Blues Dance: A Journey of Rhythm and Representation.

Makeeda SwanContributors Leave a Comment

My trip to Belgium for the Big City Blues Festival was such a wonderful and eventful experience, filled with warmth, laughter and vibrancy at every corner – from the graffiti-coloured outdoor streets to the indoor dance floors packed with dancers drunk on the intoxicating energy that only the blues can give. I fell in love with the quirky little city of Ghent and all that it has to offer.

The Big City Blues Festival ran from Friday night to Sunday night, 8-10 March 2024. I arrived on the Wednesday and left the following Monday, so it was a short visit but oh so sweet! I had a day and a half to do some sightseeing before the festival began, enjoying the old, rustic charm of the city. The first party of the festival kicked off with an opening taster lesson by Jamica Zion, who shared some of the basics of blues, the importance of “using your booty” and how far that can get you when dancing the blues. It was fun and somewhat comical, but getting comfortable with that kind of movement really is a very effective first step. The party that followed started off with some excellent live bands onstage while the dancers became acquainted.

Photo by Juls Sobron

The next two days involved various daytime workshops and talks where we were separated by our experience level and equipped with knowledge appropriate to each group by trained dance teachers, and then more nighttime parties to put our newfound knowledge and skills into practice. The talks were given by Charlley Ward and Jamica Zion, who spoke about the history of blues music and blues dance, which were very informative and provided important foundational knowledge for us as dancers embodying a very poignant black-America dance form.

I enjoyed each class for different reasons, but what I enjoyed the most overall was diving into the foundational elements of blues dancing and getting comfortable with embodying movements as an individual without needing to rely on a partner to fully enjoy a song/dance. Solo dancing is something I was already comfortable with, but these solo blues workshops really helped me settle into it, as I was equipped with techniques that I didn’t know before.

The festival ended with a bang, with a big bash hosted by Missy Sippy, a quirky little local blues bar in the heart of Ghent with a lot of character & charm! It was a fantastic evening with some more amazing live acts, including a guest band from Mali that truly took our breath away.

Photo by Juls Sobron

Overall, Big City Blues is a fabulous festival filled with friendly, enthusiastic dancers who gather from all over the world as a continuous building of a beautiful and vibrant global community of blues dancers, and I feel so honoured to have been sponsored to take part in this event. Without the support of my backers from my crowdfunding campaign and the sponsored ticket and housing from Big City Blues, this opportunity would have passed me by, so many thanks to all who supported me in this journey.

I’m very excited to be sharing what I learnt in a CTS workshop in Cape Town coming up on Sunday 30 June. For more information, click here. Here’s to building a thriving blues scene right here on our own turf while staying connected to the global community as we learn and grow together. 

Photo by Juls Sobron
Photo by Juls Sobron
About the Author

Makeeda Swan

Makeeda is a fun-loving, outgoing, adventurous soul who loves to dance. In addition to swing dancing, she loves all things involving nature, including surfing and hiking, and she is an avid traveller. She is passionate about the film industry and her work both behind and in front of the camera keeps her busy. She also has a beautiful five-year-old daughter who will keep her young forever!

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