Crystal Blues Judging Criteria
For us, Modern Blues dancing is a music-led, lead/follow partner dance that incorporates and includes movement in both close-hold and at extension.
We celebrate the joy that is to be found in spontaneously choreographing the dance to the music as it plays, focussing on the interplay between lead and follow and music.
We feel that Modern Blues dancing isn't constrained by the style of music or by the style of dance but becomes a glorious amalgamation of all aspects of partner dance.
When judging a dance we would expect to see appropriate time spent in close-hold and potentially at extension - depending on musical style and category. (Close-hold can vary between ‘open’ and ‘intimate’ styles of close-hold and may or may not include travel as well as more rooted, on-the-spot movement). And remember that while Modern Blues can incorporate elements of Tango, WCS, Modern Jive and more, in this competition we would expect the emphasis to be on what makes for Modern Blues dance – an emphasis on musicality and close hold at the core of the dance.
This is a dance of CONNECTION
Connection to the music – the entire dance should be music-led. This doesn’t have to be huge, or dramatic, but movement (however subtle) should be linked to aspects heard within the music.
(This is likely to be more than the beat. It could be picking out instruments, or musical accents, or the rise and fall in tempo, or the change in energy. Acknowledgement of breaks is an essential aspect of the dance – from Beginners upwards. Dancing through obvious musical ‘moments’ would suggest a lack of connection to the music.
Lyrics are also important in musical connection. If the lyrics suggest ‘walk sexy’ or ‘I’m cross with you’ or give other suggestions of appropriate movement to music, then we would suggest that they shouldn’t be ignored.
The style of music is also important. Is it sultry, sassy, fun, funky, cheeky, miserable, moody etc? The interaction between partners should reflect this.
Connection to the partner – there should be a physical connection in the lead and the follow of the dance. If ‘moves’ look rehearsed and occur without obvious lead/follow then this is less favourable than spontaneous, physical, music-led movement.
Connection can also be found in appropriate eye contact. Are the couple actually dancing with each other, or with the floor or the audience? Is the eye contact between them in partnership with the ‘feel’ of the music?
Specifically, our judges are going to be looking for:
Musicality – Are the dancers listening for, and responding to, the changes within the music (e.g. breaks, pauses, tempo change, accents)? Do they make effective use of dynamics, time/half time/double time, pause, call & response and so on? Does the style of the dance match the style of the music?
Interpretation – Are the moves & movements appropriate to the music in terms of genre, feel, pace, energy? Are the dancers taking account of the vocals, lyrics, instrumentation etc?
Style (Lead/Follow) – Do the styles gel and complement each other and the music? Is the leader leading and the follower following the lead? Is there an excess of unsolicited styling? Are both partners combining to create a partnership that does justice to the music, or working in opposition?
Connection – Are the dancers in touch with the music and with each other, creating a synergy where, when musically appropriate, two become as one? Is the lead forecast in an obvious way, or so subtle that it is seems that the follow is reading the mind of the lead… But without anticipation or back-leading?
Aesthetics– Are the lines of both dancers visually pleasing? Are flourishes and styling additions appropriate or distracting? Are the dancers dressed to complement each other?
Technique - Are the dancers competent in both close-hold and extension? Are they demonstrating the key elements of connection? Do they use lead/follow techniques effectively and fluidly? Do they utilise the basics as well as technique that displays a good degree of technical difficulty?
While this is entirely a modern blues event, there are some specific guidelines for each competition, based on whether it's aimed at intermediate/ advanced/ beginner dancers, and the style of music and the aims for the competition class.
Debut Blues – for those who have danced Blues for less than two years and have never competed before. (This does not necessarily mean they are new to dance, just new to blues). We would expect to see static close-hold and possibly close-hold travel as the music suggests. We would expect to see transitions from close-hold to extension and back again. We would expect to see breaks in the music acknowledged.
