Mavis Staples’ Music, Sierra & Dave Teach

This Monday at Cowboy Monkey 6pm, Sierra and Dave will teach a lesson on communication changes of direction in partner blues dancing. With so many newcomers lately, we’ll be sure to include lots of beginner-friendly instruction too.

Jennifer White has curated another special playlist for us this week, featuring the music of Mavis Staples and the Staples Singers.

With early beginnings in blues, the Staples Singers were a gospel singing group but were also known for their inspirational freedom music and later R&B.

Roebuck “Pops” Staples (1914-2000) grew up on a cotton plantation near Winona, Mississippi playing guitar. He played with blues musicians such as Charlie Patton, Robert Johnson and Son House that clearly influenced his musical career. Moving Chicago to work, he and his young family formed the Staples Singers, performing gospel music in local churches.

In 1963 the Staples Singers met Martin Luther King when they performed in Montgomery Alabama and began producing civil rights songs about the freedom movement. “Why Am I Treated So Bad” commemorates the 1957 Little Rock Nine that lead to Brown v. Board of Education decision desegregating schools. The Selma-to-Montgomery marches of 1965 are the topic of “Freedom Highway” and “It’s a Long Walk to D.C.” An interesting side note is that Mavis dated Bob Dylan for seven years and allegedly regretfully declined his marriage proposal for fear that Martin Luther King would not approve. In addition to the Staples Singers group, Mavis Staples began to establish herself as a solo artist from 1969 on. Mavis Staples and Pops Staples later music blends the spiritual, inspirational, blues, soul, and R&B sounds to varying degrees. This Monday’s playlist will feature the most ‘blues-y’ songs of Mavis Staples, Pop Staples and the Staples Singers’ music.

For more information see the book I’ll Take You There: Mavis Staples, the Staples singers, and the March Up Freedom’s Highway (available at the Urbana Free Library) or online brief biography of Mavis Staples.

Mississippi Hill Country Night, and Playing With Momentum

This Monday, Feb 4, 6pm at Cowboy Monkey, Jennifer and Dave will teach a lesson on playing with momentum in leading and following. We’ll do a side lesson for first-time beginners if desired. Whoever you are, experienced, beginner, partnered, just you, come on out.

On March 9th we will Get-Out-And-Dance to Robert Kimbrough Sr. live at Neil Street Blues. (RSVP on the bluesCENTRAL Facebook event.) As a preview, this Monday’s dance 7-9pm will feature the musical lineage he continues.

Mississippi Hill Country Blues is a regional music style characterized by a unique hypnotic sound through a steady driving rhythm, minimal chord changes and atypical song structures. It is typically played on guitar with accompanying vocal. The style is best known through the music of Junior Kimbrough (1920-1998), Jessie Mae Hemphill (1923-2006) and R. L. Burnside (1926-2005) who played for much of their careers at juke joints and local house parties in and around Holly Springs in Northern Mississippi. The style grew in popularity in the 1990’s. Robert Kimbrough Sr, son of Junior and Cedric Burnside, son of R. L., continue these traditions today. Our Monday night playlist will feature these five great musicians.

To learn more, check out the documentary film, Deep Blues: A Musical Pilgrimage to the Crossroads on Youtube.

Walking, Part 2

How’s that contra-body movement coming along? This Monday evening, Jan 28, 6pm at Cowboy Monkey, Sierra and Dave will teach part two of the lesson on forward and backward walking. Although most of us mastered walking in everyday life some years ago, this is harder than it sounds while dancing with a partner.

An instructor will also be on hand to teach a separate beginner lesson if desired by the group. As always the lesson is free, we are enthusiastically beginner-friendly, and there’s no need to bring a partner.

Regular Weekly Lesson and Dance

This Monday, at Cowboy Monkey. 6pm Lesson with Jennifer. She’ll be teaching close embrace slow drag.

As always, we’ll make sure our lesson or a side-lesson is beginner-friendly.

7-9pm free social dance. Our crowd has been growing — should be a fun time.

Learn Walking and Lunges Tonight

We had a solid turnout last week, with a number of newcomers. (Yes!) With the students back in town, tonight’s fun should be up another notch.

It’s Sierra’s turn to teach and rumor is she might teach us forward/backward walking (it sounds so simple right?) and lunges. Lesson 6pm, Dance 7-9pm @ Cowboy Monkey. Lesson and dance are free. Come eat, drink, and dance with us.

Update: Thanks Laura Gillen for this picture of tonight’s dance:

bluesCENTRAL Central Illinois Blues Dancing Community