Christine Keeble and Simon de Lisle
The original Modern Jive DVD

Home : Indroducing Partner Dancing : History

Overview of Swing dance through the 20th century

This overview traces how French jive developed out of Lindyhop, Jitterbug and rock'n'roll, including the musical influences.




Early 1900's

Dixieland Jazz of New Orleans.

A boom in music publishing both fed on and created many new fad dances.

Black ex-slaves of America's southern states move into American cities. Their dances based on African rhythms were originally danced barefoot.

Irish immigrants bring to the New World their folk dances (performed in clogs).


The jazz age

Forerunners of the Lindy Hop were The Texas Tommy, The Hop & The Breakaway

1926 - Savoy Ballroom opens: Lennox Avenue, Harlem, New York

1927 - Charles Lindbergh makes his solo flight across the Atlantic in his plane, the Spirit of St Louis. Newspapers report "Lindy Hops the Atlantic".

Late 1920's people are 'Lindy Hopping'


Duke Ellington, Fletcher Henderson, Don Redman - performed Swing arrangements, which inspired Lindy Hop.

Famous bands at the Savoy included: Count Basie, Louis Armstrong, Benny Goodman, and many more.

1934 - Cab Calloway recorded a song written by trumpeter, Edwin Swayzee called "Jitterbug". The song made the word 'Jitterbug' a household name.

1937 - Benny Goodman's concert at the Paramount Theatre fuelled the wildfire spread of 'Jitterbug'.

Herbert White (head bouncer at the Savoy) was artistic director for Whitey's Lindy Hoppers. His dancers toured internationally, and performed in films and Broadway shows, spreading Lindyhop across the globe.

Famous Lindy Hoppers include Frankie Manning, Al Mins, Leon James, Billy Ricker, Norma Miller and Anne Johnson. Lindy Hop swept the nation - becoming known as the Jitterbug.

The dress is Zoot Suits, kipper ties and two toned shoes for the men and floral cotton tea dresses for the women.


1939 -1945 The Second World War. Many of the big bands split up as musicians became soldiers.

Glen Miller's big band sound is the music we associate with Swing music and Jitterbug dance. (1940 'In the Mood').

In the mid forties black Americans were listening to rhythm and blues which grew out of blues and gospel.

GI's come to Europe bringing the Jitterbug with them - they are not as polished as Whitey's professionals but the Europeans emulate their wild abandon.

To support the war effort there is a tax on the size of dance floors which helps bring about the demise of the big bands and the dancing which goes with it.

1943 - The New York Society of Teachers of Dancing was first dance association to recognise the Lindyhop/Jitterbug


In the mid 1950's American white teenagers began listening to rhythm & blues performers like Chuck Berry and Little Richard.

Bill Haley & the Comets and Elvis Presley combined rhythm and blues with country - producing rock'n'roll.

Sun records launched many rock'n'roll careers.

Famous rockabilly music includes Ricky Nelson, Carl Perkins, Jerry Lee Lewis, Johnny Cash, Roy Orbison, the Everly Brothers, Chuck Berry, Eddie Cochran, Buddy Holly and Gene Vincent.

1955 - Bill Haley and the Comets 'Rock Around the Clock'.

1956 - Elvis Presley 'Elvis Presley'.

1957 - Buddy Holly 'The Chirping Crickets'.

James Dean in the 1955 movie, 'Rebel Without A Cause' encapsulates the generation gap.

Rock'n'roll is synonymous with youth rebellion.

Dance floors are smaller and big bands are replaced by smaller bands. The booming record industry and radio stations are churning out rock'n'roll.

The Swing or Jive danced is essentially the same as the Jitterbug of the forties but the style is less innovative and more repetitive (push spins, combs etc.)

After the Marlon Brando movie 'The Wild One' (1954) teenagers adopted leather bomber jackets. Girls wore toreador pants (pedal pushers) and circle skirts.

1958 - The Savoy Ballroom closes and is torn down - the end of an era.


1960 - Chubby Checker 'The Twist' and 1961 'Let's Twist Again'

The Beatles and other UK bands storm the charts in the US. (Rolling Stones, The Doors, The Who, Cream)

Soul (a mixture of gospel and rhythm and blues) is big in discoteques.

