Kenneth Shipp serves as Director of the Ujima Blues Foundation.
Before learning partner dances like Lindy Hop or Blues, Kenneth spent the majority of his early dance career break-dancing or DJing for break/hip-hop comps around the southeast. In 2014, Kenneth took over as President of Blues Dance Nashville (BDN), the local blues scene in his hometown. He spent the next few years developing the organization with his team, focusing on a steady slate of classes and local events that emphasized and built upon Nashville’s rich live music history.
Throughout that time period, BDN took over running two local blues events, Mo’ Better Blues and Southbound Blues Exchange. Kenneth and his team were instrumental in turning those into well-respected, national-level events. Mo’ Better, in particular, would be the testing ground for concepts that would eventually turn into BluesGeek and is a testament to his creativity and desire for community.
Kenneth likes to stay busy, launching new projects like the Git Gud practice weekend or writing about his favorite movies on his website, Nerd Union.
Moving, playing, running, and dancing are very ingrained in Katrina’s essence. She truly does not know how to be still, especially when music is playing! Music and dancing are food for Katrina’s soul. She feels the music on a very deep level and her body simply responds. Dancing has always been and will continue to be a place for Katrina to explore and express who she is, and she encourages everyone to do the same.
Katrina took her first Blues dance lesson in February 2013 and found a piece of herself she never knew was missing, her identity and connection to her heritage. She is dedicated to learning and promoting the rich culture and history of this beautiful black art form. As a dancer, with a strong connection to musicality, she brings joy, emotion, fun, tons of sass and plenty of ridiculousness into her dances (nothing is off limits). Katrina especially loves to play in her partnerships and wants to see what you’re bringin’-lets Riff!. She has a special love of Blues with that Funky vibe (it totally compliments her quirkiness) and anything with that deep groove with high energy.
Katrina has been instructing various forms of movement; from personal fitness to track and field to dancing for over 13 years. While she is a technician; she wants her students to find how they can come alive through dancing. To learn how to make each movement their own and groove with confidence.
In addition to being a dancer and instructor, Katrina is ecstatically the Event Director of Throwdown, a blues dance competition weekend held in St. Louis.
Heather hails from Huntsville, Alabama, but is originally from Nashville, Tennessee. She began dancing Lindy Hop in Cookeville in 2007, but found Blues shortly thereafter and hasn’t stopped since. She keeps herself busy throughout the Southeast between emceeing and dancing. But a large portion of her energy and time go to organizing, having served on too many local Swing and Blues dance boards to name here.
As Vice President of Blues Dance Nashville (2015 to 2018), Heather was one of the chief architects of Nashville’s BluesGeek event when it was still called Mo’ Better Blues, reaching back to 2015, and has continued that work to the present. She has also been proud to team up with her Nashville team to run three volumes of the Southbound Blues Exchange from 2016 to 2018. She’s no stranger to large events and coordinating downright huge teams to bring you some of the best Blues dance events in the country year after year, but her expertise doesn’t stop at national events. During her time as Vice President of Blues Dance Nashville, she, along with her team, also oversaw weekly lessons and live monthly dances.
She has a fervor for Blues and Soul music that drives her, and when she’s not busy organizing, emceeing, and dancing at events, you’ll find her grooving in her kitchen whipping up something amazing. The Foundation is proud to call her Assistant Director and have her vision continue to drive the Foundation and the BluesGeek event for some time to come.
Jen Delk resides in Austin, Texas. As a seasoned project manager she specializes in getting things done.
She got her start in dance organizing in college running Swing and Lindy hop lessons on campus and doing some event work for a local teaching group. She was on the planning team for a few Lindy exchanges then took a break in 2004.
She was summoned from organizer retirement in 2010 to take on volunteer coordination when bluesSHOUT! came to Austin. She was asked to join the team and handled financials and logistics from 2011-2013.
Jen joined the bluesSHOUT! board in 2014 and has been handling website, registration, finance, staffing/logistics and whatever else needs doing.
Jen has been more involved in creating new content on race and culture.
Outside of being a SHOUT! organizer she enjoys mentoring new organizers, attending niche dance events, reading, long walks, sunsets, and night swimming.
Back in school
Teaching local drop in blues lessons
League of Women Voters Austin Area Civic Engagement Alliance Chair
Clara has been organizing and teaching in various capacities since she first started dancing in 2012. Before dance, she trained in and taught martial arts, which gave her a strong sense of connection and balance to bring to her dancing. In her dancing, she jams primarily on connection and musicality, especially playing with stretch and counterbalance.
As someone who works with complex data sets in her tax accounting job, Clara is most comfortable as support staff. She has run front desks for weekly dances, as well as coordinated housing and transport for multiple regional events. Her spreadsheets and willingness to jump in and help in any capacity necessary are the primary strengths that she looks forward to lending to the Ujima Blues Foundation in her role as Secretary.
A UX & design researcher by day and Blues dancer by night, Julie brings skills from both sides of her life into this role with the Ujima Blues Foundation. In her day job, she coordinates and strategizes research in a fast-moving software design context. As part of her own Blues dance education and research, Julie has done many personal reading and small research projects, as well as some archival research, oral history, learning, and participation in modern Black partner dance communities.
