Workshop Descriptions

See the Workshop Schedule for detailed scheduling information.

About the Tracks

Sweet Molasses Blues 2017 will once again be offering multiple learning tracks including a choreography track! Pick and choose individual classes that interest you from any of the four tracks.

Choreography Track

This year the choreography track will feature grab-bag style electives (instead of choreo intensives). These will be your typical one-hour classes, but all with topics relating to choreography and performance skills. All attendees who have purchased access to the classes are invited to attend whichever classes entice them!

The choreography track classes will be on Saturday morning and all day Sunday. On Saturday afternoon, choreo track classes will be replaced with the Choreography Competition prelims.

Social Dance Tracks

At Sweet Molasses, we sure do love to hang out and dance with each other. We’ve asked our instructors to put together classes that focus on being the most comfortable, the most fun, and the most musical social dancer you can be. We have a track focusing on Social Dancing and Connection, one for Musicality, and a track of miscellaneous other fun (“Anything Goes”).

Class Descriptions

Saturday Morning (10:00-11:00)

Morning Lecture with Chris Wells, Julie, & Joshua Fialkoff (Student Center Room 491)

A first time ever collaboration!! This class combines the unique perspectives of a professional blues musician, a blues DJ and dance instructor, and an academic musicologist — all of them active blues dancers — to offer a new kind of musicality class and tackle the fascinating topic of Latin rhythms in blues! We’ll explore the rich historical and cultural intersections between Latinidad and blackness from which these rhythms emerge, delve into some specific Latin rhythms & variants in blues songs, and work on ways these rhythms can inspire our movement and rhythmic interactions in dancing.

Saturday Block 1 (11:10-12:10)

Complicate Your Basic – Paul & Nicole (Student Center Room 407)

Track: Social Dance and Connection

We all start our time as blues dancers by learning a basic. Some variation on a two count, step touch or step pulse. But what if we took this basic, broke it down into its individual components, and reassembled it into a truly interesting, complex, and polyrhythmic body movement? Mmmm…

Dancing Close: Close Embrace Connection & Musicality – Julie (Student Center Room 491)

Track: Musicality

Let’s get comfy and work on getting our close embrace connection feeling comfortable to us and our partner. Then we’ll explore what elements of a song make us want to dance close, and a few ways of expressing the music while dancing in close embrace.

I Like to Move It (Move It) – Laney (Student Center Room 201)

Track: Anything Goes. This class is best suited for intermediate and advanced dancers.

We all love to dance – that’s why we’re here! While it’s great to want to do all of the things(!) all of the time(!), that enthusiasm can add to fuzziness to our quality of movement. This class will explore how to make each layer of movement – from the basic steps to the wildest stylings, from your core out to your hips and arms – feel and look intentional. Move it like you mean it!

Choreography Processes – Mike L & Dan (Kresge Basement A)

Track: Choreography and Performance

This class is about the processes and methods that we like to use when we’re choreographing. No experience creating a choreo needed! We’ll focus on how we generate movement ideas, how to fit music, and how to create a narrative across a piece.

Saturday Block 2 (12:20-1:20)

Extended Proprioception – Chris & Amanda Mayer (Student Center Room 407)

Track: Social Dance and Connection

Proprioception is the sense of the relative position of parts of the body — it’s what enables you to touch your finger to your nose when your eyes are closed. When you dance with a partner, your proprioception can be extended to include your partner’s body positioning as well. In this class, we’ll show you how to push that extension as far as you can.

Be the Oracle – Mike L & Dan (Student Center Room 491)

Track: Musicality

You know that feeling of flow, of effortless musicality when dancing to a song that you know through and through? Well, what if we told you that you could be in that state of flow all the time. This class will be about how to predict music by understanding the choices that musicians make in real time.

Dancing with the Lights On – Paul & Nicole (Student Center Room 201)

Track: Anything Goes

You walk out onto the floor. The lights come on and the music starts playing. And everybody’s looking directly—expectantly—at you. We’ll share our secrets for how to dance well when the pressure’s on so you can impress the audience, the judges, your partner and yourself.

