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!

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