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Beginners Survival Guide

One of the great appeals of modern jive is that it has a distinct lack of strict footwork to follow, this of course makes it easier to learn. While some teachers will tell you to "step back on your left foot" others will tell you to "step back on your right foot" this contradiction basically means that neither is wrong. Our approach is to keep
footwork to a minimum to make life easier and you will find that as soon as you are comfortable with the moves your footwork will follow without you having to think about it to much.

Basically our approach is that on most occasions you do what is comfortable to you. We will of course show and describe footwork when it is important and we also try to explain why it is important at certain points to be standing in a certain position so that you understand why it is relevant.

Style:- The thing that makes the difference between someone who can do the moves and someone who can dance.

It is a fact that when dancing it is your style that makes the difference. The same move can look completely different depending on the way you dance it and what type of music you are dancing to. Sickeningly, some people will have no problem dancing stylishly as it just seems to come naturally, for the rest of us it is something that needs some attention. It doesn't matter how flash or difficult the move that you're doing is it is an inescapable truth that if you dance it like you have concrete socks on then you are wasting your efforts.

While style, like beauty, is in the eye of the beholder here are a few of the most common things that you should try to do to set your dancing apart from everyone else's

The Wiggle
This applies to men and women.  A lot of Modern Jive moves are focused on the arms and the upper half of the body.
While the lack of complicated footwork is one of it's great appeals to beginners it does mean that moves will sometimes require either one or both of you to basically be standing still and just moving your arms. This does not mean that you have to take root on the dance floor and not add that little bit extra that will make the move stylish. One of the best ways of doing this is to keep your hips moving in time to the music.

Believe it or not, when teaching classes, as soon as you say something along the lines of “and while your ladies are walking around you, men, don’t just stand their, swing your hips, keep moving or at least do something” the first thing that happens is the men will still stay rooted to the spot but their head, shoulders and upper body will sway violently from side to side. While it is entertaining for the teacher to watch it does not constitute a wiggle.  Basically all you have to do is keep your upper body still and look at your partner, concentrate on only moving what is below your waist and only a small movement is needed, if you make your movements to large it will look awkward , obvious and unnatural, subtlety is the key

(just in case you were wondering)

Look at your partner
This sounds easy but is probably one of the hardest things to do because of the embarrassment factor. The fact is that for some reason direct eye to eye contact makes a lot of us feel slightly uncomfortable or even slightly silly, especially if you happen to be dancing with someone that you may not know that well. Rest assured that you don’t have to stare at each other throughout the entire duration of your dance but it does make a difference if you look at each other from time to time as it then gives the appearance that you are comfortable dancing with your partner and you are not just trying to ignore them.

If you know the person that you are dancing with well then ‘the look’ becomes more comfortable and this is where it can really add to the style of your dancing. When you see professional dancers together it is always the expressions on their face and the way they look at each other that adds the final touch of style to their dancing, especially with the more Latin styles of dance such as salsa or the lambada.

Listen to the music for stops, pauses and changes in tempo.
This applies mostly to the men because they are leading. It is almost a certainty that the more you dance the more your style will change and develop, even if it is not a conscious decision to do so. For example you will

find that you do some moves to slow music that you won't do to fast music and vice versa. You may also find that although you may be doing the same moves they will be a little more lively and bouncy to rock and roll and a little more relaxed and laid back to something a bit more easy going. This of course means that you are changing your style depending on what music is playing. Try to take this one step further by being ready for pauses and stops in the music or changes in tempo. Many new dance tracks today for example have a good steady beat for 90% of the song but a slow, quiet section in the middle before the beat kicks in again. Try not to just keep dancing through these sections as if nothing has changed, find some moves that you are comfortable with which are slow and easy going and take the opportunity to relax and change your style before carrying on.  Older songs from the likes of Bobby Darrin and Frank Sinatra are full of dramatic stops and  pauses which makes them the ideal songs to experiment with to really develop your own personal style.

Speed up and slow down.
As above this applies mostly to the men because, after all, they are leading and have the say in how long a move takes to do. Just because the teacher teaches the move a certain way and in a certain number of beats it does not mean that this is the law and that is how you have to dance it. Sometimes it may just be the easiest, most straight forward or quickest way of teaching the move effectively. When you are confident with a particular move, experiment with it. You will find some moves very easy to take longer over, rather than turning themselves on one beat the men may choose to slow themselves down so that it may take three or four beats until they are facing their partner again, likewise, if the ladies are walking around the men the man may wish to slow them down so that you have time to put in a little more style this may be where that wiggle mentioned above comes in.

Bend knees and bounce.
The style of your dances improves a great deal as soon as you start to relax. This will only happen when you are confident with the moves that you are doing so if you are just starting don’t worry to much about it at this point and concentrate on learning the moves. As you become more confident and assertive with your dancing you will naturally begin to relax and your dancing should become less rigid and more fluid, this is what makes a good dancer. Try bending your knees slightly so that you can put a little bounce into your movement rather than having a stiff legged regimented step. Keep your weight over the balls of you feet and your shoulders and arms relaxed. Not only will being more relaxed make most of the moves a lot easier it will make your dancing flow more seamlessly and stylishly.