Another dance blog. I apologize to those uninterested in my dancing adventures. If you are interested, this is much more detailed. I hope you enjoy it. I also updated the last entry with links to some of the performances from KOSDC.
The best way to follow up a weekend of dancing is with another weekend of dancing. After last weekend’s experience at Korea Open Swing Dancing Championships (KOSDC), I trudged my way through a week of work to ready myself for Bluesweet. Similarly to KOSDC and other dancing festivals, Bluesweet started with a dance (or party, as they call them here) Friday night and continued with classes and dance Saturday, classes and dance Sunday. However, the two different festivals are representative of the two scenes, and therefore very different from each other. As a warning, aside from one national festival (BluesSHOUT) and one dance in Portland, my blues experience is limited to Minnesota. All my observations end up being in light of the Minnesota scene.
Most noticeable is simply the time difference. Everything with Blues starts and stops later, which is the case in Minnesota as well. Combine that with everything in Korea starting later, and you have workshops going from 2:40 to 8:40, and dances going until 4 or 5 in the morning. At that point you start thinking of whether you want to take a taxi or just wait until the metro opens at 5:30.
Another fairly noticeable difference is the foreigner presence at the festival. While I counted 6-7 total at the much larger KOSDC, at least 10 were at the Bluesweet workshops, and 15-20 were at the parties. Aside from a night in Itaewon, that’s the most native English speakers I’ve seen since I’ve been here. The relative amount of Koreans with great English also seemed to be higher. Right now I’m not going to speculate on why that might be, but it was really nice to be able to talk to so many more people, Korean or foreign, at a dance.
The last difference is really the most important and defining difference between this and KOSDC, as I think it accurately represents the large difference between these two scenes. (With that said, I think I fall short of having enough experience to define either scenes, so take what I say with a grain of salt). The blues scene is much smaller and newer than the lindy scene in Korea. For scale: as one of multiple swing festivals a year, KOSDC still brought enough instructors for three tracks of workshops, while Bluesweet seems to be the main blues event of the year, and they only brought Damon & Heidi for one track of workshops. Seoul has ~13 lindy venues, with multiple places to dance each night, while the one Blues venue I’ve found has a dance every other weekend.
The ability level of the dancers is also evident of a developing scene. While Seoul has a small army of amazing lindy hoppers, I did not see more than a couple blues dancers that really impressed me. Mind you, this is not relative to my own abilities, since there were plenty of dancers that were better than me. I think the majority of the dancers are still working out the fundamentals (pulse, posture, connection) and slowly figuring out the differences between blues and the lindy they’re so used to. Or in some cases, it’s an issue of differentiating between blues and grinding in a club, which was very unclear during the solo contest. A fellow foreigner commented that she was bluntly reminded she was not back at her home scene. In general, I only noticed a couple dancers who really put a lot of “blues” character in their dancing. If you’re unsure of what I’m talking about, take a look at a video from the Jack and Jill finals and compare the two dancers. Which couple puts more personality and soul into their dancing? That couple is definitely an exception to the generalizations I just mentioned.
The size of the scene also allows some characteristics that really make the Seoul Blues Scene special. The couple that organized the events that I’ve gone to are the most welcoming two people I could ask for. I instantly felt included and like I was a part of the scene. It’s not just them, either. So many of the dancers were friendly and inviting that I’m excited to go back in a way that I certainly haven’t felt at a lindy event here, and took me a long time to feel that way in Minneapolis. With only a couple events a month (and only one of those put on by the same organizers I met), I’ll likely see many of the same dancers at the next event. The parties themselves are also a lot more intimate. Imagine a blues house party in a dance studio, and that’s basically what these parties are. They have snacks, drinks, eclectic DJed music, and good socializing off to the side of the floor. The only thing missing is a really comfortable couch. In fact… I’ll see who I can talk to about that.
Obviously, I had a great time this weekend. It made up for missing North Star Blues back in Minnesota. After giving a reflection on the blues scene here, I’d be interested to see what some of you have thought about visiting blues communities outside your own, whether domestic or abroad. Anyone?