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Safety Advice

When you first start jive, safety never seems to be on ones mind.  After all, its just "dancing" - a delicate blending of the spirit of two bodies with music.  Well let me tell you, the worst injury I have seen was one beginner lady stepping on the foot of another.  The beginner lady felt terrible and soon never danced again.  The other's foot went black and she returned to dancing a month later. I'm know there are worse accidents, but usually from the more acrobatic moves.  The point here is that safety affects us ALL.

The moves on this site have been categorised with safety levels 1 through 5 (see here, but note that these levels are not any standard or even known or used to my knowledge outside this site).  These levels are now grouped and advice given:

General advice (levels 0 and 1)

Normal beginner or intermediate moves might not seem dangerous, but this is what one does most of the time, if not all the time, so an accident will occur sooner or later.  Indeed, I received a black eye once, when a lady performed and simple return!  I will never forget the actual squelching sound.....so:

  • Look what you are doing...unless you are very very sure.  Obvious? Well...when performing moves where the man swaps his hands and turns his lady behind his back, I ended up with my finders in the lady's mouth!  She reported the next week that she still had toothache from the incident!
  • Alter your style according to the dance floor conditions.  Busy dance floors result in stepping on peoples feet, banging into them etc etc.  Keep your arms bend more to maintain your bodies much closer whilst still applying tension.  Don't go marching off on strolls - it just irritates others - unless you have just noticed where the air conditioner outlet is!
  • Ladies - don't put hand cream on just before a dance!
  • Men - let go if you feel an inappropriate resistance, especially with archi-spins etc.  Indeed for nearly every move a light hand-grip is essential.

Mainly dips'n'drops (level 2)

Whereas the air steps following require training with a specific partner, dips and drops are more common and can and are led to ladies with whom one does not regularly dance with.  It is always best that the lady has been taught the basics of drops at a lesson or workshop, and then variations can be introduced. Indeed I would say that there is a basic vocabulary of drop moves that can be lead such as the First move drop, wurlitzer spin and drop etc.

  • Always ask the lady's permission, especially one who you have not done such moves with before.  She might have a bad back this week.  If you forget to ask when you start and realise half way through, it is better to abort the move and say "sorry - I forgot to ask if you are happy doing drops today" than to feel that there is a loss in dignity and carry on.
  • Be aware of the lady's competence - make sure she knows the basics first.
  • Be aware of your own incompetence.  Don't just copy a move you have seen someone else do.  Go and be taught professionally first.  There are safety tips you may not be aware of watching a video or someone else doing it. Also the technique of weighting and un-weighting can be important.  For example, when the "man's strength to lady's weight ratio" is wanting a little, the lady can use a technique when she has dipped to really help the man pull her up more easily.
  • Always ensure there is PLENTY of room - dancers have the habit of coming out of nowhere.
  • Even if the lady says that she knows the move, do it slowly and carefully the first time, possibly at a slower beat to the music.  Many mistakes arise from the lady knowing the move, but thinking you meant a different one, especially if she thinks she is dipping in a different direction than you think..
  • If the lady has not done the exact move before, do it very slowly and possibly in a corner out of the way.
  • Unless you practice lots with one partner, the lady should not chuck herself in a suicidal manner at the ground but waits for you to dip her in a positive manner.
  • Make sure you offer the lady lots of support with both hands if you can, especially when learning.  Have particular concern for her leg muscles, back support and neck support. Do not user your knee to support her back as falling to fast on your knee may damage her (although in some special cases you can rest her on you knee once she has dropped and is no longer moving)
  • Don't hold her down there too long - it will kill her leg muscle!
  • Always make sure the lady is CERTAIN which way she will dip and ensure you have a supporting leg in that direction!
  • Know the length of your hands for fast drops, if "a minus b becomes negative", her back hits the floor!
  • Never do too many drops suddenly one dance with a lady.  A stamina for drops need to be build up or getting up in the morning is not a pretty experience.  After going to one air-step class, I had to sign off sick the next day because I could not bend my back enough to wrap myself around the steering wheel to drive to work!
  • If the lady has just put hand cream on - don't do dips...or dance with her for that matter.
  • Be wary about thinking you know the move and not trying it slowly.  A slight change can make a big difference.

Peter Philips, who is well known for teaching dips and drops, has kindly produced a leaflet on safety.  The original artwork is available in MS Publisher format and MS Word format for free use including at venues. He is willing to be contacted for leaflets, workshops and any assistance at swingwithpeter@btopenworld.com.

Mainly air-steps (levels 3 to 5)

Such moves (not all and "air steps", some are definitively "floor steps"!) require:

  • Specific professional teaching (eg www.jumpnjive.co.uk ).  Just seeing it performed on a video or by someone who (thinks they) can do it does not mean that you understand all the safety implications.
  • A regular partner.
  • Practice off the dance floor usually with "spotters" in case one falls and to provide confidence to allow the more challenged partner to "go for it"
  • No jewellery and belts etc to get tangled up with.
  • Shoes which can absorb the shock of landing.
  • Unambiguous communication such as both a special lead AND verbal signal.  At one dance a lady kept asking me to do that move where the man sweeps his leg over her head (whilst she is ducking) followed by pulling her through his legs. I had done this move with her before.  She kept saying "the legs move".  When I did it, she ended on her back on the floor (fortunately without injury).  She meant another legs move which starts the same where she is pulled feet first directly through the legs!
  • A VERY clear dance floor.  Remember those doing First move Columbian moves appearing from nowhere when your lady, who has been in the air for 3 seconds, requires a landing zone.
  • Warming up first, stretching important muscles.
  • An excellent comprehensive life-insurance policy!