Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Bluesalicious 09

I’ve been a very bad girl about updating after my big dancey events lately – I let both the Hop Shop and Enter The Blues passed unremarked, though I had quite a lot of bad to say about the former and quite a lot of good to say about the latter. So. This is me being good and writing about Bluesalicious immediately, before it has a chance to flee my sieve-like brain.

For Bluesalicious, I had the option of either taking some time off Friday and making it to Memphis in time for the Friday night festivities, or taking off Monday and being able to stick around town for the pub-crawl on Beale Street Sunday night. The choice was fairly obvious – I’ve been lusting after dance opportunities every time my coworkers and I go drinking on Beale Street, so I arranged my flight for a Saturday-Monday trip. I opted to get a hotel near Beale Street and rent a car so that I could keep my own hours and schedule (read: get fucktons of sleep in hopes that my legs would hold up and I wouldn’t get sick). It turned out to be a good choice on both counts – though I had some gripes about the hotel, being able to go places when I wanted to meant I was able to get plenty of rest and take it easy for the big events.

Saturday I made it to the hotel around 3ish and go settled in before taking a nice long nap. When I woke up I got in touch with the other Atlanta folks and met up with them for some good old Memphis BBQ at Rendezvous – which turned out to be adjacent to my hotel. How convenient. Once pumped full of meat I strolled back up to my room and dosed up on pain killer, and also iced my knees. These precautions did a lot to make my night less painful, I think.

At 9 I headed over to the Friday night venue. People were pretty slow both arriving and setting up, but I was happy to sit around with my feet propped up and appreciate the atmosphere. The Premiere Palace has a lot of character, though it’s got a few rough edges. Dancing finally got going around 10ish… gods how amazing is it to have a hundred blues leads to choose from? Don’t get me wrong, I love my locals, but there are only 8 or 10 of us who do blues with any level of seriousness. Having an entire room full of leads to choose from was just heavenly. It took me no time at all to get relaxed and into a groove – it seems like every single dance I had that night was amazingly connected, fun, and relaxed. The quality of dancers was super high, and I feel like I learned a lot and gained a ton of experience just social dancing. There were a few times when I felt like I might be missing really “simple” basic blues concepts, owing to the fact that I haven’t really taken any blues classes and mostly just have social-dancing experience. I need to get me to a workshop to smooth out the gaps in my knowledge, I think. It didn’t really have a negative impact on my dancing, but I did notice a couple of moves being lead that just didn’t quite make sense, but seemed omni-present.

Notable leads for the night were Erin from San Francisco, who was the first dance of the night that I really relaxed ad clicked with, Clint from Austin who lead me in the most effortless body rolls ever known to man, Z from Russia who asked me to dance twice in a row after we had an extremely fun and playful first dance, and Kyle (whose location I missed, and who I didn’t get to catch up with on Sunday). Kyle is the first short guy who I’ve had a really effortless dance with – in spite of being a head shorter than me our (3 or so) dances were completely in sync, and we both had time to be playful and expressive.

Dancing with Bert and Ben was great, as always, and it was interesting to feel how my dancing with them changed after we’d all had some variety in partners. Ben’s leads opened up a lot and he lead some moves that I’ve never seen him do, and he did a better job not taking me off my center in his dips. Bert and I both loosened up a lot in our connection, and I could really feel him starting to get down into the floor and have a more distinct pulse. I hope we can all maintain that improvement and variety and take it back to Atlanta.

Oh, did I mention how spectacular the band was Saturday night? The first couple of hours were DJed, but then a really excellent blues band took over - Ms. Nickki with Jesse Frank & the Blues Bandits. I was a little skeptical as they were setting up since they kept blasting the speakers with really nasty feedback, but they were second to none once they were actually playing.

The bottom line on Saturday night is that I was just Spot. Fucking. On. I wish I could dance like that all the time.

I headed back to the hotel around 2:30 or 3 – my legs were starting to get a little sore and I could feel my thighs shaking when I did dips, so I wanted to quit before I overdid it (unlike ETB). I got 9 glorious hours of sleep but woke up feeling a little woozy Sunday morning. Blaming dehydration I chugged water all day, which seemed to help.

