April 17th, 2010

The first origins of the Jive lay with the black Americans in the South East of the USA, where it had an affinity with the war dances of the Seminole Indians in Florida. It is possible that the black Americans copied it from the Indians or that the Indians copied it from the black Americans, who brought the dance from Africa. In the 1880’s, the dance was performed competitively amongst the black population in the South, where the prize was frequently a cake, and so the dance became known as the Cake Walk! It often consisted of two parts performed alternately: a solemn procession of couples, and an energetic display dance, all done in finest clothes. The associated music became known as Ragtime, possibly because the participants dressed up in their best “rags” or possibly because the music was syncopated and “ragged”. The music and dances subsequently became popular amongst the black communities in Chicago and New York.
As Ragtime evolved into Swing through the 1920’s, new dances became popular. The Foxtrot was invented by Harry Fox for a stage show in New York in 1913. The Charleston was said to have originated in the Cape Verde Islands by Negro dock workers in the port of Charleston and became popular in white society after inclusion in the stage show “Running Wild” in 1923. In 1926, the Savoy Ballroom opened in Harlem in New York with the famous jazz band of Fletcher Henderson. The dancers there soon combined the Foxtrot, Charleston, and other popular steps to form a new dance to fit with jazz music. This dance soon became known as the Lindy Hop, named after Charles Lindbergh who made the first solo non-stop transatlantic flight that year, because of the amount of time the dancers appeared to spend in the air! In 1934, the dance at the Savoy in Harlem was described by Cab Calloway as “like the frenzy of jittering bugs”, so it soon became known as the Jitterbug.
In its beginnings, in 1927, the dance became equated with youth – adults disapproved of it and tried to ban it from dance halls by the rationalisation that because Jive was non-progressive, it disturbed the other dancers who were progressing anti-clockwise around the dance floor. The association between youth and this dance has continued through its various metamorphoses such as Swing, Boogie-Woogie, B-Bop (Beach Bop), Rock & Roll and the Twist. For that reason Marie-Louise and Garreth enjoy combining the different historic styles into their jive choreography, resulting in a fast, energetic, fun and entertaining dance performance.

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