Jazz Dances

AA1 Dack PE Fall I- Jaeyoon Cha


The origins of jazz music and dance are found in the rhythms and movements brought to America by African slaves. As slaves forced into America, starting during the 1600’s, Africans from many cultures were cut off from their families, languages and tribal traditions. The result was an intermingling of African cultures that created a new culture with both African and European elements. The rhythms and movements of African dance were woven into what we now call jazz dance.

In the 19th century, American whites decided that they enjoyed the music and dance the slaves had created. With white dancers as the star performers of the minstrel and vaudeville shows, it was difficult for a black dancer to gain stature as part of a dance troupe. Because of this, many black performers migrated to Europe, where they introduced the newly emerging forms of jazz music and jazz dance. In Europe, these talented and innovative performers were more well-received than in America. The minstrel show evolved and was eventually absorbed into the 20th century musical comedy.

The combination of two cultures created jazz, originating from the African culture and developing in Europe. 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.

Jack Cole

Considered the Father of Jazz Dance Technique and The Father of Theater Dance, Jack Cole 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 and was the first dancer to formalize a theatrical jazz dance technique. His style was explosive and animalistic, full of emotion and movement. He choreographed the dance Diamonds Are a Girl's Best Friend.
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Katherine Dunham

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. Katherine Dunham's influence and dance technique had a huge impact on the world of jazz dance. Today almost all jazz dancers use her technique in their dance.

Mia Michaels

Mia Michaels is a daughter of a dance studio owner. She began dancing at the age of three and has made a big impact in modern jazz dance. A judge on So You Think You Can Dance, and a choreographer for film and stage, Michaels is a powerhouse in jazz and contemporary dance.
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The Dance

An exciting and ever evolving dance form full of rhythm, syncopation, passion and life. Steeped in the rhythm of jazz music, a true American art form, jazz dance brings energy and life to all those who dance it. Ever evolving, jazz dance is taught with the music of today together with the classical jazz of yesterday. Some common jazz moves include isolations, three-step turns, pirouette, and the jazz walk, a "sassy" walk sometimes done with jazz hands.