Early Jazz Dance History Essay

Jazz Dance

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Afterreading the article on jazz dance, I had found out a number of interestingthings that I hadnt known before. I thought it was a dance form that wasfairly new, starting in the early 1900s. I then found out that it actually pre-dates all the way back to theseventeenth century. I also thought itcame from the United States, when it really originated in Africa and wasbrought here by the slaves. The dancingand drumming was such a part of their lives; it was eventually continued by theslaves on the plantations with dancing and the clapping of their hands forrhythm. It was used as a form ofentertainment, as well as enjoyment, and sometimes, even for competition.
It wasaround the 1830s when the song and dance of the Africans began being performedin theaters, called <i style='mso-bidi-font-style:normal'>Minstrel shows,but the dancers were actually white. Then in the 1860s, blacks were finally aloud to perform in these shows. They became very popular and then diedout in the early 1900s, which lead the way for new shows. The most popular of these being the <istyle='mso-bidi-font-style:normal'>Vaudeville show. The Vaudeville show, presented a numberof different acts with all different cultures of people and dance, whichencouraged diversity. It served as aprofessional school, a training ground and an experimental station for dancersdestined for Broadway, nightclubs and film.-Richard Kislan. The <i style='mso-bidi-font-style:normal'>Vaudevilleera began the emergence of jazz music, which mixed ragtime and blues. The dancers would then begin to connect tothe condensed rhythms of jazz music. Nowjazz incorporates a gathering of styles and movement, which can mean a lot ofdifferent things to different people.
When welearned jazz dance in class, I found it hard to keep up at first. I liked the way it looked, when someone whoknew what they were doing, was dancing. I remember changing directions a lot. I also noticed while dancing that you use pretty much every part of yourbody. I thought I would be good at it,considering I am an athlete, and I am tune with my body. But I wasnt, I just felt like so manydifferent things to remember. Maybe if Ipracticed it more, I could pick it up.
What I didlike about jazz dance, is how free it is. It really gives you the opportunity to express yourself. Even the guy who came in to instruct us wastelling everyone to perform the moves in your own style. Since we didnt really have any jazz music, Ifound it hard to keep rhythm.

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I wouldhave liked to see if I danced better with a jazz beat. Even though I wasnt to good at it, I didfind jazz dance very enjoyable.
Now that I have completed thereading, I noticed a lot of things we did in class that relates to thereading. The article talked about howthe clapping of hands was used in place of drums when the slaves danced on theplantations. In class we experiencedsame thing. Since we didnt have propermusic, the teacher told us to clap our hands at certain times of ourdance. I also mentioned that jazzdancing was sometimes used as a form of competition. There was definatleycompetition felt in our class, because there was another higher-level danceclass mixed in with our class, learning the same dances. It seemed as though every time we were taughta new dance, and it was time to perform it, they tried to do better thenus. At certain points in the dances wewould try to out do each other, by giving our best struts, high kicks and showstopping footwork. This is pretty muchthe same as a cakewalk mentioned in the article, except unlike a cakewalkwhen u try to out do each other with partners, we did it individually.
When givinga description of jazz dance the article said that no movement is dull and thereis an unabated theatricality about jazz. I would have to agree with that statement, the moves that we were makingin class were anything but dull, I felt like we were always in constantmovement, as if we were performing. Another thing mentioned in the article washow jazz dance was based on improvisation. Improvisation was what the jazz dance teacher stressed to us the wholeclass, to do your own thing. The freedomto dance how u wanted to, was what made the whole jazz dance class an enjoyableexperience.



Jazz dance, any dance to jazz accompaniments, composed of a profusion of forms. Jazz dance paralleled the birth and spread of jazz itself from roots in black American society and was popularized in ballrooms by the big bands of the swing era (1930s and ’40s). It radically altered the style of American and European stage and social dance in the 20th century. The term is sometimes used more narrowly to describe (1) popular stage dance (except tap dance) and (2) jazz-derived or jazz-influenced forms of modern dance. It excludes social dances lacking jazz accompaniment—e.g., the rumba and other Latin-American dances.

Jazz dance developed from both 19th- and 20th-century stage dance and traditional black social dances and their white ballroom offshoots. On the stage, minstrel show performers in the 19th century developed tap dancing from a combination of Irish jigging, English clog dancing, and African rhythmic stamping. Tap dance and such social dances as the cakewalk and shuffle became popular vaudeville acts and appeared in Broadway revues and musical comedies as these replaced vaudeville early in the 20th century. In addition, comedy, specialty, and character dances to jazz rhythms became standard stage routines. By the 1940s elements of jazz dance had appeared in modern dance and in motion picturechoreography.

Although the stage popularized certain social dances, many others were transmitted mainly in social gatherings. The dances that gave rise to social forms of jazz dance developed from rural slave dances. In both early dances and 20th-century jazz dances, there is a noticeable continuity of dance elements and motions. The eagle rock and the slow drag (late 19th century) as well as the Charleston and the jitterbug have elements in common with certain Caribbean and African dances. In addition, the slow drag contributed to the fish of the 1950s; the ring shout, which survived from the 18th into the 20th century, in isolated areas, influenced the cakewalk.

About 1900 the cakewalk, popularized through stage shows, became a craze in European and American ballrooms. In its wake appeared other social dances such as the Charleston (1920s), the jitterbug (1930s and ’40s), the twist (1960s), and disco dancing (1970s). Some, like the fox-trot, borrowed European dance steps and fitted them to jazz rhythms. The growth of radio, television, and recording, which popularized black music among wide audiences, greatly aided the diffusion of these dances. Fusing ballet with jazz has led in recent years to the formation of such troupes as Canada’s Les Ballets Jazz.

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