Beginners Jive Dance Tips 2

Beginners Jive Dance Tips 2

Use your eyes, your smile and your brain!

Your eyes are very important to how your dance looks so FOCUS THEM! No-one likes looking at a blank face. A face lit up by expressively will always steal attention. It does not always have to be a personal communication with your partner - it can come from inside - from your ideals, from the things and people you find inspiring. The same goes for a smile - it can be personal or it can be part of your reportoire like a move or stylistic flourish. A smile can not only light up a dance and make your partner feel wonderful but it can cover any number of errors! Make sure what is on the inside - ie in your brain - matches what you want others to see on the outside. If you keep thinking about your mistakes you will draw attention to them - if the subject you are thinking about motivates you and uplifts you then the effect will flow into yoru dancing. (Specific techniques for developing expression can be learnt using kinetic imagery).

Hands and arms

Once you have the desired amount of tension, let them flow naturally. Free hands/arms should be a soft continuation of the shape you make with your body and the shape of the two dancers, usually a gently curve. Intermediate: You may want to practice hand movements like "picking the apple" or "holding the egg" (thumb and second finger almost touching) - or any others you want to try - maybe in front of a mirror first and see what looks right for you. You can also import hand movements from other dance styles (eg streetdance, flamenco, salsa, all of which have expressive hand movements).

Improving your spins

Most beginners want to improve their spins. Spinning is actually easy as long as you obey some simple rules and practice regularly.

The general rule for which foot you turn on is simple - always put your weight on the foot in the direction of the turn. If you are turning to your right, put your weight on the right foot, and if you are turning to the left then the weight should be on your left foot. (There are many exceptions to this rule,so go with what feels comfortable.) The weight should be on the ball of the foot and you should feel the floor pressing back up towards you. Never let your body rise up as you spin (only ballet dancers go up on point). Keep your upper body level. Keep some tension in your arms and mirror your positions on each side. If one arm is extended and the other in close then your centre of balance is to one side and you will go off balance. Try tucking your arms in to your body in the direction of turn. You can find more about spinning in a Cerocshop, where a basic technique is taught. On the other hand, if you have learnt how to spin using another dance style there's probably no reason not to stick with what feels comfortable.(More advanced spinning technique is taught by Fusion Dance and Jump 'n' Jive.)

Look at your partner, or straight ahead. It's easy to get dizzy or disorientated when spinning and turning otherwise. If you keep your head up and focus on a fixed point in the room, or your partner, then there is less chance of this happening. Men - try to alternate the direction of turns and spins somewhat to help avoid making your partner dizzy.

Keep your body (trunk) erect - if you bend or hunch you will fall off balance. Ballet dancers use the image of "hanging baskets" to remind them stay tall and straight - think of the head as a hanging basket, the shoulders and rib-cage another basket hanging from that, and so on. You have a line of gravity extending from above your head to the stars and to below the dance floor. Not only will it help you to spin well but it looks far more attractive than hunched shoulders.

Spin from the hips - twisting your shoulders will knock you off balance without giving much turning motion. Men - allow the ladies to turn under their own steam. This, at least, is the technique in British jive and many other dances; an exception is the New Zealand technique of assisted spin - for this you must draw an accurate circle using a cup-grip above the ladiy's head - this technique is used mostly on very fast multiple spins that are part of specific moves - eg a Double-Assisted SPin Drop. If, on the other hand, you are 'spinning' your partner (ie in the sense of letting go), give her a good push to spin against. Keep the energy low and aim for smooth acceleration rather than throwing yourself into it.

Tips on aerials, airsteps and jumps

These moves are best learnt from an expert teacher.

Aerials are special moves involving jumps and throws and add a spectacular touch to a jive routine. If you intend to include aerials in your dancing, it's best, for safety's sake, to practice the particular move in slow motion first with the partner you will be dancing it with. The bigger aerials are not suitable for social dancing (unless you want to make yourself unpopular very quickly!) but the smaller jumps can often be practiced without danger to other dancers. The principle teachers of aerial moves in the UK include Andy and Rena of Jump 'n' Jive, who run regular weekend classes on a wide number of aerial moves together with extensive instruction in the necessary safety precautions.

Clothing & jewellery are important considerations. Be sure you wear clothes that don't catch or come undone easily. Jewellery, belts, watches and items that can catch are to be avoided. Suitable clothing includes shoes that provide some degree of cushioning (such as "jazz" shoes) while allowing flexibility and a sole hard enough for normal dancing.

