1950s Jive Dance Moves

Updated January 11, 2017

The 1950s saw a number of popular dance styles, from swing and rockabilly to the "Jitterbug" and "Jive" Among the decade's most popular dances was the "Jive," which was common in ballrooms and in nightclubs. The term came from African-American slang and it is a combination of steps borrowed from its predecessors, the lindy hop and Charleston. Jive dancing in the 1950s had several variations but were generally faster versions of the swing and involved dancing on the balls of the feet. Overall, the dance is high-energy and is only performed to music in 4/4 time.

Hand Jive

According to's article on favourite 1950s dances by Sherril Steele-Carlin, "if you danced during the 50s, chances are you still remember the 'Hand Jive.'" The dance features a series of hand and arm movements done in a pattern as seen in the 1970s hit movie "Grease." The dance can be performed while sitting, as many youth during the period performed it in movie theatres or where there was limited space for them to dance standing up.

Ballroom Jive

In an effort to attract younger dancers to the ballroom dance competition scene in the 1950s, the British created "Ballroom Jive," which found its way to the United States. The style involved elements of the Jitterbug and lindy hop with dancers performing a series of side and back steps while pumping the knees and shifting weight.The Ballroom Jive would continue on into the 1960s.

Skip Jive

Influenced by the New Orleans jazz of the late 1940s and early 1950s, the "Skip Jive" involved skipping to the rhythms and then breaking into Jitterbug patterns, which consisted of chicken walk dances, partners holding hands and kicking and the man swinging the woman out with one hand and reeling her back in. Because of rock 'n' roll, the dance fizzled out during the middle part of the 1950s, only to return in the latter part of the decade. One popular movie to feature this dance was "Ring-a-Ding Rhythm."

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About the Author

Leonard Dozier is a freelance writer based in southern New Jersey and New York. His film and sports columns have been published by "Casino Connection Magazine" and Trev Rogers sports respectively. A prolific and extremely versatile writer, he is an ASCAP songwriter and has written screenplays and stage plays registered with the Writer's Guild of America.