I've been vaguely wanting to get into blues dancing again since Herräng this summer. Recently I've been reminded of it by random other slow dances, like the gorgeous last waltz I had with Jessica when she was up visiting a few weeks ago. (Michael's Mazurka, by Childsplay. Never thought I'd be able to say I'd danced blues to a mazurka, but we did. Luckily, it's not actually too mazurky.) And then last week's Faster Polka had a couple waltzes that were too slow even for cross-step, so there blues-ifying it just made more sense.
Anyway, R.A. Blues is right here in downtown Mountain View, and I'd never been (at least not since last year or so, when it was down in Campbell). This week they had a live band (The Insomniacs, from Portland) so I decided to finally get myself out there. And it was awesome.
I went for Mihai's lesson before the dance, and it was a good one. We did a lot of exercises on listening to your partner's dancing, which I think was probably the best single thing that could have happened for my blues dancing at this point. The point was to get things from being nearly 100% leader-driven to more like a "conversation" between leader and follower. Not necessarily all the way to 50/50 perhaps, but much more balanced. The beauty of this is not only in how it makes for a much nicer dance on both sides, but also in how leaders can actually learn from followers. I think one of the most difficult things about being a beginning lead in most ballroom dances is that if you only know three moves, that's all you get to do. Whereas the follows can dance with experienced leaders and get led through all sorts of new stuff and learn much faster. This approach to blues evens that playing field a great deal. The way the exercises worked, it also really reinforced the concept of not having "moves" but just moving, and it helped me be a lot more comfortable with that.
As for the dancing itself, it was exactly what I'd been wanting recently. One of the things I love most about dancing is being a musician with it, and good blues dancing feeds that incredibly well. The music becomes like a third partner in the dance, being channeled through the two human beings, and all three elements are drawn closer together by the intensity and focus of it all. This can happen sometimes in other dances, like a waltz, but it's harder when you're doing something with a fixed "basic" step, because it's so easy to relax and put things on autopilot for portions of the dance. With blues, on the other hand, you have be be there and in the flow of it at every moment. (I have another post to write about Csikszentmihalyi's concept of flow, but for now suffice to say that an activity that forces you into it is inherently enjoyable.)
I'm going back next week. Come join me!