One of my greatest joys in visiting new cities is finding excellent places for Bunch on the weekend. Since there was no dancing slated until mid afternoon, I decided to strike out and explore the area around my hotel and the Peabody a bit. I ended up in a pretty famous restaurant called The Majestic. And by “in” I mean “in front of” – it was a gorgeous day and they had a number of patio tables set up. I parked myself with my book for going on 2 hours and enjoyed a delicious brunch of bacon, eggs, hash browns, biscuits, coffee, and ridiculously good $3 mimosas. This place will definitely be on my list any time I’m back in Memphis on a weekend.

After brunch I toodled around downtown a bit more, stopping to do a bit of shopping. After not too long I ended up back at the hotel for a nice nap. I woke up about half way through the afternoon dance at Ernestine & Hazels, so I decided to stop by and check it out, though I wanted to save most of my leg strength for the night dance. I’m really glad I went – the venue is a old Bordello that has been converted into a restaurant/bar/party space. The upstairs rooms and halls were packed with dancers going at it house-party-style; it was worth the trip just to experience that sort of atmosphere. I danced a couple of songs, but I was still tired from the night before, so I had a hard time relaxing. On guy, Matthew, wanted to dance reeeeeal close and was kind of giving me some guidance about relaxing and not amplifying his leads, as well as not getting ahead of him. I appreciated the coaching, but his tone came off a little cheesy (“I want to feel like I’m one with you” – really, dude?) so I had a hard time staying focused. I ended up bugging out after just a few dances to go back to the hotel and rest up for the evening dance.

Sunday night was the event that I was most excited about – the Beale Street pub crawl. I’d been looking forward to dancing on Beale street for months, ever since the first time my coworkers and I went drinking there while on project in Memphis. Unfortunately the night got off to kind of a “blah” start… I should have taken the 7:00 start time with a grain of salt, knowing how late the afternoon dance ran. I wandered down to Beale Street around 7:15, and there pretty much weren’t any dancers in evidence. A small group of us gathered over the next two hours, but we had a hard time getting settled anywhere – the bands kept taking long breaks as soon as we’d walk up, or there wouldn’t be enough space. It was pretty frustrating.

The situation got better once more dancers showed up around 9, and a group of us ensconced ourselves upstairs and Rum Boogie cafĂ©. I had a few decent dances, though I just wasn’t as “on” as the previous night. I did get to re-meet RJ the Flight Attendant, who I met at KLX last fall – he was probably my best dance of night. The band at rum boogie cracked me up – at one point the lead singer and guitarist had a girl sitting on stage, had his guitar in her lap, and was playing it with his tongue. I shit you not. It was pretty entertaining.

Oh, I also figured out one of the reasons I have such a hard time dancing with girls – when I follow, I tend to look at the guy’s chest for cues about where his weight is and where he’s going next. With girls if I try to do that… well, you can imagine. I danced with two ladies who were lovely leads, but as usual I stumbled my way through the dances like a blushing 14-year-old boy. Ah well.

Rum Boogie was a good time, but the band stopped playing by 11, which was disappointing. They told us we could head next door for more live music, but after 20 minutes of waiting for the band to go on I gave up an headed back to Superior, where the official Bluesalicious DJ was set up. I spent the rest of the night dancing there. I had an ok time, but I wasn’t rivaling the quality of dancing from the night before. I knew my level of dancing would be a little lower since my legs were so achy, but it was like my creativity had leaked away, as well. I had fun, but it wasn’t spectacular.

Finally around 2 I headed back to the hotel to pass out. For some reason I did the same thing that I did after KLX where I woke up ever. Single. Goddamn. Hour. Quite frustrating. I finally gave up on sleep around 10:30, achy and coming down with a cold. My knees are pretty much demolished, and I’m fairly displeased that I didn’t manage the trip without getting sick, in spite of being so very good about sleep and hand-sanitizing. Rawr!

So, there it is, my stream-of-conscious, not at all edited or reviewed, from the brain to the fingers summary of Bluesalicious. I had a really great time, though I’m a bit displeased with my knees and immune system. I’ll definitely be taking my body’s reaction into account as I choose which workshops and exchanges to go to for the rest of the year.