So this past weekend, I was psyched to be able to attend Steel City Blues Festival up in Pittsburgh. It was great! Fun music, people, comps, and classes. All the ingredients for a wonderful weekend!
There were a bunch of people who I wanted to see who I wasn't staying with this weekend, and Pitt is only about 3 hours from Columbus. So I indulgently drove myself in my car alone up to Steel City, rather than trying to be a logistics ninja and coordinate not only departure and arrival logistics but also dinners in between, ect. This was a good decision. I got a nice long drive to veg out and listen to my music and sing along loudly and badly, like I like, without annoying anyone.
The Friday evening dance was great. I walked into the door and got a dozen hugs in the first couple of minutes. That is one of the things I really do like about dance events: the nice endorphin rush of pleasure from seeing people you haven't seen in a while. And blues dancers give awesome hugs.
Once I got upstairs to where Miss Freddye was playing, I got hit with the first blast of the juke joint authenticity that we'd be dancing in for most of the weekend. And by that I mean it was HOT. And muggy. But the music was awesome and I danced pretty much continuously from when I arrived at ~1030 to midnight when the dance shut down to migrate to the late night venue.
The evening venue was hot, but tolerable. The late night venue made me deeply regret that I was wearing pants. It was swampish. But the Novice Jack and Jill, for those who had never competed in a blues J&J before, was super fun, and I didn't mind sitting down for a bit to watch that happen. Columbus had at least one representative in this J&J. Can I just say how psyched I am about how many people from the cbus scene traveled to Steel City? We have a growing contingent of blues dancers, for sure. [Incidentally, we are having a little blues workshop with Mike and Dan in cbus, pretty soon.] So swampish it might have been, but I happily danced till almost 5 anyway, just with a little more taking my time between dances.
|Apple Dutch Babies. (not my picture.)|
I did, however, manage to catch the latter two classes and the blues clinic. My biggest problem with the classes this weekend was that I wanted to take all of them and I could only be in one place at a time.
The blues clinic at this event was organized a little differently than the one other that I've been to. Rather than forming queues behind particular instructors who remained stationary, the attendees and the instructors both circulated. So you'd be dancing with someone and the instructor would come by, ask if you wanted feedback from them, and then tell you what they had to say. This was good in that it seemed like more people did more dancing and got to talk to more instructors. However, it seemed like there was less peer feedback going on than when that was specifically also announced as an option.
Following the Saturday classes were the J&J prelims, which I had entered. I've never made it to finals yet, but I have had a lot of fun with blues J&Js when I've entered them. I think part of it is having space on the floor. (Another reason late nights get better as it gets later.) Somewhat amusingly to me, I knew probably 3/4 leads in the comp, and I still drew three guys I'd never danced with before. On the upside, I now have three more leads on my "awesome/to be sought out" list. :)
The Saturday evening dance with Brother Yusef was in the pretty, spacious, reasonably-HVAC'd ballroom at Carnegie Mellon. The music was all good, though I was itching to swing out during some of the faster songs. This happened last time I saw Brother Yusef as well, at Bambloozled 2010. When he played "Caledonia," which is a song that pretty reliably gets played at swing dances, and I was dancing with someone I knew to also be a lindy hopper, it was all over. I begged, ever so nicely, for swingouts, and I gots them.
The Saturday evening dance also hosted the J&J finals. David Soltysik has all the videos up on his retrorhythmz channel, but the first set of spotlights is here:
There was quite a lot of pretty excellent stuff going on in the finals. Niko and Rachel, who have the first spotlight, ended up in a very deserved win, for majoring in the department of 'killin it'.
The Saturday late night was at same venue as Friday night, equally swampish on night 2. Despite having attempted to solve the overheating problem by wearing a nice short dress instead of pants, I still spent a fair amount of time outside, sittin' on the curb like a little gutterpunk. Which in another way is a good thing. It's nice to throw some social into the social dance, and I very much enjoyed the conversations I had. I also saw the funniest drunk, shirtless guy single-mindedly jogging home that I've ever witnessed. Good times on St. Patty's day.
The Sunday classes were also good. Alas, I again missed the first class, this time to simple sleeping-in. The class period after that, I attended Brenda and Barry's "Workin' your basics" class. I rather enjoyed having some time and space just to try and have good movement within myself while following simple things.
Then two classes with Timothy O'Neill (LA) and Julie Brown (Boston), neither of whom I'd had classes from before. Both were really good; the first one was on the form of and differences between Jukin' and Ballroom style blues. The second was on personal styles and emoting in a genuine way to connect to the music, and a bit about competitions.
And then it was done. Oh wait, no, we sat around in a circle, bugging Julie and Tim about some more nerdery that they'd planned for us but hadn't gotten a chance to bring up in the final class, due to time. Mostly discussing competition style and strategy. For like another 20-30 minutes?
And then goodbyes. And then an extremely amusing dinner in the presence of extremely amusing people and a fairly impressive number of beers, both in terms of what was offered and what was consumed. And then more goodbyes.
And then I resolve/promise to go to bluesSHOUT (registration opens Monday).
There are two blues events I want to go to in June, actually, CUBE in Chicago (no website live yet) and bluesSHOUT in MN. I was going to skip CUBE and go to All Bal.... (they're on conflicting weekends ::gnash teeth::) but the last couple of blues events I've been to have left me really excited and wanting more. So I might prioritize those this summer.
Overall summary: Good job, Steel City!