Jazz dance

Jazz dance

Jazz dance is an umbrella term that can refer to several related dance styles. All of them are connected via common roots, namely tap, ballet, jazz music, and African-American rhythms and dance.


Jazz dance originated from the African American vernacular dance of the late 1800s to the mid-1900s.

Until the mid 1950s, the term "jazz dance" often referred to tap dance, because tap dancing (set to jazz music) was the main performance dance of the era. During the later jazz age, popular forms of jazz dance were the Cakewalk, Black Bottom, Charleston, Jitterbug, Boogie Woogie, Swing dancing and the related Lindy Hop.

After the 1950s, pioneers such as Katherine Dunham took the essence of Caribbean traditional dance and made it into a performing art. With the growing domination of other forms of entertainment music, jazz dance evolved on Broadway into the new, smooth style that is taught today and known as Modern Jazz, while tap dance branched off to follow its own, separate evolutionary path. The performance style of jazz dance was popularized to a large extent by Bob Fosse’s work, which is exemplified by Broadway shows such as Chicago, Cabaret, Damn Yankees, and The Pajama Game.

Today, jazz dance is present in many different forms and venues. Jazz dance is commonly taught in dance schools and performed by dance companies around the world. It continues to be an essential element of musical theater choreography, where it may be interwoven with other dance styles as appropriate for a particular show. Jazz dancing can be seen in music videos, in competitive dance, and on the television show, "So You Think You Can Dance".


Technique is the foundation for all dance movement. A strong technical foundation enables a dancer to focus on the stylistic and performance aspects of dance. Technique is essential for leaps and turns, where correct posture is essential to properly execute such moves. Also, jazz dancers' strong and sharp movements are greatly aided by a good background in ballet technique. However, while ballet movement emphasizes the upbeat of music, jazz dance emphasizes the downbeat.

"Center control" is important in jazz technique. The body's center is the focal point from which all movement emanates, thus making it possible to maintain balance while executing powerful movements.

Jazz classes require some form of moderate intensity stretching in order to warm up the muscles and help prevent injuries. Some techniques used in the warm up consist of elongating leg muscles and strengthening the core.

Common dance moves

thumb|right|200px|An_acro dancer performs a "straddle split leap", one of several leaps also found in jazz dance.
Although jazz dance can be performed its traditional form, it is often influenced by other dance styles such as acro, ballet, contemporary, lyrical, and hip hop. In turn, many other dance styles are influenced by jazz dance. As a result, many of the moves that are common to jazz dance can also be found in other dance styles.

Common jazz dance moves include:

* Ball change
* Barrel turn
* Battement
* Calypso
* Cat walk
* Catch step
* Chainé
* Chasses
* Fan kick
* Hip walk
* Jazz run
* Jazz square
* Jazz walk
* Jeté
* Pas de bouree
* Pencil spin
* Piqué passé
* Pirouettes
* Pivot step
* Renversé
* Split leap
* Stag leap
* Switch leap
* Toe rise
* Touch step

Notable directors, dancers, and choreographers

*Katherine Dunham, considered the grandmaster of jazz dance technique. She was a key inspiration to most modern jazz dance legends.
*Jack Cole, considered the father of jazz dance technique. He was a key inspiration to Matt Mattox, Bob Fosse, Jerome Robbins, Gwen Verdon, and many other choreographers.
*Bob Fosse, a noted jazz choreographer who created a new form of jazz, inspired by Fred Astaire and the burlesque and vaudeville styles.
*Gus Giordano, a highly influential jazz dancer and choreographer.
*Eugene Louis Facciuto (aka Luigi), a dancer who in the 1950s created a warm-up routine designed to prepare his body for dancing after being paralyzed in a car accident. Luigi is the father and innovator of jazz dance.

*Jerome Robbins, choreographer for a number of hit musicals, including "Peter Pan", "The King and I", "Fiddler on the Roof", "Gypsy", "Funny Girl", and "West Side Story". He also directed the last four. He also founded the ballet company Ballets USA.
*Gwen Verdon, known for her roles in "Damn Yankees", "Chicago", and "Sweet Charity".

External links

* [http://www.dancehelp.com/articles/dance-dictionary/jazz-terminology.aspx Jazz Dance Dictionary]
* [http://www.jazzdanceworldcongress.org Jazz Dance World Congress]
* [http://www.columbiacityjazz.com The Columbia City Jazz Dance Company]
* [http://www.jazzcotech.com/jazzdance.htm Street-Fusion Jazz Dance essay on JazzCotech website]

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