"Dancing Tid-bits" Issue #218, Thursday, September 22, 2005

Dancing Tid-bits
Jive-Swing Dilemma?

As far as I have been told Jive has its origins in the popular American dance called "Swing". As the American GIs went to Europe (specially England), I guess the British developed their own version of Swing that became to be called "Jive"...correct? So what is the difference between Jive and swing. I will try to explain....!

The only commonality between the two is that they both are based on two elements, a rock step and a chasse in the basic figure but after that they seem to be entirely different dances in terms of style, music, character etc. etc.

1. Tempo: Jive tempo in recent days seems to be 40 to 42 bars (measures) per minute. Swing can be versatile and can be played from a slow tempo like 28 BPM (BPM here means bars per minute and not beats per minute) for west coast variety and some will not mind swinging at 44 which really becomes Jive. Average tempo for Swing is 32 to 36. Jive styling and technique requires a fast tempo. Having said all that, it doesn't mean that you can't do swing to jive music or vice versa. Sure you can put a little jiving style to even slow tempos and be creative.

2. Character: As the name suggests, the character of Jive is more bouncy (jumpy will not be the right word) and swing more swingy from side to side. There is a tremendous difference in Jive Chasse and a Swing Chasse. I suggest you see some lecture tapes of Alan and Hazel Fletcher on basic jive technique where Hazel fondly describes and shows the character of Jive Chasse to the timing of "1 a 2" (3/4, 1/4, 1, beat value-very important). She will say that on 1 it is 'Close' i.e. you close your one foot to other on 1. "a" which is quarter beat is in place and "2" moves to side. This is more up and down pumping action which utilizes knees and ankles giving a typical "Jive" character. Swing timing tends to be 1 and 2. This becomes 1/2, 1/2, 1 beat value. This is more "side together side" motion and is more swingy than jivy.

So, what's my problem (dilemma?)...My problem is that if I start to teach a beginner class specially in America, I have to start... "OK we have a rock step and a chasses". After defining the rock step it is time to define a chasse. Typically in America, most of us use a 'side together side' definition for chasses movement. This is dangerous for Jive. Once a student learns side together side motion it is so difficult to get out of this habit later and turn that into Hazel Fletcher's Jive Chasse. I have therefore decided to teach Fletcher's technique right from the very first day. In other words "Jive is a Rock Step and Close (1), to ("a" in place) chasse (2 to side)". I feel, even if you do swing to jive style chasses, swing looks better but I don't mean to offend any swing dancers, please. So much for today, happy dancing....Max

This article is part of and should be seen in the frame context of Dancesport UK, Tid-bits