Let’s SOLO BLUES Dance in MARCH!

REGISTER HERE:
+ English form
+ Italian form

The MARCH EDITION of my ONLINE SOLO BLUES Classes IS STARTING SOON!

What? 4 weeks Solo Blues Dancing, classes of 1 hour each + 30 minutes Practice Session!
You don’t need a partner, you’ll be dancing alone!

When? Every Thursday, from March 4th to March 25th,

What time? PICK YOUR SLOT!!!

  • Slot 1: 13.30 -14.30 + 30 minutes of Practice Session (GMT+1 – Rome Time Zone)
  • Slot 2: 20.30 – 21.30 + 30 minutes of Practice Session (GMT+1 – Rome Time Zone)
  • Each slot will take place with a minimum of 5 participants.
  • What language? Classes are held in English, with minor translations in Italian, if needed.
  • Level: The level of the course is Open, which means that everyone will find material to work on suitable for their level of experience, from beginners to more experienced dancers! The class will start with at least 5 participants.
  • Pay what you can! Since many of us are going through a financially intense time, I think it’s important to support each other, so you can contribute with the amount that works best for you.
    Suggested donation: 35€
    Minimum donation: 20€
  • Practice session: After each class, there will be 30 minutes of practice session. I will be there for your questions or further insights on the content of the class.

REGISTER HERE:
+ English form
+ Italian form

 Issues with the registration form? Drop me an email at bibi.bluesdance@gmail.com

Cos’è il BLUES?

Oggi voglio affrontare una domanda la cui risposta potrebbe sembrare scontata, ma, a mio avviso, non lo è… Che cos’è il BLUES?

Dalla mia esperienza, ogni volta che dicevo di ballare blues, le risposte che ricevevo erano quasi sempre un mucchio di commenti stereotipati che potrei semplicemente riassumere in “oh, roba lenta, triste e sexy, ho capito”. Beh … onestamente, questa non è decisamente la definizione che mi viene in mente, quindi lasciate che ve ne parli un po’ qui.

Prima di andare avanti però, c’è una cosa che devo riconoscere…  Sono una donna bianca italiana, sono nata e cresciuta in un Paese prevalentemente bianco, la cui storia, cultura e tradizioni sono lontane dall’esperienza Afro-Americana. È fondamentale per me dire onestamente che tutto ciò che leggerete in questo breve articolo proviene da ciò che ho studiato, discusso e visto con l’aiuto della comunità blues internazionale e da ciò che i rappresentanti Afro-Americani nella comunità hanno condiviso riguardo alle loro esperienze personali. Senza l’aiuto e le conversazioni molto personali e profonde che ho avuto con questi meravigliosi esseri umani, non sarei in grado di avere la stessa comprensione del blues che ho oggi. Quindi, ogni volta che vi avvicinate a una forma d’arte, cultura, storia che non è la vostra, vi incoraggio profondamente ad andare dalle persone che la rappresentano e con rispetto imparare da loro il più  possibile.

Ora sono pronta per entrare nella nostra domanda… COS’È IL BLUES?

Il blues è una forma di musica che nasce dall’esperienza Afro-Americana, con un’identità e una storia specifiche e incorpora una vasta gamma di stili ed emozioni.

La storia del blues risale al XIX secolo. È cresciuto nel Delta del Mississippi, dalla Diaspora Afro-Americana, dall’esperienza di schiavi, ex schiavi e dei loro discendenti che cantavano mentre lavoravano nei campi. Tra la metà e la fine del 1800, il Deep South ospitava davvero centinaia di bluesmen che hanno contribuito a plasmare la musica.

Sfortunatamente, gran parte della musica originale ha seguito questi mezzadri fino alle loro tombe, ma l’eredità di questi primi pionieri del blues può ancora essere ascoltata nelle prime registrazioni degli anni ’20 e ’30 e comprende gli spirituali africani, i canti africani, le canzoni di lavoro, gli hollers campestri, la musica rurale suonata con flauti e batterie, inni revivalisti e musica da ballo country.

