By: Abi Flores , Miller, PE AAI Fall I 2014
Jazz dance originates from African American vernacular dance that came about during the late 1800s. The first official American "jazz dancer" was Joe Frisco around the year 1910, however its roots trace much further back than this, with many moves being created by the slaves as a much needed physical and emotional outlet. Slave traders often allowed them to dance during their journey over to America, as an attempt to keep them physically fit. Not only did it work, but it formed an impressive series of dance techniques and steps that made history.
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 tradition of the African American 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.
History of Jazz Dance
Famous Jazz Dancers
Considered the Father of Jazz Dance Technique and The Father of Theater Dance, Jack Cole(1911-1974) began as a modern dancer. Switching to jazz style dance during the Great Depression, he was the first dancer to combine the popular jazz steps of the time, aspects of modern dance and ethnic influences, creating artistic and technical jazz dance. He was the first dancer to formalize a theatrical jazz dance technique. His style was explosive and animalistic, full of emotion and movement.
Known as the Matriarch of Black Dance, Katherine Dunham (1909 - 2006) founded the first major black modern dance company in America. Integrating the syncopated rhythms of Haiti, Cuba, Brazil and the Caribbean into American dance, she is credited with inventing the technique of body isolationism and incorporating it into her dance style
One of the great pioneers of modern and jazz dance, Lester Horton (1906 - 1953) developed his own unique style of dance choreography and technique. He was adept at translating Native American and ethnic dances into dances that worked well in films of the 1940s and early 1950s.
What is Jazz Dance?
Jazz dance is a form of modern dance which is heavily influenced by the sounds, rhythms, and techniques of jazz music. Like jazz music, this type of dance is highly individual, with an emphasis on showcasing individual skills, and dancers who specialize in it are skilled at improvisation as well as working with other dancers to achieve a desired look and feel. Many regions of the world offer classes in this type of dance, and some very accomplished dancers and choreographers work in this field.
MLA Format Citations
"History of Jazz Dance." LoveToKnow. N.p., n.d. Web. 5 Sept. 2014. <http://dance.lovetoknow.com/History_of_Jazz_Dance>.
"Jazz dance." Princeton University. N.p., n.d. Web. 5 Sept. 2014. <https://www.princeton.edu/~achaney/tmve/wiki100k/docs/Jazz_dance.html>.
McMahon, Mary, and Bronwyn Harris. "Wise Geek." WiseGeek. Conjecture, 2 Aug. 2014. Web. 7 Sept. 2014. <http://www.wisegeek.com/what-is-jazz-dance.htm>.
Broadway (By: Abi Flores , Miller, PE AAI Fall 2 2014)
The first important dance director of Broadway musicals was Julian Mitchell. He was born 1854 and died June 24, 1926. Joe weber and Lew Fields hired Mitchell to stage several of their popular burlesque musicals, and he became the most sought-after dance director of his time. His specialty was the clever movement of groups of people and sets during large ensemble spectacles. Mitchell is credited with inventing the "production number." Julian Mitchell is best remembered for staging seven editions of Florenz Ziegfeld's Follies . Mitchell and Ziegfeld helped to define the Broadway musical revue.
Ned Wayburn not only helped develop routines for theatrical performances, but also taught dance, founded the Studio of Stage Dancing, and was the first person to put on paper a form of notation for dance routines, all of this before the term ‘choreographer’ came into use. The style and format of routines developed by Wayburn were handed on into films and television and they remain a part of show dancing down to the present day. His notated dance steps were published in 1996 to allow home study by would-be dancers.
The influence of the ballet style on Broadway dance was heightened when George Balanchine, a giant amongst giants in the world of classical ballet, started choreographing for musicals. Balanchine’s innovation helped the Broadway musical to break out of the pattern of using dance as mere decoration or diversion. One defining characteristic of his choreography is his ability to adapt any kind of movement, into his ballets, and make them seem like a cohesive whole. Balanchine was very holistic in his work as a choreographer. He paid close attention to various elements.
"Broadway Dance History." LoveToKnow. Web. 5 Dec. 2014. <http://dance.lovetoknow.com/Broadway_Dance_History>.
"TheatreDance.com | The Tradition | Broadway Dance Directors." TheatreDance.com | The Tradition | Broadway Dance Directors. Web. 5 Dec. 2014. <http://www.theatredance.com/choreographers/>.
"Ned Wayburn | Biography | AllMusic." AllMusic. Web. 3 Jan. 2015. <http://www.allmusic.com/artist/ned-wayburn-mn0000579261/biography>.
"Reflections in Sequins and Satin." : Broadway Choreographers: A Brief History. Web. 3 Jan. 2015. <http://reflectionsinverse.blogspot.com/2011/02/broadway-choreographers-brief-history.html>.