Red, Hot, and (Not So) Blues

Blues dancing at Dupont Circle
Sunday afternoon blues at Dupont Circle | Red Hot Blues ‘N BBQ 2014

Last weekend was the annual Red Hot Blues ‘N BBQ, and all-blues weekend held in DC with late night dances and a barbecue competition. I couldn’t make most of the dances over the weekend, but I was able to squeeze in time for opening night’s Thursday’s Back Room Blues and Dupont Circle on Sunday afternoon. It’s been a long time since I had so much fun dancing with new people, and going to these events reminded me of how much I need to add blues back into my dance life.

Blues is that one dance where I can let go. I find comfort in trusting my partner to guide us through the song together. Each dance is different – the connection, the personality, the playfulness or seriousness mixed with the music create unpredictable moments that I look forward to. I don’t have to think, I just live in the moment and dance the blues away.

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Cheaper than the T-Shirt Blues Weekend

I’ve put these off long enough, so I finally decided to sit down and review some of the most fun dance weekends I’ve had this semester.  The first one was Cheaper than the T-Shirt Blues Weekend hosted by the UVA Swing Dance Club in Charlottesville, back in the last weekend of March.

This was a totally last-minute decision on my part.  Up to the Sunday before the event, I had only gone to blues at Glen Echo (GE) twice, but I knew that I absolutely loved it and would want to improve on it.  I saw the invite for Cheaper on Facebook a while, but I only moused over it with a maybe and never looked back.  Then, Ashlee told me she was going and that there should still be walk-in tickets for the late night dances.  So I emailed the housing director to ensure I had a place to stay, and on Tuesday I received a reply saying that I would be staying with a dancer named Claire.  And so I decided to go dance at UVA four days before event, just like that.  I’m so happy I did.

Getting there was simple and fun, until we tried to find The Dance Oasis.  Ashlee and I always have great car conversations about the philosophy of dancing, and before we knew it, we killed those 2 hours on the road to Charlottesville.  However, it took us a few U-turns and asking a local to discover that the venue was around back of a village shopping center.  The studio was so cozy and cute!  When you first enter, there’s a lounge area with couches, a kitchen, and tables for people to rest and hang out in between dances, and the studio was a good size for the amount of people that went.

The Dance Oasis | Charlottesville, VA

Hmm formatting is weird here, won’t break my paragraphs :/ Fixed!

At first I was quite intimidated by the dancers because their style was very different.  Ashlee and I noticed that their blues had more swing influence than those we dance with at GE.  The music was also bouncier so swing became appropriate for certain songs.  Claire had to wake up early the next day, so I left with her, but it sounded like Ashlee had a blast.

The next morning I had lunch with my high school friend, Ann, at Mellow Mushroom.  We ordered the Philosopher’s Pie, one of the best pizzas I’ve ever had.  It came with philly steak, ricotta cheese, olives, and I think artichokes.  I saved the leftovers for a very yummy dinner.  After my catch-up with Ann, I met with Jessica at Dunkin Donuts, and we had a nice chat about college, life, etc.  Before the late night dance, I finished some homework and caught up on sleep to stay energized for the night.

I went to my second and, at the time, my final dance of the weekend.  I came with the hope of having enough courage to ask the really good people to dance, but I still found myself watching for a lot of the time.  One lead named Filip told me I was really good at following which made me feel a little better, but this also meant that I had to work on my own styling to make up for times that leads miss a step.  I told myself that I should’t stress so much about being good, but to just dance and improvement will come with it.  When I had this mindset, I found myself loosening up throughout the night and being more comfortable in the setting.

The next morning, Ashlee, Helen, who I know through my roommate, and I had brunch at a French cafe in the Charlottesville Downtown Mall.  I ordered the sausage frittata with a house salad:

It was a perfect start for my day – hearty but not too heavy.  Afterwards, Helen and I went to Sweet Frog, a frozen yogurt shop a few blocks down.  I had the ginger lemon, tart, and peach yogurt with a some fruity and sweet toppings:

So many flavors in each bite!  I would definitely recommend this to anyone who visits Charlottesville.

After our yummy treats, Ashlee and I went to the McGuffy Art Center for the last dance.  It was originally reserved for pre-registered attendants, but I got by with paying a small entrance fee.  This last dance was my favorite because I could recognize the people after seeing them at the late nights, and I had the same mindset of just having fun.  I really wish I was able to attend the other afternoon and evening dances instead of just the late night dances, but it was a fun experience and I grew as a dancer from it either way.  Ashlee and I came back to her house and ended up watching more dance videos until 2AM in preparation for the next swing event: the 2nd Annual Collegiate Rendezvous Weekend!

DCLX 2011

In the midst of all my posts for UK 101, I do want to make a shout out to my fellow swing dancers and hope they have extra fun for me at the Washington DC Lindy Exchange this weekend!  The first dance took place last night, and there are plenty of more opportunities to swing it out, tighten it for balboa, and let it go for blues.

