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Modern jazz dancers.

Jazz dance is a classification shared by a broad range of dance styles. Prior to the 1950s, jazz dance referred to dance styles that originated from African American vernacular dance. In the 1950s, a new genre of jazz dance—modern jazz dance—emerged, with roots in Caribbean traditional dance. Every individual style of jazz dance has roots traceable to one of these two distinct origins.

Contents

History

Traditional

Until the mid 1950s, jazz dance referred to the dance styles that originated from the African American vernacular dance of the late 1800s to mid-1900s. Jazz dance often referred to tap dance because tap dancing, set to jazz music, was one of the predominant dances of the era. Jazz dance evolved over time to spawn a diverse range of social and concert dance styles. During the later jazz age, popular forms of jazz dance included the Cakewalk, Black Bottom, Charleston, Jitterbug, Boogie Woogie, swing and the related Lindy Hop. Today, many of these dance styles are still popular and continue to be practiced and taught.

Modern

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 Fosse's 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.

Modern jazz dance

Jazz dancers often wear leather jazz shoes, to help them move smoothly when executing turns (e.g. pirouette).[citation needed]

Prior to dancing, dancers typically perform exercises in order to warm up and stretch muscles so as to prevent injuries. In addition, core strengthening exercises are often used for conditioning.

Technique

In a toe rise, the dancer rises from a kneeling position while supporting the body on the tops of the toes.
An acro dancer performs a straddle split leap, one of several leaps also found in jazz dance.

Modern jazz dance is frequently influenced by other dance styles such as acro, ballet, contemporary, lyrical, and hip-hop. In turn, many other dance styles are influenced by jazz dance.

As in most forms of dance, technique is the foundation for all modern jazz dance movement. In particular, jazz dancers benefit from a sound working knowledge of ballet technique and, consequently, jazz dance curriculum commonly includes ballet training.

Modern jazz dance encompasses various techniques, including:

  • Center control. The body's center is the focal point from which all movement emanates, thus making it possible to maintain balance while executing powerful movements.
  • Spotting. This enables dancers to maintain balance and control while executing turns such Pirouettes and fouettés, by reducing the dizzying effect of repeated rotating.

Notable directors, dancers, and choreographers

  • Katherine Dunham, considered the grandmaster of jazz dance technique. She was a key inspiration to most modern jazz dance legends.
  • Jack Cole, considered the father of jazz dance technique. He was a key inspiration to Matt Mattox, Bob Fosse, Jerome Robbins, Gwen Verdon, and many other choreographers.
  • Eugene Louis Facciuto (aka "Luigi"), an accomplished dancer who, after suffering a crippling automobile accident in the 1950s, created a new style of jazz dance based on the warm-up exercises he invented to circumvent his physical handicaps.
  • Bob Fosse, a noted jazz choreographer who created a new form of jazz dance that was inspired by Fred Astaire and the burlesque and vaudeville styles.
  • Gus Giordano, an influential jazz dancer and choreographer.
  • Jerome Robbins, choreographer for a number of hit musicals, including Peter Pan, The King and I, Fiddler on the Roof, Gypsy, Funny Girl, and West Side Story.
  • Gwen Verdon, known for her roles in Damn Yankees, Chicago, and Sweet Charity.







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