FIB Blues Playlist

A secret to having a good class- lots of music. Expose the students to what is out there. Hook them any way you can. Here’s the Falling in Blues class playlist.

Can’t Get No Grindin’ – Muddy Waters
A Kiss To Build A Dream On – Duke Heitger’s Steamboat Stompers
Harlem gin Blues – Sam Price’s Texas Bluesicians
Sister kate – Sidney Bechet
(What Did I Do to Be So) Black and Blue – Fats Waller
Slow Drag – Taj Mahal
St James Infirmary – Bradley Harder
Texas Moaner – Sidney Bechet
Turtle blues – Tuba Skinny
Nobody Knows the Way I Feel – Sidney Bechet
Out in the Cold – Preservation hall Jazz Band
Big Mama’s Bumble Bee – Big Mama Thornton
Egyptian Fantasy – Sidney Bechet
Krooked Blues – King Oliver’s Creole Jazz Band
When I’ve Been Drinking – Jay McShann and his Orchestra
Baby What You want Me To Do – Johnie Johnson
Three O’Clock Blues – B.B. King and Jimmy Smith
Trouble in Mind – Nina Simone
Tobacco Road – Johnny Lang & Edgar Winters
‘Til My Back Aint Got No Bone – Esther Phillips
Big Legs, Tight Skirt – John Lee Hooker
Bargain Bin Baby – Kim Massie
Sugar Mama Blues No. 2 – John Lee Williamson
Night Time is the Right Time – Ray Charles
Ain’t No Sunshine – Buddy Guy and Tracy Chapman
Key to the Highway – B.B. King & Eric Clapton
Never Make a Move Too Soon – B.B. king
Scratch My Back – Taj Mahal
Damn Right, I’ve Got the Blues – Buddy Guy
Dust my Broom 0- Elmore James
Sweet Home Chicago – Pinetop Perkins and Friends
Good Mornin’ Little School Girl – Sonny Boy Williamson
Down Home Blues – Brother Yusef
Layla – Eric Clapton
Sugar Blues – Preservation Hall Jazz Band
Heart Attack and Vine – Tom Waits
Michigan Water Blues – california Feetwarmers
Empty Bed Blues – Dana Gillespie
Wrong Side of the Blues – Trampled Under Foot
I Got the Same Old Blues – Bobby ‘Blue’ Bland
Evil Man Blues – Joe Williams
Shoes of Another Man – Brother Yusef
Knockin’ on Heaven’s Door – Eric Clapton
Feelin’ Good – Joe Bonamassa
Black Night – Charles Brown
I Want a Little Sugar in my Bowl – Nina Simone
I Can’t Quit You Baby – Otis rush
Bring It On Home – Sonny Boy Williamson
It Hurts Me Too – Elvin Bishop

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Filed under 2014 Dance Travel, Blues, Dance Teaching

Heartland Swing Festival 2014 – BBQ, Snow, Spinning, Babies

Are We Having Fun Yet? So asks the cutout people at the Des Moines Social Club, one of this year’s Heartland Swing Festival’s venues. Based on the crowd’s enthusiasm and cheer, I would say “yes”.

Heartland Swing Festival is a rare event that places great emphasis on the amateurs. Many amateur events typically nod to the professionals in a special J&J or similar competition, but at HSF we dance with the novice finalists for their finals. That’s it and it’s nice. Also, with some of the team and showcase routines, it feels like these amateurs serve more unique pieces as if they’re untouched by frequent YouTube watching. It’s refreshing.

Heather Ballew and I had a full schedule with 8.5 teaching hours including our special team workshop where we analyze and critique their performances. This year, with a full 90 minutes, we also included swingout technique and aerial coaching where we discussed jumping, landing, and timing. It was productive and fun. My other duties included DJing the Amateur J&J and AnySwing Goes prelims Friday evening. Even with the extra teaching hours, it was a pretty fun weekend mainly focused on teaching.

In between the dancing, there were random interesting moments. Like the time someone told me I might swarmed by pregnant women in the future. Needless to say, I impressed her last year with the care I showed her on the dance floor. Sunday night I was fireman carried down a hall and spun around. Then I hoisted Evan Borst and spun him around. One of these days, there might even be video. And did you know that Des Moines has really good barbecue? Fact check me at Jethro’s and The Flying Mango. Before I leave, check out the winning team routine and a fun class recap:

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Closing 2013 – The Year of the Team

Snowbound in Rochester, New York after Southwest canceled my flight. That picture illustrates the normal gear worn when trekking through the South Wedge. I was en route to Hedonist Artisan Ice Cream when the storm struck, turning buildings into misshapen unidentifiable lumps.

48 hour delayed flights equates to a busy internet time. I’m planning another national instructor led workshop March 2014 in Denver, playing Angry Birds, chatting with a Lisbon friend, uploading 11 instructional videos to YouTube, Yelping Asheville restaurants, and figuring out some way to synopsisize (new word!) my Lindy Focus experience. Where to start, where to go, how to finish?

