Jazz Dance: Then and Now
Jazz has been around for centuries, starting in the 1600s with the rhythms and movements brought to America by African Slaves. Being forced into America, Africans from many cultures were cut off from their families, languages and tribal traditions. African cultures intermingled creating a new culture with both African and European elements. African dance has rhythms and movements such as vocal soundings, hand clapping, and foot stomping and tapping. All of these were woven together to create what is known as jazz dance.
The growth of jazz dance was directly influenced by musical genres such as fast ragtime. Throughout the latter end of the 1920's, Dixieland jazz music spread from New Orléans to Chicago and New York. Introduced in 1923, one of the first jazz dance, which incorporated body isolations for the first time in a social dance, the Charleston. Americans were quick to adopt it. It used the hand-clapping and foot-stamping introduced by the African culture.
Bill "Bojangles" Robinson, a world-famous black tap dancer who had an extremely clean and precise technique, was also big during that era. Tap dancing, which incorporates limited upper body movements, isn't directly related to jazz dance, but it is very similar. The early forms of tap dance evolved from the Irish jig. Robinson's style influenced the future of tap by changing the placement of the tap steps from full foot to ball of foot with his lighter and more flexible style. Bill Robinson performed on Broadway, in Hollywood films, and in shows that toured the country.
Swing music was birthed through the music of the black American bands of Duke Ellington and Louis Armstrong. Well-known dances such as the Lindy Hop and the Boogie Woogie were generated during the "Swing Era," also termed the "Big Band Era." During the 1920's, Fred Astaire was a vital part of Broadway, and in 1933 when musicals migrated to Hollywood, he migrated with them, becoming the leading man for...
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