Jazz music is everywhere. From popular television shows to hit movies and commercials, jazz is all around us. But what is jazz dance?

Before the 1950s, the term “jazz dance” was used to speak to a variety of dance styles that originated from the African American vernacular dances that were popular in the late 1800s to mid 1900s. Around the 1950s, modern jazz dance started to gain traction, with its roots in traditional Caribbean dances. At the time, jazz dance was also referred to as tap dancing, as tap was one of the most prominent forms of dance in that era. Over time, jazz dance evolved, and a variety of dance styles came to light, including: the Cakewalk, Black Bottom, Jitterbug, Swing, and Boogie.

Today, jazz dance is an experimental, free form style of dance that involves impressive footwork, big leaps, and grace. This type of dance can appear more jerky to the viewer, with syncopated movements and high levels of energy.

Some identifying components of jazz dance include:

  • Grounded movement. This is when a dancer keeps a low center of gravity, and often requires the dancer to bend his or her knees.
  • Isolations. This is when a jazz dance isolates a certain part of his or her body. Common body parts to isolate include the arm or rib cage.

Influential Jazz Dancers

Jazz dance wouldn’t be possible without the help of some incredible dancers. One of the most significant people to influence this style of dance was a man named Jack Cole. Also known as “the father of jazz dance,” Cole was an incredibly talented theater director who created a variety of ballet-based dance moves that have been adopted by jazz dance.

Another jazz dancer worth noting is Bob Fosse, who was actually influence by Cole. Unlike other jazz dancers at the time, Fosse refused to conform to rigid positions and the various techniques of ballet. This inspired him to create moves like rolled shoulders, sideways shuffling, and..you guessed it… jazz hands! Fosse was also known for using props in his dances, like canes, chairs, and hats.

The last jazz dancer we want to highlight is Katherine Dunham. She was most known for mixing traditional Caribbean dance with contemporary jazz dance, and she was the first person to establish a black dance company in the 1940s.

Jazz Dance Clothes

Like most styles of dance, jazz dance requires a certain attire, preferably one that will allow you to move without restriction. Baggy clothes are not encouraged because in jazz dance, the dancer’s body lines must be visible. Some girls like to wear ballet leotards, but most of the time, a jazz dancer will wear dance pants and a tank top or t-shirt. When it comes to dance shoes, many students wear footies, split-sole jazz dance shoes, or sneakers.

Jazz Dance Classes For Children In New York

Looking to sign you or your child up for a jazz dance class? At Fancy Feet Dance Studio, we offer a wonderful array of dance classes for children and adults, including jazz and hip hop dance classes. Sign up for a jazz dance class today.