The evolution of Modern Jive – A dancers perspective

Author: Gadget is a dancer at the Ceroc Scotland Clubs. Though not a ‘Guru’, he has been an outspoken contributor to the Ceroc Forum for several years. He has been taught at many classes and events provided by Ceroc from many different teachers over many years. He has not competed, has little interest in competing and is a product almost solely of the ‘Ceroc’ teaching model.

Within the past few years, more and more people have been commenting that the over-all ‘level’ of dancing within Modern Jive (MJ) is getting better. I have to agree; the beginner dancer’s progression seems to be a lot quicker and the levels reached seem to be a lot higher than a few years ago.

But why? And what does this spell out for the future?

For a start, it’s really hard to pinpoint exactly what “getting better” relates to:

  • Is it that the leads are more confident and clearer? The followers are less anticipatory and more responsive?
  • Is it that the teaching is improving? What is being taught is changing? The music being played is more challenging?
  • Is it that more people are listening to music and being able to convey more musicality on the dance floor?
  • Is it that more people are going to other dance styles and bringing back influences into MJ?
  • Is it that more people are staying within the MJ framework to ‘develop’ rather than moving to other dance forms?
  • …Or it could just be that as I grow within my own dancing, I see things I didn’t before.

I think that most of the perceived improvement is down to the dancers and teachers having a growing understanding of the “fundamentals” involved – whether this is acquired from other styles, formal training or simply trial and error.

All the “fundamentals” can be found to different degrees in ballroom, flamenco, hip-hop, jazz, tango, salsa, ballet, and just about any other dance form you care to mention. These are things that can help any form of dance and can be taken from any form of dance, then applied to MJ. For example…

 

Weight transfer: Supporting your weight on one foot at a time while you are moving rather than ‘falling’ from one foot to the other. This allows placing the other foot before moving weight onto it. Adopting this concept into MJ increases a dancer’s control over their movement and allows more control over the timing of their movement. Since weight tends to be fully committed before moving, it can also lead to crisper entry and exit from turns/spins.

 

Balance, Control and Frame: Ties in with the above, but relates to being more aware of your own body – how each movement affects both you and your partner. Balance and awareness get better with practice and are specially helpful in spins. If you are aware of the cascading effects of a movement, you can be clearer in leading, more responsive in following and more subtle in your connection.

 

Timing: When to start a lead, when to divert or intercept a movement with minimal disruption to the flow. There is a small delay between action and reaction that can be inserted into your dancing to give the follower enough time to react.

 

Connection: Communicating through out the dance; both listening to your partners movements and conveying your intentions. The less ‘noise’ in this connection, the better understanding you will have of how your partner is dancing. The more responsive you are to the connection, the more subtle it can be.

 

Musical interpretation: Listening to the music; getting away from a repetitive stomp in time with the beat and actually framing moves to match the music. More than recognising and marking breaks/changes in the music in your dancing; but listening to the phrases, patterns, instruments,…

 

Awareness: Knowing where you are in relation to your partner, where you both are in relation to the floor and where other dancers are in relation to yourselves. Predicting how other dancers will move and using the space that is formed and vacated by other dancers around you. The dance is much more pleasant when you are not being jostled, bumped or trod on.

Pick any style of dance and strip out what makes it unique and defines it as that dance. What you are left with are core principles that dance can teach you: The fundamentals above.

For example an Argentinean Tango step: push the foot out; tilt the foot to lead with the toes; barely scuffing the floor; draw the foot in a constant line to it’s destination; knee and thighs brushing; place toes then foot; transfer weight so hip is over foot; take back foot to meet front with same principles. When put together with Tango timing of each movement, it becomes Tango. Strip out the timing, the tilt of the foot and the knee-brushing that predominantly define it as Tango, and everything else could be transplanted into MJ (or other dance forms). These same things are taught in specialist MJ workshops: precision in placing feet, smooth movement and weight transfer. Each element involved will help towards making your dancing more controlled.

MJ has very little to strip away – it starts from the core and lets you define your own unique form on top of it. The only real evolution of MJ in the last few years has been it’s awakening.

Classes teach moves and movements. But that is not their goal. Through these moves, they teach the fundamentals. Once a dancer can understand the core that the moves are based around, they can begin to step outside of “moves” and start dancing.

Where does this leave MJ to develop? I think that the evolution will be towards breaking down even more barriers between the fundamentals of dancing and the beginner’s teaching.

Beyond that, for the more advanced dancer, I can see more focus being given to control and timing. The focus in the past has been towards leading, following and the connection – now, these skills are being / will be enhanced by greater, more defined control and used as tools to explore how better to use timing.

I don’t see the dance evolving much, but I can see more and more dancers stamping their own unique branding onto MJ. What they will do is expand the vocabulary of MJ while trying to discover if there actually are any boundaries to this exciting and amorphous dance form.

“Vive la evolution”

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One Response to The evolution of Modern Jive – A dancers perspective

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