Photo by Noah Nethero
This past weekend I had the privilege of attending Rose City Blues in Portland Oregon. It was a bit of a surprise since up until the Monday before the event I did not think I would be able to make it. My pass of choice was FOR DANCE S ONLY the dance only one. I like staying up late dancing, but being able to sleep in, so I have stopped attending many of the workshops during weekends such as this. I did however get to sit in on several of them and was very impressed with what I saw. The dynamic teaching duos of Amanda Gruhl and Chris Mayer and Ruby Red and Ted Maddry were not only engaging to the students in their classes, but also those sitting on the sidelines. I was unable to attend any of the classes taught by Rachel Stirling, Catherine Walker, or Brenda Russell. The buzz I was hearing from fellow dancers made me sad that I missed some of those classes. From a purely bystander perspective my favorite class of the weekend was ‘How Lifts, Drops, and Aerials are like Kung Fu, and How They Aren’t’. It was fun, informative, lighthearted, and demonstrated that there are moves that can be done that are flashy and spectacular that keep both people dancing safe, and even better don’t endanger the dancers around them.
I must confess that I did not get to dance as much as I wanted to due to a sprained ankle that occurred on my way to the dance on Friday. All dances during the weekend were held at the Bossanova Ballroom. Like many older ballrooms this one is located down a hall and up a flight of stairs. The ballroom is still in excellent repair, with not one but two bars, a lounge area with ski ball, arcade games, and a pool table. It is always a pleasure to have a place to go to sit and talk, where you can hear the music, but also hear the voices of those around you. Many events I have attended only have the dance rooms and there is never really space to get away from the dancing if you need a break and want to be out of the way. I highly encourage more organizers to seek out venues that contain a space like that. It also provides a place to set out food that won’t disrupt the dancing, won’t be spilled on the dance floors, and lets the volunteers setting up the food have a place where they are not being constantly trampled. This last aspect is highly prized as someone who has done food for many events.
The music during the weekend was spectacular. There was a great balance of live versus Dj’d music, and a good variety of styles as well. Let’s cover the live acts first. Kevin Selfe and the Tornados opened the weekend with a joyous noise. A regular performer for blues dancers, Selfe knows what we as dancers look for in a song, keeping his songs moving, varied, and fairly short. Saturday night was headlined by The Curtis Saldago Band. What a sound! Not only did they play for the dancing crowd at large they also played for part of the competitions. I really enjoyed their music, my only problem was that many of their songs lasted far longer than the four minutes many dancers are used to spending on a song. When I’m listening to a blues band I have no issue with this, only when I take to the dance floor does brevity become an issue. I was very pleasantly surprised to see Vyasa Dodson playing guitar with Curtis. I knew him from his days with The Insomniacs and had not realized he had found such a great new gig. Kevin Selfe performed a special acoustic set late Saturday night that was dreamy, fun, and difficult to refrain from dancing to. David Keogh and Mr Moo gave a surprise performance Saturday night that packed the dance floor and had people begging them to continue their set. Sunday’s live act was The Rae Gordon Band. Wow, does she have a set of pipes. The music and the personality combination were a tour d’force. By Sunday I could barely dance, but boy do I wish I could have.
The DJ lineup was as spectacular as the live music. Some of my favorite DJ’s from around the country spun some sweet tunes. I also was introduced to some DJ’s who rocked my dance socks. They demonstrated how diverse blues is and played music spanning the decades and styles. I will be hounding a few of them for their set lists to expand my music library.
There were several competitions throughout the weekend, a Jack and Jill, a Strictly, and a Solo blues Competition. I must admit, I’m not really a fan of most competitions. Often I find that take way too long and detract from the dancing I’d rather be doing. This weekend’s comps were a bit different. The level of dancing was just insane. All of the competitors demonstrated why they are some of the best in the country. The highlight of the weekend for me was the solo blues competition on Sunday. There was no prelim round; anyone who wanted to enter the competition could do so at the dance itself. A circle was formed and anyone who wanted to gathered and people danced. They danced such as I have not seen in years. Several songs were played so the judges could have time to watch everyone and narrow it down to a final three who battled it out to the cheers of the attentive audience. I highly suggest watching the videos of the competitions. You will be impressed, you will probably be inspired, and you might learn a thing or two.
Written by Carrie Carrillo