Modern Jive... with Footwork?

09 Nov 2017 - by Graham

Something that I've heard said a lot at our fairs and events this summer is "I can't stand Modern Jive; it's got no footwork. All you do is stay still and wave your arms about." This tends to come from people who dance traditional Jive or Lindy Hop as they like the fast stepping 'bounce' of those dances, but is it really true to say that Modern Jive - LeRoc - has no footwork at all? At Jivebeat, we say "No!"

Since it's evolution from Swing, BeBop, and Jazz Jive in the 1970s, LeRoc has constantly been changing to follow the latest social dance fashions. It began as a bouncy high-energy dance that fitted with the Rock and Roll music of the time, but as popular music began to slow down in tempo over the years, so did LeRoc. The original basic step sequence was simplified from a double step to a single, the hand-hold was smoothed out so dancers no longer bounced their arms to the beat, and everything became a lot slower.

During that evolution it is true to say that some teachers and clubs began to emphasise the 'armography' of the dance over the footwork, leaving out the detail of where and how you step in favour of letting the dancers work it out for themselves. Concepts like body-lead, weight transfer, and even frame were downplayed as routines were taught in terms of 'moves' rather than lead & follow, and in some places LeRoc did indeed begin to look more and more like an upper-body dance with nothing really going on below the waistline. But this was by no means universal, and many teachers continued to emphasise the more traditional form of LeRoc without sacrificing the evolution of the dance to match the newer popular music.

When I first began to dance I was unusual, in that very soon after I started I was dancing at multiple venues. And not just venues run by the same organiser. I was dancing with Ceroc, Dance Yourself Dizzy, MJ's, and at least one other that I can't remember now, so from the very beginning I was exposed to a wide variety of teaching styles. Some taught a very frame-based style of dance whilst others based their classes purely on routines and sequences; some spoke a lot about footwork and where your weight should be, and others never mentioned it at all. I had a mix of male and female teachers too so I heard about Modern Jive from both the leader's and the follower's perspective.

At the time it seemed perfectly normal to me. There were different teachers, so obviously there were different styles. But later on when I started to hear people talking about Modern Jive being the "dance with no footwork", I was confused. The LeRoc / Modern Jive / Ceroc / etc. that I was dancing definitely had footwork in it, so why were people so insistent that it wasn't there?

When I did my teacher training and exam through the LeRoc Federation, by far the largest amount of time was spent working on the footwork. Did I understand weight transfer? Could I explain timing and positioning? How would I teach the various moves so the leader and follower were on the correct foot at all times? If the footwork was so important a part of my teacher training, how could Modern Jive be a "dance with no footwork"?

Simply put, it can't. Teachers who ignore the footwork (or positioning for wheelchair dancers) aspect of Modern Jive are ignoring the most important part of the dance, and are doing their students a great disservice. 

Whatever you might think of Modern Jive from anywhere else you've learned it or danced it, at Jivebeat we teach it with footwork. We ensure your weight is in the right place, and give you opportunities to add in any decorations, embellishments, or double-time steps you like. Modern Jive has taken many of its moves and sequences from other dances as it evolved, and with the right footwork it can keep some of their character as well. But that doesn't make it harder to learn. Knowing where your feet are and how your weight moves around throughout the steps makes it easier, not harder, and lets you concentrate on the creativity and the connection to your partner without having to worry about running to catch up with them every few bars.

LeRoc has footwork. You can make it simple or you can make it complex, but to say it doesn't exist is to ignore at least half of this fun and creative dance style. 

Posted by: Graham   Permalink: link   Keywords: LeRoc  Footwork  

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