Class crashers: jive
I confess, I occasionally load up videos of Jill Halfpenny dancing up a storm to I’m Still Standing, and Scott Maslen kicking and flicking through Hit The Road Jack on YouTube. The nimble, animated jive never fails to lift my mood, so I headed to City Academy in London for one of with Paula Lizza’s beginner dance classes to see if doing it was as good as watching.
‘Jive dance, unlike most things, is easier for women,’ Paula tells a room full of would-be jivers. The women breathe a collective sigh of relief, the men visibly tense. ‘Apart from us strong, decisive women – allowing men to lead us can be tough.’ She winks, laughs and sets the tone for a lively and dynamic dance exercise class.
She’s dead right; this Latin dance, a little bit swing, a little bit rock and roll, upright, light and energetic is easier for women. All we had to do was learn a simple step sequence; a rock step, followed by two slow steps over six beats.
From there we switched the hold from open (hands meeting in the middle) to closed (one hand on the man’s shoulder, one of his on the middle of the woman’s back), we learned to travel around the room and we added a spin. I kept repeating my trusty jive dance steps, while the men had to decide when, where and how we moved as well as decisively guiding us in the right direction for spins.
Said spins were my nemesis, as I automatically spun the wrong way. We kept swapping partners to ensure we all had a fair experience (‘It’s like speed dating!’ Paula joked) and when I ended up with seasoned dancer Harvey, it clicked. Having someone confident to lead made the spin feel natural, and the steps seemed to take care of themselves.
We were a brilliantly varied bunch; a melting pot of ages, nationalities and abilities. Some of us were completely befuddled (‘I understand what to do with my right leg, but where does the left go?’), while others danced with utter confidence regardless of their lack of experience. One man was concerned: ‘I’m finding it hard to push you around for the spin – I’m too well-mannered.’
We collectively got confused, spun in the wrong direction, and crashed into each other, but photographer Juan commented that he had never been in a room so full of laughter.
Paula was encouraging, genuinely funny, and a total pro at creating a warm and inclusive atmosphere, and the lesson was pitched just right; if you got the hang of it, you could enjoy gaining confidence, and if you struggled we never moved on too fast. It raised my heart rate, got me warmed up, and the next day my legs had a satisfying ache.
I may not be lifting a glitterball trophy any time soon, but if I fancy a workout that leaves me satisfied, invigorated and positive, I’ll be swinging by a jive dance class.
Photographs: Juan Trujillo Andrades