Challenge Strictly

In the spirit of developing the Blues Dance art form and in honor of our “Culture & History” theme this year, we will be repeating our Challenge Strictly.

Check out the Challenge Strictly Finals from last year!

We challenge you to become familiar and comfortable with the following three genres of blues dancing:

1) Slow Drag

2)  Struttin’

3) Latin Rhythms in Blues

We have asked our Nocturne Blues 2016 instructors to answer some questions for us regarding these genres.

One of the most important of these questions was “Where can dancers today put their creativity and still be dancing within the genre?”.

At Nocturne Blues, we are not interested in “reenacting” a dance, but using historical references and contexts to inform the modern day blues dance that we do in our community today. We focus on history and culture so that we can help channel the creativity of the community into avenues that keep the blues dancing of the future true to its roots.

By focusing on specific blues idiom dances, we seek to parse out a few of the individual skills commonly seen on our dance floors. We think that will help us grow and diversify as a community.

Blues Dancing is a beautiful art form and should be developed in a way that highlights its core values. There are a lot of other beautiful dance forms around, all with their own paths. At this moment in time, we as blues dancers have a unique opportunity to be intentional about how we grow and change. Let’s take advantage of it!

Enjoy the videos below, which are chock-full of great information.

Slow Drag

Slow Drag appeared just before the turn of the 20th Century, and is relatively well referenced. General consensus is that it’s foundation is a dragging step with hip movements.
There may also be a “Harlem Slow Drag” done with a specific forward and back step pattern.
The dance has of course changed and shifted throughout the years, and is a term that has been used to refer to a variety of things in different dance communities, causing some controversy.


Other Video clips:


Bessie Smith Video, including a sample of Slow Drag.

Savoy Ballroom to Blues Dance Theatre Slow Drag Class.

Discussion about Slow Drag in the Herrang Lindy Community.

Slow Drag Reading Material:

Check out the Wikipedia Article here.

Pg. 130 “Ballroom,Boogie, Shimmy Sham, Shake”, “Social Dancing at the Savoy” by Karen Hubbard & Terry Monaghan

“Early observers noted the fox trot and one-step and dancing to “the blues”.  This latter type of dancing would have been the marginally acceptable Slow Drag.  Based on a very close-hold technique and writhing hip movements, in a private party setting it tended to be stationary with the girl’s arms around the boy’s neck and the boy’s arms placed around her waist… The dance was otherwise known as Dancing-on-a-Dime, or more recently as the Grind, and the Savoy bouncers insisted that the couples keep moving”

Pg. 87-88  “Jookin’” by Katrina Hazzard-Gordon

“Performer Coot Grant, born in 1893, describes the dances she observed in her father’s Birmingham honky-tonk in 1901:  “I had already cut out a peephole in the wall so I could watch the dancers in the back room. They did everything.  I remember the Slow Drag, of course, that was very popular- hanging on each other and just barely moving.”

Pgs 21-23 of “Jazz Dance” by Marshall & Jean Stearns

“The slow drag spread far and wide in the semiurban honky-tonks known as barrelhouse joints.  Pianist Buster Pickens, who played the circuit, remembers: “Up and down the Santa Fe tracks in those days was known as the barrel-house joints, they danced all night long.  People that attended them were working at the mill.  It would take a couple of rooms, maybe a store.  The Dirty Dozens was the open’ number.  It settled down to the slow low down blues and they’d ‘slow drag.’”

“While in New Orleans in 1959, we were invited to visit Mrs. Alice Zeno, the ninety-five-year-old mother of clarinetist George Lewis…. “As a girl, let me see, back around 1878, I believe I danced the Mazurka, the Polka, the Waltz, and of course, the Quadrille.  I don’t remember the Irish Reel, and I certainly never danced the Slow Drag.” (In a tactless moment, we had mentioned the Slow Drag, which is danced with Congo hip movements.)

… Charlie Love, born later in 1885…recalled playing a different kind of music- “more raggy”- for less fashionable groups in town, where the Eagle Rock, the Buzzard Lope, and the Slow Drag were the favorite dances.  “They did the Slow Drag all over Louisiana,” said Mr. Love; “couples would hang onto each other and just grind back and forth in one spot all night.”



Struttin’ is a one-step blues dance done primarily in close embrace with a strong down pulse on every beat, generally done to music with faster tempos.  Struttin’ distinguishes itself from Jogging due to the physical emphasis downwards rather than upwards.

Struttin’ is different than “The Strut”.  The Strut is often done to slower tempos, and looks more like a swaggering walk.

Latin Rhythms in Blues

African and Latin rhythms have often been intertwined culturally and artistically in both music and dance.   This is particularly true in Louisiana with the rise of New Orleans Jazz, and in the development of blues music when it was introduced to the swirling cultures of the big cities of Detroit, Chicago, and New York.

We challenge you to find ways of dancing to this music that honors the Latin influences of the music while still remaining true to our blues dance aesthetics.

Check out the links below for more information:

Latin Rhythms in Early Jazz by  

Hispanic Influences on the Blues

In 1940 Bob Zurke released “Rhumboogie,” a boogie woogie with a tresillo bass line, and lyrics proudly declaring the adoption of Cuban rhythm:

Harlem’s got a new rhythm, man it’s burning up the dance floors because it’s so hot! They took a little rhumba rhythm and added boogie woogie and now look what they got! Rhumboogie, it’s Harlem’s new creation with the Cuban syncopation, it’s the killer! Just plant your both feet on each side. Let both your hips and shoulder glide. Then throw your body back and ride. There’s nothing like rhumbaoogie, rhumboogie, boogie woogie. In Harlem or Havana, you can kiss the old Savannah. It’s a killer!