As Research Director for the Foundation, Julie coordinates our team of research analysts—assigning, tracking, and supporting work for projects received by or initiated by the Ujima Blues Foundation—and helps active researchers in the scene connect and share information.
Erin Boeke Burke
Erin Boeke Burke has been dancing, and volunteering for things, since she can remember. She started with performance dance – from jazz to ballet, modern to Haitian, Hula to ballroom – she’s done it on a stage. She got into swing in college, and after a missed connection in 2005, rediscovered blues and Lindy Hop 2011 and the rest is history. She teaches in her local scenes (first Washington, D.C., now New York City) and loves helping people discover their joy in dancing.
Erin is always looking for new challenges, which is reflected in her professional and volunteer life. She is currently a Director at S&P Global, where she assesses environmental, social and governance considerations in investment, and previously worked for the White House budget office. She has also worked in public and media relations at the U.S. Institute of Peace and was a volunteer organizer and field director for political campaigns. In her remaining free time, she has been Board Chair and Finance Director for the nonprofit White House Athletic Center; Board Secretary for All Souls Church in Washington, D.C.; and co-founded Citizens for Local and State Service while pursuing her Masters in Public Affairs at the University of Texas-Austin.
She has two cats – Gin and Gary – and they both wear bow ties.
Chair, Advisory Board
Adam is proud to call Huntsville, Alabama, home, but he’s originally from Mississippi. He’s been partner dancing since 2004, starting in Ballroom, Latin street dances, and Lindy Hop, but he followed Krystal into Blues in 2010, and it’s been his primary focus ever since. He’s passionate about social dancing and Blues music, and has been traveling the country teaching Blues dance with his wife and partner, Krystal, since 2016. He has also served on local swing dance organizing boards at Indiana University and in Huntsville, and has served on the BluesGeek Event Board since 2017. He also co-runs Huntsville’s All-Ballroomin’ event, Backwater Blues, with Krystal (and Briana McIntire for 2016 and 2017). When he’s not busy organizing and teaching, he travels the southeast, searching for new Blues information and history to share with the scene.
Adam’s passion for competition is less about competing and more about judging and directing. His background in mathematics and data analysis drives him toward finding new ways to approach competitions, and gives him the opportunity to nerd out over judging and score aggregation methods. Combine that with his love of hip-hop and watching competitive street dance, and a member of the advisory committee who brings years worth of skills to our pool of collective knowledge.
John Vigil is an international renowned award-winning Blues dance instructor based in Albuquerque, New Mexico. John’s discovery of social blues dancing in 2009 harmonized with his love of blues music and pushed him into rigorous study of blues dancing all over the country, accompanied by careful, dedicated instruction from top international blues instructors. Since 2011, John has been teaching locally, nationally, and internationally. Recently, he has taught internationally in Korea, including BlueSky- a Blues dance event with live music and dance workshop in Daejeon, Korea!
His vast experience of several decades’ worth of dancing to just about everything gives him a breadth of knowledge and flexibility to meet the needs of students of all backgrounds.
Caroline Leitschuh (she/her pronouns) was introduced to Blues dancing in 2008 and was immediately hooked. Her involvement in the community eventually led to teaching and DJing, but her true passions are organizing and community building. Caroline has been involved in organizing for a variety of dance styles since 2006. Her experience includes forming, maintaining, and managing dance organizing bodies; scheduling and running events of all sizes from local weekly dances to yearly events; and mentoring and training other organizers.
Caroline started organizing for the Blues community in 2012 with RDU Blues, and was a board member and President of the group until 2018. In her capacity as a scene leader, Caroline helped increase and maintain attendance at the weekly dance; started an instructor mentoring process; founded and ran five years of Tobacco Road Blues Exchange; organized many weekend workshops; implemented an extensive external and internal safer spaces process; and incorporated the group as a nonprofit. She left the group in 2018 to move to Philadelphia.
Caroline started to mentor other organizers locally during her time at RDU Blues, and started to become more involved with the national organizer community in 2017, when she was a part of two organizer panels RDU Blues brought to Mo’ Better Blues. She joined the Ujima Blues Foundation in 2018 as the Organizer Liaison, where she has focused on networking and being a resource for other organizers, including running organizer trainings and discussions at BluesGeek and Lindy Focus.
As a scientist and medical communicator, Caroline is good at seeing how small details fit together to create the bigger picture, and brings those skills to her dance organizing, where she is known for her thoughtful approach and ability to set and achieve goals. She sees core organizers as vital to communities and yet overworked and prone to burnout. One of her goals as Organizer Liaison is to help organizers define their roles and become more confident in their skills so that they can better strengthen their communities.