We would expect dancers to make use of all forms of close hold as the music demands, and to make use of smooth transitions between. The entire dance should be music-led with travel in hold, movement at extension, and the transitions between being influenced by the music as it plays. We would expect dancers to show respect for the energy in the music. Quiet, controlled movement to the suppressed and quiet parts of the music, releasing in musically appropriate amounts as the music builds or contracts.
We would expect to see some of the subtleties of the music being reflected with the movement of the dancers. Do they isolate a particular part of the music to work with? Are they dancing lyrically or according to the vocal shaping? Is the dance beat-driven or instrument linked? Are the dancers giving due regard to the energy in the music, or do they dance despite it?
Specifics for individual categories:
Beat Up Blues – both partners must be over 55. (And see Intermediate/Advanced guidance above)
Funkified Blues - celebrating all that is fresh'n'funky in our music
This dance will be typified by the music that inspires it. We would expect to see movements both in hold and at extension that represent the spirit and the energy of the funkier music. This is still very much a Blues category so we would definitely expect to see a good proportion of the dance spent in any or all of the close-holds, as well as travel and interesting transitions from close-hold to extension and back again. Musical interpretation and lead/follow is fundamental to this category. (And see Intermediate/Advanced guidance above)
Blues is Blues is Blues – The focus is on the music, with three shorter track selections, each of which will require a different musical response in the dance. We would expect to see the dance reflect what’s happening in the different moments of the track. (And see Intermediate/Advanced guidance above)
Bluest Blues – A dance that will be done predominantly in close-hold (with the inclusion of Intimate close-hold and Reverse Blues) reflecting the musical selection which will be more sultry and sensual.
Close hold does not need to be static, or dull, or boring.,We would expect to see transitions between holds – so perhaps turns, spins, travel and interesting ways to move from one hold to another, or from close-hold back into close-hold. We would NOT expect to see much in the way of dancing at extension although this may be seen in transitions. Travelling in close-hold would be encouraged. Dips, lifts, drops etc that start and finish in hold are perfectly acceptable but should be music linked. (And see Intermediate/Advanced guidance above)
Dance Like Sara White Is Watching – while this is somewhat tongue in cheek, Sara will looking for all the things that make Modern Blues dance special – connection to music and to each other, the close hold dynamic between partners, the reflection of the music in the dance – all of the passion and drama and magic, the technique and style that a Sara White class is all about. (Oh, yes - and see Intermediate/Advanced guidance above)
Ultimate Challenge – a category of diverse and challenging music. This category is true to its name and the music is specifically chosen to challenge and inspire.
This category is, again, all about the music and the way that the partnerships interact with it and each other. We would expect to see changes and transitions that are directly linked to what the couples hear. If the music is energetic and wild, we would probably expect dance at extension with energy and possibly some reckless abandon.
If the music is quiet and subtle, then we would expect to see more suppressed movement in some form of close-hold. A rising in the energy might encourage travel in hold. This category will encourage energy, pace, passion, drama, connection, diversity and transition, and will probably include movement in all holds and at extension.
Centre Stage – a performance category
Everything that we have said about our other categories applies to Centre Stage. Here, the couple have had an opportunity to choose and explore their music, so we would expect to see greater connection to the emotion, the energy, the transitions and the feelings encoded within their chosen track. We would want to see mature use of the nuances in the music and the lyrics of the song. We would hope for exploration of the lyrical content, perhaps through the telling of the story of the song and exploring its emotional impact.
With Centre Stage our couple are offered two opportunities – to dance the dance as it would be danced as a couple on the dance floor, with all the intimacy that creates: or to dance the dance as a showcase, playing to the audience. Both are equally valid. It is tempting to look on Centre Stage as an opportunity for high drama, excessive styling and big flashy moves, but it is vital for us as judges to seek the components of blues dance that should be at the heart of the performance – musicality, technique, close-hold connection – to discover the wow in the dance they have created together.