Records labels set the styles namely Motown, Philadelphia and Stax (1968 Marvin Gaye 'I Heard It Through The Grapevine', 1968 Arethra Franklin 'Lady Soul').

1961 - the Twist craze. A dance that can be done solo without contact with a partner.

Other fad dances: Pony, Jerk, Funky Chicken, Fly, Boney Maroney, Mashed Potatoe etc. These all contribute to the demise of partner dancing in the discos - but none more so than the Twist.

People come from all over Europe to the discotheques of 'Swinging London'.

The new hippy culture, with its sexual liberation, means that dance is no longer so important in the 'boy meets girl' scenario.

1967 - Pans People dance troupe formed by Flick Colby, Dee Dee Wilde and Babs Lord. Featuring weekly on the BBC's 'Top of the Pops', they mirrored and promulgated the trendy dance moves from the discos.


Rock, which developed in the 60's, is different from rock'n'roll in that it usually relied on heavily amplified electric instruments. Rock soon divided into various categories from heavy metal to punk.

Heavy metal bands include Black Sabbath, Led Zepellin and Van Halen.

Punk includes The Clash, The Ramones, The Buzzcocks.

Reggae, from Jamaica is epitomised by Bob Marley.

A variety of music is played in discos but rarely do people partner dance.

Swing or Jive becomes relegated to 'retro clubs' frequented by people who are nostalgic for the 50's. At many of these retro clubs the dress code harps back to the lost rock'n'roll golden age of Elvis.

The 1978 movie, Saturday Night Fever, starring John Travolta, helps fan the flames of disco mania.


The disco era.

In the UK in the early 1980's the New Romantic style developed as a reaction to the harsh, angry sounds of punk. Spandau Ballet is a group typical of this cool and controlled style.

House first appeared at the Warehouse Club in Chicago.

Other similar types are techno, garage and drum and bass.

1982 - The London based Ceroc cabaret team performed at the Ceroc Ball Hammersmith Palais, London on 21st September 1982 before crowds of 2,000.

Harpers & Queen and Cosmopolitan magazines declare Ceroc the chic new dance phenomenon, describing it as a 'Breton import'.

In the early 1980's three great clubs promote French style jive these are Ceroc, Le Roc and Cosmopolitan Jive.

1984 - the LeRoc cabaret team perform at the Shaw Theatre sponsored by the GLA (Greater London Arts).

Mid 1980's Michel Gay starts a French jive club in Bristol. One of his pupils, David Gotley, emmigrates to Brisbane Australia setting up LeRoc classes. The dance starts to spread across the globe.

Three big dance movies fuel an interest in dance through the eighties these are:

1980 - 'Fame' : High School of Performing Arts

1983 - 'Flashdance' : starring Jennifer Beale

1987 - 'Dirty Dancing' : starring Patrick Swayze


The Lambada

House and Rap etc.

1990 Christine Keeble produces the video How To Jive (the first version) to make the new French style available to dance teachers outside London.

Michel Gay's Bristol based club gives birth to many new clubs in the South West of England.

1991 - Ceroc opens its first franchises outside London - based at Oxford and Norwich.

The LeRoc French Jive Federation is formed to promote good teaching of the dance.

1993-97 - LeRoc is promoted to thousands of dance teachers through major Danceworld exhibitions at the Barbican, Olympia, Wembley and Earls Court (London).

June 1994 - LeRoc is presented at the United Kingdom Alliance of Dance Teachers Annual Conference in Blackpool - the first syllabus offered by a professional dance association. Through the nineties new Ceroc and Leroc venues open up throughout the UK.

1991 - Nicky Haslam sets up Ceroc in Sydney, Australia.

1994 - Mick French sets up Le Step in Brisbane, Australia.

The chart topping hit Lambada fuels a craze for latin American dances - the raunchy drops of Lambada creep into the LeRoc style. Lambada is short lived outside the latin club scene but Salsa gains widespread popularity. Many of the figures of Salsa are shared with LeRoc although the footwork is different.


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