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Round Dance Tips by Tim Eum—

Jive II

HISTORY: In the roaring 1920s, a new exciting jazzy type of music swept the nation, along with a way to dance to it. Many different variations were done – Lindy Hop, Swing, Jitterbug, Shag, Jive and others. By the 1940s and 1950s ballroom studios had written down and standardized what they taught as East Coast Swing, West Coast Swing, and Jive. During the 1960s and 1970s, swing/jive became part of round dancing.

CHARACTERISTICS: Round Dance Jive takes many of its figures from the International Jive Syllabus, but dances them more slowly, more akin to the tempo of American East Coast Swing. Jive dances at about 44 measures per minute while East Coast Swing can be done at about 36 measures per minute. Round Dancing does not distinguish between the various forms of jive, swing, lindy, etc. and simply calls them all “jive”. The most common figure timing for round dance jive figures is – quick, quick, quick, a/quick, quick, a/quick, which takes six beats or one and a half measures to do. Think of this generally as a rock, recover followed by two triples. A round dancer can choose different styles when dancing jive. He/she could dance the highly energetic international style with a pronounced “up and up” bounce, stabbing action of the feet, and Latin hip motion. Alternatively, he/she could dance the relatively smoother American style or even one of the undocumented styles of the 1920s.

Some General Tips --

  • Since the Jive is a relatively fast rhythm, make your steps small. In fact the chasses are “compact”, not traveling much more than shoulder length when going sideways.

  • Try using a pronounced Latin hip action at the end of each triple.

  • When doing side chasses, keep facing partner and keep shoulders and feet pointing toward partner. In other words, don’t turn these into a skate left and/or right.

  • Footwork (i.e. what part of foot contacts the floor) is mostly ball/flat on all steps except for the middle step of a triple or the first step of a triple when stepping back when you simply use ball of foot.

  • Arm work should be punctuated with sharp/quick movements. Keep arms in toward body during spins. Extend outside arm completely when in open position.

  • Don’t bend over (and consequently stick lower body out). Instead keep head and chest straight up with stomach in.

  • Often you are connected to partner only by one set of joined hands. Keep that connection firm but not muscled. It is enough for the man to be able lead with his hand forward or back and for the lady to feel that lead and respond by moving her body forward or back at the same time. It helps to keep the elbow of the connected arms close to the body.

  • It is common to do the triples with Q&Q timing, but you can add more emphasis by using QaQ timing instead. Do this by slightly delaying the second step of the triple and then doing it very quickly. This technique sharpens the look and feel of the jive.

  • When doing triples forward or back, you can often do them as locking steps instead, i.e. forward/lock, fwd or back/lock, back.

Some Figure Tips --

JIVE WALKS : This is simply a “Rock, Recover” followed by “Two forward triples”. The triples should be very compact and use the “up and up” bounce. Look at partner when swiveling in on the first triple. Ballroom includes what we call “Swivel Walk 4”.

KICK BALL CHANGE: Kick with pointed toe angled to the floor. Most are able to do the kick but have trouble with the ball change. To do the “ball” of this figure, take the foot you just kicked with and point the ball of this foot to the floor directly beside the foot you are standing on. Then step onto ball as if your toe hurts, i.e. start to put weight on it but then almost immediately shift the weight back again to the other foot. This step illustrates the QaQ timing of many triples in Jive, with the “ball” step being the very short ¼ beat “a” count.

SAILOR SHUFFLE: XIB/Side, Side, : What makes this difficult is that, after doing the XIB, it seems awkward to do the side side steps. Try doing the side side steps as if you were Elvis Presley and doing the first two steps of a “Side Break”, i.e. the “out out”. ROUNDALAB has defined a sailor shuffle as a full measure and thus you do two sailor shuffle actions to fill the measure.

CHICKEN WALKS : Without styling this is simply walk backward 2 slow steps and then 4 quick ones (other combinations can occur). Of course styling makes the difference. Both man and lady should keep their knees together and then counter-balance each other while slightly leaning apart. As the man steps back, he toes in very slightly (which keeps the knees together). As the lady steps forward, she swivels and points out and then takes her step (while keeping knees together). The lady should use her free hand to move in a flirtatious fashion.

