Jive (International Style Jive)

International Style Jive is the formal name of a Swing type dance that developed in the United Kingdom. It is characterized by extremely up-tempo music and is primarily danced with triple steps done with a highly buoyant movement, sharp downward leg action, finished straight legs and a very upright posture.  A fast, upright and highly athletic form of Swing dancing, the Jive is danced the world over mostly as a show or competition dance.

Note: the North American social dance known as “Jive” is discussed in the American Style Swing/East Coast Swing  section.

Teaching Elements:

  • Basics–Fast compact chasse underneath the body weight
  • Open Breaks–Fingertip lead and follow
  • Rotating–Learn to rotate left and right while keeping the basic rhythm
  • Footwork–Buoyant action in the ankles, feet and legs
  • Accenting–Rebound in leg muscles to create a sharp movement
  • Compare/Contrast–Lindy Hop, East Coast Swing, West Coast Swing, Fox Trot


The term ‘Jive’ is the formal name of a Swing style dance developed in England. Originally known as English Jive it is now known as International Style Jive.
Origins of the word “Jive” appear to have roots in the black American slang for “misleading talk” or “exaggeration”. As with all forms of Swing dancing the International Style Jive evolved from the original 1930’s Swing dance known as the Lindy Hop, danced in America.

During World War II many North American servicemen were stationed in England and they danced Jitterbug (as the Lindy came to be known in the 1940’s) when they were out on leave. The Jitterbug was a wilder, more acrobatic dance, in sharp contrast to the style of dancing usually done in England at the time. Young people especially were drawn to this dance style and flocked to the English social dancing meccas of the time, referred to as “Palais”, after long days working in munitions factories.

The English form of Jive developed from this time onward as the popular music moved from American Jazz to very upbeat British pop music. The Jive developed on a parallel path to the American Style East Coast Swing and shares many structural similarities with this dance. Jive began to take on the buoyancy and light movement that still characterize the Jive today based on the faster and lighter sounding music it was danced to, as the East Coast Swing took on a more grounded “bluesy” effect.

The first technical description of Jive was made by English dance teacher Victor Silvester and was published in Europe in 1944. Other forms of swing dancing such as Rock’n’roll (largely focused on aerial, acrobatic moves) and Bop (based on a lot of freestyle separated dancing) developed in Europe later, along with the more recent Swing style dance phenomenon known as LeRoc, CeRoc or Modern Jive.

Competitions for Jive followed soon after the war at least partly as a way of taming the Swing/Lindy dance phenomenon in England and attracting a younger crowd of dancers into the ballroom dancing fold.  Jive continued its refinement of technique by literally hundreds of the top European teachers and competitors over the years. Committees from the ISTD (Imperial Society of Teachers of Dancing) and others, notably Walter Laird, are credited with documenting the allowed step list and technique for Jive, among other ballroom dances, that is still largely in use today.

Today the Jive is danced around the world in professional competitions in the International Style Latin division.


Jive music (as with most Swing dance music) is written in 2/4 or 4/4 time with the musical accents occurring on the even beats (the “twos”) of each measure.

Jive tempo is set at 44 to 46 bpm (bars per minute). This high speed is important for the characteristics of the dance, as the appropriate “rebound” in the muscles is achieved at this speed. Slower tempos, those perhaps below 40bpm, will begin to change the “rebounding” effect of the dance and produce a different body action more associated with East Coast Swing.


The basic step in Jive starts, for the man, with a “rock step” (2 steps in place, left then right with the left foot slightly behind) followed by 3 steps to the left (Left, Right, Left) and then 3 steps to the right (Right, Left, Right). The lady does the mirror image of this step with him, starting by rocking back on her right while standing facing him in a double hand hold.

Jive includes two general rhythms: a 6-count rhythm – 1, 2, 3 & 4, 5 & 6 or an 8-count rhythm – 1, 2, 3 & 4, 5, 6, 7 & 8. This basic step is shared with the East Coast Swing but the technique of dancing the two are different due largely to the faster speed of the music for Jive.

The chasse in Jive is very compact and underneath the body in order to facilitate the fast movements. The hip movement is not pronounced in Jive due partly to its great speed and the frame is outstretched and somewhat formal giving it a very upright and ‘proper’ look. The overall feeling in Jive is very buoyant into the ankles and feet. It has a pronounced downward ‘bouncing’ action in the supporting leg and a lightly lifted knee preceding each step giving the dance quite a ‘leggy’ look. Kicks in Jive are extremely fast with a rebounding elasticity in the leg muscles and sharply pointed feet.

Today’s Jive is a very fast and exciting dance with a highly stylized and precise “trained” look about it. At its highest level the Jive is an extremely athletic dance with flashy fast patterning, elastic muscle use and big stretched lines.

Jive songs and artists include:

  • Rock Around the Clock – Bill Haley and the Comets
  • Trickle, Trickle – The Manhattan Transfer
  • Bad Bad Boy – Gloria Estefan