Durante gli anni delle Grandi Migrazioni, il blues Delta si fece strada lungo il Mississippi verso le aree urbane, influenzando infine l’evoluzione della musica stessa. Pensate al blues elettrico di Chicago, ai diversi sottogeneri blues regionali (ne parlerò di più nei prossimi articoli del blog) e ai vari ibridi jazz-blues. Ha anche dato vita al rhythm ‘n blues e al rock ‘n roll, quindi ecco: la musica blues è già un sacco di cose! Il suo tempo varia in così tanti modi che non possiamo assolutamente chiamarlo solo “roba lenta”!

E le emozioni? Beh, per me che non esiste una forma di musica che possa comunicare emozioni più sincere, e mi piace particolarmente la definizione di blues data da Blind Mississippi Morris che ha detto “Il blues è un sentimento con cui la maggior parte delle persone può relazionarsi. Una sensazione che fa così male, o che a volte ti fa sentire così bene che non riesci a trovare le parole, quindi ci metti la musica. […] la senti, la ascolti ed è così che lo sai! “

Il blues insegna ad abbracciare le emozioni, accettare i propri difetti, vivere gli alti e bassi e, in modo catartico, trasformare tutto in un linguaggio che non è fatto solo di parole, è fatto di musica, movimento, sentimento e in definitiva compassione.

Con un profondo senso di rispetto e umiltà, nel mio rapporto con il blues ogni volta che ho bussato alla sua porta, mi ha dato molto più della semplice musica, del solo sentimento e della solo danza. Mi commuovo molto quando parlo del blues, ma per me… il blues è guaritore.

Ora… cos’è il Ballo Blues?

Mi piace molto la spiegazione che Gray Armstrong ha scritto per Obsidian Tea.

“Il ballo blues è un termine generico usato per descrivere il ballo sulla musica blues con certe aspettative fondamentali. Alcuni sono basati sul movimento, molti no. Da questi valori fondamentali, ci sono molti idiomi, o stili, che ne sono derivati, che sono tutti considerati danze blues. Questi balli provengono da diversi momenti e zone del paese ma sono profondamente legati alla musica per cui sono stati creati. […] Dato che il ballo blues è una formulazione più generica, è facile dividere i balli blues in due tipi generali: il tipo che faresti in un juke joint e il tipo che faresti in una sala da ballo nera. “

Quindi possiamo parlare dei balli Juke Joint Blues e dei balli Ballroom Blues e in particolare di questo, Damon Stone ha scritto questa spiegazione molto chiara per definirli:

“Il Juke Joint Blues include tutte le varianti di ballo che sono nate dai tipi di musica blues suonata in juke joint, roadhouse, honky tonks, rent party, feste nei seminterrati e altri luoghi che erano generalmente affollati, avevano una superficie limitata, di natura tendenzialmente casuale/privata, e includeva piccole combo che suonavano musica ritmicamente dominante e cantanti che cantavano in modo percussivo o ringhiando. Questi balli sono spesso caratterizzati da movimento staccato, danza sul posto o se ci sono frequenti cambi di direzione, angoli acuti, movimento estremamente radicato, una postura a terra, movimento deliberato dell’anca/pelvico e una maggiore indipendenza di movimento e ritmi tra i partner.

Il Ballroom Blues include tutte le varianti di ballo che sono nate dai tipi di musica blues suonata nelle sale da ballo, con pavimenti spaziosi, di natura più formale/pubblica, e prevedevano big band che suonano linee melodiche intrecciate in cima a prevedibili shuffle o triple rhythms con gli strumenti principali che sono spesso un pianoforte, ottoni o strumenti ad ancia. Queste danze tendono a viaggiare più ampiamente sul pavimento, generando e manipolando lo slancio e sono caratterizzate da una postura un po’ più “eretta” (sebbene altrettanto radicata come le danze del juke joint), movimenti sottili dell’anca/pelvico e del busto, con footworks schematizzati alla base delle forme espressive. “

C’è anche il Solo Blues, che crea un genere a sè e nelle parole di Damon Stone, “include tutti i passi di danza eseguiti senza un’influenza fisica diretta su un altro ballerino – questo include non solo un singolo individuo che balla in social o durante una performance o una competizione, indipendentemente dal fatto che sia improvvisata o coreografata, ma anche riffing e cutting dove gli spunti visivi, stilistici e ritmici possono essere presi o condivisi tra due o più ballerini, così come quando una coppia di partner si rilassa o interrompe la connessione, quindi non c’è trasferimento diretto di energia che influenza i passi di danza che vengono eseguiti.”

