To keep modern jive (and other social dances) alive, we need to keep bringing beginners through. In recent years, venues have closed, or sometimes changed to focus on freestyles rather than the 2 class format. That means as a community we’re reliant on people learning dance elsewhere, then transferring over. In some areas, the modern jive demographic is older, so it can be harder to bring in new young dancers when they can’t see other young people enjoying the scene. Larger cities can access student populations better than smaller towns, but there’s certainly work that needs to be done to continue encouraging new dancers in. And in particular young dancers.
One potential route is outreach into schools and universities. More and more schools provide dance within PE (street dance and freestyle, rather than the country dancing my primary school taught), so why shouldn’t partner dancing / social dancing reach out to introduce teens to dancing. I remember doing some ballroom lessons before our 6th form ball, and it was great fun getting both boys and girls dancing with their partners in preparation even if most didn’t attempt it at the dance itself.
There was a programme in the US that introduced ballroom dancing in public schools (documented in the film Take the Lead). The aim wasg to get underprivileged children the chance to learn new skills, and with it, the discipline that would help them to focus more on school work.
Now, we have the tv show Bad Teen to Ballroom Queen in the UK (you can watch it on 5 catch up) which is trying to do the same thing. Obviously it focuses a lot on how bad the teens’ attitudes and behaviour is because it’s a tv documentary, but teaching these kids to dance is helping them in different ways and trying to use dance to bring value to their lives, give them a purpose and teach them respect for themselves and others.
Benefits of learning to dance in structured lessons
- Provides a focus
- Increased discipline (or at least, thinking about it)
- Increased pride in their work and achievements
- Channels competitiveness
- Awareness of relationships with others
- Respect for teachers and each other
Plus trying to get them to see that dance is fun and not something to be embarrassed about.
Maybe these lessons should be done more frequently with schools and student groups. We know modern jive is more accessible than many other social dances – no specific clothes needed, can be danced to contemporary music, and it’s less strict and disciplined, with dancers able to bring their own experience and style.
Of course it comes down to businesses having to make money, and schools having enough on their plate with academic teaching. But worth a think – how we can open up our dance world to younger people.
What do you think? Have you seen Take the Lead or Bad Teen to Ballroom Queen? How do you think modern jive should attract young dancers in?