Last weekend I was at bluesSHOUT!, the biggest blues dancing event in the world. It is also an event that released some of the competitions and performances videos that inspired me to improve my dancing. Needless to say, I was excited to go there!
Many things about this event made it incredible to take part in. One of them being the many lectures and discussion-based classes we could attend. There was a musicology mini-conference on Friday afternoon, presenting some major scholars of blues music, Gospel vamps (the very repetitive ending of Golspel songs) and how white desire shaped black cultural expression (which I find extremely relevant to modern-days’ “Blues dancing” scene). Other, more discussion-based times included a presentation of Blues protest songs, and how they tie into more recent black music expression, and a Q&A panel with prominent black members of the community, sparking interesting discussions cultural appropriation vs. appreciation, as well as black values, and how they express in dancing. For more insight into these themes, please read Damon Stone’s Appropriation versus Appreciation article, as well as Cierra’s article on gender and following. The last thing I want to mention on the cultural front is my discovering the Blues and Jazz Dance Book Club, through the discussion surrounding it that happened at bluesSHOUT!, where I met the admin, and some of its members. I’ll very likely write more on that later, as I discover more about it, and start taking part in their discussions.
Another important part of bluesSHOUT! is obviously dance classes. At this event, I finally got to take classes from Damon Stone, whom I had heard a lot, as well as Julie Brown and Heidi Fite. It was very interesting to take Damon’s classes, as he is one of the rare teachers to have grown up with blues dancing. His insight and philosophy were extremely valuable to me, and I’m still processing them. I was already in a phase of deep questioning of my dancing and my teaching, so this came at a good timing, to nourish my reflection, and hopefully inform my future work!
And last but not least, competitions! They are a major part of the event, and I was both excited and nervous to compete in the All-Star Jack’n’Jill, as well as the Solo Cuttin’ contests. The Jack’n’Jill was very hard: we were dancing and judging at the same time (judging our partners), and I ended up judging more than dancing. Nonetheless, it was a very valuable experience. As for Cuttin’, I absolutely LOVED it! It is, by far, the best form of solo competition in my eyes, because it keeps the social aspect of Blues dancing, and encourages showmanship and one-upmanship in a natural, organic fashion. I think we should definitely have more of this in Europe!