History of Jazz Dance


Jazz is a blend of African dance, European classical and American modern dance.

Jazz Dancing

Today the musical theatres completely rely upon the jazz dance. It is present in numerous varieties; African, lyrical, modern and rock. It has served both social dance and professional performances. It has been serving the industry for decades. It is strongly bonded to popular music of all time.

The term jazz dance has nothing to do with jazz music. It is an ideal way to develop dance skills. It is energetic, creative and associated with emotions. The word jazz originated from early twentieth-century sexual slang.

It was introduced with upbeat toe-tapping. The moves and steps are quick ads precise. Even with fast speed, the moments are not random. 

Origin of jazz dance:

It is an inadvertent import to America. It was originated in Africa. This form of dance was brought to the USA by the slaves of Africa. Their owners forbade them to dance but they found ways to make rhythmic dance. African Americans created the hybrid by blending new and old cultures.

The Africans used to dance on the occasion of birth, puberty, marriage, death, hunting and historical events. The Africans were enriched with somatic culture in which it was sacred to perform dancing rituals.

In America, this dance was given the pedestal of religious ceremonies and social ceremonies to preserve the sense of identity. From the late 1600s, many casual performances of explosive sensuous and rhythmic dances captured the hearts of the public.

It did not take much time for minstrels to copy their choreography and incorporate the dismissive cultural artifact. Despite racism, jazz dancers carried on with their seductive and compelling moves. The styles promoted to vaudeville and then to the prestigious level of Broadway. 

Traditional values:

During the dark time of slavery in the USA, under the slave act of 1740, all the slaves were forbidden to perform a traditional dance. However, this prohibition could not suppress them. Instead of using drums they gave the emotional outlet through stamping and rapid footwork they did not use the music other than the sound of clapping and patting of hands against the body. In the 1920s these dance moves were famous among white people and soon they followed it for entertainment. 

Jazz- a unique form of dance:

Jazz showcases the originality of a dancer. It is the connection between the emotion and the body. Every jazz dancer executes the moves in his way. Jazz requires a connection with ballet, as it also is a combination of grace and balance. 

The spread of jazz dance:

Due to the prohibition, the African slaves found another outlet to their emotions. Their newfound way of dancing shocked everyone. But white people found themselves immersed in the free dancing of jazz.

The White society and the black society represented the gap between the people. White people considered blacks inferior. The whites copied the dance moves of the blacks. They took them to popular social events in ballrooms and halls. This increased the popularity of jazz.

Charleston Dance

The Charleston was the first form of popular dances that was enjoyed by both the blacks and the whites. There was a surge in popularity in the 1940s. In 1900 the cakewalk became popular. It was hitting European and American ballrooms with the craze. With the growth of the film industry, television and video recordings the famous black dance resurged.

Historical jazz dance styles:

Rooted in the history of jazz, it has evolved into several jazz styles.


These dances were held at the honor of the slave. The name cakewalk was given because there was held a competition in which the reward was a piece of cake. It was the style of jazz form in which slaves made fun of their owners by mimicking their masters. This form of dance died down between 1915 and 1920.


Black bottom: 

This type earned fame in the 1900s. The dancers move around stamping their feet and slapping their bottoms.


It became popular in the 1920s and it is still practiced today. It involves straightening and bending of the knees. Weight is constantly shifted on the feet and the foot kicks out at an oblique angle. 

The epicenter of jazz:

Broadway has become the epicenter of jazz today. With the revival of Fosse’s revolutionary choreography, it has been adapted to circus and acrobats. In Broadway, there is a high energy hybrid of jazz and break dancing. Many dance forms like popping, moonwalking and hip hop styles come from Senegal, Gambia, and Mali. These are all west-African nations. That is why they have been related to jazz moves.

Formation of Jazz dance:

There are certain basic elements for dance; time, force, space and weight. Jazz dance focuses on all of these elements. The relationship of one movement to the other refers to the time. It includes the following:

  • Pulse: it refers to the ongoing underlying beat.
  • Tempo: it is the speed of the movement.
  • Duration: it is the length of the time for a movement to last.
  • Rhythm: a flow of movement and sound with regular beats.
  • Syncopation: it is a temporary descent to create variation in the rhythm of the music. 
  • Phrasing: it is the grouping of the notes.
  • Accent: a movement or shape that provides emphasis. 

One of the most important elements in jazz dance is space. It is the area that a certain move covers. It includes the following:

  • Direction: it can be forward, backward, up, down or sideways, etc.
  • Level: it is the distance from the floor during a movement.
  • Pathways: these are the patterns of the movements a dancer makes when he moves through space.
  • Shape: it is the design of the body of the dancer that exists in space.

The force used in the movement can be light, strong, weak, sharp, smooth and fluent, etc. The element of weight is an important parameter. It can be light, medium and heavy.

Modern jazz dance:

In the 1950s, jazz dance went metamorphosis. Some innovators such as Bob Fosse, Jake Kole, and Catherine Dunham helped in the evolution of the jazz dance. It gave birth to a rival of fashionable classical ballet. Jazz music and dance were infused with Broadway musicals. This helped jazz dance to gain mainstream. Chicago and Cabaret have played a vital role in its popularity.

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Author: Sky Hoon
Into Watching Tik Tok Dancing. He loved to watch creative Tik Tok Dancing that show a person's personality. Created this blog to learnt more about dancing.
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