History of Jazz Dance

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Early roots of jazz dance came from African culture imported by slaves.  In Africa, natives  danced to celebrate cycles of life: birth, puberty, marriage and death.  Children, adults and the elderly all depended on dance to express their cultural beliefs.  Drums, string instruments, chimes, reed pipes and other percussion instruments set the beat for the dancers. Slaves continued to interpret life through dance.  However, their dances, while based on the traditions of Africa, were influenced by the European background of the plantation owners, so the  dances changed.  The only place where African dances remained outside this influence was Congo Square in New Orleans.  From 1805 to 1880 slaves were permitted to dance by the French and Spanish Catholics who inhabited the area.  They felt that providing slaves with an opportunity to dance under supervision would make the slaves happier, monitor plans for revolt, and prevent secret voodoo dances from being performed. Many visitors were amazed at the African-style dancing and music. Observers heard the beat of the bamboulas and wail of the banzas, and saw the multitude of African dances that had survived through the years. Watching slaves dance led whites to stereotyping.  Whites began blackening their faces and imitating slave dancers as early as the 1800s.  John Durang, one of the first American professional dancers, described parts of his routine in 1789 as containing "shuffles," a movement of slave dancers.  The first worldwide dance imitating slave dancers was the "Jump Jim Crow" by Thomas Rice in 1828.  This dance copied the movement of a crippled slave and became the basis for an era of American entertainment founded on the crude stereotype of the dancing slave. Whites found black musical performances on the plantation fascinating and often went to the slave quarters to watch slaves sing and dance. In New Orleans, whites would congregate to watch blacks perform songs and dances both during and after slavery....
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