Sunset blues

“Turn it up! Let’s go!” shouts a group of women sitting atop the Warming House overlooking the Midway Plaisance ice-skating rink. They’re waiting for the Willie White Blues Band, playing for the Park District’s “Midweek at the Midway,” a free series of summer concerts and movies. Despite a stiff breeze and ominous clouds, the ladies have lawn chairs and a picnic table stocked with food. Down on the rink, small children race each other, and about 15 people dot bleachers and seats. Another 30 or so lounge on blankets in the grass.

Shortly after 7 p.m., as a golden sunset begins to fill the western sky, singer and bass guitarist Joe Pratt introduces the band. The women on top of the Warming House form two lines, turning in rhythm and counting, “Back, step, two, three,” as they execute steps and twirls in perfect unison to the blues songs.

As it turns out, they've practiced—these ten women are all students of Marva Childress, who teaches line dancing for the Park District. “This is not our kind of music,” says Childress, 70, “so we just sort of improvise.” The women, aged 60 to 80, according to Childress, sway easily to the beat in colorful shawls with fringe. Why do they look so youthful? "'Cause we all dance!”

Pratt calls out, “Folks in the back—how you doin’?” The line dancers return the greeting. “These ladies have been here for a long time,” Pratt says, “and we’re gonna dedicate this show to them.”

Jenny Fisher, ’07

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Photos (left to right): Line dancing to the blues; the guitarist and saxophonist; a couple dances while their baby watches.

August 25, 2006