First off, what is fusion?
I think fusion can have a couple of meanings. The first meaning is essentially just crosstraining- for instance, at Buenos Aires Blues this year, the idea was that people would work on blues skills, and tango skills, and walk away stronger dancers. I think the same can be said for a lot of cross-over events. My thoughts on this? I think it's fantastic. There's a biological term for this: hybrid vigor. One purebred dog may be susceptible to some recessive deleterious genes, while another purebred of another breed may be susceptible to other recessive deleterious genes. However, when you cross them, the first generation offspring, possessing one copy of each gene, will not show either of the weaknesses of the purebreds. The metaphor would get weird after that, so I'll stop there. Likewise, a purebred beg/int blues student may have a really great embrace, but have pretty weak balance (generally, I don't see blues students start drilling balance hard-core until pretty late in the game). They go to a tango workshop, and the 2nd thing of the day is balance and rotation. The student walks away with a better understanding of the importance of balance, hopefully practices, and splits weight less often. Everyone wins.
The second thing that happens under the name of fusion is basically move-stealing. Students go to a fusion/crossover/different-dance workshop, and find things to add to their primary dance. The most common example here is ochos, although other elements like parallel systems, volcadas, and calecitas have also been seen from time to time. It's pretty much a guarantee that if a blues scene has any tango influence, it also has ochos. More on my personal feelings on this further down the page.
The third thing that happens under fusion is the mixing of many dances. I have strong feelings about this, both encouraging and cautionary. There is a lot of music out there that tells me to move. And some of doesn't say, "move like a _____ dancer;" it just says move. So I'm perfectly fine with taking the elements that I have in my mind/body, and combining them in a way that I think makes sense to that song. Am I creating a new dance? Sure. A dance that will be well-formed, and get passed from dancer to dancer? Nope. I'm just dancing, in the moment, in a way that feels good. Maybe you've heard a jaded old dancer like me snicker about playing a non-blues song at a blues event (Sweat, Fire, songs like that), and thought, "but that song makes me want to dance!" Sure- but that doesn't make them blues songs, and what most of us crusty old-timers have found is that they don't make us want to dance in a blues way. So next time you hear it played, dance if you want- just don't label it blues, and I've got no issues.
For those of you who were at DIY last weekend, and heard my "What IS (and isn't) Blues" lecture, you already know the punchline. But I'll fill the rest of you in. Defining a dance is not about defining the steps of the dance. You can watch Rumba, Foxtrot, Tango, and Blues, and define each of them simply by watching them walk down a line. Defining a dance is entirely about the way the dance is done- the place where the dance spends most of its time on continuums like rotation/liner, expansive/contracted, relaxed/engaged, etc. Which means that to me, there are very few elements that you can't steal, and make legitimate. The key, of course, is making it legitimate. One of my favorite blues couples has a video on youtube (I'm not posting it, because I don't want to throw them under the forum-troll bus), where they do 3 historically tango moves in a row, but the sequence is unquestionably blues- they're blues dancers, do a blues dance, with moves that started off as tango.
So here I've said that you can take elements, mix them up, and make new compounds- here we have the ultimate dance lab. So I'm a fusionist, right? Well, I think the key to successful fusion is this: keep your reagent stock clean. In order to pull elements into blues (or any dance) successfully, you must be able to define your home dance. You need to know that your base is blues. You need to know what makes that dance what it is- the history, the music, the traditional moves, and most importantly, the elements that define it. What I'm not ok with is the idea that everything is legitimate. Ok, that's not true- all dance is legitimate on its own. But not all dancing is legitimate blues dancing. And that's not my call to make- it's a combination of a personal decision for you, and a collective decision by the blues community as a whole. So in this sense, I'm a purist.
So I'm a purist/fusionist lindy/balboa/blues/tango dancer. Anyone else confused?
Much love and many swingouts/ochos/fishtails/sugar-pushes/wagon-wheels/up-holds/tuck-turns/volcadas/circles......