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Title: jazz

Brief History of Jazz Musical Theatre Dance
By Wendy Oliver
Gus Giordano Jazz Dance Co.
Origins of Jazz Dance
  • Found in the rhythms and movements of African
    dance brought to the US by slaves.
  • As slaves, Africans were cut off from families,
    languages, and tribal traditions.
  • Slaveowners forbade drumming and African
    dancing, yet slaves found ways to express their
    cultural identity by stamping, clapping, and
    making rhythmic vocal sounds.
  • African Americans created new, hybrid forms of
    dance that blended elements from new and old
    cultures eventually these dances evolved into
    jazz dance.

Adzido Pan-African Dance Co.
Characteristics of Jazz Dance Today
  • Bent knees, low center of gravity
  • Body isolations
  • Syncopation
  • Pirouettes high kicks
  • Movement emanating from torso and pelvis
  • Percussive movements
  • Jazz shoes

  • After WWI in the 1920s, jazz dance and music
    became part of the American social scene.
  • Dixieland jazz music was popular, along with the
    Charleston (first use of isolations in social
  • Partnered social dance to jazz music was the
    popular dance of the era.
  • Bill Bojangles Robinson was a master tap dancer
    of this era

1930s Swing Era
  • The time of Duke Ellington, Louis Armstrong, and
    big bands.
  • Well-known dances of this time were the jitterbug
    and the boogie-woogie.
  • Ginger Rodgers and Fred Astaire danced in many
    famous movies during this time.
  • Jazz music and jazz dance were inseparable.

1940s WWII Era
  • WWII put a stop to the popularity of social jazz
  • Also, jazz music was evolving into a style called
    bebop, which was rhythmically complicated and
    hard to dance to.
  • Jazz dance moved from the dance halls to the
    stage, becoming prominent in Broadway shows and
  • Jazz dance became influenced by ballet and modern
    dance as it became more professionalized.
  • Jazz choreographers developed specific techniques
    to train dancers for shows.

Fred Astaire Ginger Rodgers
Katherine Dunham
  • An African-American dancer who studied towards a
    doctorate in anthropology
  • Researched Caribbean dance and brought vocabulary
    back to US
  • Rekindled an interest in Black roots of jazz
  • Had her own dance company and dance
    techniquealso choreographed for Broadway
  • Her 1939 show Tropics Le Jazz Hot was an
    immediate hit
  • Eventually established a school in East St. Louis

Cabin in the Sky
Mid-century Musicals
  • In 1943, Oklahoma marked the beginning of dance
    as a major part of musicals choreographed by
    Agnes DeMille.
  • Singin in the Rain was choreographed by Gene
    Kelly in 1952, starring Kelly and Debbie
  • West Side Story was choreographed in 1957 by
    Jerome Robbins, also known for his work in
  • Musical theatre choreographers blended jazz with
    other dance forms to create dances that worked
    with a specific story.

Singin in the Rain
Singin In The Rain
  • Donald OConnor, Gene Kelly,and Debbie Reynolds
    (only 18 at the time) starred in this 1952
    classic movie about the early days of talking
  • Dance (including tap, soft shoe, ballroom) played
    a large role in this movie. The title number
    shows Kelly kicking and splashing in the gutter
    during a downpour, brandishing his umbrella and
    jumping on a lampost to express his exhuberance.

Jack Cole, Father of Jazz Dance Technique
  • Developed an innovative training technique using
    body isolations and movements borrowed from
    Eastern culture
  • Choreographed for film and Broadway including the
    shows Kismet (1953), Man of La Mancha (1966),
    Gentlemen Prefer Blondes
  • He also served as a movement coach to Marilyn
    Monroe and other actors.

  • In the 1960s, dancer Luigi became famous
  • Developed his technique as result of car accident
    which left him
  • paralyzed on right side. Doctors said hed never
    walk again, but operations, physical therapy, and
    his own dance technique brought
  • him back to health.
  • His technique requires extreme muscle control,
    and grace it is influenced by ballet.
  • In his youth, he danced in many movies including
    Singin in the Rain, Annie Get Your Gun, and
    White Christmas.
  • Known as a master teacher rather than a

Bob Fosse
  • Performed in vaudeville and Broadway beginning as
    a child
  • Became famous in the 1970s for shows such as
    Sweet Charity (1967) and Chicago (1975).
  • Movie All That Jazz (1979) was about his life in
    the fast lane
  • First director to win an Oscar, Tony, and Emmy in
    one year (1973).
  • His style has been called slick, erotic, and

Jazz Dance Music
  • Most jazz choreographers today work with current
    popular music, not jazz music jazz dance has
    mostly separated from its original source
  • However, there are a few jazz choreographers who
    believe that jazz dance should be done to jazz
  • Danny Buraczeski says Jazz is such rich music.
    I dont use it as atmosphere or background. The
    music is the subject matter.

