Being a big fan of this song (and of bilateral symmetry) I have loved this dance ever since I first learned it (which took about 10 seconds). The hand jive is one of those dances that it's really pretty close to impossible to mess up. And you can add onto it just about anything you can think of. I've seen more complicated versions of it, particularly one rather raunchy version that made the rounds of the frat parties when I was in university, which may have been a lot closer to the original rhythm and blues original than we realized at the time. If memory serves, it was called the "Dirty Thirty from Chi-town." That's really all I can tell you today. Maybe it had 30 hand jive gestures, I never counted. Maybe it originated in Chicago, I never thought to ask.
Whatever it was in the early days, for me, the hand jive was always the classic version seen here in the first video embed which I found on YouTube. As you can see from the apparent age of the girls in this vid, the hand jive that I did in the late 50s through the 60s is still being done by contemporary youth. Like they say, rock and roll is here to stay! Warning, the video is four minutes long, but after the first 10 seconds, you've seen all of the moves; the girls don't go on to free-style it, so if you're pressed for time...
In looking for a vid of the acutal song, I found this terrific vintage footage of Johnny Otis performing his huge hit, complete with some very hip dancers (reminiscent of Audrey Hepburn in "Funny Face"). As you can see, their hand jive really isn't all that much about the hands. But I like it! Good old Wikipedia has more to say on the subject:
The Hand jive is a dance particularly associated with rock and roll and rhythm and blues music of the 1950s. It involves a complicated pattern of hand moves and claps at various parts of the body, following and/or imitating the percussion instruments. It resembles a highly elaborate version of Pat-a-cake. Hand moves include thigh slapping, cross-wrist slapping, fist pounding, chest slapping and pounding, hand clapping, elbow touching and hitch hike moves.The hand jive was particularly popularized by Johnny Otis's 1958 hit "Willie and the Hand Jive". Eric Clapton did a version of the song in 1974 that reached the Top 40. It is also featured prominently in the Broadway musical Grease through the song "Born to Hand Jive"; in the movie adaptation of the musical, the song is performed by Sha Na Na.
Finally, I saw this on the news lately, and thought it was the perfect way to wrap up our hand jive coverage. This one is worth watching all the way through (3 mins exactly!) because there are virtually no repeats. It's about the best hand jive you could find that's done sitting down and not to music! And after you see this, I promise you you're going to look at Wolf Blitzer in a whole new light.
Videos top to bottom by YT members icecreamlover531, twobarbreak, wgn
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