Essays History Of Jazz Dance

jazz dance Essay

2756 WordsMay 6th, 201412 Pages

The varieties of jazz dance reflect the diversity of American culture. Jazz dance mirrors the social history of the American people, reflecting ethnic influences, historic events, and cultural changes. Jazz dance has been greatly influenced by social dance and popular music. But, like so much that is “from America”, the history of jazz dance begins somewhere else.
The origins of jazz music and dance are found in the rhythms and movements brought to America by African slaves. The style of African dance is earthy; low, knees bent, pulsating body movements emphasized by body isolations and hand-clapping. As slaves forced into America, starting during the 1600’s, Africans from many cultures were cut off from their families, languages and…show more content…

Just when social dancing was at its height, World War 2 put a stop to its popularity. Lack of attendance, plus the intricate rhythmic patterns of modern jazz music, which were too complex for social dancing, led to the closing of dance halls and ballrooms. With the demise of social dance, the growth of jazz dance as a professional dance form began. During the 1940’s, jazz dance was influenced by ballet and modern dance. By blending the classical technique of ballet with the natural bodily expression of modern dance, jazz developed a sophisticated artistic quality. Unlike early jazz dance, which was performed by talented entertainers without formal training, modern jazz dance was performed by professionals trained in ballet and modern dance.
It was during this time that man who later came to be known as the “Father of Theatrical Jazz Dance”, Jack Cole, was busy developing his technique. Jack Cole had studied modern, ballet, and ethnic dance, had been a student at Denishawn and had done choreographic work in the nightclub scene. In the 1940’s there was a serious demand for groups of trained dancers for film work and Jack Cole was the one who started developing these trained jazz dancers for the Hollywood movie musicals. Also, during this time Gene Kelly, began making his mark as a dancer in Hollywood musicals. His impact on jazz was his individual, energetic dance style that combined athletic, gymnastic qualities with jazz and tap.

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Jazz dance dates all the way back to 5,000 – 9,000 years ago. Although many people believe that jazz dance originated from United States, it actually came from early African cultures. In Africa, natives danced to celebrate cycles of life such as birth, puberty, marriage, and death. Child, adults, and the elderly depended on jazz dance to express their culture and beliefs. People from Africa who were later sold into the slave trade around the late 1800’s to mid 1900’s brought the dance with them to the Southern plantations in which they now lived on.

The dance took on more of a European style over time. The only place where jazz danced stayed in its original African form was Congo Square in New Orleans. Slaves were allowed to dance while being supervised by French and Spanish Catholics. The Catholics believed that by letting the slaves dance, they could monitor them to make sure they weren’t planning escapes or practicing voodoo rituals. After seeing the slaves dance, whites began to paint their faces black and began copying their styles.

The very first dance to imitate slave dancers was by Thomas Rice in 1828. It was called “Jump Jim Crow. ” It copied the movement of a slave who had been crippled. This became the basis for the era of American entertainment founded on stereotyping slave dancers. The movement quickly spread to the audience and public, and the result was that dances like the Charleston, Jitterbug, Boogie Woogie and Swing began to develop.

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