Ciò che lega questi diversi gruppi sono alcuni principi estetici fondanti, che creano un terreno comune alle diverse danze, idiomi e stili. Questi sono:

  • Efebismo,
  • Groundedness,
  • Pulse,
  • Lag,
  • Musicalità,
  • Asimmetria,
  • Movimento integrato, poliritmico e policentrico,
  • Danza improvvisata e colloquiale,
  • Equità tra partners,
  • Coolness

Quindi se sei arrivato a questo punto nella lettura … sei d’accordo con me sul fatto che il blues è molto di più della stereotipata “roba lenta, triste e sexy” ???

“Sì, Bibi, mi hai convinto, ma … Perché non possiamo trovare tutte queste cose facilmente spiegabili e registrate online?”

 Se ti sei posto questa domanda, dovresti essere consapevole che questo è l’approccio utilizzato nelle culture bianche americane ed europee. Non è quello su cui si fonda la comunità Afro-Americana. Storicamente, per legge, agli schiavi Afro-Americani veniva negata l’istruzione poiché i proprietari di schiavi temevano che ciò avrebbe ispirato o reso possibile ambizioni di emancipazione. Quindi, mantenendo le sue radici africane, la cultura Afro-Americana era ed è profondamente fondata sulla tradizione orale, l’esperienza diretta, l’esplorazione e il fare. Le tradizioni specificamente orali divennero il mezzo principale per preservare la storia, i costumi e altre informazioni culturali tra le persone. La comunità ha aperto la strada all’insegnamento orale e ha creato il terreno per la conoscenza diretta.

Per questo vi incoraggio a distaccarvi dalla vostra mentalità e seguire il modo in cui la cultura si è costruita nella comunità Afro-Americana. Possiamo imparare molto da questa esperienza sulla cultura, la danza, la musica e soprattutto nell’apprezzare veramente ciò che facciamo quando ci definiamo ballerini blues.

Okkkey! Questo è tutto per oggi, questo articolo è un po’ lungo e ancora non è esaustivo né completo, ma spero abbia creato un po’ di curiosità per approfondire di più questi argomenti.

Ci vediamo molto presto per altre Blues Stories!

Fonti:

What is BLUES?

Today I want to address a question whose answer might seem obvious, but, in my opinion, it is not… What is BLUES?

From my experience, whenever I said I am a blues dancer, the replies that I got were almost always a bunch of stereotyped comments that we could simply sum up in to “oh, slow, sad and sexy stuff, I see”. Well… honestly, that is not the definition that would come to my mind straight away, so let me tell you a bit about it here.

Before moving on however, there is something that I need to acknowledge… I am a white Italian woman, I was born and raised in a predominantly white country, whose history, culture and traditions are far from the African American experience.  It is paramount for me to honestly say that everything that you will read in this brief article comes from what I’ve studied, discussed and saw with the help of the international blues community and from what African American representatives in the community have shared about their personal experiences. Without the help and the very personal and profound conversations that I had with these wonderful humans, I would not be able to have the same understanding of blues that I have today. So whenever you approach a form of art, culture, history that is not your own, I deeply encourage you to go to the people representing it with respect and learn from them the more that you can.

Now I am ready to go into… WHAT IS BLUES?

Blues is a form of music that originates from the African American experience, with a specific identity and history and it incorporates a wide range of styles and emotions.

Blues history roots back in the 19th Century. It grew up in the Mississippi Delta, from the African American Diaspora, from the experience of slaves, ex-slaves and their descendants who sang as they toiled in the fields. During the middle to late 1800s, the Deep South was indeed home to hundreds of bluesmen who helped to shape the music.
Unfortunately, much of the original music followed these sharecroppers to their graves, but the legacy of these earliest blues pioneers can still be heard in 1920s and ’30s early recordings and it encompasses the African spirituals, African chants, work songs, field hollers, rural fife and drum music, revivalist hymns, and country dance music.

