The varieties of jazz dance reflect the diversity of American culture. Jazz dance mirrors the social history of the American people, reflecting ethnic influences, historic events, and cultural changes. Jazz dance has been greatly influenced by social dance and popular music. But, like so much that is “from America”, the history of jazz dance begins somewhere else.
The origins of jazz music and dance are found in the rhythms and movements brought to America by African slaves. The style of African dance is earthy; low, knees bent, pulsating body movements emphasized by body isolations and hand-clapping. As slaves forced into America, starting during the 1600’s, Africans from many cultures were cut off from their families, languages and
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During this decade, the influence of Latin American music and dance enriched jazz dance as was seen in the landmark Broadway production of West Side Story, choreographed by Jerome Robbins . It was also during this time that Matt Mattox, who had been a dancer of the Jack Cole style in many Hollywood musicals, began to develop his own teaching and performing style. He was another dancer who had studied ballet, modern, and tap and then found his love of jazz in his late 20s. Matt Mattox went on to teach dance in New York for many years before moving to Europe in the 1970s and developing his school and style based on what he calls “ Freestyle” although many people still label him as a jazz dance teacher and choreographer.
With the 1960’s came the twist, as easy to perform, overnight craze which brought adults back to the social dance floor. At this point, Motown was the new hot musical craze. It came out of Detroit and the groups featured choreographed routines mostly done by Charles “Cholly” Atkins. This idea of the lead singer being spotlighted in front while the back up singers performed choreographed moves, was new and is credited to Mr. Atkins, who was brought in to Motown to work with these groups and give them a uniform look onstage. His work can be seen on Motown groups such as The Supremes, Smoky Robinson and the Miracles, and The