Going Way Back – 2001

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This week we’re back on schedule with another routine choreographed by Amanda Gruhl! This was performed at ALHC all the way back in 2001, making it historically important for helping to define the nascent blues dancing community. It’s also a great example of a choreographer with a clear artistic process. There’s never any doubt what is being expressed through the choices of music and motion.

What did you want to express with this choreography?

I hadn’t seen a partnered blues choreography before this and wanted to try it. Ogden and I had entered the “Blues Division” of ALHC the year before with an improv piece, and figured it would be a great moment to choreograph something to show the lindy community. At that time, blues dancing was also generally viewed as a body-rolling, grinding-on-each-other dance that happened in back rooms at lindy events. We wanted to show everyone how differently we danced blues.

Why did you choose the song for the piece?

The song is “All Night Long” by Nancy Wilson. We just listened to a few pieces, and this one seemed to fit us perfectly.

What other dances influenced or inspired this one?

Like I said, I hadn’t seen any blues choreographies before this, so I extrapolated from contemporary pieces I’d choreographed previously for interesting ideas. But my main influence was just thinking about how Ogden and I danced together at the time.

How did you go about combining your concept, song choice, and influences to create the finished choreography?

It’s kind of an interesting, and somewhat personal, story. The song lyrics talk about a woman being haunted by a man she hasn’t met, that she only sees in her dreams. Ogden and I wanted to do a piece that was intimate, but not sexual, and one thing we felt united us was the longing to find our soul mate. So we put our longing to find that person into the piece. I wanted to do something choreographically interesting, and the idea just came to me to do the whole piece in a back-to-front position (except for the climax). It made every move more interesting and fresh, and expressed the theme beautifully. I still love this piece.

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Now Here’s Some Jukin’!

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This week’s interview is a little late … but good blues dancers are supposed to be behind the beat, right? Anyway, this week we have a routine by two talented and prolific choreographers in our community – Jenny Sowden and Dan Repsch! This one stands out because of the way they seat the audience around them and open up by going around the circle is really effective at drawing everyone into the performance.

What did you want to express with this choreography?

This is something we think about before even choosing a song. “What’s missing in our community?” and “What hasn’t been shown yet?” In this case, those answers were a purely jukin’ dance, a fast tempo, and mimicking an authentic jam circle. We also planned to structure the choreography like a social dance: lots of basics with some variation. Ultimately, we wanted to put something out that proved that fast jukin’ blues was just as “danceable” as slow blues and it doesn’t have to be a panicked, flailing experience.
The setting: late in a bar, club, dirty, crowded, hot temperature, just a hot night out. The story is simple: 1. boy and girl meet at a bar/club 2. boy and girl each show off, challenge and check each other out in a dance 3. boy gets girl.

Why did you choose the song for the piece?

It usually takes us SO long to choose a song! We closed in on Goin’ Away Baby because it had so many elements that aligned with our above goals. It’s fast, it’s jukey, the clapping in the background promotes the jam circle idea. Goin’ Away Baby allowed for a lot of play between us and presented a challenge in keeping people interested because of all the repetition and similarity throughout the song.

What other dances and dancers influenced or inspired this one?

We thought a lot about the social dances we’ve had in modern clubs, in bars, and in juke joints, to live Blues. The things that characterized those dances became prominent in how we built this piece.

How did you go about combining your concept, song choice, and influences to create the finished choreography?

A lot of listening. A lot of discussing. A LOT of dancing… come to our classes at Sweet Molasses for the details!