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Spotlight on LeRoc
LeRoc is also known as French Jive and Modern Jive (or Ceroc, Le Jive, Le Step or Mojive and others under company trademark). It is a chic, stylish partner dance that can be enjoyed to virtually any music with a strong beat.
LeRoc was promoted extensively during the 1980's disco era through specialised London clubs, such as LeRoc, Ceroc and Cosmopolitan Jive. These clubs did not merely promote the French style jive; they developed it into a far more complex dance with literally hundreds of moves or figures.
Unlike most other jive styles, LeRoc moves consist of varying numbers of beats so they often cross over the bars of music. This gives the dance great musical flexibility and is why LeRoc can be danced to so many music styles.
As its name suggests, LeRoc evolved in France after GI's brought the Jitterbug to France during the war.
The British 'Swinging Sixties' and 'Beatlemania' attracted people from all over Europe to the discotheques of London. Dance crazes like the Pony, Jerk, Funky Chicken, Fly, Boney Maroney, Mashed Potatoe etc. all contributed to the demise of 'touch' partner dancing in the discos - but none more so than the Twist.
The Twist encouraged people to dance alone and the 1960's, sexually liberated, hippy culture also dealt a blow for Rock'n'Roll and Swing / Jive partner dancing. Eventually a whole generation forgot how to partner dance.
In France, however, many people carried on jiving, adapting it to suit slow, heavy rock or disco beats and smaller dance floors. The average Frenchman was more likely to learn his chic but casual 'Rock'n'Roll' from a brother or cousin than from a dance class so the style sported minimal footwork and was simple, tight and slick.
Certain British people visiting France admired the French style 'rock' so much that they wanted to import it (along with the French perfume, wines and cheeses that the British love so well). One such person was James Cronin. Visits to his French grandmother involved him with French social life and he frequented parties in Normandy. Another was Christine Keeble who had won a dance competition in Brittany, France but then searched in vain for the same style back in Britain - but more of them later.
French dance 'Savoir Faire' in London
The dance epicentre for London's French community was the Centre Charles Peguy, a French International Youth Centre at 16, Leicester Square. Connected to it, just off the square, was the large dance floor of Notre Dame Hall. The Centre Charles Peguy's resident 'Rock'n'Roll' teacher was Mauritian born Michel Ange Lau and he is often described as the granddaddy of LeRoc French jive.
Revolutionary dance forces unleashed
When dance promoter, James Cronin employed Michel Ange Lau to choreograph a routine for the 1982 Ceroc Ball, a revolutionary force was unleashed. James's vision for the dance (under the Ceroc banner), combined with Michel's innovative flair, produced a new kind of partner dancing to modern music sounds. Gone were the jazz, big band swing, and rock'n'roll of yesteryear. For this dance troupe the sounds had to be up to the minute and the dance must develop to suit it.
Throughout the summer of '82 the dance troupe rehearsed four nights a week and after each rehearsal Michel worked with his partner, Christine Keeble, to create a large repertoire of new and exciting dance moves. All of these were given their own memorable names and they still form the basis of the dance. These included the 'First Move' (so named because it featured first in the troupe's first public performance). This was followed by the Neck Break; Figure of Eight; Butterfly; Sway; Yo-yo; Gearstick; Ladyspin; Swizzlestick; Backhander and so on. However, many hundreds of moves have been added to the original list by a wide range of talent - some under the LeRoc banner and some under Ceroc.
The 1982 Ceroc Ball generated influential publicity and huge momentum behind the dance. However, the Ceroc dance troupe's budget to employ Michel Ange Lau as choreographer had now run out. With tightened purse strings, the Ceroc troupe turned to one of its own dancers, Janie Elton, to take over as choreographer. What Janie lacked in experience she made up for in huge artistic flair and the Ceroc cabaret troupe performed in nightclubs and at balls all over London.
