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Putting the Dance in Savannah Music Festival

Che Malambo.

The 17-day Savannah Music Festival is well under way. In addition to booking a wide variety of musical styles, Rob Gibson, SMF's executive and artistic director, says they also consider the many functions of music in the world when they are putting together the lineup each year.

“Sometimes music is sacred, sometimes music is secular,” he explained.  “And in the secular styles of music sometimes music is purely for entertainment, but other times it’s purely for dancing. In the case of dance you can break that into several categories. One is social dancing and we do a lot of concerts for social dancing. By that I mean Cajun dancing, zydeco dancing which is usually a traditional two-step, which is great because it allows you to take your partner or friend or whatever out onto the dance floor, have a good time, get some exercise, but it’s also a very romantic endeavor, dancing. So social dancing has been part of the history of music for a very, very long time in our world and we want to keep that alive and well.”

This weekend’s social dance event is the Grateful Ball, featuring Travelin’ McCourys and Jeff Austin Band playing hits of the Grateful Dead, on Friday, March 31, at 5 p.m. and 8:30 p.m. in the North Garden at Ships of the Sea Museum.  

Savannah Music Festival also presents artistic dance with groups like BalletCollective, a New York City dance troup that performed last weekend with live accompaniment by a group called Hotel Elephant.

“Another completely different dance and music group is a group called Che Malambo out of Argentina,” Gibson said. “It’s an all-male cowboy dance tradition where these men are on stage with drums and percussion instruments, and they sing, dance and play simultaneously. “

Che Malambo performs Thursday night, April 6 at the Lucas Theatre. And the dance music continues next weekend with the Zydeco Dance Party on Friday, April 7.

“Social dance, artistic dance, choreography,” he remarked, “It’s all dance and it’s all music and they fit together very well.”

Hear more of our conversation with Rob Gibson about the dance music in this year’s Savannah Music Festival in the audio link below. And find the complete lineup of the 2017 Savannah Music Festival at