Jazz Dance Definition: 6 Jazz Dance Moves

Jazz Dance Definition: 6 Jazz Dance Moves

Jazz dance is dynamic and expressive and has captivated audiences for decades. Originating in the African-American communities of New Orleans in the early 20th century, jazz dance combines elements of ballet, tap, and African dance styles. It’s known for its high energy, unique rhythms, and improvisational nature. Whether you’re a beginner or an experienced dancer, understanding the basics of jazz dance and learning about the different jazz dance styles and moves can enhance your appreciation and performance.

But before we answer the question: “What are the 6 different jazz dance styles and moves?”, let’s first delve into its brief history to understand how it gained popularity and identify some of the prominent jazz dancers to give appreciation to the people who made it the artistic art form that it is today.

A Brief History of the Jazz Dancing Style

Jazz dance’s history is as rich and varied as the music that inspired it. It began in the early 1900s in New Orleans, where African and Caribbean dance styles blended with European music traditions to create a uniquely American dance form. Jazz dance quickly spread to other parts of the United States, especially as jazz music gained popularity in the 1920s, also known as the Jazz Age.

Early 1900s: Origins in New Orleans

  • Jazz dance began in the early 1900s in New Orleans, where African and Caribbean dance styles blended with European music traditions to create a uniquely American dance form.

The 1920s and 1930s: Traditional Jazz Dance, The Jazz Age, and Swing Era

  • Traditional Jazz Dance: Originated alongside jazz music, characterized by high energy, intricate footwork, and expressive movements. It borrowed elements from African American vernacular dances and merged them with ballet and modern dance influences.
  • Jazz Age: Social dances like the Charleston and Lindy Hop became popular, embodying the lively spirit of the era.
  • Swing Era: In the 1930s, swing music and big bands further popularized jazz dance with lively ballroom dancing.

The 1940s and 1950s: Hollywood and Broadway Influence

  • Hollywood and Broadway: Jazz dance evolved significantly with the influence of choreographers like Jack Cole, who blended traditional jazz with ballet, modern, and ethnic dance forms. Katherine Dunham incorporated African and Caribbean elements into jazz choreography, expanding its appeal and complexity.

The 1960s-Present: Contemporary or Modern Jazz Dance

  • 1960s: Choreographers like Bob Fosse revolutionized jazz dance with distinctive styles characterized by angular movements, turned-in knees, and the use of props.
  • Modern Jazz Dance: Continues to evolve by integrating elements from contemporary dance, hip-hop, and other modern styles, making it a dynamic and ever-changing art form.

Jazz Dance Thrives To This Day

Jazz is a versatile and dynamic form of dance that thrives today and is continually evolving while remaining rooted in its rich history. It is celebrated for its expressive style, rhythmic intricacy, and ability to convey a wide range of emotions and stories. From its early beginnings in New Orleans to its presence on Broadway stages and music videos, jazz dance has proven to be an enduring and influential art form.

Notable Professional Jazz Dancers

Several notable dancers, jazz musicians, and choreographers have significantly influenced and revolutionized jazz dance, shaping it into the dynamic and diverse style it is today. Here are a few key jazz dance figures:

Katherine Dunham

Katherine Dunham was an American jazz dancer, choreographer, and anthropologist known for integrating African and Caribbean styles into her choreography. Her work brought a new depth and cultural richness to jazz dances and emphasized the importance of cultural heritage in artistic expression.

Bob Fosse

Bob Fosse was a groundbreaking choreographer and director whose unique style became synonymous with jazz dance. Characterized by angular movements, turned-in knees, and props like hats and canes, Fosse’s choreography and jazz technique have left an indelible mark on Broadway and film.

Jack Cole

Often referred to as the “Father of Theatrical Jazz Dance,” Jack Cole developed a technique that blended jazz, ballet, and other ethnic dance forms. His innovative choreography set the standard for jazz dance in musical theater, influencing generations of dancers and choreographers.

Jazz Dance Gained Popularity Through Their Efforts…

The efforts of Katherine Dunham, Bob Fosse, and Jack Cole, among others, played a crucial role in popularizing jazz dance and bringing it to mainstream audiences. These pioneers transformed jazz dance into a respected and influential genre through their innovative choreography, distinctive styles, technical skill and dedication to the art form.

So What are the 6 Different Jazz Dance Styles?

So What are the 6 Different Jazz Dance Styles?

Jazz dance is not a monolithic style; it encompasses a variety of subgenres, each with its own unique characteristics. So, what are the 6 different jazz dance styles? Here are the key styles within jazz dance:

1. Classic Jazz

Classic jazz dance focuses on traditional jazz dance techniques and movements. It is characterized by clean lines, precise footwork, and a strong emphasis on musicality. This style is often seen in Broadway shows and musical theater.

