American Music and Culture: Jazz Dance Jazz dance, is defined as 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).
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It excludes social dances lacking Jazz accompaniment ?” the rumba and other Latin-American dances. The original steps were exemplified out in the plantations, and Jazz dance itself came about as a crossbreed of American culture, European Jigs and the music and movement were tradition of the African slaves. Jazz music obviously inspired some of the first documented Jazz dance choreography, and this further adds to the rich and diverse history of Jazz dance.
Europe lent elegance to the technique; Africa gave it its movement and rhythm, and America allowed it to have the exposure and growing popularity that has sustained it as a cherished dance style today. 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 picture choreography. The History of Jazz Dance During the early 1900's we find more and more blacks performing outside of the narrow stereotype of the minstrel show. Again the traveling shows spread the music and dance culture of black people far and wide.
In addition to the spreading of culture, there was another important aspect to the events taking place: it was the beginning of the musical theatre. The black musical revue offered comedians, singers and dancers an opportunity to perform without making fun of their race. Out of such erformances, one became aware of new dance developments: cakewalks, grinds, comedy dance, etc. Another important factor in this discussion on the historical development of modern Jaz dance is always the constant dance involvement and development in the everyday lives of black people.
Dance has always been a part of the expression of black people in church, at social gatherings, etc. Probably the social or vernacular dance, as Stearns calls it, is more important than any one particular form that evolved out of it. So as the dance of the musical revue evolved, it was directly associated with and tied to the everyday dance of the people. Prior to 1900 there were such black shows as The South Before the War, The Creole Show, Oriental America, etc. Many of the dance movements associated with Jazz dance can be traced to Atrican intluences.
Slaves captured in Atrica brought their dancing traditions across the Atlantic. Once in the new country, the African slaves continued to use dance as a means of self-expression and an emotional outlet, despite being forbidden to dance by their owners. Until the mid 1950s, the term "Jazz dance" often referred to tap dance, because tap dancing (set to Jazz music) was the main erformance dance of the era. During the later Jazz age, popular forms of Jazz dance were the Cakewalk, Black Bottom, Charleston, Jitterbug, Boogie Woogie, Swing dancing and the related Lindy Hop.
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 he 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. After the 1950s, pioneers such as Katherine Dunham took the essence of Caribbean traditional dance and made it into a performing art. With the growing domination of other forms of entertainment music, Jazz dance evolved on Broadway into the new, smooth style that is taught today and known as Modern Jazz, while tap dance branched off to follow its own, separate evolutionary path.
The performance style of Jazz dance was popularized to a large extent by Bob Fosses work, which is exemplified by Broadway shows such as Chicago, Cabaret, Damn Yankees, and The Pajama Game. Modern Jazz dance continues to be an essential element of musical theatre, and it can often be seen in music videos and competitive dance. Jazz Dance Techniques Throughout its history, Jazz dance has developed in parallel to popular music. This pattern of development has resulted in a few elements of movement key to the dance style, the most important being that Jazz is they physical embodiment of the popular music of a given time.
An example of this is that during a down time of Jazz dancing from 1945-1954, when big bands and dance halls were declining, the vernacular of the dance followed less Jazz music and leaned more toward rock and roll, creating moves like "The Monkey" and "The Jerk" Syncopated rhythm is a common characteristic in Jazz music that was adapted to Jazz dance in the early twentieth century and has remained a significant characteristic Isolations are a quality of movement that were introduced to Jazz dance by Katherine Dunham.
Improvisation was an important element in early forms of Jazz dance, as it is an important element of Jazz music. A low center of gravity and high level of energy are other important identifying characteristics of Jazz dance. Jazz, tap and musical theatrical dance are "cousins. " These forms of dance are tied to everyday music, songs and rhythms. Jazz dance involves a range of lively, often sensuous body movement and percussion techniques, with a mix of tap steps, social dances and ballet.
New forms of Jazz dance developed with new music, such as the Charleston, swing, rock and roll, and the Caribbean reggae. Other elements of Jazz dance are less common and are the stylizations of their respective choreographers one such xample are the inverted limbs and hunched-over posture of Bob Fosse. Fosse was an American actor, dancer, musical theater choreographer, director, screen- writer, tilm editor and tilm director. He won an unprecedented eight Tony Awards tor choreography, as well as one for direction.
He was nominated for an Academy Award four times, winning for his direction of Cabaret (beating Francis Ford Coppola for The Godfather). His third wife, Broadway legend Gwen Verdun, helped to define and perfect his unique and distinct style simply referred to today as "Fosse. ". Jazz Dance Pioneers and African Americans Katherine Dunham was an anthropologist fascinated by dances of the Caribbean. She researched them and then devised her own style of dance and teaching methods. She went on to dance on Broadway and to form her own school.
Her school in New York was very influential in the 1950s and her technique of pelvic and spine isolations is now a part of almost every Jazz class. Jerome Robbins was the greatest Broadway Jazz choreographer of our time. He dealt with action, humor and adolescent themes in his Broadway musicals and films. He choreographed Fancy Free and Westside Story among others. His choreography was powerful and appealed to huge audiences. His influence on Broadway is still felt today. Gus Giordano has received many awards for his outstanding lifetime contribution to Jazz dance.
He has been involved in all facets of dance: dancer, teacher, choreographer, author, and founder of Gus Giordano Jazz Dance Center in Chicago. Giordano's book, Anthology of American Jazz Dance , was the first book of its kind and was instrumental in helping turn the study of Jazz dance into a respectable and important American dance form. Gus has been involved in dance for T. V. , film, stage and commercials. His companys current goals are to seek out talented new choreographers and dancers and highlight their work.
Also to educate, as well as create, an awareness of Jazz dance as a true artistic expression of American life, both nationally and internationally. Major Events of Jazz Dance and Jazz Dance Today In 1931, when the New Negro Art Theatre presented a recital which included a suite of interpretive dances based on Southern spirituals, old limitations were defied and a precedent was established. 6 A pioneer black dancer in the interpretive field, Hemsely Winfield, was the moving spirit behind the program.
The suite dealt with an area of black life which had never before been presented through dance on the stage. The subject matter and approach of the dance went beyond the scope of the black dance tradition and in doing so the suite set a precedent for future interpretive presentations of black music and dance. Vaudeville, or the variety show, was initially a European tradition of traveling performers moving from town to town with their skits, songs and dances. In America, this provided opportunity for a range of popular entertainers to thrive, such as Bill "Bojangles" Robinson a black tap dancer.
Show ancers Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers blended flowing ballet movements with more abrupt rhythmic movements of Jazz. Concert Jazz dance developed as a revue or series of separate Jazz dance productions. Musical comedy/theatre evolved from variety shows. Themes, story lines and chorus work developed into the musical theatre we know today. Agnes de Mille, who choreographed Oklahoma, elevated the impo rtance ot dance in the theatre prod uction. Today, Jazz dance is present in many different forms and venues
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