During the years of the Great Migrations, the Delta blues made their way up the Mississippi to urban areas, ultimately influencing how the music evolved. You can think of the electrified Chicago blues, the different regional blues subgenres (I will talk more about these in future blog posts), and various jazz-blues hybrids. It also gave birth to rhythm ‘n blues and rock ‘n roll, so you see: blues music is already a lot of things! Its tempo varies in so many way, we cannot call it “slow stuff” only!

How about emotions? Well, I feel there is no form of music that can communicate more genuinely emotions, and I particularly like the definition of blues given by Blind Mississippi Morris who said “The blues is a feeling that most people can relate to. A feeling that hurts so bad, or  sometimes feels so good that you can’t find words to it, so you put music to it.[…] you feel it, you hear it and that’s how you know!”

Blues teaches to embrace emotions, accept one’s flaws, live the ups and the downs and, in a cathartic way, transform everything into a language that is not only made of words, it is made of music, movement, feeling and ultimately compassion.

With a deep sense of respect and humbleness, in my relationship with blues whenever I came to it, it has given me much more than just music, just feelings and just dance. I get very emotional when I talk about the blues, but to me… Blues is the healer.

Now… what is Blues Dancing?

I really like the explanation that Grey Armstrong wrote for Obsidian Tea.

“Blues dancing is a catch-all term used to describe dancing to blues music with certain foundational expectations. Some are movement-based, many are not. From these foundational values, there are many idioms, or styles, that have come out of that, that are all considered blues dances. These dances have come out of different points in time and areas of the country but are deeply tied to the music they were created for. […]As blues dancing is a more recent catch-all wording, it’s easy to divide blues dances into two general types: the type you’d do at a juke joint, and the type you’d do at a Black ballroom.”

So we can talk about Juke Joint Blues dances and Ballroom Blues dances and specifically about this, Damon Stone wrote this very clear explanation to clarify them out:

Juke Joint Blues includes all dance variants that grew out of the types of blues music played in juke joints, roadhouses, honky tonks, rent parties, basement parties, and other venues that were generally crowded, had limited floor space, of a more casual/private nature, and tended towards small combos playing rhythmically dominant music and vocalists who sang in a percussive or growling manner. These dances are frequently characterized by staccato movement, dancing on the spot or if there is traveling frequent changes of direction, sharp angles, extremely grounded movement, a low-to-the-ground posture, deliberate hip/pelvic movement, and greater independence of movement and rhythms between partners.

Ballroom Blues includes all dance variants that grew out of the types of blues music played in ballrooms and dance halls, that spacious floors, of a more formal/public nature, and tended towards big bands playing interwoven melodic lines on top of predictable shuffle or triple rhythms with the lead instruments frequently being a piano, brass, or reed instrument. These dances tend to travel more broadly around the floor, generating and manipulating momentum and are characterized by a somewhat more “upright” posture (though just as grounded as the juke joint dances), subtle hip/pelvic and counter torso movements, with footwork patterns making the baseline forms of expression.”

There is also Solo Blues Dancing, which creates a genre for itself and in the words of Damon Stone, “it includes any dance steps done without direct physical influence to another dancer — this includes not just a single individual dancing either socially, or in performance or competition regardless if it is improvised or choreographed, but also riffing and cutting where visual, stylistic, and rhythmic cues may be taken or shared between two or more dancers, as well as when a partnered couple relaxes or breaks the connection so there is no direct transfer of energy influencing the dance steps being done.”

What ties these different groups are some founding aesthetic principles, that create a common ground to the different dances, idioms and styles. These are:

  • Ephebism,
  • Groundedness,
  • Pulse,
  • Lag,
  • Musicality,
  • Asymmetry,
  • Integrated, polyrhythmic and polycentric movement,
  • Improvisational and conversational dancing,
  • Equal partnership,
  • Coolness

So if you have come to this point in reading… do you agree with me that blues is so much more than the stereotyped “slow, sad and sexy stuff”???

“Yes Bibi you kind of convinced me, but… Why can’t we find all these things easily explained and recorded online?”

