"Remember, blues dancing was born in the early 1900s in bar rooms. If you worry too much about your technique, you've got the wrong dance," prefaced Gui Cavalcanti as he spun his partner Jenn Martinez at the onset of instructing a group of beginners at Blues Union. The Blues Union is a weekly dance hosted by Cavalcanti and Martinez in Somerville's Union Square. Cavalcanti explains, "We're on a mission to keep the blues alive by teaching people how to dance to it, and by hosting a weekly venue where people can come dance and listen to the blues all night long." Events are held every Thursday night with lessons preceding the dance.
On the first Thursday of every month, Blues Union switches up their typical format. Ordinarily, a rotating crew of about 8 teachers instruct intermediate dancers from 7:30 to 8:15 followed by beginners until 9:00. DJs then spin for the dance that runs until midnight. On these first Thursdays, beginners still get group instruction early in the night while there is an open dance practice for others, but the dance features live bands. August featured Track 44, this night was the Delta Generators, and October and November will see Monster Mike Welch and Erin Harpe & the Delta Swingers.
Instructor Julie Brown found her new community here after spending time immersed in a rich blues dance scene in Pittsburgh. In Boston, she met up with Martinez and Cavalcanti who were discovering that crowded house parties and the blues jam nights at Johnny D's were reaching capacity. They determined that the time had come to foster a larger blues dance community and put the wheels in motion to set up shop in Union Square.
Encouraging community seems like the driving force of Blues Union's growth in less than two years to an average of fifty dancers a week and instructors who travel from all over the country to participate. Dancer Greg Klyma eventually settled in Somerville after his experiences with the group: "Through a chance trip to Austin, TX in April 2010, I got turned on to blues dancing. When I returned to Boston, I was introduced to Blues Union on Thursday nights. Blues Union is the hub. All my best friends meet there, new friendships are being forged and I've found a style of dancing that I'm really loving."
First timer Sarah Garlington planned to return after her initial dose of instruction and catching the Delta Generators, "I'm looking forward to the dancing as a great way to hang with my friends." Brown attributes the interest in this specific dancing community to the attention on nuanced instruction where teachers provide attendees with "all the stuff you need to have an awesome time dancing the blues" by varying lessons such as historic dances, how to listen to the blues, and cool moves. She notes that traveling instructors always remark on "how happy and eager the students here are [to learn]." Carmen Guhn-Knight appreciated that her first lesson instilled a sense of the basics and that blues dancing seems like the type that will be "intuitive once you get the basics down."
The space is warm and welcoming with gorgeous hardwood floors, mounds of baked goods, and smiling dancers young and old. Pop by on any Thursday night—$5 gets you some quality personal instruction and $10 the entire evening. As the dancing winds down and hugs and goodbyes commence, regular Khrysti Smyth laughs and reminds us that, "Blues dancing is the pulse of the world—or Boston at least!"