In Ballroom dancing, Jive is a dance style in 4/4 time that originated in the United States from African-Americans in the early 1940s. It is a lively and uninhibited variation of the Jitterbug, a form of Swing dance.
Jive is one of the five International Latin dances. In competition it is danced at a speed of 44 bars per minute, although in some cases this is reduced to between 32 and 40 bars per minute.
Many of its basic patterns are similar to these of the East Coast Swing with the major difference of highly syncopated rhythm of the Triple Steps (Chasses), which use straight eighths in ECS and hard swing in Jive.
Jitterbug also began to be called "Jitterbug Jive" during World War Two, possibly because there were a lot of Mickey Mouse versions going around, so the word "Jive" was added in respect to its common American usage meaning a 'joke', a 'fake' or a 'put-on' - as in 'Don't jive me man!' meaning 'Don't kid me' or 'Stop fooling around'. Thus in both the US and the UK this was shortened to 'Jive', especially when describing the dancing of some young white kids who developed new enthusiasm for it after the war. After a while, though, Americans went back to using the words Jitterbug or Lindy Hop(especially on the East Coast). In Europe the word "Jive" remained and became the general descriptive word for all the styles of partner dancing that derived from (and including) the original Lindy Hop.
A uniquely British part of the international revival of interest in traditional (New Orleans) jazz music at the end of the 1940's and the beginning of the 1950's was "skip-jiving", which put a literally skipping version of New Orleans rhythm into basic Jitterbug patterns. It was obscured for a while during the middle-1950's by the rise of Rock'n'Roll Jitterbug-Jive but then came back in a big way as Rock'n'Roll faltered at the end of the 1950's. This return was tied closely to the rise of the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament whose activities created many opportunities for "trad jazz" bands to play and thus opportunities to dance (also in the early 1960's). Some films were made which featured this dance, such as "Ring-a-Ding Rhythm", but the dancing was by studio hacks rather than experts. There are still regular "weekenders", where skip-jive enthusiasts get together to stomp to the original music.
Rock 'n' Roll
When Bill Haley had his surprise record hit with 'Rock Around The Clock', Hollywood cashed in with an exploitation film of the same name in 1956. When asked in the film, one of the dancers says they are dancing the "Rock and Roll" (when in fact it was nothing but good old Jitterbug that some of the key dancers had originally learned as the Lindy Hop). Professional dance studios, including Arthur Murray, jumped on the bandwagon and started teaching the same dance as 'Rock'n'Roll' in order to cash in on the new interest aroused by the film. The East Coast dance establishment refused, however, to call the dance anything other than the original Jitterbug / Lindy Hop names and eventually the West Coast gave in and abandoned its use. Once again, the Europeans were left with the term "Rock 'n' Roll" after the Americans stopped using it, so that 50's Jitterbug is known interchangeably in Europe as "Jive" or "Rock'n'Roll", whereas in America a compromise definition evolved which described all the Rock music from the 1960's onwards as "Rock 'n' Roll" as in the Stones "It's Only Rock'n' Roll But I Like it!"
'50's Rock'n'Roll soon acquired the "bad boy" image of the troubled teenagers of the post war generation gap, which they could flamboyantly indulge in, as they actually were one of the first groups of teenagers in history to have considerable spending power. The 1955 James Dean movie 'Rebel Without A Cause' popularised this youth rebellion 'attitude' and Marlon Brando added to it, as did the Teddy Boys in the UK, which led to the music industry coming under pressure to drop its increasingly "anti-social" imagery and replace it with polite, smiling role models.
The Stroll is a typical case where the name of an original American dance has become confused by a later generation of retro-jive enthusiasts.
In the US "The Stroll" is a specific dance in which men and women form two lines facing each other. Dancing primarily to 'The Diamond's' 1957 hit recording of 'The Stroll', each successive top couple then 'strolls' down between the lines, executing a variation of the camel walk (a kind of hobbling step done with the feet alternating behind each other) as can be seen in the film 'American Graffiti'. The same choreography became a major feature on the American TV programme 'Soul Train' although they didn't acknowledge it as "The Stroll".
What the Brit' enthusiasts call "The Stroll" is in fact a Madison style dance, in that it is a kind of swing line dance performed in formation by a large group, the most similar current popular US version right now is 'The Electric Slide'. It is mentioned here because "strolls" are often danced in 'retro' Rock'n'Roll clubs. Typically two or three people start a stroll; others notice and join in until, eventually, the whole dance floor is filled with dancers performing "the Stroll" in unison.
The Madison, The Hully Gully, and The Wobble were amongst the most popular of these dances in the US in the 1950's. The Shim-Sham was in fact a very early Swing Lindy dance that has gained a new lease of life more recently. Modern equivalents have been the 'Bus Stop' (as danced in 'Saturday Night Fever') or more recently the 'Macarena' (danced to the hit of the same name), which of course owes a lot also to the original 'Hand Jive'.
Hand jives are set sequences of hand and arm movements performed mostly while sitting down in theatres that emerged in the 1950's. In particular it was done to Johnny Otis's number, 'Willie and the Hand Jive'. Alternatively, it could be "danced" by a bunch of teenagers grouped around the jukebox in a crowded 1950's diner or café. In this setting, dancing with their hands only could also be a good idea because of the lack of room.
Ballroom Jive & Jive & Bop
In the early 1960's, the six count basic, side step, side step, back replace, entered the scene in a big way, which many current teachers assert is the basic Lindy step. There is no evidence of anyone dancing like that at the Savoy, but the six-count can be probably dated back to developments during World War Two. At this time New York Ballroom Teachers were attempting to take over the Jitterbug but at the same time trying to establish a different basic move.
Worried by the avalanche of new ballroom dances during the late 1950's, the people who run the British Ballroom Competitions decided to analyse and produce syllabuses for some of the most currently popular dances around in order to attract new young dancers to the competition scene. "Ballroom Jive" is the UK name for the specific competition style of Jitterbug developed by the dance-teaching establishment. Characterised by a 'chassis' from side to side and a back replace, this style accentuates the pumping action of the knees, as dancers shift their weight in the chassis. Included as the "American" part of the "Latin & American Dance Categories", it is widely danced today. Simplified versions are taught all over as basic Lindy Hop and Jitterbug, (which it isn't), or as East Coast Swing.
Contrary to some American understanding, "Ballroom Jive" is far from being the whole of "Jive" - there remains many ordinary "jivers" who keep dancing their own arm-pumping (to keep time) two beat patterns with no guidance from any dance studio. Remaining underground throughout the 1960's, this style broke out in the 70's and a big retro-50's jive scene emerged. This brought to life in the UK, for the first time, the American 50's "Bop" dance craze. The Bop consists largely of dancing solo, while tapping alternatively the heel and the toe of either foot. This scene has carried on thriving until the present day and centres on various dance venues scattered through the UK and a series of massive weekenders that are usually filled to capacity.
How To Jive & Rock n Roll / Kav Kavanaugh
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