With a nod, winks, and overt gestures, let’s start with teams. After all, it’s the year of the team for me. Michael Gamble called out for teams mid November in the Lindy Focus FB group. The team division was returning and they were short teams. I boldly inquired Denver through FB for interest. There was murmuring, but no solid chatter happened on the Merc. Thank goodness, because that would be a serious time crunch.

Then Rochester came a’callin’. 5 out of 6 members from their Groove Juice Swing aerial routine were attending and they needed an extra guy. I was visited over Thanksgiving weekend and could learn the routine, so I teamed with Rebecca Berman. We practiced the aerials, I flubbed the Stephen & Virginie rhythm section multiple times, and I learned most of the routine.

It did make life easier at Lindy Focus, though we had to still schedule extra practices at our super secret practice location and wake up early for floor trials (bah!). Couple that with early morning auditions, are you surprised I was rarely seen on the social dance floor? Results paid off for a 2nd place finish! Good times had been had.

The final team piece was “Summertime Blues,” choreographed by Dan Newsome and Lainey Silver for the New Year’s Eve show. This would prove a massive undertaking because Jesse Hanus and I would not see each other until Lindy Focus. Jesse was the most productive, practicing with Scott Lucchini, while I ran around organizing a Denver workshop weekend with Stephen Sayer and Chandrae Roettig Dec 14-15. Crazy!

Kansas City Christmas vacation was filled with solo dancing in my parent’s living room and me tracking which step goes with which beat. Do you know how hard it is to break down choreography when you can’t see the couple dance to music? Eventually, I edited all the dancing bits together, smashing 28 odd minutes to 5. Tailored learning there. Sometimes you do what you can to survive. No custom counting my steps for this guy.

So each Lindy Focus day brought a 1 hour practice where we danced to music, hammered out our formations, fine tuned our lifts, turning pieces into cohesive sections. It was interesting watching Dan and Lainey deal with our motley crew’s varied needs. And it was fun working with everyone. Some thanks goes to Joe Demers for watching my circle spacing, Mike and Ruth for the Thread the Needle tip, Jon Tigert for allowing me to work my Beyonce behind him,  Jesse Hanus for dealing with me, and Jenna Applegarth for helping organize practice spaces. Overall, I was pleased with our results.

2013 was a good year. I finished my 3 month term at Big Mama Swing, bounced around Europe teaching lindy hop, blues, aerials, and west coast swing, laid low in Denver, ran Auditions and taught at Beantown, performed with three other groups, tied Soochan Lee and Hyung Jung Choi at the Underground Lindy Hop Championships at Camp Hollywood, hop scotched around Europe some more, ran a great workshop in Denver, and finished Lindy Focus with 2 finals (blues, balboa) and 1 alternate (adv. lindy hop). What’s next, 2014?!



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Lindy Focus XII – Life in Audition Land

Last year, I played a behind the scenes role on Lindy Focus‘ audition team. This year, I soon realized I lacked last year’s anonymity once people found me immediately after track badges were passed out. We had several people wanting to appeal immediately, some with legitimate issues (computer glitch, illness), others not so much. Sorry, everyone, but please take tomorrow’s classes and come to appeals at Foxfire between 6-7pm.

Lindy Focus XII brought new experiences, responsibilities, and happenings into my life. Based on last year’s performance, I was asked to be this year’s Lindy Focus Auditions Coordinator. This included old responsibilities (judging audition heats, evaluating class levels, auditioning latecomers) and added new ones (training the audition judges, bumping class outliers, running the appeals session). Along the way, I learned new things, was reminded of past experiences, and am motivated to give advice.

First, it’s difficult to please everyone auditioning. Audition judges must score 20-40 people within approximately 6 minutes. That’s a short amount of time, but that’s why experienced teachers like Dax Hock, Casey Schneider, Nikki Marvin and more were judging the audition heats. In some cases, Mike Roberts and Shesha Marvin were doing extra scoring.

Immediate feedback included some people really enjoying the auditions process, remarking how they liked having two warmup songs. This allowed them to settle their nerves and get comfortable with their peers, so they were calmer during the next three judged songs. Some students didn’t like their audition heats because their peer followers/leaders didn’t allow them to truly showcase their abilities. However, these are your peers and the vastly skilled judges will be able to recognize your dance-ability. We all look good dancing with superior dancers, but it takes talent to standout among your peers. Others, as stated above, wanted to appeal immediately.

When you choose to appeal, you must stand out among your fellow competitors who are also seeking the same limited spots (1-3 available depending if leader or follower). However, as Sosh Howell and/or I said during appeals, and I paraphrase: “We will only pick a few of you due to limited space. We also want this to be the best Lindy Focus experience for you. If you are truly unhappy, please talk to me (Sosh). I may not be able to move you to your desired level, but I will try to help in some way. ”

Lesson #1: Lindy Focus cares.

