Beginners Jive Dance Tips 1

Beginners Jive Dance Tips 1

Social etiquette - asking for dances, how, and who to ask

Asking for a dance at a jive night is not like approaching someone at a nightclub - you will hardly ever be refused. Beginners can advance more quickly by learning to do this. As a record finishes, stroll onto the dance floor and position yourself next to a good dancer and ask them for a dance! The quickest way to learn is to dance with more experienced dancers, so be bold. Many experienced men like dancing with beginners - they don't have to worry about exotic moves to create an impression! Conversely, many experienced ladies know that spending time with a beginner is a good investment for dances later on, so everyone's happy! As much as possible, resist the temptation to dance with other beginners or just one or two people - you will learn most quickly by doing the same move with a variety of partners and especially with more experienced partners. Ladies - you don't have to worry too much about learning the moves in the class, but concentrate on following the man's lead.


There's nothing like a Workshop (in Ceroc, 'Cerocshop') to turbo-charge your learning curve. One-day workshops with small groups of people can give you much greater insight and confidence.

Listen to the music

Dance flows from the music - or should! Feel the music, the rhythm, in your body and make your body move to it. It's better to do simple moves in time with the beat than complex moves that miss the music. Some styles, such as Blues, are more about interpreting the music itself than about stringing together a series of moves - this approach makes for an interesting dance! Intermediate dancers: Try to feel the beat - listen to it in your body - you don't have to wave your hands in time, or keep the beat with your feet or to bounce about to the beat. Let it flow from your whole body. (Kinetic technique: listen to your heartbeat before you go on the dance floor; focus on this internal rythmn and keep the focus when you start dancing, embracing the rythms of the music and your partner into it.)

Respect your partner

Dancing is interactive rather than solitary. Part of the enjoyment is ensuring your dance partner is having fun, so give them encouragement, let them know you're enjoying dancing with them, and try to adapt your dance style or moves to theirs. Men usually look best on the dancefloor by showing off their partner - if the lady looks good, so will the man. Choose moves that she enjoys and does well. Give her the limelight and make her feel wonderful. Respect that her body is her own and check before you throw her into an arm-wrenching move, breathe garlic over her in an extended comb, or bounce her head off the floor from an unconventional aerial move. Throwing her into a seducer while you drip sweat from your forehead onto her face as she clings to your soggy teashirt will hardly endear her to you, however skilful your moves, so be considerate - shower before dancing and make sure you smell fresh, take spare clothing for frequent changes if you get hot, and freshen up often during the evening. Gentlemen can win points by being gentlemen, and ladies by being ladies; try "May I have this dance" rather than "wanna dance then?" Ladies, remember the man is trying to make you look beautiful, so be gracious.

Intermediate dancers: Sometimes whatever you do the beat doesn't seem to gel between you. This may be because you are syncopating the rythmn differently. Some dancers put the same empahasis on every beat, some dramatise it differently. There is a big style difference between "1-2-3-4" and "1-and-2-and-3-and-4". Intermediate to advanced dancers can listen to the way their partner is hearing the music and reflect that in their dance style.

Respect those around you

If the dancefloor is crowded be sure to choose your moves and flourishes with consideration to those around you. Mid-dance collisions may help you and your fellow dancers to qualify for free hospital food, but just kicking lots of ankles will enable you to lose friends quickly.
Eye contact and smile! You wouldn't go for a drink with someone and never look at them. Looking at your partner reassures them that you are enjoying dancing with them and also make the dance look better. A quick look and look away repeated is probably better than a fixed manic stare. ("Try looking at them without looking scary!") Make the eye contact quite deliberate. With close moves like a comb or hallelujah there may be a temptation to look away if the man is wearing one of those gruesome jumpers. It's that moment of closeness, a brief intrusion in your body space, but that's all. Have a few fixed expressions (saucy or humorous) ready for such times. Looking away in distaste will totally ruin the move.
Intermediate dancers might want to try the exercises on the kinetic imagery page for developing eye contact and rapport.

No thumbs or jelly arms

There's a tendency at first to hold on for grim death. As you get more confident and balanced you will realise than quite a light hold is all that is usually necessary. It's both more manoeuvrable and more pleasant. It is very rarely that thumbs should be used, so if you find you have been dancing for a few weeks and still hold on with your thumbs, make sure you break yourself of the habit before you have an accident and break your thumbs! Different amounts of tension are appropriate for different dance-styles and moves, and generally the lady should try to match the tension the man offers her, but whatever the style or move, a 'jelly-arm' will make it harder to dance.

Make your partner look good

Focus attention away from yourself. It makes the dance look like a partnership. The man's focus especially should be on making the lady look wonderful - for most styles it's the easiest way to dance well!

Warm your muscles up

Try to start off dancing with less energetic moves - your muscles need time to warm up. Men be sensitive to whether an individual partner has had time to warm up before putting her into a particularly strenuous routine. Experienced dancers may want to do a warm up before dancing - it will make your dancing more effortless and make your muscles less susceptible to strain (Intermediate dancers - doing some stretches before you start dancing makes a big difference! New Zealand Ceroc classes always start with a warm up, using stretches, spins and double spins before the dancing starts).

Clothing, and changes of clothing

It's easy to get hot dancing. Take a few changes of clothes so it's easy to stay socially acceptable! You may also want to consider the suitability of different types of clothes. Loose trousers or trousers that stretch well, bras that don't fall off, smooth soled shoes that are good for spinning. If you do a lot of aerial moves you may find shoes with a moderately smooth sole but with some cushioning, such as trainers, protect your feet for landings better than an ordinary leather sole. Customised "jazz" shoes have this together with a split sole for maximum flexibility. High heeled shoes look nice, especially for Latin dances such as Tango, but they are harder to dance in. There are a number of specialist dance shoes distributors such as Katz Dancewear. Some clothing is less prone to getting wet and sweaty - the "high wick" technology travel teashirts sometimes sold by Rohan, for instance, will stay dry longer than a cotton teashirt (they also take up less space in your shoulder bag). A technique used by many salsa dancers is to have two layers - a close fitting vest or teashirt, and a loose fitting shirt over the top. I find this works quite well - getting hot while dancing is mostly down to the dancing and the room temperature, not whether you have a thin additional layer - and the extra layer means you have a dry surface to offer your partner.
Many ladies like to enjoy high spinning skirts to add style to their dance - you might want to make sure what you wear underneath is appropriate and matching. If you wear jewellery, remember it may get caught or cause an injury - rings and bracelets should be warn with caution (and consideration for your partner) and even watches are best taken off for some types of moves.