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    Registered User Dave Ellis's Avatar
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    Correlating the divide: MJ, WCS and Competition Rules

    Hey guys,

    The next major MJ comp here in Aus is just a few weeks away, and there’s been quite a stir over a recent addition to the regular rules.

    As WCS has risen in popularity, there’s been greater concern about hybridisation of the styles – especially since the current reigning MJ champs here are quite strong advocates of blending the two. In response to this, Sydney’s Ceroc & Modern Jive Company produced a controversial document attempting to delineate the dance styles, and the judges at the Western Australian Modern Jive Championships are being asked to crack down on dancers not toeing the line.

    Here’s the document.

    So, what are your opinions? From what little I know about Modern Jive in the UK, these rules would see half the dancers disqualified on rhythm and footwork. Any attempt to define MJ based purely on the Australian competition scene seems a little cavalier to me. On the other hand, I can see a divide occurring just in my local club, with the hybrid dancers and the regular lot finding it increasingly difficult to connect with each other on the floor, and I agree that some sort of consensus needs to be reached upon basic MJ technique and concepts.

    If you were attempting to write a similar document, what would you include? What do you see as the essential features of Modern Jive, if any?

    I have a few thoughts of my own, but I’d like to hear yours first.

    Cheers,
    Dave

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    Registered User frodo's Avatar
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    Re: Correlating the divide: MJ, WCS and Competition Rules

    Quote Originally Posted by Dave Ellis View Post
    So, what are your opinions? From what little I know about Modern Jive in the UK, these rules would see half the dancers disqualified on rhythm and footwork.
    I'm not sure rhythm and footwork would be as much of a problem as the lack of a concertina action.

    Quote Originally Posted by Dave Ellis View Post
    the hybrid dancers and the regular lot finding it increasingly difficult to connect with each other on the floor
    Interesting. Might that be because the hybrid dancers increasingly have an expectation that the regular dancers will dance in a hybrid way.

    Quote Originally Posted by Dave Ellis View Post
    If you were attempting to write a similar document, what would you include? What do you see as the essential features of Modern Jive, if any?.
    The essential feature IMO is having little in the way of fixed rules to learn (not being like dances with fixed rules). I believe some competitions use the 'Not recognisable as another dance' criteria which is compatible with this.

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    Registered User NZ Monkey's Avatar
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    Re: Correlating the divide: MJ, WCS and Competition Rules

    Quote Originally Posted by Dave Ellis View Post

    As WCS has risen in popularity, there’s been greater concern about hybridisation of the styles – especially since the current reigning MJ champs here are quite strong advocates of blending the two. In response to this, Sydney’s Ceroc & Modern Jive Company produced a controversial document attempting to delineate the dance styles, and the judges at the Western Australian Modern Jive Championships are being asked to crack down on dancers not toeing the line.
    I've been wondering when something like this would happen. I've heard a lot about the tensions between the "pure" MJers and the ones that have "converted" to WCS in Australia in recent months.

    For the record, I know many (most now that I think about it) of the reigning champions. For those unfamiliar with the Australian competition scene - you would not be able to tell the difference between whether a competition was MJ or WCS just from looking at the names who place in it. The same people completely dominate both dance forms*.


    So, what are your opinions? From what little I know about Modern Jive in the UK, these rules would see half the dancers disqualified on rhythm and footwork. Any attempt to define MJ based purely on the Australian competition scene seems a little cavalier to me. On the other hand, I can see a divide occurring just in my local club, with the hybrid dancers and the regular lot finding it increasingly difficult to connect with each other on the floor, and I agree that some sort of consensus needs to be reached upon basic MJ technique and concepts.
    In principle I think it's a good thing to try to more tightly define MJ as a dance. At least this is true as far as judging competitions go. As far as it's existence as a social dance goes I think it's much less relevant.

    It looks to me like the footwork section is just a codification of the step footwork as taught by CMJ. I think the footwork works really well for teaching people how to dance in a straight-forward and reliable manner. However, many other schools teach to initiate movement on the downbeat rather than the upbeat. In all honesty once the dance is underway I find it very difficult to tell the two styles apart unless the dancers are sticking very rigidly to the prescribed footwork anyway. As much as I think teaching step footwork is advantageous I don't think I'd go as far as considering it vital to a definition of MJ - even only as it applies to the Australian scene.

