One of the great things about modern jive is the music. Because it can be danced to any music – from golden oldie to contemporary pop, from dance to latin. While main room music tends to stick to a similar 4 count beat, within a tempo range, more and more modern jive organisations offer specialist freestyles, or have DJs who play a wider variety of tempos and music genres to appeal to more people. The variety of music was one of the reasons that I moved from salsa – latin music is fine, but it gets a bit boring just hearing that several nights a week.
When you start modern jive lessons, you’ll hear many of the same tracks played in class. They have a regular beat that’s easy to hear and follow to make it easier when learning moves. Freestyles you’ll hear similar tracks played – the classics that have been played for years across different venues, as well as more popular current tracks.
Some people love to dance to the same music. It’s familiar, you don’t have to think about your dancing much. It’s certainly not a challenge when you can hit the musical breaks because you dance to the track all the time.
DJs have a hard role. Many dancers get ingrained in hearing and dancing to similar tracks all the time, so throw in something a bit different and there can be uproar. Or people moan because their favourite tracks aren’t played, when actually, maybe they’re not great tracks to dance to, as proven by previous times when they’ve been played before.
But more and more dancers want to be challenged and dance to wider choice of music. Modern jive is broadening out too. Watch dancers at any freestyle and you’ll see different styling and moves on the dancefloor as people travel to different venues. If you go to classes at different venues with different teachers, you can often tell where dancers have been taught. Teachers (and DJs) bring different dance influences, whether that’s more blues or tango hints, or other styles.
Blues has had a big impact on modern jive over the years, with weekenders having chill out or blues rooms (and often now argentine tango or west coast swing offerings). With modern jive drawing on all these influences (eg Ceroc developing their SILC classes), there’s no wonder that even a straightforward one room modern jive freestyle will now often transition into smoother music later in the freestyle.
Discover new music
Nowadays, DJs have an easier time accessing new music with the internet and music streaming. And if you have a smartphone at a dance venue, hear a track you like, Shazam it and you’ll find out the track and artist without having to shout over the music to ask the DJ what they’ve just played (unfortunately I usually hear great tracks as I’m dancing so Shazam isn’t always the solution).
It’s also easier to find out playlists or current favourites from DJs after the event. Several DJs around my area share their playlist or current finds from their Spotify accounts, so it’s a great way to get hold of new music to listen and practice to at home. Added to that, just ask in a dance forum or Facebook group for favourite tracks to dance to, and alongside the old classics, there will always be some new finds to discover.
Great music sources:
Spotify – one of the most popular streaming sites. Find DJ playlists
Shazam – phone app for working out what music is playing
Facebook music group – not always that active, but there’s plenty of previous conversations about music suggestions and requests to browse.
Dancing transition tips
For some people they don’t enjoy dancing to slower music. But with more freestyles offering this, it’s a great way to learn to express yourself more to the music, and to increase ability to dance to different tempos and genres. But it’s not always easy, and dancing in a chill out room for the first time can be scary.
Here’s tips on moving into a ‘blues’ or ‘chill out’ room style:
1, Dance at different venues.
You’ll experience more DJs and music, and get used to dancing with more people with different experience levels.
2, Listen to different types of music
At home or in the car put on a variety of music and tempos, and either move around to music, or imagine the type of moves that would work well with the music to get the right feel. When you’re dancing, really try and move with the music rather than just throwing lots of moves in. There is a lot more flexibility to play and extend the music compared with faster tracks though.
3, Take classes in blues or SILC
When we talk blues in modern jive, it’s usually a fusion of blues and modern jive moves. SILC is a formal Ceroc method of teaching and moves. Depending on what option you have in your area, take some lessons, go to workshops, or do fun/introductory lessons at the start of freestyles
4, Take the leap and try chill out rooms
I find it hard to get on the floor when I first arrive, so I always look out for someone I know or go with a friend so I can at least get the first dance on the floor, which usually makes it easier to get more dances. If you’re really daunted, then just watch for a while. Get the feel of it.
5, Reduce and simplify the moves you do
Dancers in blues/chill out rooms can often be more discerning and serious about their dancing. Don’t throw in lots of frantic ‘army’ moves. Keep things a lot calmer, more grounded, and more thoughtful of the music and your partner.
Good luck if you’re just starting out broadening your musical experiences in modern jive.
What are your favourite tracks to dance to? Where do you discover new tracks?