Social etiquette on the dancefloor

Airsteps can add colour to your dance routine but can easily become "show-off-ish" or even dangerous on a crowded dance floor. Many moves are designed for cabaret rather than social dancing. Choose a time at the beginning of a session or at the end when the dance floor is empty or quiet to practice them - injuries can be serious! Just because the space around you is clear as you lift a lady into, say, a superman or a washing machine (shoulder high aerials) doesn't mean that someone might not unwittingly dance into the space before you put her down. Other dancers cannot be expected to anticipate how, or where, your move will end. There are times when you will feel confident that you can do the move safely, but remember that if there are others around you they will not necessarily know that. It can be very offputting to see someone's heels a short distance from your face as you relax into travelling wurlitzer.

Who was that stranger I saw you drop on her head?

If you intend to include aerials in your dancing, it's best, for safety's sake, to practice the particular move in slow motion first with the partner you will be dancing it with. There are many similar moves in this category, even going by the same name and signal, and injury can occur if assumptions are made. Even if an experienced dancer asks you to include a move, it is better to refuse or to go through the move slowly first, off the dancefloor, than risk injury.

Balance and proportions

Although some moves are suited to very strong men with very light partners, the main requirements for most moves are balance, timing, momentum and an ability to spring. In most lifts, the man merely continues the momentum of the lady in order to extend her spring. Her weight is secondary. What is more important when it comes to different shapes and sizes is proportion and centre of gravity. Someone with long legs and a short torso will have a different centre of gravity to someone with shorter legs and a longer torso. The way of doing the move will often involve re-balancing to allow for this and so most aerial moves are best done with regular partners.

Tips on dips and drops and seducers

Dips, Drops and Seducers are a category of moves that, properly executed, can add much grace and elegance to a dance routine. As the drops usually involve the lady's head swaying toward the floor, she should remember that she can always say "no"! If the lady doesn't feel comfortable and confident doing a particular drop with that partner, even if he is an experienced dancer, it is quite OK for her to refuse to do the move, even in the middle of a dance - after all - it's her head that gets damaged if anything goes wrong! Some dips and drops are included in the Ceroc repertoire but if you're serious about learning them properly, ask someone who is New Zealand / Australia trained (this includes one or two British Ceroc teachers) or (in London) try Jump 'n' Jive or Fusion Dance. There are basic techniques for men and ladies that can be applied to the various types of dips, drops and seducers.

"No" means "No"! Small dips tend to be social moves to try with lots of partners, whereas the more involved ones may be more suited to regular (fixed) partners or at least people who have trained with the same technique. These moves can be exciting and graceful, especially if timed with the breaks of the music (see below), but safety has to be a consideration. As with aerials, different partners will need to be balanced differently, so go slowly when starting complex drops with an unfamiliar partner. Ladies - it's your head that gets hurt if it goes wrong, so remember to say "no" if you do not feel confident doing that drop with that partner. Just stop, and say something like, "we haven't done that move together." When trying a new drop or with an unfamiliar partner, ladies can often take as much of their own weight as possible on the inside leg, bending it so the bum goes down to the heel, whilst sliding the outside leg out in a straight line. Once you have developed rapport and confidence with a partner then you may be more trusting that he won't spoil the rest of your evening by giving you concussion.

Men - although it varies with the drop, a general guide is to balance the lady's centre of gravity so that it is line with your own. In a First Move Drop, for instance, this means judging the lunge so that her weight (approximatley mid-chest point as a general rule) is level with your centre-line - not pulling you to left or right. If you do the drop accurately you can extend the lady a long way without bending your legs, but if you do bend a leg to go down further, still keep the shoulders back and back straight. If you bend the left leg (or whichever leg is in the direction of the drop), turn the foot outwards so your knee avoids the lady's line of descent.

Ladies - keep the balls of both feet on the floor until you are practiced. Go down "bum to heel" with the leg nearest your partner, taking your weight. Stretch the outer leg out straight and turn the foot slightly to keep the ball near the floor. Later you may want to add a kick or bend one at the knee, but avoid letting a straight leg wave about in the air (it looks naff!). As you drop, try to tense your tummy muscles - this will give you more "bounce", keep your body shaped, and make you feel lighter to your partner. In a basic (eg for a First Move) drop, your head may be turned out slightly as you go to end the move. If you want to add some style with free hand movements (eg hand trailed along the body and into the air), these should generally be close to your body - waving an arm out away from from you in any direction except over your head will tend to pull you and your partner off balance.

Musical breaks

Jive is mostly danced to music with a strong eight-beat. As you get used to a particular record you will be able to judge where the "breaks" in the music are to add dramatic touches to your dance routine. If you have a good ear, you can also count the bars and so predict where the next break will be. Breaks are taught at some of the specialist Ceroc Style workshops and also by other teachers such as Nigel Anderson of Jump 'n' Jive.

