San Diego Zydeco
Mama Wants to DanceJuly, 2003 "Downtown News"
by Jim Kelly
Anxious men and women stood poised on the dance floor of the Recital Hall in Balboa Park on July 12 as they waited for the band to begin.
Then, with the stroke of a rub board and enough energy to power a nuclear submarine, T’Brousard and the Zydeco Steppers exploded into the rhythm and excitement of the Louisiana Bayous.
"Baby go to sleep, Mama wants to dance," the music’s message called to those still coming in the door and they were all soon swept into a rip-current of "happy music."
Sponsored by the Bon Temps Social Club, the dance was one of a number of events celebrated during the year at Balboa Park and other areas in the greater San Diego community.
Maryann Blinkhorn, founding member and self-appointed unofficial "Queen" of the Bon Temps started the organization with her best friend, Peter Oliver, after watching friends, who had been to the Jazz Fest in New Orleans (pronounced as one word: Nawlins), perform Cajun dancing.
"We did Cajun for a number of years," she said. "Cajun consists of two minutes of waltz, two minutes of mamou, and two minutes of Cajun jitterbug (done with a ‘limp’ step)."
Blinkhorn and Oliver became so entangled in the dance they took a field trip to southern Louisiana to "kiss the door" of Fred’s Lounge, the "gold standard" of Cajun music.
While visiting Louisiana, Blinkhorn discovered zydeco and a place in Lafayette called El Sido’s. "El Sido’s is the gold standard for zydeco," explained Blinkhorn. In 1995, she and Oliver started the Bon Temps.
No one’s certain of the origin of the word, zydeco, but Blinkhorn attempted an explanation.
"It has something to do with the Cajun term for beans prepared with salt pork," she said. The word zydeco, also spelled zarico, zodico, zordico and zologo, does derive from the French word, les haricots, meaning "beans."
Folk etymology suggests the name for the dance evolved from the expression, ‘We’re too poor for salt pork for our beans, but not too poor to dance."
Because the dance was originally done on small porches, the steps are short and easy to perform.
Mary Dampier, an aficionado of the music, explained how it is done.
"It’s a four-step," she said. "It consists of a slow-quick-quick-slow movement repeated over and over."
Dampier, who moved from "swing" to zydeco a couple of years ago, said zydeco is much easier to learn.
On Thursday night, Dampier frequently teaches new-comers how to dance zydeco at a social held at Tio Leo’s on Moreno Blvd. near Old Town in San Diego. (Check Tio Leo's schedule at the link at the bottom of this page.)
The next zydeco event to be held in Balboa Park will be on Aug. 9 at the War Memorial Building and it will feature Mark St. Mary Zydeco Band.
This will be followed by a return to the Recital Hall on Sept. 13. Both events will be held from 6 to10:30 p.m.
On Oct. 10 and 11, the third annual Gator by the Bay will be held on Harbor Island and will feature Step Rideau & the Zydeco Outlaws, Brian Jack & the Zydeco Gamblers, Noonie & the Zydeco Floaters and Dora & the Zydeco Badboyz.
Bon Temps Social club can be reached at (858) 496-6655.
For dance nights at Tio Leo's, visit their website at: