History of Jazz Dance “Jazz dance is a form of personal expression created and sustained though improvisation…it has certain defining characteristics, including improvisation, isolation, a centrifugal explosion of energy that radiates outward from the hips, and a propulsive rhythm that gives a swinging quality to the movement.” -Bob Boross Jazz is a crossbreed of north American cultures, a music and dance of the slaves of Africa, and old European Jigs and lits, Minstrel shows and presumably, Jazz music. Jazz is part of the genuine folk culture of North America and the only such national tradition.
Today any professional dancer male or female can not make it without a Jazz background. Thefirst Jazz dancer to dance to Jazz Music was said to be “Frisco”, who spotted Al Jolson and started mimicking him at the Lambs Cafe in Chicago. Marshall and Jean Stearns, in their book Jazz Dance – The Story of American Vernacular Dance, state that jazz dance is a “blend of African and European traditions in an American environment.
” They feel that European movement contributed an elegance, and that African movement gave a rhythmic style. Lynne Fauley Emery also notes the importance of rhythm in African music and dance by using the metaphor of a drumbeat for the heartbeat of Africa. It would seem that, although European movement has given a shape to jazz dance, African rhythmic propulsion is the factor that has given jazz dance its character and appeal. Jazz dance is the embodiment of the American culture in that it blends many different cultures, lifestyles and techniques into one harmonious art form.
To trace the history of jazz dancing in America, it is therefore necessary to begin in Africa. Jean Sabatine, in her book Techniques and Styles of Jazz Dancing, states that ” the story of jazz dance begins with the importing of African culture to Ameri…