Michel Ange Lau returned to his teaching at the Centre Charles Peguy. Now partnered with Christine Keeble (one of the Ceroc cabaret team members), together they set up the LeRoc club. The club name was simply that of the generic name of the dance since the club was to be non-profit making (no special brand name like 'Ceroc' was needed).
Supported by a committee of 20 devotees, a LeRoc troupe also promoted the dance across London throughout the early to late eighties. While the Ceroc club attracted the Sloane Rangers of London's Chelsea and Knightsbridge districts, the LeRoc club attracted a more international crowd (based as it was at an international youth centre).
There was much interaction between the two clubs. LeRoc troupe dancers who also danced for Ceroc included: Christine Keeble, Roger Chin (who founded Cosmopolitan Jive) and Sylvia Coleman (who later became a Director of Ceroc).
Eventually, as LeRoc committee members returned to their home countries, married or generally disbanded, LeRoc was taken over by Michel Ange Lau and his two brothers, Louis and Richard. The Centre Charles Peguy was on prime real estate in London's most famous square so inevitably the Centre closed down. The much loved dance Mecca, Notre Dame Hall later became a theatre.
LeRoc's new era of expansion
By 1990, LeRoc club co-founder, Christine Keeble was frustrated that the dance had a huge following in London but was slow to leave the capital. The Ceroc club had a policy of not admitting dance teachers to its venues which did not help. Christine aimed to make LeRoc more available to dance teachers in the provinces so, in 1990, she produced the first version of a video that dance teachers could use to teach the dance. Her video then sponsored LeRoc to exhibit at four international DanceWorld exhibitions held at the Barbican, Olympia, Wembley and Earls Court. This provided the chance to tell dance teachers from all over Britain and elsewhere about the dance.
Meanwhile, a young enthusiast, Michel Gay had been commuting from Bristol to London to learn at the LeRoc and Ceroc clubs. From the mid-1980's he taught classes in Bristol and by the early 90's some of his pupils started setting up their own clubs. One of these, David Gotley took LeRoc to Brisbane, Australia, unleashing a whole new cult following 'down under'. Another London based Ceroc/ LeRoc dancer, Nicky Haslam emmigrated to Sydney, Australia where she took out a trademark on both 'LeRoc' and 'Ceroc'. This is why Australian clubs call the dance 'Le Step' or simply 'Modern Jive'.
Back in the UK, a group of LeRoc teachers formed the LeRoc French Jive Federation to help each other improve teaching standards. (see LeRoc French Jive Federation in our list of links).
In 1994, The United Kingdom Alliance of Professional Teachers of Dancing (UKA) asked Christine Keeble to create their first official LeRoc syllabus based upon the content of her video. She believed that dance teachers would only adopt the syllabus if it had been produced by consensus. The ideal organisation to achieve this was the LeRoc French Jive Federation, which rose to the task and produced a syllabus and definitive LeRoc Manual.
All members of the Federation have sat a professional examination endorsed by the United Kingdom Alliance of Dance Teachers (UKA). Consequently the dance has become more sophisticated, more easy and pleasurable to learn but still retaining the same wild, free spirit. The International Dance Teachers Association followed suit and has produced a syllabus too (some of its members also joining the Federation).
A medley of jive styles - new influences
Over the past twenty years LeRoc has evolved from the simple, chic, French Jive style of the early eighties. Because the dance is so flexible, it has borrowed and adapted from other dance styles including Salsa, Lambada, Dirty Dancing, and the original Lindy Hop. Dance teachers all over the world are constantly adding new creations. The LeRoc French Jive Federation keeps abreast of these with 'Moves Development Workshops' in which the moves are recorded on video and supplied to member teachers.
The dance is so flexible musically that it looks set to continue no matter what challenges it may encounter from the popular music charts. The growth of the dance has accelerated until now there are too many clubs to mention. The style of teaching and dancing will vary from one club to the next since each club is as unique as the character of its proprietor. What all these clubs share is the offer of a really fun night out; the chance to make good friends and the certainty that you will learn an addictive new skill to enjoy forever.