Blues dancing is definitely a hot topic these days. There’s a lot of heat brewing between lindy hoppers and blues dancers in regards to respecting each other’s dance forms, not to mention the contention of what blues dancing even is amongst blues dancers.
For the sake of argument here, when I refer to blues dancing, I’m referring to what blues dancers call “pureists”. I’m not even going to touch fusion dancing with a 10-foot pole.
Overall, I’ve found that most lindy hoppers don’t really care about blues dancing or blues dancers. There’s little respect to be had, and they don’t pay much attention to what blues dancers are even doing. When I first started dancing though, all of the lindy hoppers in Albuquerque also went blues dancing. There was no harsh distinction between the two like there is now. We would regularly drive to Santa Fe for Juke, a bimonthly dance that was billed as lindy and blues, and it was my favorite dance. They consistently oscillated between swing music, soul and funk and traditional 12 bar blues from the 30’s and 40’s. It was the only dance like it at the time, and it was so much fun.
That was over 5 years ago now. Today, there’s a entire blues scene in Albuquerque, with dancing every week, and none of the lindy hoppers go anymore. And the blues dancers don’t come to our dances.
We all have our own reasons for why we don’t go to each other’s dances now, and we all know what those reasons are, so there’s no point in me spelling it out for everyone. Besides, I don’t really care to get daggers thrown at me for a point I’m not trying to argue. Needless to say, the scenes are very separated, and following the national trend, there’s some tension between the two scenes every now and again.
Back in January, I began a monthly Swing, Soul & Blues dance. I created it for a few reasons. I wanted there to be more dancing in Albuquerque, I wanted to revive Juke in some fashion, and I wanted to bring the two scenes back together. Just for 3 hours a month, I wanted for everyone to throw away any misconception, any judgement or animosity or whatever it is that keeps the two scenes from typically integrating to come together and have some fun.
For me, it was easy to get lindy hoppers on board for the dance. They were all over it. The former DJ’s and facilitators of Juke were eager to drive down from Santa Fe to come as well (which, as a quick side note, it can take a LOT to get people from Santa Fe to make the 1 hour drive here). And while the dance hasn’t always been packed, it’s been a ton of fun and the music is varied enough for any kind of dancer to come and enjoy themselves. However, the blues dancers have yet to really make an appearance at the dance. I’ve advertised to them, I regularly hire some of their DJ’s (who are really good). This past month I finally got 1 regular blues dancer who doesn’t do any lindy hop. But that was it. And he hardly danced at all. I actually don’t know if I even saw him dance once.
I would not consider myself to be a part of the blues scene, but I would say that I’m a supporter and advocator of it. The main blues organizer in town, Aaron Cabral, and I go way back, and I’ve got his back no matter what. While I don’t always dance, I usually go to the blues dances every week, to support them, to talk with my friends who are blues dancers, and to kill my non-travelling Friday nights (Seriously, what do regular people do on a Friday night? If I’m not travelling, I usually sit around the house looking like this):
What is it going to take to get the blues dancers to the SS&B dance? Is it the day or time of the dance? Are they intimated of dancing with lindy hoppers? Do they not want to attend a dance that’s organized by a lindy hopper? Do they just not care?
Am I fighting a losing battle here? Should I just throw in the towel with the blues dancers, stop caring about what they’re doing and just continue having fun with the people who are actually showing up? I mean, what’s not to love here: Swing music? Check. Soul and funk? Check. Blues? Check. Awesome amounts of fun? Check.
As someone who is an organizer in Albuquerque, I feel responsible for keeping everyone as cohesive as possible, and personally, I think it’s stupid that the lindy hop scene and blues scene, locally and nationally, are so separate. I understand if some people don’t like blues music or blues dancing, or if people don’t see the magic in swing music. Lots of people don’t, and that’s cool. I just feel like there should be some crossover. By someone. Even just a brown M&M’s worth of crossover. Even if that one blues dancer who had come to our SS&B dance had danced all night long, that would’ve been something.
Are there any dance scenes out there who’ve successfully integrated both their lindy hop and blues scenes without just constantly smushing the two together in every dance? If so, tell me your secret to how you did it. I’m dying to know.