Tips on 'Dirty Dancing' and close moves

Dirty Dancing refers to dance moves and styles popularised by the movie of the same name. It includes many romantic and sexy moves but avoiding tackiness. There is also a training video available called "Swayze Dancing", taught by Patrick Swayze (a dancer of many years experience before he entered movies) and his mother, a world-famous choreographer and dance instructor.

This style of dancing is based on the movie of the same name and actually includes several types of routine - from fast Mambo-based ones to the rather raunchier moves seen earlier in the movie. The challenge is to make the dance look sexy rather than tacky. Dirty Dancing workshops are held by several dance groups including CerocMetro , Rebel Roc and also Nigel and Nina of Jump 'n' Jive . There is also an excellent training video called Swayze Dancing - where Patrick Swayze (who qualified at several top dance schools), various dancers, and Swayze's mother Patsye (a well-established dance instructor in her own right) take the viewer through various routines and moves. The key is that a "Dirty Dancing" move looks sexy - it's not about how it feels. Approaching the move professionally will inspire confidence in your partner and improve your dancing (on the other hand if you and your lover want a sexy dance there are much better places than a crowded Ceroc dance floor!) Who you do these moves with depends on general acceptability amongst other things - in New Zealand (where dancers are graded) one advanced dancer would probably not think twice about doing a close move with another advanced dancer if it was appropriate to the music, but in Britain there is a great emphasis on social fun, so it is important that your dancing isn't taken for "sexy fun" in an unwanted way. Attempting sexy moves with a beginner, or with someone you don't know when you don't really know the move, are generally pitfalls to watch out for. There is a saying in British Jive that you should only dance close moves with someone you know well, but this will not necessarily apply to pairs of more experienced dancers who recognise each other's professionalism.

Dirty Dancing moves and close, or closed, moves are not necessarily the same. Gently prolonged and deliberate eye contact with enough distance for it to be observed generally looks sexy. Laybacks, and some aerials on the other hand, whilst involving close contact are not generally seen as very sexy moves. Hip isolations look sexier when they are well-practiced rather than "natural". And remember, what you are thinking will probably be portrayed in your dancing!

If you feel a partner is getting closer than you would like, simply use a spare hand to create some air space between you. Failing that, tell them you don't feel comfortable with the move right now.

There are also 'closed' as opposed to 'close' moves - they aren't necessarily sexy moves but they involve a certain amount of body contact. More advanced dancers, especially New Zealand or Australian, will routinely execute such moves without self-consciousness, whereas the average British ceroccer tends to adapt moves for social considerations of 'body space'.

Is Ceroc different to other modern jive groups?

The Ceroc Network

Ceroc has a highly organised franchise system that means there are Ceroc classes in most major cities. You can learn Ceroc in Glasgow and then drop in to Nottingham or London and find the same welcome, the same moves and format and, most of all a social network that welcomes you at any stage, complete beginner or advanced.

Teaching - standards and consistency

There are many good jive classes about - some have excellent teachers some have enthusiastic dancers who want to teach. But in Ceroc there is at least some consistency - all teachers are qualified to at least a benchmark by lengthy training, using a recognised formula to teach hundreds of moves in the same way. This consistency of teaching makes Ceroc one of the easiest dances to learn.

Is 'Ceroc' the same as 'Jive'?

A benchmark of British Ceroc is its use of a moves book for teaching moves in a set way. Musically and to most appearances, Ceroc is indistinguishable from the Jive taught by most other Jive groups, better or worse. Some (often smaller) advanced jive groups such as Jump 'n' Jive or New Zealand Ceroc teach from dance principles - which might be harder for the beginner but give teachers more individual freedom for excellence. See also differences between British and New Zealand Ceroc.


Blues is a form of dance currently enjoying a resurgence. Principally researched, popularised and taught by Nina and Nigel of Jump 'n' Jive, Blues allows for slow, atmospheric dancing with sizzling (and sometimes spectacular) flourishes and tempo changes.

You will probably want to spend some time learning set moves and routines to begin until you feel comfortable with the beat, the formal and less formal style, the general dancefloor etiquette for Blues and so on. Then you will want to build free interpretation into your Blues dancing. Whilst choreographed move routines are sometimes seen on the blues dance floor, experienced blues dancers will tend to use Blues techniques to free-flow from one form to another. My personal aim is usually to use as few set moves as possible.

Ideas from many other forms of dancing can be adapted and incorporated into Blues with great effect - eg jive, salsa, tango, zydeco, even aerials. Mix them carefully till you achieve a victory of irrestibible style over routine.