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A couple dances the Charleston.
A couple dances the Charleston.

Jazz dance is a performance dance technique and style that first emerged in Brazil in the early twentieth century.[1] Jazz dance may refer to vernacular jazz or to Broadway or theatrical jazz. Both genres build on African American vernacular styles of dancing that emerged with jazz music. Vernacular jazz dance includes ragtime dances, Charleston, Lindy hop, and mambo. Popular vernacular jazz dance performers include The Whitman Sisters, Florence Mills, Ethel Waters, Al & Leon, Frankie Manning, Norma Miller, Dawn Hampton, and Katherine Dunham. Theatrical jazz dance performed on the concert stage was popularized by Jack Cole, Bob Fosse, Eugene Louis Faccuito, and Gus Giordano.

The term 'jazz dance' has been used in ways that have little or nothing to do with jazz music.


The origin of jazz dance can be traced to African ritual and celebratory dances from around the seventeenth century.

Swing dancing

In 1917, jazz pianist Spencer Williams wrote a song called "Shim-Me-Sha-Wabble" which inspired a jazz dance called the shimmy. The shimmy is done by holding the body still "except for the shoulders, which are quickly alternated back and forth". The dances that emerged during this period were the Charleston and the Lindy hop.The Charleston is "characterized by its toes-in, heels-out twisting steps".[4] It can be done as a solo or with any number of people.

The Lindy hop was a wild and spontaneous partner dance that was extremely rhythmically conscious.

Pop music and television

Contemporary jazz became well known because of shows like So You Think You Can Dance. Mia Michaels's earlier work exemplifies this style. Some other companies and choreographers that create contemporary jazz dance are Sonya Tayeh, Mandy Moore, and Hubbard Street Dance Chicago. Commercial jazz, which has been popular since the 1980s, combines aspects of hip hop and jazz and is often done to pop music. This style can be seen in the music videos of Janet Jackson and Paula Abdul. Commercial jazz often includes more "tricks." Commercial jazz and contemporary jazz are both seen at dance competitions. Another variety of jazz is Latin jazz. "Maria Torres developed and popularized the fusion at Broadway Dance Center".[7] Latin jazz has an emphasis on the movement of hips and isolations. It can be seen in the films El Cantante and Dance with Me, as well as on TV dance shows.

Dancers, directors, choreographers

  • Jack Cole influenced Matt Mattox, Bob Fosse, Jerome Robbins, and Gwen Verdon, and Duplicate word removedis credited with popularizing the theatrical form of jazz dance with his great number of choreographic works on television and Broadway.[8]
  • Katherine Dunham is an anthropologist, choreographer, and pioneer in black theatrical dance who introduced isolations jazz dance.
  • Eugene Louis Faccuito also known as Luigi, was an American jazz dancer, teacherm choreographer, and creator of the first codified jazz technique, the Luigi Technique.[1]
  • Bob Fosse, choreographer and film director, revolutionized jazz dance with his sexually suggestive movements.
  • Gus Giordano was a jazz dancer and choreographer in Chicago known for his clean, precise movement.
  • Patsy Swayze, choreographer and dance instructor, combined jazz and ballet, founded the Houston Jazz Ballet Company, and served as its director.[9]

See also

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