    If you were attempting to write a similar document, what would you include? What do you see as the essential features of Modern Jive, if any?
    Personally I think the concertina movement and double rhythm are the most defining characteristics.

    *They dominate because they're really good and deserve to, but as a group they're not representative of the range of styles in the MJ scene
    Last edited by NZ Monkey; 22nd-August-2011 at 02:51 AM.

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    Registered User David Franklin's Avatar
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    Re: Correlating the divide: MJ, WCS and Competition Rules

    Quote Originally Posted by Dave Ellis View Post
    So, what are your opinions? From what little I know about Modern Jive in the UK, these rules would see half the dancers disqualified on rhythm and footwork. Any attempt to define MJ based purely on the Australian competition scene seems a little cavalier to me.
    That document seems to be incredibly vague about is "what is the dividing line?" It says "dancing a triple step doesn't stop a dance being MJ", but one assumes dancing with 100% "one-two triple step" does. Of course, even WCS couples don't actually dance WCS footwork that religiously. So where's the actual dividing line? And what happens if someone crosses it? I think that's pretty key to being able to discuss this.

    The upbeat/downbeat thing seems a lot more clear cut - although maybe it's just my ineptitude, but I've never really felt I'm doing something different in that respect with WCS v.s. MJ.

    The one where I'd see myself having most trouble is the "clear concertina action", although I've long maintained that MJ now uses far less compression than it used to (which somewhat parallels changes in WCS if you look back 20 years or so).

    On the other hand, I can see a divide occurring just in my local club, with the hybrid dancers and the regular lot finding it increasingly difficult to connect with each other on the floor, and I agree that some sort of consensus needs to be reached upon basic MJ technique and concepts.
    My (and my wife's) personal experience of dancing in the states is that we didn't really have trouble dancing MJ with WCS people. (Edit: in fact, I'd say I have the around the same level of trouble dancing with Oz dancers - at least those who aren't used to the UK differences).

    If I'm blunt, when I do have problems, I'd have to say it's mainly "bad following" (or bad-leading, of course, but you can assume Kruger-Dunning effect applies as much to me as anyone else here). And the only bit I find "unique to very WCS-link MJ" is followers who decide to "orbit you" like a satellite when you've actually tried to lead them down the slot.

    Over all, I think the UK position probably comes down largely to "we don't care - dance whatever you want, just don't be obnoxious about it".

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    Formerly known as DavidJames David Bailey's Avatar
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    Re: Correlating the divide: MJ, WCS and Competition Rules

    Quote Originally Posted by Dave Ellis View Post
    Here’s the document.

    So, what are your opinions?
    Firstly, I quite like the definitions in the document, it seems fairly clear and I can't find anything obviously wrong with it. (Me being a WCS expert now, and all )

    Secondly, this reminds me why Competitions Are Stupid. Especially in social dancing. Especially in Modern Jive.

    Quote Originally Posted by Dave Ellis View Post
    If you were attempting to write a similar document, what would you include?
    From a timing perspective, that document seems reasonable.

    The problem is, why on earth do people want to merge them? They're different dances.

    I assume that the problem is not with lots people in WCS competitions suddenly breaking into MJ moves, it's with people in MJ competitions adopting WCS conventions. So it's a problem with MJ - MJ is not a well-defined dance form.

    And as it's clearly not a well-defined dance form, this returns me to Competitions Are Stupid. Especially in social dancing. Especially in Modern Jive.

    Quote Originally Posted by Dave Ellis View Post
    What do you see as the essential features of Modern Jive, if any?
    Well, the most obvious feature is that MJ is not a well-defined dance form.

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    Re: Correlating the divide: MJ, WCS and Competition Rules

    I'm confused. Upbeats? Downbeats? So when I don't concertina my partner out because I'm trying to smooth out the dance (as taught by various teachers, including at least two highly respected Ceroc teachers) and catch a break on the 7th beat, pause until the 1st beat and move her and myself in unison on that 1st beat, is that MJ or WCS?

