The origins of jazz music and dance are found in the rhythms and movements brought to America by African slaves. The style of African dance is earthy; low, knees bent, pulsating body movements emphasized by body isolations and hand-clapping. As slaves forced into America, starting during the 1600’s, Africans from many cultures were cut off from their families, languages and tribal traditions. The result was an intermingling of African cultures that created a new culture with both African and European elements. The Slave Act of 1740 prohibited slaves from playing African drums or performing African dances, but that did not suppress their desire to cling to those parts of their cultural identity. The rhythms and movements of African dance: the foot stamping and tapping, hand-clapping and rhythmic vocal sounds were woven into what we now call jazz dance.
In the 19th century, American whites decided that they enjoyed the music and dance the slaves had created. In minstrel shows, white entertainers parodied their conception of slave life and popularized the African style of dance and music. With white dancers as the star performers of the minstrel and vaudeville show, it was difficult for a black dancer to gain stature as part of a dance troupe. Because of this, many black performers migrated to Europe, where they introduced the newly emerging forms of jazz music and jazz dance. In Europe, these talented and innovative performers were more well-received than in America. The minstrel show evolved and was eventually absorbed into the 20th century musical comedy.
Through the end of the 1920’s, Dixieland jazz