LeRoc and Tango... a Perfect Match

12 Feb 2018 - by Graham

When we first started teaching Argentine Tango alongside LeRoc, even we had to wonder if we were doing the right thing. They are such dissimilar dances that there couldn't possibly be any crossover, and we were concerned that we were splitting the class for no reason. LeRoc is an open dance whereas tango is very close; LeRoc is all about hitting the beat, whereas Tango has much more flexibility and space in the dance; LeRoc is constructed of moves and set pieces, whereas in Tango the elements are tiny and subtle; and most importantly you can learn to dance LeRoc at a basic level in a few weeks, but Tango can take much much longer. So how could they possibly work together?

As it turns out, they really do. We had been looking at the differences, but there are at least as many similarities and points of contact between the two dances, and we soon began to see the line between them start to blur.

Balance

Both dances have a high dependence on balance, but it can be quite a difficult thing to teach in LeRoc. Finding your balance point in Tango can be done slowly as there isn't the same dependence on hitting the beat every time, and this gives you time to find out what it feels like. The same goes for keeping your weight on one foot or the other, as that's an essential technique in both dances but is easier to practise at slow speed in Tango.

Timing

Although Tango isn't an on-every-beat sort of dance, being able to dance in time with the music is still a big part of it. Learning to find the beat in tango can be a challenge as you spend most of the time concentrating on your balance and trying to remove bounce, but in LeRoc it's right there front and centre. You step on the beat, on every beat, and if there's any bounce in the dance it's in time with the music.

Frame

In LeRoc, Frame is often taught as a secondary thing, something you move onto when you've mastered the basics. But this causes problems as the whole "follow your hands" approach in LeRoc doesn't work if the frame isn't there. In Tango, however, the first thing you learn is frame as the dance doesn't work without it, and although the frame in Tango is body-to-body whilst the LeRoc version is arm-to-arm, the principle is the same.

Musicality

A fundamental part of any dance is musical interpretation, but in leRoc this is often only taught in specialist workshops or advanced classes. In Tango the concept of musicality is built in from the start, and the techniques you learn there can be applied just as easily to LeRoc as they can Tango.

And these are just a few of the ways that LeRoc and Argentine Tango work together and complement each other, so despite our concerns at the start it soon became obvious that LeRoc and Argentine Tango worked together a lot better than we expected. But more than that, we've seen how you love the format of the classes, and that alone would be enough to convince us that we've got it right.

Jivebeat LeRoc and Argentine Tango... an unusual combination that's here to stay.


Posted by: Graham   Permalink: link   Keywords: LeRoc  Tango  

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  

Our First Birthday

27 Sep 2017 - by Graham

On Monday the 19th September 2016, Jivebeat was born. At around 8pm I switched on my microphone, took a deep breath, and stepped up in front of a room full of people to give my first ever dance class. To say that I was nervous would be a huge understatement, but it wasn't the speaking to a group that scared me or even the teaching aspect as I had done both of those things many times before. No, the thing that I was most worried about would be how people would react to me as a dance teacher. Most people knew me as the taxi-dancer (beginners' coach) at the Ceroc venues in Bromley and Chislehurst, and if they didn't know me from there they probably remembered me as the slightly nervous new arrival at Ceroc Hayes after I relocated from Hampshire back into Kent a couple of years earlier. What would they make of me standing up in front of them and suddenly being their teacher?

I need not have worried because despite all of the things that could have gone wrong, it worked! Everyone loved the class. We had a great time, and our second launch night (Thursday that same week at Hurst Green) was even more successful. Jivebeat was clearly here to stay.

Fast forward a few months and in response to the things we were being asked about by our members we began to make some changes. We stopped teaching a beginners' LeRoc class followed by an intermediate / advanced one. We added in workshops and tried out a "beginners' course" format to the evenings. We added in more freestyle time to some evenings, and mixed up the music a little. And then a few months later still we changed the format again and accidentally introduced Argentine Tango to the classes which was an unexpectedly popular move, and that's where we are at the moment.

