Dancemax Letter #34 Thursday, Jan 18, 2001
Shall we Jive...?
Jive is one of the most energetic and athletic dances in Latin Category. Let
us look at some special features about this dance and compare it to American
Music: Jive music is fast tempo. It may range from 40 to 44 bars (measures) per minute. The music is written in 4/4 time. Not that I am being smart but many students sometimes don't understand what that means. In "4/4", the top 4 means that there are 4 beats to a bar or measure of music. The bottom 4 indicates that each of those beats is 1/4 note. Therefore, if the music tempo is 40 bars per minute and if it is 4/4 time, there have to be 40 times 4 =160 beats in one minute. You better make sure you are moving your body and feet.
Beat Value and Accents: Rock Step is 1 2 and the Jive chasse is timed 1a2, 1a2. Another way to count would be; QQ on the rock and QaQ, QaQ on the chasse. We should know that "a" represents ¼ beat, thus the beat value of Jive Basic (fallaway rock) is: 1 1 on rock step and ¾ ¼ 1 on the chasse. There is accent on 2nd beat.
American Swing on the other hand is usually slower and a tempo of 32 to36 bars per minute is common. West coast swing gets slower, maybe 28 bars per minute. In any case the swing basic is counted as 1 & 2 on the chasse and 1 2 on rock. If "&" represents ½ beat, the Swing chasse beat value becomes ½ ½ 1. Rock remains 1 1.This creates a difference in Swing and Jive. Jive is more bouncy and swing more swingy.
The most important thing in Jive seems to be the feet positions for Chasse. It is commonly written that the first step of the chasse is to the side. I vividly recall a lecture by Hazel Fletcher when she emphasized that the Jive Chasse is "Close to Chasse". I hope I remember the words right. What she meant was that the first step of the Jive Chasse is so small that it is almost in place and naturally so is the second step and then the third step moves to the the side. Generally speaking all steps are "compact". It was a joy to see her feet, ankles and knees showing such a beutiful "calm, quiet and controlled" Jive technique.
Hip motion is not pronounced in Jive, probably because of the speed of music and the dance is more in knees and ankles. Keep the upper body calm. Keep the posture, no leaning forward or back but the weight is more into balls of the feet. To step, you must use inside edge of ball of foot and roll out to the ball or ball - flat. This will not only keep the knees pointing inwards but will also help the "bounce in to the floor." No bouncing up and down. The bounce is absorbed in ankles and knees. My teacher would always say! "Max, Bounce into the Floor".
Footwork:. Footwork is defined as to "what part of your foot comes in contact with the floor", such as ball, heel or flat etc. It should not be confused with feet positions (so common). The footwork in Jive may vary according to speed of music but usually will be ball, ball, ball flat on the chasse and ball flat, ball flat on rock. On the back step heel may only lower and may kiss the floor.
Figures and Choreography: I have enumerated the following figures in sequence and if put together, it turns out to be a nice Bronze Routine. I have compared the names of steps to Swing also. I agree that Jive terminology is more complex but logical. Well, then that's the way it got written 50-60 years ago and the whole world follows it, so who am I to change it?
Flicks into Break: Even though this is Gold Figurebut I find it very easy to teach and Bronze students get a psychological boost and realize that Gold is not that much more hard to accomplish. I start to drill the technique more at this point.
You can adjust the above routine according to your convenience and take more time to change from one figure to the other by inserting basic more often.
I guess everybody knows the above swing steps (in USA), please get to know the Jive terms and we will turn our Swing into Jive. I have found when people take Jive lessons their swing gets better. Ooops! I shouldn't have said that or should I? Happy Dancing from Max and keep Jiving.
Questions and comments to Dancemax@aol.com, thank you.