Welcome back, Emerald City Blues Festival!
September 13th - 15th, 2019 in Seattle, WA
Alabama-born and Southern-raised, Brett “Bad Blood” Benton has been obsessed with country blues ever since he was a child, listening to his parent's and grandparent's records at an early age. By his teens he was playing behind a drum kit, and by his early 20's was learning his way around slide guitar. In 2016 he left the South and everything he's ever known to perform his own brand of delta and country style of blues around the country and the world. Currently in the Pacific Northwest, he has played many local, regional, and national festivals and a countless number of venues in just a few years' time and most recently he has signed with Seattle’s own Knick Knack Records with his first studio release coming in Spring of 2019. He has been on the same stages at venues and festivals with many players of all calibers, including Grammy-Nominated Artists Cedric Burnside (also a friend of his, along with his guitar player Trenton Ayers) and Walter Trout, International Blues Challenge award winning Ben Hunter & Joe Seamons and the Selwyn Birchwood Band, Samantha Fish and The Reverend Peyton’s Big Damn Band, and West Coast favorites The 44’s Band and HILLSTOMP. Known for his fierce rhythmic finger picking and melodic slide guitar as well as his booming voice, Brett's raw style is best heard one of two ways: paying homage to its roots with solo, acoustic slide guitar and “stompin’ and hollerin’ ” as Bad Blood himself would put it; and electric alongside a heavy, relentless and dynamic style of drums that really emphasizes what country blues is all about… the hypnotic groove that gets folks up and dancing! For either style being played, both remain true to the nature of country blues – a style not played by many – while also retrofitted with grit and a bit of heaviness from the modern times! His music keep the fans moving and grooving!
Brother Yusef has been described as a master solo guitarist, as well as a uniquely passionate vocalist. His performances are as raw, honest and real as the genre has ever aspired to be. Honed over thirty years, he calls his multifaceted style, fattback blues for it’s a rich mix of Delta , Chicago and Texas blues alongside a hard driving Louisiana stomp. Fattback Blues combines "traditional" fingerpicking and slide guitar playing with the contemporary feel of urban blues, rock and funk. He uses his right hand thumb to beat out a percussive bass-line and shuffle, while the index finger plays rhythm and lead lines, creating a full band sound with a solo guitar. Born in Bakersfield California and later moving with his family to Southern California, Yusef picked up the guitar at 19 experimenting jazz, reggae, and R&B. He would find himself at a musical crossroads in 1989 while paying his last respects to his grandfather at his childhood church. A soloist at the funeral played a hymn on guitar that connected him to his grandfather, elders and ancestors in the Blues Brother Yusef approaches the blues from a musical, spiritual and social context. He is quoted as saying, “for African Americans blues has been about survival, healing and freedom ”. Brother Yusef has gained worldwide recognition performing at various blues and music festivals, social dance events and concert performances both nationally and internationally. He takes his audience on a musical journey from a backwoods jook joint to the fiery emotions of the sanctified church.
Joshua Fialkoff lends his smoky voice and unique piano stylings – a veritable gumbo of “roots piano” flavors – to dance exchanges and series around the world, and has been doing so for over ten years. Joshua first began playing for dancers as a bass player for Solomon Douglas. Later, as a pianist, he started his own group and began sharing his distinct brand of Blues and Swing. Joshua is known for his unique arrangements that are at once new and old, and an authenticity and rawness that shines through in his presence and performance. Blues and Swing events throughout the US, Canada, and Europe regularly feature Joshua or one of his ensembles. Some recent performances include Spoonful (Edinburgh, UK), DCLX’tra (Washington DC), Dance Flurry (Saratoga Springs, NY), BluesSHOUT (Chicago, IL), Sweet Molasses Blues (Boston, MA), Eastside Stomp (Seattle, WA), Montreal Bagel and Blues (Montreal, QC), Capital Ballroom (Seattle, WA), Mean Old Blues (San Francisco, CA), and many others. He has shared the stage with a number of esteemed musicians including Gordon Webster, Barbara Morrison, and Meschiya Lake. Joshua is the rare performer who cares deeply about his audience, who is constantly seeking to connect and engage the people he plays for, and who yearns to instill in everyone within earshot an irresistible urge to move.
