Jazz dance; a term that encompasses several dances

Jazz dance

When used, the term Jazz dance is a group term that encompasses several dances, all of which are related. The connection between the various dance styles is the roots which feature ballet, jazz music, tap and African-American music. Jazz dance was a creation of the African-American community performed to African-American vernacular music in the 1800s to around the mid-1900s.

History of the Jazz Dance

Up until the 1950s, Jazz dance referred to tap dancing because before then all who were considered great Jazz dancers responded to jazz music in that way. A popular Jazz dancer in the 1910s that promoted tap dancing was vaudeville star Joe Frisco whose dance routine included juggling his cigar, hat, and Derby. As people began embracing this style of dancing, other forms of dance like the Swing dance, Black Bottom, Cakewalk, Jitterbug, Charleston,  and Boogie Woogie. Dancers like Katherine Dunham who emerged after the 1950s would then incorporate aspects of the Caribbean traditional dance into their performances. Today, this and other influences have resulted in a smooth style of dance known as modern Jazz. Owing to the characteristic of Jazz dance to create beats using parts of the body, it has evolved into an attractive instruction tool in dance schools all around the world. A lot of movies and television shows now showcase Jazz dancing in a twist that appeals to the youth and brings back memories of youth for the old.

Jazz dance techniques

While it often happens that dancing styles change over time, the foundation that is passed on along the chain of emerging dancers is what forms the essence of the dance. A solid foundation comprising of technical application, and stylish expression of movement keeps dancers focused on their moves. To present a composed Jazz dance, the technique applied will determine the accuracy of jumps and turns while a correct posture keeps the dancer stable in their moves. A strong background in ballet performance and technique is a great aide to becoming a composed Jazz dancer.

jazz dance


Jazz dancers are required to engage in a session of intense warming up that relaxes the muscles to prevent accidental overstretching which could cause injury. The best exercises to warm up are those that warm the joints to make them flexible. Many Jazz dance instructors today explore all techniques with their students to identify their strong areas which are then perfected and used as the basis moves to merge with others for a routine development.

In Danse Marc Charlebois we have tap dance classes, considered to be part of the jazz tradition.

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