One of the most highly requested classes I get lately has been for Fast Blues. Many of today’s Lindy Hop / Blues dancers — especially those who’ve experienced the majority of their Blues music at social dances — simply haven’t been exposed to enough faster music to have the chance to play with how their body moves to it.
So they do what any dancer naturally does; moving their body in the way they’ve been trained. This results in a floor filled with Swing aesthetics, swing-outs, and triple steps galore *
Others have been inspired to find an abandoned warehouse
and get ….footloose.
With less exposure, they have less chances to internalize and adapt their Blues aesthetic and movements at a higher tempo — a tempo Lindy Hop dancer might normally associate with a swing out, et al.
That’s why when students ask “How can I get better at ____ dance?” my first response is “Go home/to your car/to a club/festival/bar/anywhere and listen.“ If you live somewhere with excellent Blues musicians (and chances you do, it just requires searching outside of typical dance venues), you can soak it up. If you were lucky enough to grow up surrounded by the music, you soaked up lots, like these two little girls:
The Song You Need
“I’m Feeling Alright [Fast Version]”
Big Mama Thornton & the Muddy Waters Blues Band
You might already know Big Mama Thornton as the singer of “(You Ain’t Nothin But A) Hound Dog”. Yes, the song Elvis copied and made really popular. She’s also been copied by the likes of Janis Joplin, Bob Dylan, and other rock greats who leveraged the Blues history to fashion their own classic songs renditions.
Thankfully, she did more than that one song, even though she didn’t get much attention for it. In 1966, she stepped up to the recording mic with these artists behind her: Muddy Waters (guitar), James Cotton (harmonica), Otis Spann (piano), and other giants. The result? Instant gold, in the form of “I’m Feeling Alright”, plus 16 other tracks you should own.
Mr./Mrs. DJ, if you play her fast tunes, I promise I’ll be on the dance floor.
* this isn’t to say “triples steps” don’t have a place in Blues – as long as the movement is done to be musical, in a way that fits the rhythmic cadence of the song. In fact, they even appear in some of my classes. (return to paragraph)