CHASSE LEFT & RIGHT : Many people seem to do these with no sideways movement at all, doing them entirely in one place. While the first two steps of the left or right chasse are done almost in place, there should definitely be a side movement in the third step. The chasses should also be done with QaQ, QaQ timing. Use latin hip motion on the third step of each triple. You should also think of dancing each triple “up off the floor” by flexing and unflexing the knees and ankles. Think of jive as being on the “up and up”. Keep feet and shoulders toward partner and avoid doing these as if skating left and right. Your head should stay almost in place and not move side to side

STOP AND GO: This uses the “Lindy” timing of QQQaQ QQQaQ. Start with a Rock Apart, Recover and then triple together to a Tamara-like position except that the man should place his right hand on the woman’s left shoulder blade. Then take the next step very sharply as the man rocks forward while the lady steps past the man and sharply turns left face half with lady often shooting her left hand straight up. Then as both recover, the lady quickly brings her hand back down and turns under to face. Finish the figure similar to the last triple of Change Right to Left.

AMERICAN SPIN : This follows the basic pattern of Rock, Recover and two triples. On the first triple the lady should come in toward the man and then spin right face a FULL turn at the end of the first triple. This is similar to doing an open hip twist in cha except the lady spins instead of doing a hip twist. If done correctly, the last (i.e. second) triple should simply be a right chasse or triple in place completely in balance with no turn.

NECK SLIDE: This is another figure which uses the “Lindy” timing of QQQaQ QQQaQ. It is a fancy way to do a full wheel. In a double hand-hold position, Rock Apart, Recover and raise hands up and over still joined. Begin wheeling right face with a forward triple and both man and woman let go of their left hands allowing right hands to lower to partner’s right shoulder. Continue wheeling with 2 forward steps while sliding right hands down partner’s right arm. Finish wheeling with a final triple to face partner back to where you started.

ROLLING OFF THE ARM: Yet another “Lindy” QQQaQ QQQaQ timing figure. The figure begins with right hands joined. If beginning with lead hands joined then switch hands so the right hands are joined as you do the Rock Apart, Recover. Next the man does a forward triple turning right face about a quarter while the lady does her forward triple turning left face a quarter letting her joined right hand go behind her back and moving her body into the crook of the man’s right arm in a very compact skaters-like position. The figure then continues by wheeling right face (man going forward 2 steps and lady going backward 2 steps). Finish by doing a final triple to face partner with woman rolling out right face. This figure rotates a full turn so you begin and end in the same place.

LINK TO WHIP TURN : Here is another “Lindy timing” figure (QQQaQ QQQaQ). The first half of this figure, the “Link” is just the same as the first half of the phase 3 figure “Link Rock”. Simply Rock Apart, Recover and do one forward triple coming together to closed position while turning one quarter right face. Then on the next two steps you rotate right face three quarters turn to usually end with man facing wall. On these two steps the man will use a “7-11” technique where he crosses his right foot behind forming a “7” with his feet and then steps side with his left foot making an “11” with his feet. The woman will step side and then cross in front. Finish the figure with a Right Chasse.

CURLY WHIP : The Curly Whip is just the same as the Link to a Whip Turn except that the lady does an Inside Turn during the first triple. You begin with a Rock Apart and Recover; then as the man triples forward he raises the lead hands bringing them between his head and the woman’s head thus leading her to turn left face finishing in CP approximately the same place where a Link would end. The man should keep the woman in close as she does her left face twirl (i.e. inside turn) and can do this by placing his right hand on woman’s waist. Finish the last half of the Curly Whip the same as in the Whip Turn.

JITTERBUG KICKS : This is an unphased figure that is used in the classic dance “Sunflower”. It is an entire amalgamation of movements and actions as follows: Start with the normal Rock and Recover, then a Touch and Step (Note that this is similar to the start of a Double Swing basic). Next you Kick through to man’s left and woman’s right and then quickly point side to man’s right and woman’s left. Then do a Right Chasse. Now you repeat the above except instead of just one Kick through, you do two (i.e. Kick thru, Point Side, Kick thru, Point Side). Finally you repeat the first sequence a third time except for doing the “Kick thru and Point side” three times. The timing of the figure is QQQQ QQ QaQ – QQQQ QQQQ QaQ – QQQQ QQQQQQ QaQ. It is a seven and one half measure figure.



Tim Eum originally prepared these Tips for Calls 'n' Cues, (WASCA) and with Cindy Hadley, for the Roundalab Journal, fall, 2009. Reprinted in the Dixie Round Dance Council (DRDC) Newsletter, April thru July, 2012.




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