Article by Kate Bailey
If there is a single word that has magnetic attraction for a blues lover, it’s “crossroads”. There are many myths about the crossroads in the blues, one of the most famous being selling your soul to the devil at midnight at the crossroads to become the best blues musician in the world. So when I saw there was an event on at The Wiggle Room called Crossroads, and it was partly an evening of blues with rockabilly and jive thrown in for good measure, I was more than interested. Then I saw there was an introductory dance lesson at the start of the evening which was even more intriguing. So off I went to find out more.
As it turned out the evening was more about dance and dancing to the blues than just the music. There is a healthy jive and swing dance community already established in Montreal, with the newest sibling being blues dancing, the feature of the evening.
Until that night I always thought dancing to the blues involved nothing more than tapping your feet and maybe rocking a bit if you got really into the rhythm, and was very much an individual’s choice to participate. But I changed my mind in a hurry. Blues dancing is partnered, and if you are at all familiar with swing, jive, tango, salsa, you will recognise that blues dancing takes moves from all these and combines them in a wonderful way so you can move with your partner to the blues. It’s sensual, creative, interpretive and social all at the same time. It’s also really cool.
The dancers started to drift in the door early and were obviously there for the blues dance lesson at the start of the evening. They were in their 20s, 30s, 40s, 50s, with a few that looked to be in their 60s. All were enthusiastic and had beaming faces, and many already knew one another. I spent some time talking to them to find out why they were there and what they thought of the evening.
Andre was there to check out the blues dancing. He’s been active in the jive and rockabilly dance scene for more than 15 years and wanted to try dancing to the blues. Emily came with her boyfriend; she’s been dancing since February, taking jive classes. She wanted to check out the blues dancing that was being debuted that night. Matheiu is a swing dancer, also pretty new to the scene. He came with friends to check out the blues dancing. Myriam and Roxane were two brand-new jump blues dancers, they have only been on the scene for just over a month. They too were there that night for the blues dancing. For every person there that I spoke to, the dancing was the hook that got them in the door.
Blues dancing is the dream child of Gabriel and Sophie, the organizers of the evening, and the instructors for the blues dance lesson. By the time the lesson got underway there was a good size group in the room and they all circled around Gabriel and Sophie. Every person that was in the room participated, and they were all smiling and obviously having a wonderful time. Gabriel and Sophie demonstrated the moves, then put on the music so the dancers could try them out to the beat. Gabriel and Sophie taught by starting out with the basics, then layering on moves one at a time, giving the dancers time to practice each new move. And each time a new move was demonstrated, Gabriel had everyone change partners so you got to dance with everyone in the room. Being social is as much a part of the scene as is moving to the music.
When the lesson ended a good hour later, there were two DJs to take over the music for the rest of the evening. They promised a mix of rockabilly and blues, and they delivered. Everyone was on their feet and having a great time.
Crossroads Blues Dancing took place on October 3 at the Wiggle Room. This event will take place on the first Friday of every month. Check the Wiggle Room calendar HERE for future events.