The modern jazz that we know today is totally different from the one that originated some decades back. The term ‘jazz’ is an umbrella term combining ‘blues’ notes, poly-rhythms, improvisations, the ‘swung’ note and syncopation. It is a blend of various dance styles, such as ballet, tap and the African American rhythms-and-dance styles and techniques. Though the dance form is always credited as an American creation, it, in fact, has its roots in African and slave traditions. Eventually, it was recognized in other parts of the world and today, a jazz dance performance is incomplete without the rhythms of jazz or African music. Read through the following lines to learn more interesting and amazing information on the origin and background of jazz dance.
Interesting & Amazing Information On Origin & Background Of Jazz Dance
Jazz dance is known to have originated during the late 1800s. While most people believe that jazz dance originated in the United States, the history of this dance form started off in Africa, instead. The African slaves danced during their journey to America, in order to keep themselves in a healthy position. Eventually, these African dances became evident on the plantations of the South of America. The black Americans adopted the jazz dance and became the forerunners in the early 1900s. This dance was quite similar to tap dancing. Jazz bands were formed, which included jazz or tap dancers. Shortly, word spread among the audience and public and these jazz bands gained popularity all over America.
These dance styles eventually branched out into other dances, such as Charleston, Jitterbug, Boogie Woogie, Swing, Black Bottom, Cakewalk and the Lindy Hop. One of the most popular and influential dancers of those times was Joe Frisco, who was termed as the first official American “jazz dancer” in 1910. His dance was a series of shuffles, camel walks and turns. Additionally, he included stand-up comedy in his act, which differentiated him from the rest. He is still known for his unmistakable stuttering voice, his Derby hat and a big cigar. Katherine Dunham and Jack Cole are two of the greatest influences on jazz dance.
While Katherine Dunham is renowned as the ‘Grandmaster of Jazz Dancing’ worldwide, Jack Cole is recognized as the ‘Father of the Jazz Dance Technique’. They are popular for creating some ballet-based movements and theatrical expressions that are the touchstones of contemporary jazz dancing. Both these choreographers have been the inspiration of many jazz dancers that followed after. Matt Mattox, Jerome Robbins, Gwen Verdon, Bob Fosse and Eugene Louis Facciuto are a few to name such jazz dancers. It was only during the 1950s that these pioneers took the essence of Caribbean traditional dance and developed it into a unique performing art.
With the era that followed, jazz dance progressed on Broadway into the new, smooth style that we know as modern jazz today. Some of the popular jazz dance performances that were considered hits in Broadway included Cabaret, Chicago, The Pajama Game and Damn Yankees. Eventually, even the tap dance split into its own separate path developing into an individual dance form. The modern jazz dances are more inclined towards a more lyrical, balletic or hip-hop style influenced from street dance techniques. Though the basic jazz technique relies on the mastery of turns, leaps, kicks and fluid style, every jazz class and teacher is different and unique from each other.
While some dancers prefer harder and faster movements combining hip hop moves with traditional jazz steps, others opt for the theatrical end of the spectrum. Various new techniques have been involved in the current jazz dance, such as African, break dancing, hip hop, lyrical, modern and rock. Though the basis of the jazz dance is still young, the style has been modified to suit the modern music world. This dance form is best performed with leather jazz shoes, footwear designed for jazz performers to execute the dance more smoothly. It has gained immense name and fame across the world due to music videos and television shows.