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.

2nd Annual Collegiate Rendezvous Weekend and Chevy Chase Ballroom (CCB)

I want to combine these next two events into one post because they’re both swing related.  The 2nd Annual Collegiate Rendezvous Weekend was April 8-10, which I did a pre-post on a while back.  I could only attend the Saturday workshops and GE dance that night, but they were well worth it.  I mean, hello, Ben Ricard and Yuval Hod in the same studio?  It’s gotta be!

Jenny, Dylan, and I skipped the aerial workshops and studied for a bit in Subway.  We started with Yuval’s swing technique at 12 noon, where we were taken back to the basics.  This helped improve my frame and ability to follow, so props to Yuval for creating his trick.  I would tell, but what would be the point of taking his workshop? ;)

The second workshop focused on swing outs.  Ben taught the guys some footwork while Yuval taught the girls an alternate to the swivel.  Throughout the workshops, Ben and Yuval would demonstrate what the partners would look like, both trading off the lead and follow roles every now and then, showing their ability to take control but also knowing when to compliment the partner.  I really enjoyed Yuval’s teaching style – he’s funny, informative, and picks out specific things to work on which really helps the individual improve.  After we got the gist we partnered up and practiced the swing outs together, which was a lot harder than I anticipated.  I had to worry about getting the steps right, working on my bounce, and making sure I wasn’t too tense.  Yuval told us that the point of this lesson was to teach the guys to wait for us ladies to swivel on the whips, and for us to learn some new fancy footwork.  In the end, it’s really a personal option but we had fun in the process.

We learned a neat little dip in our third lesson.  When Yuval first showed it to us, I thought he was joking.  The way he just grabbed his partner by the neck, shouted “Hi-yah!” and pushed her backwards sort of threw me off haha.  This dip is really about the illusion of it looking grand, but as long as the footwork and distance between the partners is right, everything else should fall into place.  My partner had the tendency to move when he wasn’t supposed to, so Yuval planted a stool next to him, telling him that he must stay where the stool is, otherwise we would have to start the sequence all over again.  It helped!

The last workshop of the day was the Charleston.  Here, Ben took more of the instructor role while Yuval hung out in the back.  This workshop proved how tiring swing can be and how much endurance swing dancers need when performing a routine.  My feet hurt after simply bouncing for 10 minutes.  For most of this workshop we did various footwork in a circle and learned a move that “breakdancers stole from swing.”  Then we learned some partnering Charleston steps, which wrapped up the lesson in a fun and relaxing way.  By the time we were finished (6PM), we were all beat, but there was a still the GE dance with Roomful of Blues later that night.  Jenny and I dragged ourselves to the JC for food, returned to our dorms to change, and went back out to GE for another four hours of dancing.

It took a while getting adjusted to the music, but I had some good dances to start off the night.  Ashlee, Bryan, Jenny, and I participated in the Jack and Jill contest, which having looked at the way I dance, I can tell there are soo many things I have to work on.  Here’s the all skate:

Glen Echo Park 4/9/11 | Jack and Jill All Skate | Video Credit: Ashlee Duncan

Bryan and Jenny became the champions of the night!  Congratulations!  From watching this video 100 times, I found out I need to work on my bounce and let loose on my swing outs.  Somehow, I can do that easily in blues, but I guess I get nervous about getting the steps right in swing so I tense up.  That reminds me, I had a really good blues dance with one lead and I still remember being super happy and relaxed throughout it.

This Monday, I went to Chevy Chase Ballroom (CCB) for the first time since last spring; it definitely brought back some memories of when I first started swing dancing.  I like the intimacy of this venue – it’s similar to the GE Ballroom Annex, only brighter.  The big mirrors give me a huge advantage of peaking at myself so I can work on things while I’m dancing.  In the middle of the night, I realized that I haven’t been bouncing on my rock step, so I started working on this for the next few dances.  I think this was one of the biggest reasons I looked so stiff, because afterwards I noticed that I looked much more in rhythm with the music.

Afterwards, we went to Booeymonger, a deli-like restaurant with massive sandwiches and crispy potato wedges on their regular menu.  I ordered the Gatsby Arrow, a sandwich with roast beef, brie cheese, spinach, and avocado served on French bread.  Maryam had the Californian which was a classic chicken salad served on a kaiser roll, and we split a side of potato wedges.  It was the perfect treat after another great night of dancing.  Let’s see if I can fit another night of blues before I head back home!

Glen Echo (GE) with Doc Scantlin’s Imperial Palms Orchestra

It’s always nice to watch and dance to a live band, especially if it means taking a break from finals.  Last night, the charming Doc Scantlin and his crew gave us a few chill and stress-free hours of lindy hopping.  There was a good number of people, but it wasn’t too crowded that we felt restricted in a four-foot square on the dance floor.  I had a lot of fun leads and I found myself being able to play with the music more than usual.

We had some great couples out there for the jam session:

Glen Echo Park 5/7/11 | Jam Session | Free for All

Elliot and Becky were cute as usual.  Ashlee, you are getting better and better each time I see you!  Keep it up everyone :)

We also had a special guest performance by the Hollywood swing icon Jean Veloz.  This is her in 1943 when she made a cameo in Swing Fever starring Kay Kyser and Marilyn Maxwell:

Song: “One Girl and Two Boys” by Marilyn Maxwell | Performed by: Jean Veloz, Don Gallager, and Lenny Smith

And here she was last night:

Glen Echo Park 5/7/11 | Performed by: Jean Veloz and Tom Koerner

I’m always so giddy when I watch her because her smile just tells us how much she loves dancing.  In order to keep up with her, Tom says he’ has to slow down and let Jean do her own thing.  I hope that I’ll look as graceful and energetic as Jean does when I’m her age. :)

It’s sad to say that last night will be my last visit to GE for a while, but I hope to make an appearance again when I’m up here in the summertime!  Until then, maybe a visit to Chevy Chase Ballroom or Blues night?  We’ll see.

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!

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