Jazz dance(Redirected from Jazz Dance)
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Jazz dance is the performance dance technique and style that emerged in America in the early twentieth century. Jazz dance began as an African American social dance that had roots in African slave dances. Over time, a clearly defined jazz genre emerged, changing from a street dance to a theatrical dance performed on stage due to the work by artists such as Jack Cole (choreographer), Bob Fosse, Eugene Louis Faccuito and Gus Giordano.
The origins of jazz dance can be traced back to the African ritual and celebratory dances from around the eighteenth century. These dances had an emphasis on rhythm, groundedness, and a connection to the earth. They were traditionally done to the beat of African drums such as Djembes, Ashikos, and Bougarabous. Also, from the sixteenth to the nineteenth century, the transatlantic slave trade brought ten million Africans and their dances across the Atlantic Ocean to the Americas. By 1817 in New Orleans, city laws “restricted gatherings of enslaved people to Sunday afternoons in Congo Square, then called Place Publique”. The Sunday afternoon meetings often included the music and dance from the birthplaces of the slaves. The gatherings at Congo Square were shut down and brought back multiple times during the 1800s; however, when the meetings were shut down, they still continued in secret.
In the early 1900s in New Orleans, the new music was combining elements of blues and ragtime. Although the term ‘jazz’ first appeared in print in 1910, Jelly Roll Morton, a New Orleans pianist, claims that he invented jazz in 1902. In 1917, another jazz pianist named Spencer Williams, wrote a song called “Shim-Me-Sha-Wabble” which inspired a jazz dance called the ‘shimmy’. The shimmy is done by holding the body still “except for the shoulders, which are quickly alternated back and forth”. In the same year, jazz music began to spread and became well known in Chicago and New York. This led to the jazz age which is considered to be from 1920 to 1929. A few of the greatest musicians in the jazz age were Louis Armstrong, Bix Beiderbecke, and Benny Goodman. The dances that emerged during this period were the charleston and the lindy hop. The charleston is “characterized by its toes-in, heels-out twisting steps”. It can be done as a solo or with any number of people. The lindy hop was a wild and spontaneous partner dance that was extremely rhythmically conscious. When the Great Depression began in October of 1929, many people turned to dance. Because of this, the charleston and the lindy hop are now considered to be under the umbrella term ‘swing dance’ because they were most popular during the swing era of music (1935-1945).
The 1930s were also the start of jazz dance being combined into live musical theatre shows and movie musicals. A few of the prominent musical theatre choreographers were Jerome Robbins, Jack Cole and Michael Kidd. They created the dances for West Side Story, Gypsy, Seven Brides for Seven Brothers, and many more. These three choreographers and many of the other important figures in jazz dance choreographed and performed between 1930 and 1980. Jack Cole has his roots in modern and ballet, but he later became known as the father of jazz dance. His style is described as “hip, hard, and cool”. Gus Giordano is another key dancer/choreographer. Giordano founded his own company and established the Giordano technique. Another amazing jazz choreographer and dancer that founded a jazz technique was Lynn Simonson. Her technique, unsurprisingly, was called the Simonson technique. She emphasized organic movement with a connection to the music. Lastly, Bob Fosse developed his signature style of jazz dance. He, like some of the previously mentioned choreographers, worked in the musical theatre business. His brand was a “combination of vaudeville, striptease, magic shows, nightclubs, film and Broadway musicals, all based on social dance”. Many of the dancers that worked with Fosse, including Gwen Verdon, had also previously worked with Jack Cole. A characteristic that all of these choreographers and dancers had in common was that they looked ‘cool.’ One difference in jazz dance between the early 1900s and the period from 1930 to 1980 is who was doing the dancing. In the early 1900s, everyone was doing jazz dance, but from 1930 to 1980, jazz dance was done primarily by trained dancers.
Around the 1980s, jazz dance was being introduced into pop culture. The popular music in the ‘80s was acid jazz, rap, and hip hop. One of the major singer-songwriters in this time was Michael Jackson. He brought steps like the moonwalk into jazz dance and he continued the connection to ‘coolness.’ At this time, jazz was also brought more into movies. The 1984 hit film “Footloose” is a prime example of cinema jazz. The film was choreographed by Lynne Taylor-Corbett. A couple other films with jazz dance are “Dirty Dancing” and “Fame.” The 1980s were a turning point for a big cable channel called MTV. In the ‘80s the channel was full of music videos and music news. The last major influence in jazz dance before the turn of the century was Jazzercise. The founder of Jazzercise, Judi Sheppard Missett, was a dance teacher in Chicago. When she realized that students were attending jazz classes for “physical fitness and not to become highly technically proficient in dance,” she changed the way she led her classes. Missett decided to begin her classes with a jazz warm up, but the main point of her class was simply to exercise.