This was a jam circle for the afternoon dance at DCLX 2010.  For those interested in going this weekend, it’s free! :)

DCLX 2010 Afternoon Dance | Free for all

There’s another video that shows people just social dancing at Dupont Circle, and you can see the huge crowds behind the dancers, all coming together to express their enjoyment for swing dancing.  I hope I get to do this by the time I graduate.  It looks so much fun!

Swingin’ into the Weekend

Lots of links today!

Sooooooooo excited because tomorrow is the first day of workshops for the 2nd Annual Collegiate Lindy Rendezvous!  This event was a great success last year, so Gottaswing and the GMU Swing Dance Club are hosting it again right here in D.C. this weekend.  World Champions Benjamin Ricard and Yuval Hod are teaching workshops for aerials, lindy technique, and Charleston for Saturday and Sunday, and Roomful of Blues is guest performing for the Saturday evening dance at Glen Echo Park, Maryland.  It’s going to be epic.

Here are sneak peeks of how wonderfully talented Ben and Yuval are:

American Lindy Hop Championship 2006 | Song: “Swingin’ the Blues” | Performed by: Benjamin Ricard and Geneviève Kérouac | 1st Place

Ben and Gen make this routine look so effortless!  The thing I like about swing is that it can be humorous, quirky, and fun, but it also involves a lot of technique.  Some of my favorite moments in this routine are 0:52-0:55, 1:03-1:10, 1:21-1:25, and 2:43-2:47.

I’m sure some of my friends have much more knowledge on Ben’s background, but I know that he has competed and taught all over the world for many years.  He also came to teach at GMU in the past, and we got to see him improvise with Michelle Searles a few times.  He is now coaching his own team in D.C. (which includes up and coming GMU swing stars, I might add) who will be competing in this year’s International Lindy Hop Championships.  I wish them the best of luck!

Swing Dance Party 2009, New York City | Performed by: Yuval Hod and Nathalie Gomes

My friend Ashlee was looking up videos of Yuval Hod the night we came back from Cheaper than the T-Shirt Blues weekend (which was a blast!  I’ve got to do another post on that later), and this was the first one she pulled up.  I was bobbing my head along to the music thinking “Oh ok, they’ve got really good chemistry.”  Then all of a sudden, BAM 0:27-0:31, that aerial!  Where did that come from??  Same with 0:57-1:00 and 1:40-1:42.  The transitions out of each trick are so smooth, like “Yeah, you just saw that, but it’s no big deal.”  At 2:06, you can hear people cheering for this triple flip that Yuval throws Nathalie into, and then she just bounces right out of it like it was a roller coaster ride or something.  I already knew Ben was amazing, but this was my first time watching something of Yuval’s.  If he could dance like that in 2009, imagine what he would be like today!

The swing club was the first dance organization I found at GMU.  I remember I was at an orientation fair with representatives from all of our clubs and organizations.  A few friends and I were really excited when we found out there was a swing dance club on campus, and we all signed up right away.

The fabulous Tom from Gottaswing comes to teach beginner and intermediate lessons every week, and we usually social dance afterwards to practice what we learned.  Like I said with blues, practices makes perfect, and sometimes it just takes time to get used to a move or trick.  I remember when I first learned the whip, I had problems understanding how to lean back and trust the partner in keeping me stable.  Then one night, after getting help from President Maryam, it just clicked!  We kept practicing over and over again, and I was smiling the rest of the night.

Swing is very special to me because it introduced me to other partner styles of dance, like balboa, salsa, and one of my favorites now, blues.  I feel like swing is more structured and technical than blues, which is why I felt more in my element with the latter.  Though, each one has its perks, and I wouldn’t give up one for the other.  I have yet to visit our Argentine tango and bachata clubs, so I hope to do that before I graduate.  So many dances to choose from!

2009 BluesSHOUT! Ballroom Blues Finals

The first time I went to blues was Thursday, March 3rd, and I absolutely fell in love with it.  I originally started with the swing scene about a year ago, but people had told me about blues, and my friend Ashlee convinced me to go and give it a try.  So, being the adventurer I am, I agreed.

We both went blindly into the beginner lesson, only having knowledge of how it works by watching a few videos on youtube and trying variations of it at swing.  The lesson was very basic, and I learned that the dance itself is more about connection than anything else.  For followers, it’s pretty easy.  Once you know your leader’s style, you can do almost any basic of blues.  Then you can start incorporating your own style and modify it for turns and dips.  You really get to play around with the music by hitting the beats and pausing to add some major hips.  In short, I call it the slower, sexier version of swing.

Ashlee just recently posted this link to me:

2009 BluesSHOUT! Ballroom Blues Finals | 1st place: Ruel and Mike, 2nd place: Topher and Rachel, 3rd place: John and Ruby Red