The story of jazz dance begins with the
importing of African culture to America
through the American slave trade.
Almost 300 years of slave trade had put
Africans to various parts of America and
also many other parts of the world.
In new, unfamiliar and unfriendly
environment, they struggled to survive
under inhumane conditions, but even
under these torturing circumstances,
the Africans had not forgotten about
their music and dance. They danced to
express their joy and sadness, anger
and happiness, and they also danced
in their religious gatherings
Whenever they got a chance, they sang and
danced as a communal expression for their
cultural beliefs. In time, these ethnic songs and
dances gradually became urban music and
dances which were spirited and lively; and
because new steps and variations were
constantly being created, the American people
took an avid interest in this rhythmically strong
kind of dance.
Jazz originated from Minstrel
entertainment in America of 1830s –
Developments of jazz dance have
followed the evolutions of jazz
music in the early part of the 20th
century. The earliest jazz dance
was social dance performed to jazz
music by black people.
The Cakewalk was an exciting new
development of Jazz dance towards
the end of the 19th to Ragtime music in
the Black community
These performances were particularly
popular in villages in southern
America; and amateur dancers in New
Orleans would perform jazz dance in
clubs and social gatherings. It was also
common for dancers to dance
according to the words and contents
of the songs.
After jazz dance became a dance
performed to a special type of music,
both black and white dancers began to
make numerous changes and
improvements to the basic steps. New
comers to jazz dance also created
and/or added movements of the hip,
the shoulders and torso isolations to
the dance vocabulary.
Tap Dance evolved from the Irish Jig
but it was Bill “Bojangles” Robinson
that influenced tap in the 1920s and
made it light and flexible
famous in 1923
by a Broadway
In the 1920s, many forms of swinging type
of dance had become fashionable. For
example, the Charleston, the Shimmy and
the Lindy all had their moments in dance
history. Later, with the appearance of
"Boogie-Woogie," couple dance with a
closed position hold had given way to a
new form where a couple danced facing
each other but separately (e.g. the
Jazz dance evolved into three different
types in late 1930s and early 1940s:
• 1) modern jazz dance that was heavily
influenced by classical ballet;
• 2) a type of jazz dance that was inspired by
African and Latin dances;
• 3) a type of jazz dance that consisted of
comical music and tap dancing elements.
Even though jazz dance was quite popular at
that time, it began to lose its footing in the latter
part of the 1940s when jazz music underwent
some major changes. A new type of jazz where
rhythms were very complicated had replaced
the big band swinging jazz, its complex beats
had made it hard to dance to. In addition, the
birth of the phonograph (record player) and the
heavy tax that the government (USA) imposed
on dance floors had forced many dance clubs to
terminate their businesses.
With the passing of the older style of
jazz dance came new developments in
the jazz dance scene. Evolutions of jazz
dance have taken place largely in the
US and since the US is a mixing ground
of various cultures, the new form of
jazz dance have brought together
dance & music elements from
different sources and backgrounds.
Jazz developed throughout the 20th
Century and was popular in Broadway
Dance styles and steps of the
1920s to the 1940s were mixed
with the dance steps of the 1950s,
1960s and 1970s. Popular media of
the times have also helped in
raising the popularity of jazz dance.
Types of Jazz Dance
Swing: Jive, Lindy Hop, Jitterbug,
East Coast, West Coast
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Movements in jazz dance are simple and
free, they reflect a person's emotions
through body movements like shaking,
twisting and swinging. Just like when we
hear our favourite tune or music, our
bodies have a tendency to move to its
rhythm, we snap our fingers, nod our
heads, stamp our feet; our movements
mimic and fuse with the mood and rhythm
of the music that we hear.
Jazz dance is a fast-paced, energetic
rhythmic dance form; and unlike
classical ballet or modern dance which
is typically "inward," jazz dance is
"outward" in nature (i.e. tends to
project everything outwardly).
Movement Characteristics of Jazz
Dance can be summarized as follows:
• use of the bend knee position (plie), to bring the body weight
closer to the ground. A lower centre of gravity allows more
flexibility for the lower limbs, while the upper body could
remain relatively relaxed and thus be able to perform quick
rhythmic actions. This permits more variety in movement
• ability to shift/move the centre of gravity quickly; indeed, the
ability to move the body weight quickly in a horizontal fashion
is a typical jazz technique.
• move individual body parts in isolation, i.e. the head,
shoulders, rib cage, hips.
• an emphasis on angular and linear movements.
• syncopated movements.
• polyrhythmic movements.
Guess the style/identify the features