 If you asked yourself this question, you should be aware that this is the approach used in White American and European cultures. It is not the one the African American community relies on. Historically, by law, African American slaves were denied education as slaveholders feared that this would have inspired or enabled emancipatory ambitions. So, maintaining its African roots, African American culture was and is deeply founded on oral tradition, direct experience, exploration and doing. Specifically oral traditions became the primary means of preserving history, mores, and other cultural information among the people. The community lead the way in the oral teaching and created the ground for direct knowledge.

I encourage you to leave your mindset and follow the way the African American community did it. We can learn a lot from this on the culture, the dance, the music and mostly in truly appreciating what we do when we call ourselves blues dancers.

Okkkey! This is it from me today, this blog post is a bit long and still it is not exhaustive nor complete, but I hope it has created a bit of curiosity for delving more into these topics.

I’ll see you very soon for more Blues Stories!

Sources:

NEW ONLINE COURSE… February Ed.

REGISTER HERE:
+ English form
+ Italian form

The FEBRUARY EDITION of my ONLINE SOLO BLUES Classes IS STARTING SOON!

What? 4 weeks Solo Blues Dancing, classes of 1 hour each!
You don’t need a partner, you’ll be dancing alone!

When? Every Thursday, from February 4th to February 25th,

What time? NEW! PICK YOUR SLOT!!!

  • Slot 1: 13.30 -14.30 + 30 minutes of Practice Session (GMT+1 – Rome Time Zone)
  • Slot 2: 20.30 – 21.30 + 30 minutes of Practice Session (GMT+1 – Rome Time Zone)
  • What language? Classes are held in English, with minor translations in Italian, if needed.
  • Level: The level of the course is Open, which means that everyone will find material to work on suitable for their level of experience, from beginners to more experienced dancers! The class will start with at least 5 participants.
  • Pay what you can! Since many of us are going through a financially intense time, I think it’s important to support each other, so you can contribute with the amount that works best for you.
    Suggested donation: 35€
    Minimum donation: 20€
  • Practice session: After each class, there will be 30 minutes of practice session. I will be there for your questions or further insights on the content of the class.

REGISTER HERE:
+ English form
+ Italian form

 Issues with the registration form? Drop me an email at bibi.bluesdance@gmail.com

BLUES STORIES: Barrelhouse Blues, pianos and women in the 20s and 30s.

For this first blog post I felt like starting with something that I am curious about and that is currently in my “I wanna know more” list, so please be aware that this is just a starting point and not at all a complete and exhaustive read. Still, I hope it will give you some ideas on Barrelhouse blues, pianos and women in the 20s and 30s, and maybe it will encourage you to research further into this.

So let’s start with… What is Barrelhouse blues?

Let’s start with defining the Barrelhouse first… as the name itself anticipates, it is called Barrelhouse a bar where whiskey is served straight from the barrel.

The barrelhouses of the rural South were rough wooden shacks where African American laborers gathered to drink and dance at the edge of small towns and levee camps. The up-tempo piano blues that developed in these establishments came to be called barrelhouse, as well, as in “I want to hear some barrelhouse tonight” and in an overly simplified way, it was a sped up form of rural blues, meant specifically for dancing. 

So I kind of revealed it already: what was specific to Barrelhouse blues was the way of playing the piano! It was adapted to the polyrhythmic traditions (percussive use in imitation of African “hun” drums) and to the goliardic mood of the workers (who wanted to dance after a hard day’s work), as well as to the noise of the barrelhouse, that forced the musicians to beat hard on the piano keys. This also allowed to disguise the not-very-finely tuned pianos, as in fact the musicians had to make up for the shortcomings of the instrument with the mobility of their fingers.

The barrelhouse spread in Southern states, and later also to northern cities, following the routes of migration. The departure from the rural Southern blues came mainly in Kansas City, where a rough, rhythmic and percussive style was formed, and in Chicago, where a generation of highly skilled specialists was formed. This raw, high-spirited piano playing eventually morphed into boogie-woogie–a strident, uninhibited, and forcefully rhythmic new American music.

As Memphis Minnie proves, Barrelhouse could be played on guitar too…

Why did I mention women before? The answer is actually pretty simple: many barrelhouses and juke joints were run by women, who eventually also became the entertainment of the nights.