When DEXTER SANTOS discovered Blues dancing in 2005, he found himself immediately drawn to the rhythms and sounds of the Blues. Something about the music - it's emotional depth and range, the varied subjects and stories, the gut-wrenching and the hip-shaking, the gritty and the smooth - gave Dexter's dancing new inspiration and direction. With a background in Ballroom dancing and Lindy Hop, Dexter has studied and collaborated with the best Blues dance teachers and dancers making him one of the most sought-after and admired teachers in the national and international scene. As a teacher, Dexter aims to inspire dancers of all levels with the possibilities that Blues dancing has to offer while preserving its roots, identity, and art form. Dexter travels across the US and around the world spreading his passion and joy for Blues dancing through his fun, inspiring, and challenging classes. A particular class favorite often referred to as the "Shim Sham of Blues," the Hound Dog routine (a solo Blues choreography danced to Big Mama Thornton's song of the same title) has been taught to and performed with dancers in four continents. Dexter has taught at nationally and internationally renowned exchanges and workshops such as bluesSHOUT (Chicago, IL), Austin Blues Party (Austin, TX), Down Home Blues Festival (San Francisco, CA), BamBLOOZled (Washington, D.C.), Rain City Blues (Seattle, WA), Steel City Blues Festival (Pittsburgh, PA), Mile High Blues Festival (Denver, CO), Toronto Blues Battle (Toronto, ON, Canada), Fallin' In Blues (Grenoble, France), Korea Blues Camp (Seoul, So. Korea), Drag The Blues (Barcelona, Spain), Breizh Blues Invasion (Rennes, France), Blues Baby Blues (London), and Black Swan Blues (Perth, WA, Australia) among many others. When he's not teaching or performing, you'll find Dexter 'cutting his teeth' and refining his skills on the competition floor. Since the very first bluesSHOUT in St. Louis in 2007, Dexter has won first place in numerous Blues dancing competitions around the country and has won the title of Ballroomin' Blues champion at bluesSHOUT 3 times (2007, 2008, and 2010). In an unprecedented feat, Dexter won all four partnered competitions at bluesSHOUT 2010 in Austin: Open Jack & Jill, Strictly Jook Joint, Strictly Ballroomin', and Champions Division.
Heidi began dancing and teaching Blues dances in St. Louis in 1999. She has been dancing, teaching and performing ever since. An early promoter of Blues dancing, she founded the first national Blues dance workshop (Cheap Thrills), which has since transformed into the nation's largest Blues dance workshop and competition weekend (bluesSHOUT!). Now busy with family, Heidi no longer runs bluesSHOUT!, but she continues to travel the world teaching Blues dance as a living tradition, with a rich history and an exciting future. From local classes to international workshops to historical research and documentation of the dance, she is dedicated to the preservation and promotion of Blues dancing. Her classes are inspiring and challenging, but Heidi's focus on the underlying principles and fundamentals of the dance allows her to break down the most difficult concepts and moves, making them easy to understand and incorporate. Heidi is able to communicate and instill in her students a love of dance and a dedication to the learning process. Most importantly, her classes will put some serious 'boom boom boom' and 'aw haw haw haw' in your dancing.
