Co-op Jive

History



The following article provides some details of the history of the dance in the United Kingdom

IN THE MOOD

A LOOK AT THE INFLUENCE OF THE AMERICAN G.I.s AND THEIR JITTERBUG DANCE CRAZE DURING WAR-TIME BRITAIN.

THE PEACEFUL INVASION

Between 1942 and 1945 more than one and a half million American servicemen descended upon Britain. The arrival of the Yanks, as they were called, at the height of the Second World War was a tremendous culture shock for the people of Britain - many of whom had never met an American nor heard an American accent.

The Americans brought with them a whole new approach to life. They were more casual and easy-going than the British. They walked with a swagger, chewed gum and sported crew-cuts. They used phrases and catch-words that the British people found strange. Earning up to seven times as much as the British servicemen the Americans, or GIs, could afford to be generous. The luxuries they brought with them - nylon stockings, candy and fruit, all of which had been in short supply since the war began in 1939 - were lavished upon the young British women and their families.

IN THE DANCE HALLS

But most of all the GIs introduced a whole new style of dancing. The most popular dance was known as the Jitterbug - a wild and acrobatic jive which made the previously popular ballroom dances such as the waltz and the foxtrot appear rather dull and conservative.

Needless to say the GIs - with their good looks, charm and outlandish way - quickly became popular with the British women. They weren't however liked by everyone in Britain. Many found them to be loud and showy and the proprietors of the traditional British dance halls were horrified at this 'dance' they called the Jitterbug - even the name had a somewhat indelicate ring to it. Before long 'No Jitterbugging' signs began to appear. But it was going to take more than that to stop the fast-growing Jitterbug craze and the signs were usually ignored.

Dancing was central to the social culture of the country at this time. Everybody danced and dance halls were focal points for people to meet, socialise and have fun. The young people loved the new dance, particularly the young women who spent long hours in the munitions factories or on the land, playing their part in the war effort. It gave them an opportunity to let their hair down and forget the hardships of war - if only for a few hours. For many women the arrival of the GIs made war-time existence not just tolerable but enjoyable.

VICTORY DAY

In 1945 Nazi Germany was defeated and the American soldiers went back to their own country. A great many of them didn't go alone though - fifty thousand British women became GI brides and made new homes in America. The Jitterbug however stayed behind and continued to be danced all over Britain. As time went on it became a little less wild and energetic and eventually became what we all know as rock'n'roll.








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