February 3, 2015
Jazz dance has been around for many centuries and has evolved tremendously with time. Jazz dance originated in the African culture in the early 1800s when African slaves were captured and required to migrate to the United States, West Indies, Central America, and South America. Dance is an important part of life in the African culture as there are dances for many occasions such as birth, puberty, marriage, and death. Many Africans also performed dance choreography to produce rain, improve health, and cease wars. There are several specific characteristics used in traditional African dance, such as isolation of body parts, syncopated movement, and individualism, which are seen in jazz dance as well. When the Africans were forced to move to the other countries, their history and culture of dance followed them.
Jazz dance is linked to the rise of jazz music as they were both based on the African culture brought to America by African slaves. In the early 1900s, jazz thrived in New Orleans and spread to New York and Chicago. New Orleans was a very popular place during this time period as it was well-known for jazz music and jazz dance. Many people would dance in the streets to local jazz music. The history of jazz is still present in New Orleans today. Musicians and artist still perform their work on the streets contributing to the historic culture upon which the city prides itself. The rise in popularity of jazz dance in the 1900s is directly related to the rise of jazz music. Social dancing at ballrooms and dance halls became very popular in the early 1900s. Even throughout the Great Depression, dancers continued to perform as often as they could. However, World War 2 decreased the popularity of both jazz music and dance, as the complex rhythms in modern jazz music were difficult for social dancing. This decline caused many of the ballrooms and dance halls to close. Nonetheless, professional modern jazz dance became very popular during and after World War 2 because of the difficult rhythms associated with it. While traditional jazz dance was associated with African dance, it has transformed into its own unique style of dance throughout the past few centuries.
I have a moderate level of exposure to jazz dance. I have taken a few basic jazz dance classes throughout middle school and high school. I was also a baton twirler in middle school and high school which incorporated many dance movements into our routines, especially during our “dance-twirl” routines. During practices we would practice many of the movements we have learned in class such as sashays, jazz runs, and body isolations. We would also practice different across the floor combinations, similar to the one we practice in class. My experience has allowed me