B&B2017 : BLUES AND BLUES
WITH JOSEPH DEMERS & SHAUNA MARBLE

 


Blues vs Drag Blues

Traditional Blues dance is what we call Jookin'. Slow Drag is a step within this genre, but Lindy Hoppers took the name and applied it to slow Lindy. In terms of the Blues dance community, we differentiate the two dances by understanding that Slow Drag (the step) is done to Traditional Blues music and Drag Blues (the dance) is done to Jazz Blues. Truthfully, in terms of marketing purposes, calling the jazzy blues form Slow Drag and the other style Jookin' is fine. :)



Jookin'


?(has both Jookin' and Jazz solo movements)


Blues is an umbrella term for an improvised family of individual, partnered, and group dance forms done to Blues music and structures. It is based on a series of dance styles created in America between the 1800's and mid 1900's, parallel with blues music. Rooted in African movement, Blues places high value on rhythm and a strong emphasis on solo movement. The dance has experienced a significant evolution within the last 10-15 years.

While there are now a wide range of Blues dances, each with unique dynamics, aesthetics, rhythms, attitudes, and step patterns, they share numerous characteristics that allow individuals to stylistically and creatively express the music. These include: asymmetry in the body; grounded and earth-focused movement; a balanced and flexible posture; dancing behind the beat; pulse; polyrhythms; 'every day' found movement; bent limbs and torso; movement in all parts of the body; call and response; lead and follow; and emotion.


Drag Blues



https://youtu.be/1a0AGhp1uds
?(context)


Drag Blues is a modern dance form of Blues evolved from Strut, Ballroomin' and Slow Drag, vernacular Blues and Jazz dances, danced to the swing rhythms found in Blues and Jazz music. While based on vintage traveling Blues dances, Drag Blues has a more defined technique and incorporates Swing moves and movements.






Joe and Nelle as Creator of Drag Blues



Many people credit Nelle and I for 'creating' Drag Blues. Although we've had a heavy influence into the development of the dance, we've never felt comfortable being identified as the creators. As you may recall, our current Blues scene is quite new (starting between 1998-2001). Drag Blues, by the literal definition, is a fusion dance. Nelle and I combined movements inspired by The Spirit Moves, Ballroomin' as taught by Mike Faltesek, Jookin (Slow Drag) as taught Damon Stone and Heidi Fite, and Chance Bushman and Amy Johnson doing a 'rag doll' connection. Our personal contribution was the integration of a partnered Strut-like basic (similar to Cakewalk). We were one of the first to bring all these ideas together and begin teaching and codifying it.


In 2006, never dancing Blues before, I competed at Cheap Thrills (the event that became BluesShout) and won the contests. When Nelle and I first performed our style in 2007/2008, the Blues community absorbed us super quickly! We had been teaching Lindy Hop professionally, but the Blues community pretty much booked all our teaching weekends for many years. That's when we became known as Blues instructors.


The Lindy Hop community often refers to this style as Slow Drag (and we used to as well). However, Katherine Dunham's Barrelhouse Blues is probably the extent of the movement style which we (the Blues community) would consider as Slow Drag for Jazz-Blues. Ballroomin’ is what we often see Lindy Hoppers dancing to Blues. Frankie and Norma often refer to the Slow Drag in their books. Frankie says in his book, "guys and girls would be glued together with only our tops swaying, our feet moving just a few inches from side to side in a slow drag.” This is consistent with a Jookin'-style Slow Drag movement.


When Nelle and I made our first instructional Drag Blues DVD's in 2008, we changed the name from Slow Drag to Drag Blues. Although it incorporated the Slow Drag and Ballroomin', our style also took aspects of other dances, like Strut and Swing. We felt it was a better 'umbrella name' that didn't misrepresent the movement. For this reason many people also credit us as the founders.


Nowadays, I see a lot of great momentum for Drag Blues. There are tons of people interested in the dance, and its nuanced techniques, and even more people starting to teach it! What's even better is there are many instructors now teaching Drag Blues with their own style and innovation! This helps the dance to survive and find its niche.


If I were to give feedback to dancers, it's important to me that we don't associate Drag Blues with Tango, because Tango has no historical or contextual influence on the dance! These two dances share techniques for two reasons: 1) they're both traveling (walking) dances and 2) both stem from the African diaspora. Other than those two connections, Drag Blues is not Tango.


Jazz and Blues are such rich, complex, and beautiful musical forms, they deserve equal aesthetics in movement and musicality. Drag Blues, like Lindy Hop, Balboa, and other Jazz-era partner dances, is one of those dance forms. Although it can be fairly difficult at times, it is very beautiful! Learning the nuances of the dance and mastering the individual dance components are but a couple ways to appreciate the music and history.