Blues Union

I learned how to dance fairly early in my life, but it was only in college that I learned the social dances of Lindy Hop and Blues. Over the course of my dancing, I met a woman named Jenn Martinez, and we found a shared appreciation for both learning and teaching social dance. Between 2007 and 2009, we learned a style of dancing called Blues Dancing while flying around the country to attend dance events, and we realized that there was no Blues dancing to be had in Boston on a regular basis; there was a single pair of instructors in town (Ogden Sawyer and Amanda Gruhl), but they were too overworked to host a regular dance.

We decided to commit ourselves to starting a Blues dancing scene from scratch in Boston, and started by teaching a large number of classes at both a beginner and intermediate level. We started teaching at a free weekly MIT dance venue, moved on to teaching at the Dance Complex in Central Square, started a weekly dance at a live music club in Davis Square, and once we had taught enough students to have a fledgling community, we started our own dance called Blues Union in Union Square in mid-2009.

Blues Union quickly grew to include both a beginner lesson and intermediate lesson in addition to a weekly dance, and soon had a rotation of 3 to 5 teaching couples at most times. We regularly introduced new pedagogies of dance instruction, such as implementing a Clinic style of instruction (where students get individual attention from instructors over the course of a free form lesson), including history and musicality as a routine part of lessons, and teaching dance with a live band accompanying instructions.

My role in the dance included organizing, teaching, and DJing the dances. At its peak, Blues Union attracted an average of 50-60 people per night, included one live band a month, and brought instructors in from as far away as Philadelphia and Washington, D.C. to teach lessons. I have since moved on from organizing dances, and Jenn Martinez now runs Blues Union with a group of dedicated volunteers.