What Are Jack & Jills?
â€œThe whole premise of a Jack n Jill is to challenge competitors to dance well with others who are talented buy who may or may not respond well to oneâ€™s usual dance style. It rewards flexibility and adjustment.â€
Participants enter as single individuals. From there, everything is random: your partner, the song, the style, and the audience…but oh!
The randomness of things is the best part. The rules of matching participants vary but they all share a common factor: it is a random matching process.
You enter as a single participant (either follow or lead) and then paired with another dancer (a lead if you are a follow and a follow if you are a lead) for a song. The random assignment occurs for each song until the competition is over so you will not be guaranteed to dance with the same partner every song.
The name and format was created by Jack Carey in Norwalk, California in the early 1950s to encourage dancers to enter competitions. In the U.S., Jack & Jill contests are extremely popular in Lindy Hop and West Coast Swing communities.
Rules vary in events across the country but three rules seem to be standard in most Jack & Jill contests:
(1) No choreography is allowed
(2) No costumes are allowed
(3) No lifts or drops are allowed
Music for each dance is selected at random also without the participantsâ€™ prior knowledge, although some competitions will allow them to select the tempo (or speed) of the music. It is somewhat typical for dancers to be judged individually, then dancers who make any elimination rounds redraw for new partners.
One important element of a Jack & Jill contest is the element of improvisation. This key element of improvisation contributes to the entertaining nature of this event. Dancers try to coordinate dancing with their new partner while also dancing to the specific characteristics of a random song, expressing musicality and rhythm.
Given all the unpredictable factors, such as dancing partner, song selection, crowd interaction, or even just the simple factor of how they feel at that particular time, Jack & Jill contests prove to be an exhibition that showcase partner connection, adaptability, and sheer fun.
So why bother? Because Jack & Jill is the perfect and fun way to mix it up, showcasing not only individual skills but something much more: that wonderful connection between you, your partner, and the music!
Written By: Gianfranco Semino