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My Favourite Colour…Part Deux

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If you haven’t already realized that this is a second installment, you may want to go back and read the first part, which you can find….here!

I left off with the emergence of electric blues and Chuck Berry and Bo Diddley.  A rather infamous Muddy Waters tour in England, during which he played loud, crass Chicago style blues, is said to have influenced artists like Cyril Davies and sparking the British Invasion a few years later.Bo Diddley, blues great.

In the late ’50s Chicago’s West Side Sound style blues developed simultaneously with Swamp Blues in Baton Rouge.

During the 1960s and ’70s Rock and Roll and Rhythm and Soul were all the rage and the traditional blues singers needed to find new ways to stay on the charts.  B.B. King does this with his song “To Know You is to Love You”.

Jimi Hendrix, guitaristAround this time a few names start emerging that we would usually attribute to rock music.  Do Jimi Hendrix and Carlos Santana ring any bells?  Jimi Hendrix  made amazing use of distortion in his music and his psychedelic rock branched out into more unorthodox styles of blues.  Carlos Santana lent a Latin flair to his blues, again creating a unique twist on the blues genre.

When the (in)famous Led Zeppelin was breaking into the main stream, during the early 1960s, many of their hits were covers of traditional blues songs like, “In My Time of Dying”

The fusion of blues, country and jazz, known as Tulsa Sound, was popularized in the 1970s by artists such as J.J. Cale.    With a similar sound and structure, Texas rock-blues was carried into the spot light by artists such as Stevie Ray Vaughan, The Fabulous Thunderbirds and ZZ Top in the 1980s.

Beginning in the 1990s and up through the present, there have been multitudes of experiments with the genre, bending, twisting and transforming it in ways never before thought of.  In recent years, there has been a trend toward a more classic style of blues, rather than the flashier styles of ZZ Top and Led Zeppelin.  Grady Champion and Susan Tedeschi are excellent examples of this.

There has also been a resurgence of venues dedicated to all that is blues and jazz.  Cincinnati has its very own jazz club called The Blue Wisp.  Classy sounding, huh?  And there are a multitude of blues festivals all over the world.  A notable one in this region is the Chicago Underground Blues Experience.

In all of this research, the one thing that I have learned is that there is no one definition of blues.  It is something different to everyone who plays and hears it.  To me, blues is a slow, burning rhythm that makes me move.  To others, it may be a fast song that expresses anger or hurt about some life situation.  But the one overarching theme is perhaps the simplest of all; that of music.  No matter the style, rhythm or genre, music is the one thing that every human being on Earth has in common.  It is a common thread that binds us all.  And whether you like rap, blue grass or soul, you are never alone.

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Blues In The Nite ’12

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Blues In The Nite ’12

As most of you have probably gathered by now, Blues is my favourite form of dance.  So when I got the chance to spend an entire weekend doing nothing but  Blues dancing, you can imagine how excited I got.

And let me tell you: Blues In The Nite ’12 did not disappoint.  I got my fill of grungy, raunchy blues as well as some decidedly lighter dances that kept me smiling the entire time.

I left Athens Friday afternoon (skipping class to go dancing is totally legit, right….?) with two other fabulous ladies (there was much giggling about attractive male celebrities) and we made a straight shot for West Lafayette, Indiana, with a quick stop in the Dayton area to pick up another friend of ours.  And together we braved the treacherous snow and long boring stretches of highway to out epic blues adventure.

We arrived just in time for the beginner lesson, taught by the wonderful Jamie Lynn Figure and Tony Goldsmith.  I had in tow withe me two people who had never had a Blues lesson before, and I think it may be safe to say: their minds were blown.  After one lesson, they were both hooked.  Now there’s no going back.

After the lesson ended, the DJs started with Bryan Sykes taking the first set of the night and Derek Camp spinning the last track around midnight.

What?  “Midnight?” you say “But that’s so early!”  But trust me, we needed our sleep for the next day: our lessons started at 10am.  Yeah….