Women club owners have been a vital part of the whole jazz and blues history and continue to maintain the spaces and places of this music.

Lil Johnson – My stove is in good conditions

Juke joints and Barrelhouses were the kind of business women turned to as a means to provide for themselves and their families and often they would run these businesses without the help of any men.

The blues singer Sandra Hall was the daughter of a female owner, who herself continued the tradition of her mother. In an interview by Pearson from 2003, she said that her grandmother would cook up a batch of fish (“Fish Fries Fridays”) and sell Black Label beer. Then the grandmother would play the piano, and the Hall sisters would sing.

This is how ART is born.

I’ll be forever grateful to all these talented souls for gifting us with the preciousness of this music.

Lucille Bogan – Coffee Grindin’ Blues

Well, this is all from me for today, here below you find the source list I have been using to investigate on this topic… if you wish to go deeper on the few things I’ve been writing about, there you find a lot more that is absolutely worth reading!

Also… What is in your “I wanna know more” list? Send me a message and let me know!
I’d be happy to help you in your research process!

Source list:
  • Devi, The Language of the Blues from Alcorub to Zuzu
  • Hazzard Gordon, Jookin’
  • Martorella, Blues (available only in Italian)
  • Attrep, From Juke Joints to Jazz Jams: The Political Economy of Female Club Owners
  • Pearson, Jook Women
  • Nardone, Roomful of Blues: Jukejoints and the Cultural Landscape of the Mississippi Delta.

Capodanno 2021 a ritmo di…

🎉🎉 Questa sera!!! 🎉🎉
Io e altri 20 Djs da tutto il mondo (avete capito bene… 20!!!) questa sera facciamo festa!!! E siete tutti invitati!!! ✨🍾🥂

Come funziona?
Semplicissimo! Ci sono 2 web radio, una tutta blues e soul e una tutta swing, a cui potete collegarvi ed ecco fatto! Voi scegliete e ci troverete lì a mettere musica per voi!
📻 La radio Blues e Soul comincia lo streaming alle ore 21 con… me!!!
➡️ Il link per connettersi alla radio Blues e Soul è https://streams.radio.co/s8aa2658fd/listen
📻 La radio Swing comincia lo streaming alle ore 23 con la splendida Sarah Spoon.
➡️ Il link per connettersi alla radio Swing è https://streaming.radio.co/s47355d33b/listen

Ve l’ho detto che siamo in 20, giusto?!
Beh questo significa anche che troverete musica a bomba per tutta la notte, fino a domattina! 🎉✨
➡️ La radio Swing continuerà lo streaming fino alle 8! 🎶
➡️ La radio Blues e Soul continuerà lo streaming fino alle 10! 🎶
Io sarò la prima della radio Blues (dalle 21 alle 22 questa sera) e l’ultima della radio Swing, per cui vi aspetto stasera e, se volete fare colazione con me, ci rivediamo domattina dalle 7 alle 8!
🥰

Per saperne di più, cliccate a questo link!

La serata è organizzata dalla Ujima Blues Foundation e da Jukes and Jazz Radio Station.

NEW ONLINE COURSE!

REGISTER HERE:
+ English form
+ Italian form

A NEW COURSE IS STARTING SOON!!!

After a wonderful first round, I decided to do more and start a NEW SERIE of ONLINE SOLO BLUES Classes!

  • What? 4 weeks Solo Blues Dancing, classes of 1 hour each!
    You don’t need a partner, you’ll be dancing alone!
  • When? Every Thursday evening, from January 7th to January 28th,
  • What time? 20.30 to 21.30 + 30 minutes of Practice Session (GMT+1 – Rome Time Zone)
  • Level: The level of the course is Open, which means that everyone will find material to work on suitable for their level of experience, from beginners to more experienced dancers! The class will start with at least 5 participants.
  • Pay what you can! Since many of us are going through a financially intense time, I think it’s important to support each other, so you can contribute with the amount that works best for you.
    Suggested donation: 35€
    Minimum donation: 20€
  • Practice session: After each class, there will be 30 minutes of practice session. I will be there for your questions or further insights on the content of the class.

REGISTER HERE:
+ English form
+ Italian form

 

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