Teaching at Jivebeat has been a learning experience for me and for the rest of the crew, but we have loved every minute of it. We have made new friends, met amazing people, and been inspired every week by the love we get back from everyone we teach. There is nothing else like it, and just being a part of it - let alone having been the one to put it all together - is an amazing privilege. We get so much encouragement from our regulars, and this week we were even given a birthday card to celebrate Jivebeat turning one. That was amazing, and really brought a lump to my throat. You people are very special...

We have probably made a few mistakes along the way during this first year. I wonder at times if had we done things a bit differently whether some of the people who decided that dancing was probably not for them would still be coming along. I wonder if a different format to the classes would have meant that Jivebeat would be bigger than it is now. But none of that really matters, as Jivebeat is exactly what I hoped it would be and far more than I thought we could achieve. We are unique (as far as I know) with our mix of LeRoc and Tango, and we have the best atmosphere and friendliness of anywhere I've ever danced. What more could anyone ask for?

So happy birthday, Jivebeat!!! Here's wishing you many more of the same!


Posted by: Graham   Permalink: link   Keywords: Argentine Tango  LeRoc  Birthday  

From the Dance Floor

14 Apr 2017 - by Graham

Running any club or class like Jivebeat can be scary at times, as you never really know what people think or if they like what you are doing. So when we receive comments like this, it absolutely makes everything worthwhile.

"Way back in January 2016, my New Years resolution was to try out Ceroc but my battles with shyness & anxiety won over, a year went by & I had done nothing about it. Then in February this year, I found out that Jivebeat (Leroc - similar to ceroc) was starting up in Sevenoaks just 3 miles from home & on a Friday night - No more excuses. I went along to the launch night & loved every minute. I've gone along every Friday since, I've been learning to dance, have met some lovely people & made some new friends. Being a Friday is such a bonus as there are no early mornings the following day. So if you fancy learning modern jive with a very friendly & welcoming group, come along." Georgina

(Reproduced with permission)


Posted by: Graham   Permalink: link   Keywords: Review  Ceroc  LeRoc  First Time  

Exciting times

23 Jan 2017 - by Graham

It was about this time last year in 2016 that all this began, but at the time I had no idea what was about to kick off. 

Back in 2015, I had made enquiries about medal tests - grading exams - in Modern Jive with my previous dance club, but had been told that there was a long waiting list and to try again in January. This surprised me as no-one I knew had even heard of the tests, but in January I chased them up and re-applied for the exams as planned. This time, however, it soon became obvious that no such tests or exams were ever going to become available, and I started looking for alternatives.

Sometime in March I found the LeRoc Federation, and they suggested training as a teacher and doing that qualification instead. After a bit of hesitation (what would I ever do with a teaching qualification!?) I took the exam on the 12th May, and a month later found out that I had passed with a good score. Jivebeat, which had started to form as an idea during April and May, became a reality.

The summer was spent writing the curriculum, designing the website and membership system, preparing the equipment I would need to run it, practicing my teaching technique, getting the business side in place, and doing all the things that you never see but that are necessary for a dance class to be able to run. There was a lot of work and sometimes I found myself wondering if I was taking on too much, but the people around me gave me so much encouragement that I pressed on and got everything ready just in time.

In September, we launched with two venues, and although it soon became apparent that Bletchingley was not going to work, the other venue at Hurst Green very soon began to do well. A real community of dancers was starting to grow there, and I knew that this would be something I would be doing for a long time to come.

Now, at the start of 2017, we are entering the next phase, our first proper expansion as we open in Sevenoaks and look at another venue up towards Bexley (announcement soon!). These are exciting times for us, with Jivebeat effectively becoming a chain and expanding the opportunities both for us and for everyone who dances with us.

We have lots of great ideas for the future and can't wait to share them with you as we grow. 


Posted by: Graham   Permalink: link   Keywords: History  LeRoc  

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