Today great jazz dancer requires technique, flexibility, and strength to showcase dynamic movement, fluidity as well as percussive sharpness with their bodies.
But Jazz back then was something entirely different, it was/is deeply rooted in the social dance style that emerged at the turn of the 20th century when African American dancers began blending traditional African steps with European styles of movement.
Though Jazz dance was born through intimate religious and social gatherings, it has always had a performative feel.
The African dances that built the foundation of Jazz were explosive, grounded, sensuous, and rhythmic.
As many things do jazz dance has evolved and taken shape as a cornerstone of any multidisciplinary dance school. Once the domain of fan kicks and spirit fingers, as popular culture and music evolve so does jazz dance, with many sub-genres and styles being created from its core. Jazz lessons can differ from teaching classic traditional style to incorporating the latest moves from music videos into a class.
Some movement forms that characterize Jazz dance are moving from a parallel position of the feet, dynamic jumps, isolations of the ribcage, body rolls, high kicks, fan kicks, strong and sharp arms, and head movements, and of course those spirit fingers.
Some popular variations of Jazz Dance that are taught within one or in separate classes are Jazz Ballet, Broadway or Musical Jazz, JFH (Jazz/Funk/Hip hop), lyrical jazz, and burlesque.
Competitive dancers Jazz is all about the glittering costumes, strutting, stepping, and kicking across a stage.
The truth is, all of those mental images are correct, but it’s important to understand the history and evolution of Jazz dance to learn about the style authentically.
Here is a few Jazz dance moves every beginner should know:
Quick transfer of weight from one foot to the other
Box Step/Jazz Square
A four-step movement in which the dancer steps across, back, to the side, and then to the front, making a square pattern on the floor
Step out in any direction in plié, then jump and “chase” the first leg with the second, landing on the first leg –– like a gallop with pointed toes
Jazz Pas de Bourrée
A move where the weight is transferred quickly from one foot to the other in three steps.