For those new to modern jive, here’s a simple A-Z of modern jive. Hopefully it’ll provide a guide and glossary on what to expect once you start to dance.
Arm-ography – with modern jive being a fusion of many dance styles, and being a partner dance, connection through the arms tends to be the main method of leading a partner from one move to another. Therefore there’s a lot of arm-ography (in the words of Strictly Come Dancing). Sometimes it’s nicer to have less flailing arms on a busy dance floor, in particular when it comes to styling.
Beginners – The great thing about modern jive is that it’s accessible for all, dancers or non-dancers, and is easy for beginners to get to grips with quickly.
Ceroc – The company that put modern jive on the map, and is what most dancers around the world know modern jive as. Chances are you’ll have a ceroc class in your area
Dips and drops – if you want to look flash on the dance floor (or are in a performance team or are competing), chances are you will have dips and drops in your repertoire. You don’t need them to have a great dance, but they impress non-dancers watching. And knowing the technical ins and outs of drops will make some of the moves on Strictly Come Dancing less out of reach. You’ll be able to tell your friends and family I can do that move’! These must be taught for safety reasons, and you should always check with a partner that they’re happy to do them.
Emotion – While getting too ‘into a dance’ can be scary for a partner who’s maybe not as into it as you, showing some emotional connection with your partner will always help the togetherness of the dance.
Fusion – There’s no denying that modern jive is a mash up of lots of different styles of dance, predominantly drawing on swing jive and salsa for the core moves.
Growth – if you stick at dancing, you’ll grow not only as a dancer, but as a person. You’ll meet people from all walks of life, you’ll likely travel to different places, and you’ll appreciate new music and styles of dance. Dancing also helps you get over any inhibitions you have, because you can’t have them if you want to progress.
Hands – hands need to always be ready in position for the leader to take hold, and are useful for styling. One styling tip is not to have a bunch of hanging bananas off the end of your arms, but to think ‘holding an egg’ between thumb and second fingers. Then soften the fingers a bit to make them a little less stiff. Pretty for women, with men, avoiding splaying fingers will always help.
Isolation – that is body isolation. If you’re at the stage where you want to style your dancing, or there’s a mention of body rolls in class, being able to isolate parts of your body is something to learn and practice. It takes time and the best thing is to learn from others. There’s great examples of body isolations online, or ask someone who can do them to teach you body rolls. My tip – a wall will help.Top tip for learning body rolls...a wall will help Click To Tweet
Jive – one of the main dance origins of modern jive (hence the name). Modern jive has less up and down, less kicking and a lot more smooth forward and back movements. However, the idea of a jive rock step (ie the back step) continues to be reflected in modern jive moves.
Kicks – just don’t do them. Unless you’re in a choreographed routine. There’s very few moves which involve kicking the leg, if any. And followers, if you’re put into a drop don’t kick your leg up. It will make you (and probably your partner) unbalanced.
Leading – a fine art, and to do it well does take practice. My tips are that if you really want to be a good lead, it’s worth doing a couple of lessons as a follower from a good leader so you can understand what a follower needs. Leaders should be able to adapt to different followers – some need more of a lead, others need very little. Leading is more about accuracy of direction and indication rather than strength.
Music – with modern jive you have the bonus of being able to dance to any genre of music. You’re not restricted to latin beats, or club music, anything goes. You’ll also discover new tracks you’ve never heard before. And you may find your musical preferences changing to be a love for any track you can dance to.
New – we’re all new to dance at some point, and modern jive is always trying to change things around to keep their customers happy. Whether it’s a change to the beginner moves in Ceroc or a ‘new’ variation of modern jive like SILC, there’s always something to keep dancers coming back. And, as we all dance with different people from difference venues, each dance is always new.
Options – there are so many options in modern jive. As well as independent modern jive classes, there is Ceroc, smooth jive versions like SILC, and as you advance, you can branch out into blues or other partner dances. You can choose venues according to teachers, the type of music on offer. And mixing it up gives you the chance to better keep your interest levels if you get bored easily.
Partner dancing – I moved to salsa from solo dancing and partner dancing was a big change. It’s strange to have to get up close to a stranger, and to get comfortable with partner dancing you have to get over any concern about touching the wrong part of the body or any concerns you have about others touching you. But you also have to recognise other people’s comfort levels, because some don’t like dancing as close, while others are fine with it. Partner dancing is a lot more rewarding than dancing alone though. Being able to share a dance experience gives more thrill than dancing alone.
Quiet – we’d all love to be confident and the life and soul of the party but not everyone has the confidence to ask anyone to dance. That’s why modern jive and other social dances like west coast swing and salsa are great, because in lessons you rotate around partners which means you meet more people. And it’s less scary to ask strangers to dance. With dancing being the main reason for being there, there’s less need for small talk. If you’re a quiet person, bite the bullet and ask someone to dance, and if you’re a confident type, make the effort to look out those who seem to be sitting on the sidelines.
Rhythm – the simplicity of modern jive means if you can step right left right left, then you can learn to dance it. Hearing a rhythm easily will make it easier to learn to dance to music, but this can be learnt if you struggle through practice and listening to a lot of music. If you can step to a beat, hear the rhythms in more complex music and react to changes in the music, you’ll be a nice dance partner.
Social dance – don’t just dance with the same people all the time. Be sociable and meet new people, and get new experiences dancing with other people. Doing modern jive probably means your social life will change to be all about dance.
Tango – certain modern jive moves are based on tango structure and frame. Being aware of other dance styles will always help your modern jive become more stylish and more flexible to other genres of music
Understanding – not everyone finds dancing easy, but modern jive is mostly a friendly environment, welcoming to all. And that means that dancers are more understanding of beginners coming in. Because we all want more people to dance, more potential dance partners and for dance to become more available to more people in the UK and across the world. And if you’re a dancer who doesn’t want to dance with beginners, maybe it’s time to remember what it was like when you were a beginner, and how much others supported you in learning.
Variety – modern jive is often thought to be danced to music with a 4/4 beat and of a certain upbeat tempo. But there are plenty of DJs and venues challenging this at standard freestyle nights. You also have chill out rooms at weekenders, 2 room freestyles, standalone blues or alternative freestyles based on modern jive (eg TFI Freestyle in Oxford).
Walk – if you can walk you can do modern jive. The basic move only requires basic stepping left and right, which is what makes it easier than many dance genres to start doing.
eXcitement – I’m sure I’m not the only person who gets a buzz and excited about dancing. Whether it’s trying a new class, new freestyle, or having the perfect dance. Once you’re hooked, you’re hooked.
Youth – you don’t need to be a lithe 18 year old at peak physical fitness to do modern jive. Obviously that helps with younger people able to remember moves and largely more flexible. But if you go to a modern jive class, you’ll find dancers of all ages. If you’re in a university town or large city, chances are there will be a younger demographic than smaller towns. With everyone dancing with everyone else, age doesn’t matter. Plus of course, dancing keeps you young in mind and body.
buzZ – if you’re not sure about modern jive (or any dance), give it a try. It doesn’t take long to pick up a few basic moves. If you don’t like the first class you try, look out another one. As proven by everyone else who loves to dance, you stand a good chance of catching the dance bug and getting a buzz each time you go.
What’s makes modern jive what it is to you? What would you add?
Feel free to share with your dance friends or anyone who might be interested.