What are modern jive judges looking for?

This is a general overview for competitors who would like to know more about the judging/scoring process.

To encourage a fair and balanced environment & ensure that all competitors are judged solely on their dancing skills, performance ability and repertoire of moves, etc a large panel of judges from a variety of companies competing will be used to judge.

Before getting into more specifics, it is worth mentioning that the judges will take the following into consideration:
Dancing with correct Modern Jive timing is integral to the foundations of Modern Jive and is an essential part of the dance. Particularly at Advanced and Champions Levels, timing will be carefully scrutinized before other elements are considered.

Other traditionally recognized elements of Modern Jive include evidence of a general concertina action (not exclusively) with the guys usually stepping R/L and girls usually stepping L/R on the ‘and’ & ‘1’ in a modern jive count.  This format of stepping is taught by most groups but it is not essential to timing, as timing is more to do with central core movement and transitioning at the correct time.

Before going further, it is important to understand that the level at which you dance will indicate how much of each element the judges are looking for. eg At beginner level the emphasis is on having FUN!

Let’s be very clear – we are hosting a MODERN JIVE competition – not a general dance competition.

We love DANCE in whatever style but this competition is provided for dancers of Modern Jive. Those who do not do Modern Jive, or who do not perform enough Modern Jive (Min 70%) as it is currently identified at Modern Jive classes, will not score well with most judges who will be specifically asked to score according to the rules of our QMJC and the rules/guidelines agreed upon by the host of the major competitions across Australia.

Where a 2/3 majority of judges indicate there is not enough evidence of Modern Jive dance, the couple will be disqualified. This rule also extends to our ‘Modern Jive Showcase’ (which should be a showcase of Modern Jive) and Team Events.

Further break down of things judges are looking for:   

2008 Advanced & Masters in Qld performing the LOW routine.

2008 Advanced & Masters in Qld performing the LOW routine.


1. Modern Jive is a “double rhythm” dance (2 steps to two straight dance counts) (as per our Modern Jive classes).
2. Whilst it is not essential to take two steps every two counts, an understanding of core fundamentals should be demonstrated by all dancers at all levels and in all categories including Modern Jive Showcase and Teams.
3. It is useful to remember that in the context of a ‘Modern Jive Count’ (& 1 & 2 & 3 & 4 &1 &2 etc) each ‘position’ of the move happens on a number in the modern jive count. (ie. Each position of the move/figuration is on a downbeat.)
4. Transitioning (moving between the positions of moves) and importantly, transitioning/moving from one ‘move’ to the next ‘move’ (generally the first open position of the concertina action) happens on the “&” count (unless in the event that the transition has occasionally been modified or syncopated).
5. Modern Jive has its core foundations as a beat based dance. It is not, at its core, a beat and rhythm-based dance such as some other styles of dance. However, interpreting the rhythm of the music with accents and flourishes is totally acceptable (and encouraged) so long as you demonstrate an understanding of the fundamentals of the dance (ie transition on the upbeat with ‘positions’ of the moves on the downbeat.)
6. At the higher levels of competition, we would expect to see flourishes, rhythmic interpretation, lyrical interpretation and syncopation but not at the expense of the fundamentals of the dance.

Couples (min 3 couples per team) perform a choreographed routine to a song of their choosing, where the couple/group dance to reflect the music and show advanced dance skills. In teams, synchronisation and a variety of transitions/formations are rewarded well. This division is also judged using the three “T’s” and choreography and showmanship; however, in the Team Category, the criteria applies to the team as a whole. There is an expectation that at least 70% of any routine is recognisable Modern Jive.

“Open Showcase” – New in 2018
We value innovation and creativity and love all types of dance, so in 2018 we’re excited to introduce an “Open Showcase” division that will provide dancers opportunity to showcase routines that are entertaining but may not meet the minimum 70% MJ requirement in our “MJ Showcase division.
Dancers may choose to perform their routine in either the “MJ Showcase” or the new “Open Showcase” division.
In Open Showcase, judges will be looking for partner dancing routines that are entertaining and demonstrate all the usual skills but without the 70% minimum requirement.

