In this article: video of street dance / social dances and Piedmont Blues; quotes on the art of dance / music and teaching
Junious ‘House’ Brickhouse is an award-winning dance educator, choreographer, and cultural preservationist. His organization, Urban Artistry, Inc, is “dedicated to the authentic preservation of urban dance culture and community while finding ways to responsibly innovate.” They’re doing great work in the Washington D.C. (and wider) region — check them out if you ever get a chance!
This is his take on the connection between all black American dances and what it takes to be great. Also, watch some excellent Blues artists at the end.
Respecting your roots
Blues, Jazz, Rhythm & Blues, Funk, Disco, House Music, Hip-Hop… are all American musical genres (and/or sub-genres) who’s histories are rich in artistry, cultural heritage, and traditional knowledge.
Being a ‘tradition bearer’ means that I have accepted the privilege of letting their contributions live through me so I can pass them to others, respectfully. That is why I use the term tradition bearer: what I do as an artist does not come from me, meaning I am not the sole source of the art forms I share.”
What I like about this is that some artists might get bogged down thinking of it as a ‘big responsibility’ to study the roots, but really — as Junious puts it — it’s a privilege.
To dance instructors
For dancers looking to up their teaching game, Junious has tips on keeping it real and humble too:
1. Teach from your experience; it’s better to be on a path of growth as an educator – respectfully – than to let market trends and business push you to fake knowledge you have yet to acquire; integrity is non-negotiable
2. Don’t get caught up in the rat race. Be careful to not put the industry before culture or the students who depend on you for growth & guidance
3. Whatever genre you teach, love it… but with the kind of love that welcomes change, the perspectives of others, as well as evolution”
Be true to yourself, while keeping open to expanding your awareness. Perfect advice, from the first day of teaching to the one-millionth!
On being great
Last quote for now: all dancers (not just teachers) can use one of my favorite all-time quotes:
Blues and urban dance
Junious doesn’t just ‘talk the talk’ about respecting roots, watch him blending traditional Blues with touches of modern street dance in a 1-hour long video ….. 1-hour! Hah! Of course, on the internet:
…so I’ve already set this video to start with dancing. Click below!
Dancing at 14:00 | 21:50 dance talk by Junious | 23:30 video auto-starts here | 29:25 | 56:00
We kinda see a lot of things […] from the ‘Traditionalist’s lens,’ like there are certain dance forms that are supposed to be done to certain types of music. But in social environments, African Americans have always responded to music in ways that felt notable to them.
Today I’m doing a mix of different styles from Flatfooting, to Buck dancing, to some Waving, some Tap oriented stuff — but what I’m doing is just having an experience with wonderful music and friends.” — @ 21:50 in video
Music makes it all happen
You just watched an all-star band lineup headed by “arguably America’s foremost blues harmonica virtuoso,” Phil Wiggins. Their playing is rooted in Piedmont blues style which originated along the Southeast coastline and Appalachian region (roughly from Virginia down to Georgia).
If you want a longer story of the Piedmont sound and Phil Wiggins, Living Blues magazine has you covered. Or if you just want to listen to him killin’ it, here’s a double-dose:
Each person hears words according to their life experience and acculturation. For people to understand each other is complex. When people need to communicate and the stakes are extremely high, poetry can happen. The fat and the bullshit are cut away. That’s when the music starts.“
Phil Wiggins is still playing today out of Washington D.C.
I hope this has given you something to think about whether you’re a dancer, a teacher, or just a fan of good times.
Check in on your artistic growth, dig up some more Piedmont blues, and get your next creative spark by working on the roots of your movements. Happy dancing!