Perfecting Formations – Laura (Kresge Basement A)

Track: Choreography and Performance

Group performances can be tough—you have to dance and make sure you’re in the correct spot relative to your teammates. How do you create the perfect line? How do you keep your circle circular? Learn formations from start to finish; we’ll cover rules and responsibilities for how to fix or “dress” group formations such as lines and curves and practice how to move from one formation to the next for a perfect line every time.

Saturday Block 3 (2:20-3:20)

Swooshy Moves – Paul & Nicole (Student Center Room 407)

Track: Social Dance and Connection. This class is best suited for advanced dancers.

Momentum can be a beautiful thing. When used and redirected properly, it can add a dimension of swoop to your dance that makes everything more fun. This class will focus on adding layers of momentum mechanic to a cool move combination to make it feel as swooshy as it can get.

Queerness and Blues Class – Chris Wells (Student Center Room 491)

Track: Anything Goes

Celebrating Sweet Mo’s decision to adopt the contest name “Mix & Match,” and following the discussion that’s surrounded this issue, this class will challenge the idea that heteronormativity is any more “authentic” to blues cultures historically than queerness is. Here, we’ll focus on blues singers of the 1920s and early 1930s whose work disrupts gender binaries and songs that implicitly or explicitly address themes of same sex attraction and non-normative gender expression.

Textures, Shapes, & Layering in Slow Drag – Julie & Shawn (Student Center Room 201)

Track: Musicality

Slow drag is one of the simplest and most versatile blues basic steps. But that simple baseline opens us up to add awesome variations & layers of personal style, to express the music and introduce a sense of interaction & play with our partner. Learn the basics of slow drag & how to extend it for maximum fun!

Choreography Competition Prelims; No Choreography Track Class (Kresge Basement A)

Saturday Block 4 (3:30-4:30)

Putting the Social in Social Dance – Laney & Joey (Student Center Room 407)

Track: Social Dance and Connection

A whole weekend full of classes often gets us in our heads about the dancing – let’s get out of our heads and into the moment with our partner! We’ve got some surprising techniques to bring your social blues dancing up to level ten.

What is the Blues Aesthetic? – Mike L (Student Center Room 491)

Track: Anything Goes

An aesthetic is “a set of principles underlying and guiding the work of a particular artist or artistic movement.” There is a bluegrass aesthetic, a cubist aesthetic, and- as you know- a blues aesthetic. This class is all about where it comes from, what it is, and what that means in terms of your dancing.

Taking Turns – Laura & Shawn (Student Center Room 201)

Track: Musicality. This class is best suited for advanced dancers.

Explore interesting moves that trade the focus between leaders and followers.  We’ll explore some sophisticated moves, work through the technique, add some styling, and then generalize.

Choreography Competition Prelims; No Choreography Track Class (Kresge Basement A)

Sunday Block 1 (11:10-12:10)

Breakaway – Julie & Shawn (Student Center Room 407)

Track: Social Dance and Connection

In blues dancing, we don’t always have to be touching our partner to have a fun, conversational dance. In this class, come play around with breakaway (when we let go of our partner and dance solo, together)! We’ll do some fun ways to break away and come back to our partner, as well as fun tactics, games, and ideas for dancing in breakaway.

Build Your Own Rhythm – Paul & Nicole (Student Center Room 491)

Track: Musicality

It’s all about the Boom-Ka! In this class, we’ll break down the rhythmic layer of blues music into its most basic, 2 count component. Then we’ll explore a number of things we can do in those 2 counts, then use those options to build up longer, more interesting rhythms. Rhythmic complexity from the ground up.

Intrabody Movement and Lag – Mike L & Dan (Student Center Room 201)

Track: Anything Goes. This class is best suited for advanced dancers.

For such a crucial part of blues movement, lag is often poorly understood, even by high level dancers. Come learn how to play with lagging relative the music, your partner, and even yourself.