Ruth and Mike are among the most respected and sought-after instructors in the blues dance world. They have taught at most of the blues dance events that exist (In 14 countries and counting…). They are founding members and choreographers of the B Sides, which is the first and currently only ongoing professional blues performance group. Ruth and Mike are an exceptional teaching partnership, internationally renowned for their dynamic energy, precise explanations, entertainment value, and ability to make detailed technique fun to learn. They are prolific choreographers, avid dance nerds, and enthusiastic social dancers. Ruth and Mike are passionate about creating fresh and expressive art that stays true to the roots of the blues. They love dance pedagogy and mentoring newer teachers to fulfill their potential as instructors. Ruth and Mike both love carrot juice, smoky Scotch whisky, and philosophical discussions. Since they started traveling and teaching together, Ruth has started using the Oxford comma, and all of Mike’s electronic devices are from Apple. They have been known to fishtail in grocery stores and swing out in the aisles of moving trains. Check out their [facebook page](http://facebook.com/ruthandmike) and [youtube channel](http://youtube.com/ruthandmikedance). Ruth Evelyn skipped into her first dance class more than 25 years ago, and has since been dancing as many styles as she can get her feet on. Ruth’s 15+ years as a dance instructor have taken her on teaching adventures across the US, Canada, Europe and Southeast Asia. She has continually developed both her teaching and her dancing skills. Ruth is known for her ability to craft explanations that fit students’ learning styles. She brings a vibrant mixture of deep technical knowledge, passion for movement, and silly fun that students can’t help but connect with. As a choreographer, Ruth's creations are received with widespread admiration. Ruth is a founding member and choreographer of the B Sides, guest choreographs for other groups around the world, and mentors people in choreography. In addition to training in blues, lindy, Argentine tango, modern, ballet and many other dance forms, Ruth is certified in [Franklin Method](http://franklinmethod.com/), an increasingly popular body somatics method. She has a long-standing love affair with close-embrace connection, has sneakily swung out in the Louvre, and is curating a fine collection of fishtail variations. Mike Grosser is one of the most recognized names in the Blues dance community. Mike is a top level instructor, dancer, choreographer, performer, and mentor. He has not only won respected blues competitions but also thrown down hard in unofficial late night dance-offs. Mike is a founding member and choreographer of the B Sides, which is the first and currently only ongoing professional blues performance group. Students across continents rave about Mike’s insights, personality, and breadth and depth of knowledge. As an instructor, Mike strives to put himself in his students’ shoes so that he can relate material as intuitively and thoroughly as possible. He loves seeing students’ eyes light up when they understand a concept or feel a movement work naturally in their body for the first time. Mike lives and breathes dance. He is constantly honing his skills and developing new ideas. If you run into him at grocery store, on public transit, in a museum, or on a mountain top, you’ll probably catch him dancing.
Andrew enjoys DJing a wide variety of musical genres, and delights in creating moments for dancers to respond viscerally to blues music, allowing themselves to be transported to another era by a song. Andrew has DJed at events around the world, including Portland Blues Experience, Emerald City Blues Festival, and European Blues Invasion, and has won several DJ contests and nominations. Visit www.AndrewSmithDance.com for more info.
Emily has been DJing in the Seattle blues scene since 2005, and has had pleasure of being able to DJ at several national events. She served as DJ coordinator for multiple events. She is continually fascinated by the complex history of blues music and enjoys finding new ways to play the music to move dancers. Her sets are often an eclectic variety of old and new, and new inspired by old. She enjoys learning about new music and is constantly expanding her music palette. One of her favorite things to do at dance events is to go home with new music! Emily will be DJ'ing this year's competitions! In addition to DJ'ing, Emily is also one of ECBF's co-organizers.
Niko is a Swing, Blues and Fusion dancer. He learned to dance and listen to the Blues in the Halifax and Montreal dance scenes. He has a particular interest in exploring the peripheries of traditional Blues music, including Jewish, Indigenous and non-Anglophone Blues cultures.
DJ. Dancer. Organizer. Teacher. Although a recent member, Vartan falls passionately in love with hobbies until they turn into obessions. Since 2015 he's been traveling all over the country while also being completely engrossed in the Denver scene. Building all his sets from new music and putting together playlists for idioms, genre's, and moods. As a student of the blues he dives in to discover and understand as much as possible about blues culture. His interests outside of dancing are power lifting, trap music, and his kitten Sophie.
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