Technical adviser, Organizing
Suzanne has been hooked on partner dancing since 2002. Although she dabbles in many styles, Blues is her true love: she delights in the partnership, creativity, and connection to the music that Blues dance offers. Suzanne has been an organizer, teacher, and DJ for RDU Blues in North Carolina since 2010 and currently serves as Vice President for the RDU Blues board. She co-leads the RDU Blues’ teaching staff and is on the RDU Blues Safer Spaces committee. She was also heavily involved in organizing Tobacco Road Blues Exchange for five years, coordinating venues, volunteers, teachers, schedules, budgets, food, safer spaces, and more. She presented as part of two panels at BluesGeek 2017, one on deepening safer spaces processes and one on creating strong communities.
By day, Suzanne does communications and marketing for a nonprofit community development organization in Durham, North Carolina. She is involved in racial justice work locally and enjoys hiking, porch-sitting, and visiting family in her home state of Texas.
As an organizer and teacher, Suzanne loves creating a diverse community where people can have fun and develop their skills in a low-pressure setting. She prioritizes helping dancers build their appreciation for the history and richness of Blues dance and Blues music, and also works hard to create an environment where people feel welcomed and safe. Her role on the Ujima Blues team is to help support events, organizer connections, communications, and other projects as needed. She’s looking forward to being part of all the great work the Ujima Blues team has planned!
Advisory Board Member
Damon has been dancing his entire life, starting with vernacular Jazz/Blues first taught to him at the tender age of six by his grandmother. After nearly a decade of learning at the heels of his elders, he went on and eventually studied a score of different dance forms until coming full circle in 1995 to focus primarily on the history and styles of Swing and Blues as his family danced them, with a special focus on the Southern styles from the Mississippi Delta region. He has studied the development of vernacular Jazz/Blues dance across the United States and learned from a number of the original dancers.
He is largely regarded as one of the foremost authorities on Blues idiom dance, a long-time board member of the Northern California Lindy Society, a former member of the California Historical Jazz Dance Foundation, and has been interviewed as a dance historian in documentary and for radio. Damon has been a featured instructor at camps, festivals, and workshops across five continents.
Advisory Board Member
Elizabeth Lynn Rakphongphairoj Kilrain was born in the United States but grew up in Thailand, so she is a mish-mash of Chinese, Thai, and American cultures. She is a full-stack software engineer, community organizer, DJ, and all-around geek. Elizabeth has her BA in Political Science from the University of California, Santa Barbara, and her MS in Computer Information Systems, with a concentration in Web Application Development, from Boston University. When she’s not poring over code, she dances Argentine tango, Blues, Kizomba, Chicago Steppin’, Lindy Hop, Balboa, Belly Dance (Egyptian and Turkish), and Afrobeats, with a sprinkling of other dance pursuits at any given time. She is also a kettlebell addict and loves bouldering. She is passionate about nonprofit organization and works with several local organizations, such as the Rock Church, the Blue Heart Foundation, and the Stephen Pierce Foundation.
Elizabeth’s journey with the Blues began as a musician long before she discovered the current Blues dancing community. She loves going out to bars to see bands play live and loves the exchange of inspiration between musicians and dancers. She aims to inspire that same kind of energy and play when she DJs a social dance.
As a dancer, Elizabeth is passionate about exploring the cultural and historical context of music and movement and believes that depth of understanding can enrich every dance. As a teacher, she wants to facilitate connection and bring out the best quality of movement and communication between partners and enable them to craft amazing dances, no matter the extent of their movement vocabulary.
Maurice started Blues dancing after seeing a few demos during their first couple of years of Lindy Hop. After that, Maurice began attending lessons, workshops, and even traveling. Their dedication to the dance and scene building in Minnesota has been an adventure. Maurice attends board meetings with Collectively Blue, trying to mediate race relations with the community we work in.
Maurice is a full-time student, and performs around the Twin Cities area with different vocal ensembles and theatres. Based in Saint Paul, they’re currently a double major in Theatre and Vocal Performance at Concordia University Saint Paul.
Throwdown Marketing Lead
Brandy Smith began her dance journey at the age of 13 in swing and ballroom, all thanks to her Uncle. In 2011, she was introduced to Blues dancing and quickly fell in love with both the music and the dances.
Brandy teaches and DJs for Bluetopia, her local scene in Chicago. She is the volunteer coordinator for Windy City Fusion and was the dance organizer for Dancing in the Gardens for 6 years, which are also a part of her local dance scenes.
When she is not dancing, she is a paraprofessional at an elementary school and an artist. She enjoys creating prints and portraits and has a series of portraits dedicated to blues musicians.
Host, The Lowdown Podcast
Genevieve stumbled into blues dancing in 2012 at Oberlin College and can’t seem to stop. She was invited to start organizing with Yale Swing, Fusion, and Blues in 2015 and has now fully committed to the Organizer Life with Powerhouse Blues in Philly. You can find Genevieve teaching, announcing, dj-ing, promoting, organizing, and dancing with a level of joy she hopes is infectious. Her true loves include re-tellings of fairy tales, macaroni and cheese, and making art.
She is excited to share her curiosity and joy with you all as your host of The Lowdown: A podcast for the blues community and friends!
Head DJ and Coordinator, Jukes and Jazz Radio Station