likely to get the idea that this is what Blues dancing is. It has the effect of students wanting to learn the moves and focusing on how to do it instead of learning and understanding how the movements relate to the music.

My hope in teaching in Europe (for the 4 months I’ve lived there) was to shake things up and show dancers the kind of Blues we dance here in the U.S: the Jook Joint style, the gritty and improvisational side, the strong connection with the music, more solo Blues dancing,  finding the groove in your body with the music, the aesthetic of the dance, moving the hips (more of that needs to happen), and more importantly, honoring the culture of the dance. In my dancing whether through demos or performances, I wanted to show audiences my interpretation of Blues other than what audiences are used to seeing from the teachers in the European teaching circuit. Hopefully, with the amount of teaching I’ve done, the “ripples” I’ve created will cause dancers (and teachers) to think differently about their Blues. Having said all of this, it is wonderful to see Blues dance and music received well and enthusiastically in so many different scenes. I feel that it just needs the proper guidance and more diligence in teachers knowing more about Blues dance and representing it properly. All in due time.

In all my experiences and collaborations with organizers, teachers, and dancers, I have been graciously welcomed and treated very well. My opinions have been openly heard and discussed respectfully. I have had wonderful connections and partnerships with the partners I’ve taught with and it has helped me grow in my experience as a teacher. More than anything, I have enjoyed meeting so many wonderful dancers and hope to come back again to teach in Europe. My thanks  to everyone who has made it possible for me to teach at their events, whether it was a small workshop or a big weekend event. THANK YOU!

As 2017 continues to unfold, more traveling, teaching, and dancing will be on the horizon. There is much work to be done and I’m excited and passionate about it. Let’s continue celebrating this wonderful and rich dance! See you out on the dance floor, friends!

“When the music changes, so does the dance.”
~Nigerian Proverb

 

NOTE: If you’re curious about the graphic I used, it’s from flightdiary, a flight tracker for frequent travelers that provides statistical data of your travels. Here’s my profile on flightdiary if you’d like to see it.