Over the last 20 years, jazz has evolved and has been defined. There are now many subcategories of jazz that each have their own distinct qualities and characteristics. The style and choreographers that I have mentioned thus far are considered to be a part of ‘classic jazz.’ This jazz is currently seen in companies like Giordano Dance Chicago and Jazz Roots Dance Company. It is also primarily done to jazz music from the early to mid nineteen hundreds. Contemporary jazz became well known because of shows like “So You Think You Can Dance.” Mia Michaels’ earlier work exemplifies this style. Some other companies and choreographers that create contemporary jazz dance are Sonya Tayeh, Mandy Moore, and Hubbard Street Dance Chicago. Commercial jazz, which has been popular since the ‘80s, combines aspects of hip hop and jazz and is often done to pop music. This style can be seen in the music videos of Janet Jackson and Paula Abdul. Lastly, commercial jazz often includes more ‘tricks.’ Commercial jazz and contemporary jazz are both seen at dance competitions. Another variety of jazz is Latin jazz. “Maria Torres developed and popularized the fusion at Broadway Dance Center”. Latin jazz has an emphasis on the movement of hips and isolations. It can be seen in “the films ‘El Cantante’ and ‘Dance With Me’,” as well as on tv dance shows. Latin jazz incorporates “polyrhythms, angularity, [and] groundedness”. The last type of jazz is afro-jazz. The two trailblazers of afro-jazz were Katherine Dunham and Alvin Ailey. You can see afro-jazz done by companies like Alvin Ailey Dance Theater and Dallas Black Dance Theatre.
In 2013, a panel of “six jazz-focused industry professionals” came together at the World Dance Alliance conference to discuss the tenets of jazz dance, how the principles translate through the various styles of jazz dance, and how they offer a mainstream appeal in today’s culture. The tenets are characteristics that connect and define jazz dance. Not all of the characteristics are needed for a dance to be defined as ‘jazz.’ First, for a dance to be considered ‘jazz,’ it could have some connection to the music, whether it be rhythmic, feeling the pulse, or engaging in the idea that you are ‘dancing with,’ not ‘dancing to’ the music. Second, jazz dance could be defined by the importance of individuality. This is seen in improvisation and personal expression. Next, jazz dance can be characterized by its connection to history or its African roots. The last non-technical tenet of jazz is the ‘aesthetic of cool.’ Being composed or having self control without holding back is associated with ‘coolness,’ but generally ‘cool’ can simply mean to be admired. In technical terms, jazz dance can be defined by its groundedness, articulated torso, and broken lines. These tenets can be found in all of the varieties of jazz dance and other styles including hip hop and tap. In hip hop, and all of its subcategories, improvisation and the ‘aesthetic of cool’ are the most pronounced characteristics. All of these properties of jazz dance also make the style more accessible for young dancers. They provide encouragement for dancers to be virtuosic and connect with history in an interesting way.
Notable directors, dancers, and choreographersEdit
- Michael Bennett, director, writer, choreographer, and dancer who was a tony award winner. A Chorus Line and Dream Girls are examples of some of his work.
- Busby Berkley, movie choreographer in the 1930s and 1940s famous for geometric pattern and kaleidoscopic arrangements
- 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. He is credited with popularizing the theatrical form of jazz dance with his great number of choreographic works on television and Broadway.
- Katherine Dunham, an anthropologist, choreographer, and pioneer in Black theatrical dance. She introduced isolations jazz dance.
- Eugene Louis Facciuto (a.k.a. "Luigi"), an accomplished dancer who, after suffering a crippling automobile accident in the 1950s, created a new style of jazz dance based on the warm-up exercises he invented to circumvent his physical handicaps. The exercise routine he created for his own rehabilitation became the world's first complete technique for learning jazz dance.
- Bob Fosse, a noted jazz choreographer who created a new form of jazz dance that was inspired by Fred Astaire and the burlesque and vaudeville styles.
- Patsy Swayze, choreographer and dance instructor, combining Jazz and Ballet. Swayze founded the Houston Jazz Ballet Company and served as the ballet's director.
- Gus Giordano, an influential jazz dancer and choreographer based in Chicago, known for his clean, precise movement qualities.
- Michael Jackson, known as "The King of Pop"
- Leon James, authentic Jazz dancers from the 1930s original member of "Whitey's Lindy Hoppers
- Gene Kelly, award winning dance film icon. Known for continuing his career for over 60 years. Work can be found in Singin' in the Rain and On the Town.
- Frankie Manning, Lindy Hop and authentic Jazz dancer and choreographer
- Norma Miller, known worldwide as the "Queen of Swing" Lindy Hop and authentic Jazz dancer and choreographer
- Al Minns, authentic Jazz dancers from the 1930s original member of "Whitey's Lindy Hoppers
- 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.
- Gwen Verdon, known for her roles in Damn Yankees, Chicago, and Sweet Charity.
- David Winters known for his role as A-Rab in West Side Story and as an award-winning choreographer for movies and TV programs.
- Molly Molloy influential for instructing UK artists such as Arlene Philips and many members of Hot Gossip Jazz dance technique and choreography.
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