It was a dull and rainy Tuesday night and I had just landed in Glasgow after 2 very long days in London when my mobile data connection kicked in and…”Ping!”…Facebook notified me that someone had just left a message on the Glasgow Blues Players page.
I’d recently had an article published in “Blues In Britain” magazine, in which I had mentioned my plans for the future which were to include “a series of 1 day spontaneous interactions with the people of Glasgow”. One of the projects that I had in mind was to collaborate with some dancers in one of Glasgow’s busiest streets on a Saturday afternoon when the city would be buzzing and photograph Glaswegians as they were spontaneously invited to dance to the music of accompanying Blues buskers. I’d never managed to get any further with that idea but it was always in the back of my mind.
As I sat in the bus from the airport to the Long-Stay car park I read the message on my phone…
I’m one of the organisers of Glasgow Blues Dancing. We have weekly dance classes and dance socials in the city centre and are looking for new people who would be interested in joining us. Would you be interested in helping us promote our dancing? “
A month later I found myself descending the stairs into a hot and steamy basement under Bacchus in the Merchant City where I discovered an underground dance club of very interesting individuals from all over the world, congregated together to study and share the joy of dancing to the music of The Blues.
K: “What is Blues Dancing?” was the first obvious question that sprung to mind.
Oliver: From the Juke Joints of the early 1900’s Blues Dancing has evolved into various different style including Jive, Lindy Hop and many others. We’ve been taught by many different people that have interpreted the different styles.
Kiri: Generally there are streams of Trad Blues which is what you would dance to much more traditional Blues Music and then there is also an off-shoot of that which is Fusion which uses a lot of moves and takes inspiration from traditional Blues dancing but is used across a much wider variety of music.
Kirk: I guess what you’re saying is that as the genre of “Blues” has diversified, grown and changed, the dancing that accompanies it has followed?
Ewa: Yes, exactly.
Mike: Yes and very much like the music, which can be easily identified as Blues based, the dancing can also be identified in the same way.
Kirk: So how long have you been together as a group here in Glasgow?
Ewa: Mmm, about 3 and a half years I think. The group has been growing over that time but we are still very interested in talking to people and letting them know that we are here.
Kirk: How did the initial core of the group get started? How and where did you meet?
Ewa: (Laughs) Oh we meet up all over the world for meetings and workshops. If you have the money and time you can travel and meet people all over the world who are doing the same things with dancing. There was a large 3 day festival in Edinburgh at the start of this month called The Spoonful. There were lots of international Blues Dance teachers who came over and did workshops.
Kiri: There’s an entire sub-culture associated with Lindy Hopping, Swing Dancing and Blues Dancing and other genres and if you don’t know anybody in it you wouldn’t even know it existed. There are workshops and events most weekends all across the UK and Europe and some people travel to America, Australia etc for different events.
Kirk: Dancing at blues gigs it’s something I’m seeing a little bit more but would like to see even more of it going forward. When I worked in the States the audiences were pretty uninhibited and the dancing really added to the atmosphere of the Gigs.
Kiri: The other thing is that dancing to the Blues is so much fun. The only thing you need to consider is whether there is space and you also need a half decent floor. Sometimes you get a real sticky rubbery floor and they can be quite hard to dance on.
Mike: Yeah it depends on how much space there is in front of the band as well. Some venues can be quite tight and you don’t want to be bumping into the band as they play and you need to be careful about obscuring the audiences view.
Kirk: I had spoken on the phone about an interaction with the Glasgow public involving dancing and one of the girls I spoke to earlier mentioned a possible spontaneous appearance at public events. How would you see that working?
Oliver: Blues Bomb!
Ewa: Yes, basically like a Flash Mob.
Kirk: Cool we can work on something like that So what are the plans going forward for this particular group?
Ewa: We will continue to publicise the group and try to get more people interested. We’ll organise more events and parties and keep enjoying it. I’m also involved with the Glasgow Lindy Hoppers group and we organise regular social events with this group too. We’ve recently had an event with an amazing Blues piano player called Joshua Fialkoff and the Glasgow Swing Dance Society, The Glasgow Lindy Hoppers and our group Thursday Night Blues were all involved at The Panoptican.
We are planning to have a monthly social dance but we need to find a bigger venue for that. It’s difficult to get a venue at the weekend so we’d probably be looking for a church hall or something like that.
Kirk: I’d heard you talking about another event earlier with people attending from all over the world. Can you tell me a little more about that?
Kiri: Yeah, that is the Glasgow Getdown. It’s a joint Lindy Hop and Blues event that has run for the last 2 years in Glasgow. We get people from all over the UK and Europe and we had people from Australia, 4 or 5 people from New Zealand and we put on 2 days and 3 nights of parties, taster classes and people danced till 3am to live bands.
Kirk: Where did that actually take place?
Kiri: We had St Lukes and The Corinthian on the Friday, The Glasgow University Union, The Record Factory on the Saturday and on Sunday we had the Lighthouse Gallery and Mono.
Kirk: Wow! That’s a serious event. You’re right about the whole sub-culture thing you mentioned earlier. I’d never heard of any of that. Do you primarily market all of this through Facebook?
Kiri: Yeah, most of it is through Facebook. Dancers tend to travel a lot and Facebook is ideal to keep in touch with people you meet from all over the place…Utrecht, New York, Paris…
Ewa: It’s a good community and we tend to meet up with people in different locations all over the world.
Kirk: I know a lot of Blues musicians and bands and I could talk to some of them about a collaboration.
Ewa: Yeah! That would be really cool.
Kirk: I know that Cottiers Theatre has some big nights for live music and you could probably get in there as part of the gig evenings they hold.
Kiri: That would be lush! Fantastic.
Kirk: I’ll ask around. So if people wanted to join the group how would they go about it.
Ewa: Facebook is probably the best way. (https://www.facebook.com/groups/454243421291529/)
The events are set up in this group and for new joiners the 1st night is free. Most Thursday nights are in Bachuss at the moment.
Kirk: Well thanks very much for inviting me this evening, it’s been fantastic!
Kiri: Thanks for coming along and for being interested! So when are you coming for a dance?
Kirk: You know what? I think my wife and I just might come along one night pretty soon!
Thanks to those members of “Thursday Night Blues” that contributed to the interview (Ewa Wanat, Michael Callan, Midge McKay, Kiri Goss, Anna Dallman, Oliver Gluyas) and to all of the other gorgeous guys and girls that were there on the night.
Everyone in the group is really welcoming and the teaching is very professional and there is obvious attention to making sure that everyone is safe, everyone gets a chance to contribute and everyone has fun. What a fantastic scene to get involved in. If you are into the Blues and you love to dance…join the group and get involved!
The glasgow blues dancers