Is music that is not in 4/4 time suitable for Modern Jive?
The basic structure of Modern Jive, as taught at Modern Jive classes, fits extremely well to music that is in 4/4 time whilst still allowing for embellishments.

Technically, the fundamental structure of modern jive (as taught at classes) will fit any music that has a count where the top and bottom number of the time signature is divisible by four. So technically, the in-out swung feel of a song in 12/8 can (in theory) allow couples to dance Modern iJve. In practice, however, it is a difficult task for most dancers to demonstrate the fundamental elements of Modern Jive (as taught at modern jive classes) if they choose to dance to music in 12/8 time. Furthermore, it is a difficult task for the judges to clearly identify and judge these elements when dancers choose to dance to 12/8 music. Most couples would do well by choosing music in 4/4 which will enable them to show off their modern jive skills.

So, what about music 3/4 or 6/8?
Whilst these two time signatures have some similarities, they are not the same thing. However, this is not the place for a music lesson – it’s just a quick explanation of what works and what does not work.

It may help to think of it like this; A ballroom waltz is done to 3/4 music. At its core, the waltz was designed to fit music with a 3/4 time signature. This includes the number of steps per bar, the rise and fall of the music etc. Couples could try waltz to music in 4/4 time but it simply wouldn’t look right – or feel right because the dance is not designed for 4/4 music.

At its core, modern jive has a structure that fits 4/4 music. At modern jive classes, the basic timing structure, the footwork etc all fit really well with 4/4 music. And it’s that common understanding of the way the dance works which makes it a dance that can be danced with any Modern Jiver anywhere in the world.

It might be a bit of fun to try and ‘dance’ modern jive to a song in 6/8 but it’s not what we teach at classes. It’s not even close to what we (nor anyone else) teaches at class – so it’s not modern jive. It generally ends up being a fun experiment in lyrical dance rather than modern jive. The fundamental footwork, the universally understood timing for the dance etc are lost.

Some may ask, ‘But surely modern jive can evolve to include 3/4 or 6/8 music?’
Since the beginning of modern jive, it has always been danced to 4/4 music. We’ve seen modern jive evolve to include a bits of other dance styles (including some non-concertina moves, a smoother footwork and a less bouncy action), we’ve seen the STYLING elements evolve (hand and body movements, leg positioning on moves, no c-motion on the hands) – but this style of dance has always maintained the same timing because it looks and feels right when done to 4/4 music and the positions of the moves (dance figurations) sit on the downbeats.

Who cares?
At class and on the social dance floor lots of people don’t care. They are at classes and parties to just have fun. However, as with any other type of competition, competitors want to know the rules and on what criteria they are being judged. Many couples put a lot of time and effort into making sure they have good timing.

The Triple Ts.

The triple “T” mnemonic and a couple of extra things help form a broad overview but it can also be useful to consider choreography and performance separately;

1. Timing

Standard Modern Jive timing (as outlined on this page) will be considered before judging other elements of the dance.

2. Teamwork – (Partnership) Connection

Connection with partner (lead/Follow and understanding of your partner, the music (musicality) and the audience (showmanship/performance).

3. Technique

Balance, Lead/Follow, Active/Passive lead/follow, Frame, Arm Leads/Body Leads.

4. Choreography

Moves form part of choreo concept and can include: range of moves, variations, difficulty, innovation/creativity, style, use of lines/extensions,  use of space, Furthermore choreo consists of musical interpretation, flow of dance/routines,  clean execution of moves including dips/drops & aerials and the ability to genuinely freestyle in freestyle and DWAS events. Combos are ok but there should be evidence of true freestyle. Choreography  is of high importance for Showcase & Team events.

5. Performance

Showmanship, chemistry between the couple, animation, costuming/outfit and X-Factor.