What is Blues Dancing?


Photo of juke joint in Mississippi, early 20th century.
Photo of juke joint in Mississippi, early 20th century.

Blues dance is an umbrella term used for the family of Black American vernacular dances that developed around the country along side the different types of Blues music. These dances share common aesthetics and techniques rooted in Black American traditions and historical context. (1)

Blues dance has two major sub-groups, Jukin' Blues and Ballroomin' Blues.

Jukin' Blues (Juke Joint Blues) dances are primarily done to delta and electric blues. This is the type of blues you would be likely to hear in a bar. In fact the name refers to the bars or "juke joints" that early blues musicians would have played in. These places had limited space to dance so Jukin' blues dances tend to be danced on the spot.

Ballroomin' Blues (Ballroom Blues) dances are done to Jazz Blues. They developed in the ballrooms in the Northeast for songs when the big bands chose to slow it down. Because of the space available to dancers in ballrooms, these dances tend to travel more.

You will hear both kinds of blues music at Terminus.

For a deeper dive into all things Blues Dance, check out this fabulous online exhibit from The Spurlock Museum Blues Dancing and its African American Roots

Other Resources For Further Exploration

1) A Brief Introduction to Blues by Laura Chieko

2) Articles by Damon Stone, International Blues Instructor and historian

3) A Landscape of Slow Drag by Julie Brown

4) Blues Moves by Paul Mandel and Jenny Sowden, videos detailing blues moves and blues dances