American Music and Culture : Jazz Dance

Topics: Jazz dance, Tap dance, Dance Pages: 8 (2081 words) Published: December 4, 2013
American Music and Culture: Jazz Dance
Jazz dance, is defined as any dance to jazz accompaniments, composed of a profusion of forms. Jazz dance paralleled the birth and spread of jazz itself from roots in black American society and was popularized in ballrooms by the big bands of the swing era (1930s and ’40s). It radically altered the style of American and European stage and social dance in the 20th century. The term is sometimes used more narrowly to describe popular stage dance (except tap dance) and jazz-derived or jazz-influenced forms of modern dance. It excludes social dances lacking jazz accompaniment— the rumba and other Latin-American dances. The original steps were exemplified out in the plantations, and jazz dance itself came about as a crossbreed of American culture, European jigs and the music and movement were tradition of the African slaves. Jazz music obviously inspired some of the first documented jazz dance choreography, and this further adds to the rich and diverse history of jazz dance. Europe lent elegance to the technique; Africa gave it its movement and rhythm, and America allowed it to have the exposure and growing popularity that has sustained it as a cherished dance style today. ​Jazz dance developed from both 19th- and 20th-century stage dance and traditional black social dances and their white ballroom offshoots. On the stage, minstrel show performers in the 19th century developed tap dancing from a combination of Irish jigging, English clog dancing, and African rhythmic stamping. Tap dance and such social dances as the cakewalk and shuffle became popular vaudeville acts and appeared in Broadway revues and musical comedies as these replaced vaudeville early in the 20th century. In addition, comedy, specialty, and character dances to jazz rhythms became standard stage routines. By the 1940s elements of jazz dance had appeared in modern dance and in motion picture choreography. The History of Jazz Dance

​During the early 1900's we find more and more blacks performing outside of the narrow stereotype of the minstrel show. Again the traveling shows spread the music and dance culture of black people far and wide. In addition to the spreading of culture, there was another important aspect to the events taking place: it was the beginning of the musical theatre. The black musical revue offered comedians, singers and dancers an opportunity to perform without making fun of their race.  Out of such performances, one became aware of new dance developments: cakewalks, grinds, comedy dance, etc. Another important factor in this discussion on the historical development of modern jaz dance is always the constant dance involvement and development in the everyday lives of black people. Dance has always been a part of the expression of black people in church, at social gatherings, etc. Probably the social or vernacular dance, as Stearns calls it, is more important than any one particular form that evolved out of it. So as the dance of the musical revue evolved, it was directly associated with and tied to the everyday dance of the people. Prior to 1900 there were such black shows as The South Before the War, The Creole Show, Oriental America, etc. Many of the dance movements associated with jazz dance can be traced to African influences. Slaves captured in Africa brought their dancing traditions across the Atlantic. Once in the new country, the African slaves continued to use dance as a means of self-expression and an emotional outlet, despite being forbidden to dance by their owners.  Until the mid 1950s, the term "jazz dance" often referred to tap dance, because tap dancing (set to jazz music) was the main performance dance of the era. During the later jazz age, popular forms of jazz dance were the Cakewalk, Black Bottom, Charleston, Jitterbug, Boogie Woogie, Swing dancing and the related Lindy Hop. Although the stage popularized certain social dances, many others were transmitted mainly in social...
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