2. Latin Jazz

Latin jazz dance incorporates elements from Latin American dance styles such as salsa, mambo, and cha-cha. It is known for its vibrant, rhythmic movements and often features hip isolations and intricate footwork.

3. Contemporary Jazz

Contemporary jazz dance blends classical jazz with elements from modern and contemporary dance. It emphasizes fluidity, emotional expression, energetic movements, and a strong connection to the music.

4. Street Jazz

Street jazz, also known as jazz-funk, combines jazz dance with hip-hop and street dance elements. It is characterized by its high energy, sharp movements, and bold attitude. This style is popular in music videos and commercial dance.

5. Afro-Jazz

Afro-jazz is a fusion of African dance movements with traditional jazz techniques. It emphasizes rhythm, grounded movements, and a strong connection to the music. This style often incorporates traditional African rhythms and movements, creating a vibrant and energetic dance form.

6. Broadway Jazz

Broadway jazz, also known as theatrical jazz, is heavily influenced by the dance styles seen in musical theater. It is characterized by dramatic expressions, storytelling, and props. This style often incorporates elements from other dance genres, including ballet and tap.

Commercial Jazz: A Significant Subgenre

Commercial jazz should also be on the list as an added piece of information. The ones previously mentioned are the primary styles, but commercial jazz is a significant subgenre worth mentioning due to its influence and popularity in the entertainment industry. It is a vibrant and high-energy style of jazz dance that has been adapted for the commercial entertainment industry. This includes music videos, television shows, films, and live performances. It combines traditional jazz techniques with modern dance elements, creating a dynamic and visually compelling form of dance.

The Impact and Evolution of Jazz Dance Forms

The different dance styles in jazz have contributed to the genre’s rich tapestry, allowing it to adapt and thrive through different cultural and artistic movements. The versatility of jazz dance means it can be both a reflection of its time and a pioneer of new trends in the dance world. This adaptability ensures that jazz dance remains a vital and exciting art form, continuously inspiring dancers and audiences alike.

6 Essential Jazz Dance Moves To Master

6 Essential Jazz Dance Moves To Master

To truly appreciate jazz dance, you need to get familiar with jazz dance steps and its fundamental moves. Here are six essential jazz dance moves that form the backbone of this vibrant dance style.

1. Jazz Walks

Jazz walks involve strutting across the dance floor with style and confidence. To perform a jazz walk:

  • Start with feet parallel and weight evenly distributed.
  • Step forward, rolling through the ball of your foot to your heel.
  • Add a slight bend to your knees and sway your hips.
  • Keep shoulders relaxed, and let your arms move naturally.

Jazz walks can be performed at various tempos and styles, making them versatile in any jazz routine.

2. Ball Change

The ball change is a quick weight shift often used as a transitional step. Here’s how to do it:

  • Start with feet together.
  • Step back onto the ball of one foot.
  • Quickly shift weight to the other foot.
  • Keep knees slightly bent for fluidity.

This move adds rhythm and syncopation to your dancing.

3. Chassé

A chassé is a gliding step where one foot “chases” the other. To execute a chassé:

  • Start in a plié.
  • Step one foot to the side.
  • Bring the other foot to meet it in the air before landing in a plié.

Chassés can be performed forward, backward, or to the side.

4. Pas de Bourrée

The pas de bourrée is a three-step movement adding complexity and fluidity. To perform it:

  • Start in a plié.
  • Step back with one foot onto the ball of your foot.
  • Step the other foot to the side.
  • Step the first foot forward.

This step is often used to transition between more complex movements.

5. Pivot Turn

A pivot turn is a sharp, controlled turn that adds dynamic movement. Here’s how to do it:

  • Start with one foot in front of the other.
  • Step forward with your back foot.
  • Pivot on the balls of both feet to turn 180 degrees.

Maintain a strong core for balance.

6. Jazz Hands

Jazz hands are simple but effective:

  • Extend your arms to the sides or above your head.
  • Spread your fingers wide apart.
  • Shake your hands slightly.

Jazz hands add a dramatic touch to performances.

Learn These Jazz Dance Styles and Moves

Mastering these essential moves and forms of jazz dance will provide you with a solid foundation in this energetic and expressive dance style. These are fundamental to jazz dance’s dynamic choreography, and practicing these stems of jazz technique will improve your technique and enhance your confidence and presence on the dance floor.

Enroll in a Jazz Dance Class Now

Enroll in our jazz dance classes to take your skills to the next level. Learning from experienced instructors and practicing in our dance studio will accelerate your progress and deepen your understanding of this vibrant dance form. We offer traditional, contemporary, lyrical jazz dance, and more. So put on your dancing shoes, embrace the process, enjoy the rhythm, and let the spirit of jazz dance move you!

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