Topical History

History of Jazz Dance

Many dance styles and techniques have influenced the history of jazz as it has developed over time. Jazz music and therefore jazz dancing, is rooted in African and Caribbean traditions. Jazz has also adapted over the years to incorporate a more “musical” broadway style, including elements of vaudeville, minstrel shows, and tap dancing. Whether you are dancing in a company, singing in a live theatre show, or acting on a film or television project, jazz is a necessity for any artist who wishes to pursue a life of performing.

The term "Jazz" was first applied to a style of music and dance during World War I. Jazz in a dance form, however, originates from the vernacular dances of Africans when they were brought to the Americas on slave ships. This dance form developed alongside jazz music in New Orleans in the early 1900s. Beginning in the 1930s and continuing through the 1960s, Jazz dance transformed from this vernacular form into a theatre-based performance form of dance that required a highly trained dancer. During this time, choreographers from the modern and balletdance worlds experimented with the jazz dance style.

This includes choreographers like George Balanchine, Agnes de Mille, Jack Cole, Hanya Holm, Helen Tamiris, Michael Kidd, Jerome Robbins, and Bob Fosse. All of these choreographers influenced jazz by requiring highly trained dancers to perform a specific set of movements, which differed greatly from the colloquial form of New Orleans in the 1900s. Also during this time period (circa. 1950) jazz dance was profoundly influenced by Caribbean and other Latin American dance styles which were introduced by anthropologist and dancer Katherine Dunham.

- Wikipedia