NewVo Blues and Blue Worm report

Tonight I attended the first “Dinner Blues” dance lesson, dinner and dance at the Blue Worm on Airways. Here’s a report, and I’m going to break this down into two sections, reporting on NewVo Blues and the club separately.

NewVo Blues: The lesson started a little after 7. We all warmed up by learning the basics – in particular “the frame,” which consists of keeping your elbows forward, your chin up, and your shoulders rolled back. We also learned some basic steps. Then we began to partner up, and we learned how to lead and basic partner steps. They had us rotate around the room so that every guy got to dance with every girl several times – I found that to be a good thing, because everyone knew everyone by the end of the lesson.

I’m a big fan of reading the energy that people give off, and found that dancing was a great way to get a sense of people’s energy. My favorite partners were the ones who gave off an “it’s really nice to meet you” energy, or a “maybe I don’t know all the steps, but I’m going to have fun anyway” energy. You could just kind of tell where each person was coming from within about 5 seconds, if you were open to it. We were told that a big part of the dance is finding that connection with your partner, so I guess I succeeded at least on that part of it. I felt like I did most of the moves competently but was by no means the best in the room.

I think about half the attendees had formal dance training, some from the Red Hot Lindy Hop or Argentine Tango groups or others, and the rest were newbies like me. People would ask if I had previous dance experience, and I pondered for a minute whether “grinding with random drunk sorority girls at Raiford’s” counted as dance experience, then said “no.” It was good to get advice from partners who had danced before on how to improve, how to lead more strongly, etc.

I kept up until the last 10 minutes, when they showed us a complete routine and added so many additional moves at the end that I got lost. Still, it was a lot of fun, and I feel like I learned some moves I’ll retain for the future. Living downtown, I think it could be advantageous to have some training in blues dance, so I can show off for the tourists who visit Beale Street. I commented that the only visitors to Beale who seem to know how to dance to the street bands are the homeless. Maybe NewVo can help change that.

Instructors were very kind and knew how to correct us in the right way… they encouraged us to get to know one another and think of ourselves as a “family” for the evening. I’d definitely take classes from them again.

After the lesson we sat down to a chicken dinner (more on that in a minute) and an informal discussion of blues dancing. The instructors and some of the more advanced attendees put on a show out on the dance floor while we ate.

Their next event is a class and road trip on April 14. The class will be at Rum Boogie Cafe on Beale Street – 9:30 AM registration, 10 AM to noon class. Class is $15, or $12 for members. Afterward there will be lunch at Rum Boogie from noon to 1. After that the group will head to Clarksdale, MS, 90 miles to the south for the annual Juke Joint Festival. A $10 wristband (purchased on-site) gets you in all the clubs. You can pick and choose whichever of the class, lunch and festival you’d like to attend, but they say you’ll have the most fun if you attend all three.

For more info you can visit NewVo’s website. Thanks S and C for a great evening… if you want to write up a little somethin’ about the 14th, I’ll be happy to post it.

Now on to the club itself, The Blue Worm. It’s at 1405 Airways, on the right side of the street if you’re heading south toward the airport, left side if you’re heading north toward Midtown. It’s located between Park and Lamar. There is no signage on the street so you have to remember to look for the numbers getting close to 1405 – it’s in a complex with several other businesses and is in the back right corner. A flyer I took with me says it’s just behind the Save-A-Lot grocery store. I know some people will get all frightened about driving to a club in Orange Mound at night, but they have a big, well-lit parking lot with security and I felt pretty safe.

It’s a $5 cover to get in most nights. Relatively large space with tables, a dance floor, two pool tables, a DJ booth and a stage for the band. They sell Cokes and other soft drinks at the bar (in cans), as well as bottled water. They have a selection of beer ($2-3) or you can BYOB. You can also buy a ticket for $5 for a plate of home cooking, which on this particular night was chicken, rice, peas, and a brownie. The cook told me that on other nights, she makes a chili with 3 different meats and serves it over nachos. The cook and all the Blue Worm staff I talked to were just super-friendly (even went out of their way to introduce themselves) and made me feel right at home.

Unfortunately I wasn’t feeling all that hot (I learned earlier this week why you should never order a burger less than medium well, and am still dealing with the effects) so I left before the dancing really got going. I want to come back though. I like this place. The DJ was playing some great music – I remember a lot of BB King – and although I left before the band came on, I had heard nothing but good things about them. This place seems to play the REAL blues, and maybe if I meet people on Beale who really seem to “get it” about music, I’ll invite them to take a ride with me out to the Worm.

(Attn J: If the Romanians come back for ’07, we should take them to the Worm one night)

The flyer I picked up says the Blue Worm is having a special “Diva-Bash” next Saturday, March 31, with Queen Ernestine “the Diva-Stine.” They told me there would be a food buffet, and there will also be drawings, surprises, and of course great music, all for a $10 cover. Music by The Fieldstones, The Universal Players, and Country Girl Band. The flyer also says, “Oh! Rumor has it that Queen Ernestine is doing a set… you don’t want to miss this!” Might want to check it out if you’re looking for something different and fun to do next Saturday.

One note about the Worm: Dress comfortably. You WILL work up a sweat on the dance floor, doubly so if you take a NewVo class. I made the mistake of wearing my embroidered guayabera shirt – wanted to look nice and make a good first impression – but the shirt was made of polyester and I was a sweaty mess by 9:00. There were plenty of people in T-shirts and jeans. The club wasn’t hot to the point of being uncomfortable, but it didn’t feel like they had the A/C on and it was a little warm.

All in all, thumbs up to the Blue Worm, I think it’s one of those places to hear real, authentic blues that hasn’t been “discovered” by the fraternity/Germantown crowd the way Wild Bill’s has. Thumbs up also to NewVo Blues, awesome first event, well organized. An evening well spent, and I wish I had had the energy to stay longer.

Whew… gonna get a few things done around the apartment then go to bed. An advantage of driving to an event in another part of town is that I’m completely sober (not a big fan of drinking and driving), and so I should get a great night’s sleep, especially after all the exercise I got dancing.