The Lindy Focus organizers are sincere about wanting to make this a good Lindy Focus experience for you. During the registration process, Lindy Focus gives you the opportunity to accurately describe where your dancing is at. You’re placed within 1 of 3 groups comprised of 4 heats each and then given five songs and nine plus minutes of music to show us where your dancing is at. Then I visit each class looking for exceptional students deserving a level bump. If you’re still dissatisfied, you can come to appeals and dance to 2-3 more songs. And if you’re still unhappy about your placement, I will personally evaluate you.

Lesson #2: Looking good benefits you.

During auditions (I’m the only person that judged every partner role in every audition group) and class evaluations, I visually judged. I was looking at posture, swivels, rocksteps, body flight, triple steps, momentum, pattern transitions, arms, rhythms, and more. Each audition judge, including myself, has taught a thousand plus hours across the globe to many different skill levels. We know what to look for and how to look for it. That being said, it would benefit many people to videotape themselves, take a private lesson, and get outside perspective on how their dancing looks. One judge was booked with two private lesson students after auditions.

Lesson #3: Work hard during classes…

(especially during Lindy Focus’ first two days of tracked classes). Well, work hard all the time, but this is when I’m evaluating classes, making general notes (Track 6: “demonstrating more rhythm, started creating”), and noticing any outliers. We want to reward deserving dancers, those standing out in their tracks. I watched everyone as Track 4 tried Andy & Gaby’s slide variation, Track 7 tried Pontus & Isabella’s multi-wall swingout variation, Track 8 tried Todd & Ramona’s Texas Tommy chase variation, Track 3 tried Mike & Casey’s heel toe swingouts, and much more. I saw students struggling, most doing the patterns, some actually getting it and dancing the pieces as a whole. This leads to…

Lesson #4: Strive to be a better student.

I feel that some students only touch the surface of what’s being taught. Are you listening to every word assuming that the information is directed toward you? Are you studying the instructors’ movement as they demonstrate? Do you ask for personal feedback from your current instructor or partner? If you’re alone for a rotation, are you practicing? Do you remember that student being praised by the teachers for practicing on their own when waiting for a partner? That happened in Track 2. When the music plays, are you testing your leading/following skills without the teacher calling out the pattern(s)? What’s the class theme and can you expand on it? Are you doing enough to improve you?

One day I was watching the Track 4 followers during a Dax & Sarah class. They were working on rhythms traveling forward and backward. The two most distinct followers were slightly behind their leaders while still carrying nice through momentum and actively contributing. Other followers were tentative, passive, or mentally checked out. Tune into class and improve yourself. We all have something to gain from any  class.

Lesson #5: Check your ego.

Once you register for workshops, you’re asking for someone else to evaluate you. Can you be honest about your strengths and weaknesses? Are you comfortable having someone you may not know assess your dance abilities within 10-15 seconds? This is similar to what happens during a Jack n Jill competition. Regardless, I encourage you to check your ego, refrain from blaming others, and seek to improve you.


Overall, I had a great time being the Auditions Coordinator. Leveling is tough business for everyone involved. Lindy Focus does have one of the best auditions processes from the front end operators to the behind the scenes workers. We do care about making this a good experience for you from the beginning until the end.

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Filed under 2013 Dance Travel, Competitions, Dance Teaching

Drag the Blues Away – Barcelona

Staff picture! Due to fortunate circumstances, I taught at Drag the Blues in Barcelona, Spain with Jana Grulichova. I was en route to Carcassone, France for culinary adventures and was glad I could participate in this new blues event.

Drag the Blues has a simple mission- slow blues. In a blues dancing world being dominated by speed and “authentic” blues, this event stands out. Hold your partner close, strut your stuff, be musical, be you, have fun dancing to blues music.

Because one of my specialties is dips, tricks, and aerials, Ferran gave me a Dips & Tricks class where people remained with their partner. How fun! We started easy and then advanced our way into two different lifts. Hopefully, dancers will practice these moves, be inspired to learn more, and one day use the bigger moves in a choreography.

I haven’t really mentioned my teaching partner yet. Jana Grulichova was a pleasure to work with. We hadn’t really talked about classes outside of me sharing blues lifts practice videos, so I outlined our 3 classes. We met at Swing Maniacs and went through 5 hours of material in 1 hour. Easy. She’s light on her feet, is comfortable giving me weight, does nice arm styling, takes talking opportunities (I’ve taught by myself too often), and personally helps students.

I’d like to share some more things that made Drag the Blues unique to me. They had two specialty classes Friday, 4 classes Saturday, and beach dancing and paella eating on Sunday. It was chill and I got to see more of the city. This rarely happens during weekend events. Us instructors also got many opportunities to hang out with each other and chat (another rare occurrence). The venue was at an amazing hotel with a great wood floor. There was live music both nights. I especially liked Saturday when Carrie Lewis took the stage. Then there was the Crazy Jack and Jill where each couple had a spotlight in which they had to act out a theme (casanova, hating each other, loving each other, etc).  It was quite fun and apparently my facial expressions were quite humorous to one competitor.

Overall, I thought Drag the Blues was quite fun. I hope they run it again next year. Keep your style, Barcelona.

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Filed under 2013 Dance Travel, Blues, Dance Teaching