A note from Manu, 2018 scholarship recipient

Thank you to Blues Dance New York for the scholarship to attend Blues Muse 2018!

I would highly recommend Blues Muse for everyone who lives in the New York area. The people are friendly, the venues are classic and the vibe is lively.

I had some of my best dances on Friday night. This was also probably the first time that I danced solo (in a public setting), and it felt awesome. I am a shy person with a “how would I look if I did this” issues. The friendly and smiling faces around me, and other solo dancers, inspired me to take the plunge.

I also danced with a few instructors. This was a big deal for me because it takes a lot confidence to ask an instructor to dance. During those dances I tried to be more creative, and seeing them enjoy dances with me gave me even more confidence that I have grown as a dancer. Plus, I got the chance to get to know the instructors a little, and even ask them for some advice on one thing I should work on to improve my dancing.

Some of the classes really stood out to me. I really enjoyed the “What To Do With My Arms” class, taught by with Krystal and Adam Wilkerson. Before taking this class, I had wondered how more experienced dancers are able to make those shapes with their hands. I hadn’t thought about using my arms and fingers to dance to the music. I had only thought about moving my body to the rhythm. This class gave me many options. Creating polyrhythms with my hands was a new idea for me.

I also enjoyed “Dancing the Sounds” with Julie Brown, where she deconstructed layering and dancing to various sounds in the music. Taking this class helped me get more familiar with polyrhythms and layering in both my solo and partnered blues dancing, as well as how to dance to long duration sounds. I was able to take what I learned and apply it Saturday night during my solo dances.

Lastly, the “Legendary Legs” with Dan Legenthal stands out to me. It was amazing to see how you can make regular everyday steps more bluesy. We played with breaking lines and making bluesy body shapes. This class gave me a new perspective on what makes a step or a move look more bluesy.

I went to the Sunday lecture as well, where we analyzed a few blues songs for their meaning and impact/relevance to society. This was new for me because when I hear the lyrics, I assume “oh this is flirty”, or dirty, or fun, etc. But there is a deeper meaning to the songs and may signify the social issues during those times, particularly about women empowerment. For example, if she says she will “keep sitting on it (the chair) until she finds the right buyer” (or whatever your interpretation is), that is also representing women empowerment.

My favorite DJ at the event was Dan Repsch. He had a good mix of songs that I already knew and other songs that were new for me, but made me want to dance. He also really knows how read the room, so no matter what the tempo of the song he was playing was, it felt like it was the right song to dance to at that moment.

I was happy to see and hear King Solomon Hicks playing at this event. This was my favorite band, because he had a very lively set that made me (and others) want to dance to almost every song. The energy in the room during his sets was amazing.

Overall, the biggest impact on my dancing from Blues Muse event was gaining more confidence to be able to dance alone/by myself. Seeing the other solo dancers and friendly faces helped me do that. Blues Muse also showed me how to be more creative during the dances by adding shapes through hand/leg movements, which also help me dance more fully to the music. So I could be using my body to dance to one instrument, while my hands and feet could be moving to another.

This is definitely going to help me grow as a blues dancer. I really want to teach the beginner lessons at FNB someday, and I feel like I am getting there. I can’t wait to try everything I’ve learned with dancers at BDNY. Please come with me to next year’s Blues Muse!

P.S. – Don’t forget to have a donut at historic “Federal Donuts” if you ever go to Philadelphia!