Danny Buraczeski
More About Music
  • Billy Siegenfeld says that jazz dance must have
    swing, which is a syncopated rhythm (accents on
    the offbeat)
  • He says jazz dance must be judged for its
    jazzness by the same criterion applied to jazz
    musicIts the rhythmnot the melody, and not the
  • As a proponent of swinging jazz danceI feel
    that this yoking of rock music and jazz movement
    constitutes a paradox. I am interested in
    challenging this practice.
  • His company is the Jump Rhythm Jazz Project

Billy Siegenfeld
Mia Michaels
  • Has her own company, Reality at Work (R.A.W.),
    and choreographs musicals
  • Has toured Korea, Europe, and US
  • Unisex style which sometimes requires women to
    lift men
  • Uses huge dynamic range, ear-high extensions, and
    balletic leg beats.

Twyla Tharp
  • Choreographer/director of Movin Out, (opened in
    2002) on Broadway, with music by Billy Joel
    about a group of friends as they move through the
  • Named Best Show of the Year by Time Magazine
  • Tharp also has her own modern dance company, and
    has choreographed for ballet companies
  • She has choreographed films including White
    Nights with Barishnikov and Gregory Hines, and
  • She has been awarded 17 honorary doctorates

Susan Stroman
  • Directed choreographed Mel Brooks The
    Producers, winner of the 2001 Best Musical Tony
  • Created Contact (1999), a Broadway musical based
    on three stories told in dance she says, Every
    step I do is plot-oriented.
  • Has also choreographed for the Martha Graham
    Dance Co. and the New York City Ballet

The Producers
Savion Glover
  • In 1996, at the age of 22, Glover created (with
    George Wolfe) Bring in Da Noise, Bring in Da
    Funk. This show traced the history of Black
    Americans including slavery, chain gangs, and
    street life, but didnt have a plot or
    characters. Dancing was the primary focus of the

Jazz Musical Theatre Dance Today
  • Musical Theatre Dance today is still strongly
    based on jazz dance, although other influences
    are also apparent
  • There are many varieties of jazz dance today,
    including African, lyrical, modern, and rock
  • Jazz dance has responded over the decades to the
    needs and desires of those doing it, from social
    dance to professional performance
  • Related trends like break dancing and hip hop
    have also influenced jazz dance
  • Jazz dance remains strongly linked to the popular
    music of our time

References for Images
epdanc.jpg www.miracosta.cc.ca.us/Dance/jazz.gif h
ttp//www.lindyhopping.com/pics/charleston.jpg www
.swingdanceuk.com/Simon.htm http//membersaol.com/
movieboy3/bin402.jpg http//members.aol.com/mgmfan
atic/stlouis1.jpg www.rnh.com/news/spring2002/grap
hics/oklahoma.gif Hometown.aol.com/starwarse/fan/i
mages/honesty-image(1).jpg www.theatredance.com/ch
oreographers/jcole.gif www.100megstree4.com/csmini
stries/moviepics/gentlemen.jpg www.encoremusic.com
/piano/1700516.htm www.streetswing.com/histmain/gi
f/1lndyhp2.gif http//www.lcqworks.com/movies/pict
ures/singing20in20the20rain.html www.pbs.org/wn
et/freetodance/behind/images/4a.gif http//www.lui
gijazz.com/images/testil.gif http//www.uttyler.ed
u/cowan/season/gifs/fosse.jpg www.imagination.com/
moonstruck/chicago.gif Web2.htrigg.smu.edu//Fall9
References cont.
  • www.talentcastmodels.com/images/mia_dance.jpg
  • http//www.dancespirit.com/images/backissues/ang01
  • http//www.arborweb.com/images/twylatharp.jpg
  • www.nytheatre.com/nytheatre/moving_out.jpg
  • http//citypaper.net/articles/012402pcis/th.contac
  • http//www.jorgeplace.com/SusanStroman_producers2.
  • http//www.dance-centre.com/images/opening
  • http//www.richardavedon.com/editorial2004
  • Reynolds, Nancy McCormick, Malcolm. No Fixed
    Points. New Haven Yale University Press, 2003.
  • Stearns, Jean and Marshall. Jazz Dance. New
    York Schirmer Books, 1964.
  • Ambrosio, Nora. Learning About Dance. Dubuque,
    Iowa Kendall/Hunt Publishing Co., 2003.
  • Sigenfeld, Billy. If Jazz Dance, Then Jazz
    Music! in Dance Teacher Now, October, 1990, pp
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