Now Playing Tracks

Dance in the News I The Healing Power Of Blues Dancing

by Lindsey Lee Keel

via NPR

You hear that? It’s Nina Simone. And this is the blues.

It’s Monday night in San Francisco’s Mission District, and I’ve just arrived at the Polish Club. It’s not a bar. It’s a community center that tonight, and every Monday night, attracts a crowd of devout blues dancers.

The room is warm, the windows have begun to fog, the lighting is dim. Couples are close, dancing slowly, arms around necks, heads on shoulders, foreheads pressed together.

Hips pulsate at the beat. Partners spin out for a moment of space between them, and then they move together again like molecules that can’t resist each other.

Though it might look like it, these dancers are not in love with each other. Some may not even know the name of the person they’re dancing with. But everyone is here for that connection, for that feeling.

"It’s falling in love, that’s what it is. It’s crazy." This is Cat Hughes. She’s been a blues dancer for three years.

Every dance is like a love affair. You’re falling in love for three minutes with the music, with your partner, with your connection. And it can be dangerous because you’re falling in love like, a million times a night, and it can really screw with your emotions. But it can also be amazing.”

Dancing this way takes some getting used to. Back when she was first starting, blues dancer Krystal Wanberg remembers telling a prominent dancer in the scene how nervous she was.

"And he was like, OK, just play along with me. Pretend that I am your one, true love. And I kind of gave him this weird look. He’s like, wait, wait, wait. I am your one, true love, and I have been called off to war, and I’m leaving tomorrow. You may never see me again. He’s like, dance with me like that. I was just like, ah."

Wanberg was hesitant, but then she gave in. “And then we danced, and it was just the most incredibly connected dance. I was completely, completely done. Like, I was a blues dancer after that. It was done.”

Many dancers talk about before blues and after blues. Vhary Leggat started dancing almost two years ago. She says before blues, she had a drinking problem. She struggled with a negative body image. She sometimes felt suicidal. But after blues… "I have become more connected to my body. You can’t go to a dance and say, I don’t want to be reminded that my body exists - because that’s what dancing is. And so that’s extremely important for me because I had never before found a situation where I wanted that to be true."

For Leggat, blues dancing is about transformation. “ My release from fear and sadness started with getting sober, and ended with learning to dance. Because of those two things, I am awake, and I am healing.

Blues music was once called the devil’s music. But for so many, blues has saved them.

Though the Polish Club may not have a neon sign that says Blues Saves - shining like a guiding light for the wayward - and you won’t see dancers at your door holding pamphlets, for Hughes, Wanberg and Leggat, the road to a better life began at the Church of Blues.

We make Tumblr themes