Jive Dance

Jive Is a Lively Latin Dance

Dancing the Jive
Lars Linder/Flickr

Jive is a lively, and uninhibited variation of the jitterbug. Many of its basic patterns are similar to those of the East Coast swing. Jive is one of the five International Latin dances, although it has an African-American origin.

Characteristics of Jive Dancing

Jive and East Coast swing share many figures, as well as the same music style and tempo. The basic look and feel of jive are that it is performed with lots and lots of energy, with the legs portraying a pumping action. Both the East Coast swing and basic jive consist of two triple steps and a rock step. The jive differs in that the count begins with the rock step, which is counted "1, 2." The two triple steps are counted "3 and 4" and "5 and 6." In competition, it is danced at 176 beats per minute.

History of Jive

Jive was first demonstrated by Cab Calloway in 1934. It caught on in the United States in the 1940s and was influenced by the Boogie, Rock & Roll, African/American Swing, and Lindyhop. The name either comes from jive being a form of glib talk or from African dance terms. Jive became a generic term for swing in the United Kingdom.

In International Style ballroom dancing competition, jive is grouped with the Latin dances but it is danced to Western music, with 42 bars per minute in 4/4 time.

Jive Action

Jive is a very happy, boppy, energetic dance, with plenty of knee-lifting, bending, and rocking of the hips. The fastest of the Latin dances, jive incorporates lots of kicks and flicks, even twirling of the woman, and doesn't move around the dance floor like other dances. Although jive dancers may appear to be moving their feet haphazardly in every direction, the feet are actually well-controlled under the body with the knees close together.

Distinctive Jive Dance Steps

The basic jive step (jive basic) is a 6-beat pattern:

  • The man and woman face each other with arms in the closed position and the man leads.
  • Rock step (counts 1 and 2): Step one foot behind the other and lift the front foot up. The man steps back with his left foot while the woman steps backward with her right foot.
  • Chasse to the left (counts 3 and 4) The man goes left, the woman goes right.
  • Chasse to the right (counts 5 and 6) The man goes right, the woman goes left.

A few distinctive Jive steps:

  • American Spin
  • Throwaway
  • Comb
  • Chicken Walks
  • Arm Breaker
  • Jig Walks

Jive Music and Rhythm

Jive can be danced to swing music and jump blues in the tempo range of about 200 beats per minute. Depending on the style preferred, Jive can be danced to a variety of upbeat music including Boogie-woogie, Swing and Rock and Roll. The most important thing for beginners is to get familiar with the rhythm of the music. Listen to the drum line rather than the melody, the drum provides the beat.