    (in my case, it's clearly MJ - I can't catch the breaks yet in WCS - but I'm still confused as hell as to how I'd know the difference)

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    Re: Correlating the divide: MJ, WCS and Competition Rules

    Here's a message I sent to the organisers. Not just sticking my nose in - I love these footwork debates
    Quote Originally Posted by part of an email I sent to Ceroc Perth
    I think you've been a bit vague in your definition of the footwork for MJ "In Modern Jive, step, step, step, step (left, right for ladies and right, left for guys) is the basic footwork and rhythm". Your definition makes it seem that the lady steps left on the one in the bar. In my observation, based on watching thousands of dancers at competitions and dance holidays the lady's footwork is usually stepping on every beat starting right on the one, left on the two, etc - there may not always be a step, but there is normally a weight change, even if it is a step-in-place. The man's footwork is usually, but not always, a mirror of this - the guy can vary his footwork as he is always confident that the lady is going RLRL.

    I believe that the dance is best defined by the lady's footwork being RLRL most of the time - if you had to give a percentage that made it MJ and not any other dance you would be very safe if you made it just 50 - however, from my observation this figure would be more like 99%.

    On the subject of the concertina action, you are completely right that this is one of the defining movements in MJ. However this is only the case when there are many turns and returns on the spot. The current move to 'smooth jive' has mosly removed these turns on the spot and this has greatly reduced the frequency which you observe the concertina action.

    Of course I can only commment on what I see in the UK and it may be that the dance you are caling MJ in Australia has evolved into a different dance.

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    Registered User Dave Ellis's Avatar
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    Re: Correlating the divide: MJ, WCS and Competition Rules

    Hmm, interesting.

    I'm not sure, but I think the concertina thing only applies when you're closing/opening the distance between you and your partner (i.e. if you lead the lady past you, you're going to meet her halfway). I know that wasn't explicitly stated in the document, but I'm pretty sure that's what they're getting at. Another way of describing it might be that the centre of the slot is the midpoint between the dancers, rather than the position of the leader.

    The part that causes the trouble, at least from what I've seen over here, is that in the 'old' style the lead is pre-emptive, while in the other it's concurrent. This alters the 'language' of the lead and follow slightly, with dancers from the two different groups giving/expecting leads at different points relative to the beat. It creates an odd situation where two otherwise very good dancers struggle to communicate with each other on the floor.

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    Re: Correlating the divide: MJ, WCS and Competition Rules

    Quote Originally Posted by Dave Ellis View Post
    Hmm, interesting.

    I'm not sure, but I think the concertina thing only applies when you're closing/opening the distance between you and your partner (i.e. if you lead the lady past you, you're going to meet her halfway). I know that wasn't explicitly stated in the document, but I'm pretty sure that's what they're getting at. Another way of describing it might be that the centre of the slot is the midpoint between the dancers, rather than the position of the leader.

    The part that causes the trouble, at least from what I've seen over here, is that in the 'old' style the lead is pre-emptive, while in the other it's concurrent. This alters the 'language' of the lead and follow slightly, with dancers from the two different groups giving/expecting leads at different points relative to the beat. It creates an odd situation where two otherwise very good dancers struggle to communicate with each other on the floor.
    Good lead and following techniques are stil required in WCS aswell as MJ ( there just not taught as frequently in MJ as in WCS).

    A good follower will always be waiting to be lead forward regardless of which dance there are dancing, the only problem I can for see is that they may well be on the wrong foot which could cause lots of problems for the leader.

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    Registered User David Franklin's Avatar
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    Re: Correlating the divide: MJ, WCS and Competition Rules

    Quote Originally Posted by Dave Ellis View Post
    I'm not sure, but I think the concertina thing only applies when you're closing/opening the distance between you and your partner (i.e. if you lead the lady past you, you're going to meet her halfway). I know that wasn't explicitly stated in the document, but I'm pretty sure that's what they're getting at. Another way of describing it might be that the centre of the slot is the midpoint between the dancers, rather than the position of the leader.
    Well, when I dance MJ, the center of the slot is much closer to 'position of leader' than midpoint, although I do probably move a bit more than many WCS leaders would.

    The part that causes the trouble, at least from what I've seen over here, is that in the 'old' style the lead is pre-emptive, while in the other it's concurrent. This alters the 'language' of the lead and follow slightly, with dancers from the two different groups giving/expecting leads at different points relative to the beat. It creates an odd situation where two otherwise very good dancers struggle to communicate with each other on the floor.
    Interesting, as this sounds like the thing I've often found dancing MJ with people from Oz; I'm trying to build a bit of stretch, but they come in before I'm ready, with the result that I always feel I'm being rushed a bit. These are people I would consider very good dancers, but as you say, the styles don't quite gel.

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