And it’s a good thing it ended so early, that gave me time to get some late night munchies at an authentic West Lafayette tradition: Triple XXX  Family Diner (as seen on The Food Network.  They have great chocolate malts and three cheese and tomato omelets, but are better known for their Duane Purvis burger.  I’ll leave it to you to solve the mystery of what that is).  I found this place with the help of my gracious host, Andrew.  I should also point out that, in addition to his hosting duties this weekend, he also played a huge part in organizing Blues In The Nite.  So, props to you, Andrew!

But it didn’t take me long to get over my sleep-deprived, early-morning stupor and discontent (I am not a morning person, folks).  Almost as soon as the lesson started, I knew it was going to be a good day.  Michelle Richter and Dexter Santos got all of us up and moving with an introduction to Jook Joint Blues.  Basically, this is  Blues for small spaces: there’s little or no space between you and your partner, there is a lot of physical contact and you get to make a wonderfully close connection with your partner.  This was exactly the stuff i wanted to learn.  Even though it was only an hour-long lesson, I felt like I learned more in that one hour than I had since my introduction to Blues.

After Jookin’ Blues, we transitioned to Ballroom Blues.  It still manages to keep that intimate Blues connection, but in a slightly more upright way, reminiscent of classic ballroom dances like the Foxtrot and the Waltz.

Lunch came after the Ballroom class and I was lucky enough to eat with a nifty group of people and chat with Michelle during the break. At least this time I didn’t have to worry about being late getting back to the lessons: the lessons would start when we returned the other half of the teaching unit.

Luckily, we decided to return Michelle in time for a lesson on connection.  And what a sweet lesson it was.  Blues is a tug-and-pull, give-and-take and above all, a conversation with your partner.  With the help of Dexter and Michelle, I really made a connection with my dance partners.

The next lesson gave us a different view of what Blues could be.  It doesn’t always have to be this slow, slinky, sexy dance.  Each song has qualities all its own and each dance is a character unique unto itself.  Sometimes the dance is happy, sometimes its angry, sometimes its sad, and sometimes it is indeed sexy.

The final lesson of the day was Mo’ Better Blues, which was all about moving your own body, knowing what you can do, and still engaging your partner and keeping it interesting for him/her.  This was by far the most difficult class of the day.  Dexter showed us some pretty classy moves that I will definitely need to practice in the safety of my own kitchen before breaking them out on the dance floor.  Never the less, it showed me that, as a follow, I can rock my own moves and still keep the atmosphere of the dance (and laugh at my when I end up totally mutilating my footwork).

I think I got so much out of these lessons because, for the first time, I wasn’t intimidated by the instructors.  Most of the time I end up being a little star-struck or just plain scared, but not this time.  Michelle and Dexter did a wonderful job of making things easy enough for us to do, while not being too basic and treating us all like total newbies.

The weekend’s festivities continued after a dinner break and a quick trip to the bus stop to pick up a friend.

The Merou Grotto is a little white building on a dark street which can only be reached via shuttle.  Sketchy, right?  Yeah, ok, maybe a little.  But when you have a bus full of college students making up their own verses to “The Wheels on the Bus” and the best bus driver ever, what’s a road without streetlights?  And besides, once we were inside, I fell in love with the place.  A small building, in the dark with steamy windows and the best Blues tunes around.  It really doesn’t get much better than that.

And we danced Blues for SIX HOURS STRAIGHT!  Best night ever.  I like my Lindy Hop as well as the next girl, but there is just something so enticing and entrancing about Blues.  And you try to Lindy for six hours.  I can’t make it through one.

By the time 3 in the morning rolled around, I was so tired I could barely walk straight.  But I could not have asked for a better night.

While the dancing was done, I didn’t go home Sunday morning.  The Midwest Collegiate Swing Summit held court in the student union at Purdue and discussed everything from DJs to teachers to funding.  But I’ll give you all those juicy details later (because I know you all just can’t wait for that…)

So all in all, an absolutely great weekend.  Thank you to the Purdue Night Train for pulling off this fantastic event.  Thank you to Dexter Santos and Michelle Richter for teaching a fabulous workshop.  And thank you, in particular, to Andrew for hosting me an discussing books, movies and A Very Potter Musical withe me.  I will definitely be back next year!

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