When someone says „jazz dance“, many people imagine dancing to the jazz music, doing the Charleston. Others imagine flashy costumes and lots of kicking and strutting around the dance floor. Or is it the jumps and turns? Maybe it is what we see in Broadway musicals.
In reality, all of those assumptions would be correct. Jazz dance is an umbrella term including several different styles. However, it is important to understand how it developed and became what it is today. So, in today‘s article, I will lead you through it.
Would you also like to know why this topic? Well, let me tell you. Katrina, one of our volunteers, will lead a 6 classes long Jazz dance workshop, starting on the 23rd of February! So, I have decided to interview her and ask about her background in dancing. What health benefits does she see in dancing? As well as, what you can expect from her workshops. So keep reading to know all about it!
Where did jazz dance come from?
Jazz dance became popular in the early 20th century. This dance developed simultaneously with jazz music. It emerged when African American dancers started combining traditional African dances with more European styles. The African dances that provided the foundation for jazz dance were very rhythmic and explosive. This combined with the more structured movements seen in the European dances created a new style.
Same as Jazz music, Jazz dance was based on the improvisation and call-response format. The dancers created communication between the musicians, instruments, and dancers.
Evolution of Jazz dance
Jazz dance changed with time. It was also highly affected by the most popular music of each era.
At first, it developed in the black communities, and wasn‘t until the 1920’s that it spread to other communities. It started in concert halls or clubs performances of live jazz music with the dancers performing on the stage. Later, choreographers started adjusting the dances for purposes of the outside of the clubs. Steps inspired by ballet were added to the choreographies and brought to Hollywood and Broadway.
When the Golden Age of film emerged more cultures began to influence and mix in with Jazz. The Caribbean and Latin dances for instance. For a while, there was a decline in interest in Jazz. Until the 1980‘s when MTV launched. The style was again adjusted to fit with the popular music.
Eventually, different subgenres of Jazz were created. There is Jazz Funk, Lyrical Jazz, Modern Jazz, Commercial Jazz etc.
Interview with Katrina
Q: When did you start with dancing?
A: I have been doing Jazz dance since I was 7 years old. I was a very active kid. Already my grandma said that I was too motivated. So, after that, I started with the Jazz dance. They offered it in the local sports center. Ever since I liked doing it. I think it is a very fun way to move. A fun way to do sports. It makes me feel really good and I always loved having a show afterwards. I already loved doing the shows as a child.
There were different age-level groups, so always after several years, you moved up. For the past 7 years, I was in the same group. Still in the same sports center that I started at.
Q: What was your favorite performance?
A: Once we performed at the wedding of my cousin. That was super cool! It was a surprise as well. I was one of the bridesmaids so I asked my team if we could do that. We also used to have this big show once per year. There was usually a theme. One year we had a Jungle Book. So we had themed dances and also the normal dance we created during the year. Those were cool because it was a big thing.
Q: Did you do any other types of dance, other than Jazz?
A: My teacher, the one I had the longest, studied dancing. She would sometimes teach us different styles, like hip hop. But that was an exception. So I guess it is more a no. BUT .. When I was doing my exchange year in Italy I did Salsa and Bachata. There was a teacher, the head of the dance school, that offered these Bachata and Salsa classes and he made a course at our school. We could try 5 lessons during PE and I loved it. I wanted to continue so I applied to the course. It lasted around 3 months. It is a pair dance, so a bit different, but I also liked that.
Q: Is there any dance style you always wished to learn?
A: I always wanted to try ballet but I was already in a group doing jazz so there was no time. I watched the TV show Dance Academy as a kid and they danced ballet a lot haha. I would also love to be that flexible and they can control their bodies so well.
But to be honest, I am glad I started dancing in a more relaxed environment. It wasn‘t even a dance school, it was a sports club. Because sometimes then it can be very strict and when the focus is more on the competitions. We never went to competitions, except when we were older and we decided as a group we want to do that. But it was never the focus. It was more on dancing, having fun, and doing the moves. Not necessarily that you always have to be great which is often a problem with ballet because it is very competitive. I also have friends who did ballet. They said that it can often be problematic regarding body image. Because already the little girls are told they can not gain weight because they won‘t be able to move as well.
I would also love to continue and learn more from Bachata and Salsa. Or in general, a pair dances. Also the waltz and that kind of dances. It is kind of missing. At least for my wedding day, I will have to know how to dance that haha.
Q: What can people expect from your workshop?
A: We will learn some different techniques. There is the Pas de Bourée, different jumps and turns. I want to cover those and teach some specific steps that are very typical for jazz dance.
There will always be a warm-up, so some warm-up dance. Of course, also stretching will always be a part of the class. And then we will learn a choreography together. The plan is to finish the choreography in 6 lessons. Hopefully, we will also be able to film it at the end. The last class should be somewhat of a performance, we will have someone come to take pictures and film the finished choreography.
To get everyone excited for the classes I can also reveal that maybe Taylor Swift is involved in the choice of the song for the main choreography. I will also make a cool playlist for the classes. I think it is very important to have nice music so I will do my best to create the playlist.
Q: Anything else you would like to share?
A: Dancing is fun. I think we should all dance more. For me, it is a tool to just get rid of worries. To just not think and enjoy the music. It has nice health benefits to it too. While dancing you have to involve not only the physical but also the mental aspects. It is a combination of balance, strength, endurance, concentration, and also memory. Because you have to remember the choreography. There are also benefits for mental health. It is good to release emotions.
I think everyone can dance. Sometimes people say they can‘t dance but it is just the shyness holding them back. As long as you enjoy the music and have fun it will be good.
So, you have read it all yourselves! Now you know that jazz dance is not just dancing to the jazz music, but can be much more diverse. There is a great workshop ahead of us with our amazing volunteer Katrina. To learn what specific song she chose and to learn some jazz jumps, turns, and moves you will have to go and join the class!
Until the next time,