Unison and Individuality in Choreography – Ruth & Mike G (Kresge Basement A)

Track: Choreography and Performance

If you are choreographing for a group of dancers, how do you play to their strengths and their skill levels? How much do you strive for uniformity vs. differences? When creating a duet, either partnered or solo, how can you give each dancer their own distinct voice within the dance? How do you create polish while embracing individuality? We love this topic and will share our best thoughts and practices with you.

Sunday Block 2 (12:20-1:20)

How to Dance with Drink in your Hand – Ruth & Mike G (Student Center Room 407)

Track: Social Dance and Connection

Sometimes we get really caught up into how things look and if we are interesting enough. In this class, we will play with partnering that is comfortable and fun, finding the joy and the playfulness in our dancing. We will also find ways to “not try too hard,” having the unhurried and casual aesthetic of cool. Dance with a partner, party.

Finding your Music Kryptonite – Julie & Shawn (Student Center Room 491)

Track: Musicality

Blues music has a very wide range of grooves. Most of us connect really well with some of these grooves and less well with others (our “music kryptonite”). This class is designed to get everyone dancing comfortably & with joy to more blues grooves, even to their music kryptonite.

Call and Response – Mike L & Dan (Student Center Room 201)

Track: Anything Goes

When I say “Smeet” you say “Wo!” “Smeet!” “Wo!”… there are plenty of examples of call and response, and we’re going to give you some fun ways to get a musical conversation going with your partner!

Who Need Counts? – Paul & Nicole (Kresge Basement A)

Track: Choreography and Performance

Who needs counts when you can choreograph to that weird thing the trombone just did? Choreography that is matched to, and inspired by the music is our favorite, come learn how we break down and diagram music, to create intensely musical choreographies.

Sunday Block 3 (2:20-3:20)

Sexy Not Creepy – Ruth & Mike G (Student Center Room 407)

Track: Social Dance and Connection

Ok, real talk. We have all danced with that person who made us feel in need of a shower after a dance. Realer talk: many of us have accidentally been that person. Sometimes a song sounds really sexy. What are movements that express that musicality, without making a partner unhappy? How can one work with a partner to create something, without moving into unwanted intimacy?

Jukin’ with Specificity – Mike L & Dan (Student Center Room 491)

Track: Musicality

Most of the time, we want our jukin’ blues to have the spirit of solo dancing. But the best dancers can throw in moments of specificity, without losing their hard-won grooves. Join us for some super-detailed moves and technique!

Vernacular Move Meld – Paul & Nicole (Student Center Room 201)

Track: Anything Goes. This class is best suited for advanced dancers.

What does a fish-tock look like? How about a grindy-camel? In this fun class we will explore what happens when we create unusual movement combinations by mixing vernacular moves. Come ready to be challenged!

Textures, energy, and musical details – Julie & Shawn (Kresge Basement A)

Track: Choreography and Performance

This class explores ways to adapt choreography that is inspired by and connected to the music, regardless of content. As a part of that, we’ll also cover techniques for creating more rhythm, texture, and interest to a choreography.

Sunday Block 4 (3:30-4:30)

Lead-Follow-Lead – Mike L & Dan (Student Center Room 407)

Track: Social Dance and Connection

Great connection is all about teamwork. We’re going to teach you concrete tools to help you be a more responsive, collaborative dancer, and help you make your creative risks successful, musical moments!

Blues Minimalism – Paul & Nicole (Student Center Room 491)

Track: Musicality

“At the still point, there the dance is.” —T. S. Eliot. Join us to strip down your dance to a step, a hold, a breath and discover the power of simplicity.

Party Blues – Mike G (Student Center Room 201)

Track: Anything Goes

Blues is not always sad or angsty; a lot of blues is about letting loose and having a good time. Learn some of our favorite moves to dance to party blues, and let your inner party dancer come out! We’ll explore a few different options for dancing solo or with other people.

Authenticity in Performance – Ruth & Julie (Kresge Basement A)

Track: Choreography and Performance

How do you build and perform a character that is realistic and authentic? How do you act without seeming like you’re “acting”? How can your character integrate with your dance, instead of taking away from it? This class will explore those questions, in a blues dance performance context.