It is a little known fact that the founders of the most influential American blues recording studio, Chess Records, were two Polish immigrant brothers. Leonard and Phil Chess moved to America in 1928 and the little studio on the south side of Chicago they built is credited with finding and producing some of the greatest blues musicians in the history of blues. Without these two Polish brothers, we wouldn’t have names like Muddy Waters, Howlin’ Wolf, and Chuck Berry. Legend has it that a school boy named Keith Richards only approached his classmate Mick Jagger because he had a couple of Chess records tucked under his arm.
So it is only fitting that blues music and dance is thriving today in Kraków. Most people know what blues music sounds like, but fewer know that there is a vibrant global community of blues dancers. The modern form of blues dancing is a collection of the styles of dance that grew up alongside blues music over its hundred year history. It is a slower dance than swing, with a large emphasis placed on connection with your partner and improvisation. Its popularity has exploded across the globe and today one can attend a blues dance festival almost every weekend throughout the year in Europe, the USA, and even South Korea.
In Kraków, there are several opportunities to regularly dance blues. Every Monday evening there is a dance at Strefa on Tomasza 31. The dance is free and begins at 21:00, while there is a beginner lesson beforehand at 19:45 that costs 10zł. The beginner lesson is perfect for those interested in trying blues dancing, as it requires no previous dance experience and can be joined at any time during the month.
For regular lessons, there are several schools that offer blues lessons in Kraków. American David Tritel runs one of these schools and offers weekly classes on several swings dances, including blues. Beginner Blues classes run on Wednesdays. For more information and to sign up, visit The Swing Experience.
At its heart though, blues in Kraków is about community. As the dance was being discovered in Poland, a group of local blues dance enthusiasts formed a group which took as its name Komitet ds. Organizacji Legendarnych Imprez Bluesowych Regularnie, or translated into English, the Organizing Committee for Legendary Blues Events Regularly. The acronym of the group, KOLIBR, or the close to the Polish word for “hummingbird.” From this seed has grown a community that plans events throughout the year. The flagship event is aptly named Hummingbird Blues and is held each year at the end of summer. Hummingbird Blues attracts dancers from across Europe and the world.
One of its organizers, Beata Gaweł, has this to say about the blues community in Kraków, “Blues Community in Kraków is not only a group of people who are sharing their dance passion. It’s hard to describe in words, because this special atmosphere of joy, friendship and support is something that you just have to experience…we have quite big group of dancing friends always ready to share their passion with new people.”
To celebrate this community, a new monthly dance event is being organized called Happy Birthday Blues. The inspiration is to celebrate all of the local dancers who have birthdays in the month. The DJ’ed music will be also exclusively from blues musicians who were or are born in the month as well. The inaugural party will be held on October 12, in Kącik 6 multiculti cafe near Plac Bohaterów Getta. The dance is free, begins at 21:00, and is welcome to all levels of blues dancers and enthusiasts.
Even though blues was born in the deep south in America, it has spread across the globe, becoming truly a worldwide phenomenon. Those two Polish immigrant brothers must surely be smiling to see blues finding such a happy home in Kraków.
More information about all blues dance happenings can be found at Blues Dancing in Poland.