Essays History Of Jazz Dance Essay

Jazz Dance

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Afterreading the article on jazz dance, I had found out a number of interestingthings that I hadnt known before. I thought it was a dance form that wasfairly new, starting in the early 1900s. I then found out that it actually pre-dates all the way back to theseventeenth century. I also thought itcame from the United States, when it really originated in Africa and wasbrought here by the slaves. The dancingand drumming was such a part of their lives; it was eventually continued by theslaves on the plantations with dancing and the clapping of their hands forrhythm. It was used as a form ofentertainment, as well as enjoyment, and sometimes, even for competition.
It wasaround the 1830s when the song and dance of the Africans began being performedin theaters, called <i style='mso-bidi-font-style:normal'>Minstrel shows,but the dancers were actually white. Then in the 1860s, blacks were finally aloud to perform in these shows. They became very popular and then diedout in the early 1900s, which lead the way for new shows. The most popular of these being the <istyle='mso-bidi-font-style:normal'>Vaudeville show. The Vaudeville show, presented a numberof different acts with all different cultures of people and dance, whichencouraged diversity. It served as aprofessional school, a training ground and an experimental station for dancersdestined for Broadway, nightclubs and film.-Richard Kislan. The <i style='mso-bidi-font-style:normal'>Vaudevilleera began the emergence of jazz music, which mixed ragtime and blues. The dancers would then begin to connect tothe condensed rhythms of jazz music. Nowjazz incorporates a gathering of styles and movement, which can mean a lot ofdifferent things to different people.
When welearned jazz dance in class, I found it hard to keep up at first. I liked the way it looked, when someone whoknew what they were doing, was dancing. I remember changing directions a lot. I also noticed while dancing that you use pretty much every part of yourbody. I thought I would be good at it,considering I am an athlete, and I am tune with my body. But I wasnt, I just felt like so manydifferent things to remember. Maybe if Ipracticed it more, I could pick it up.
What I didlike about jazz dance, is how free it is. It really gives you the opportunity to express yourself. Even the guy who came in to instruct us wastelling everyone to perform the moves in your own style. Since we didnt really have any jazz music, Ifound it hard to keep rhythm.

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I wouldhave liked to see if I danced better with a jazz beat. Even though I wasnt to good at it, I didfind jazz dance very enjoyable.
Now that I have completed thereading, I noticed a lot of things we did in class that relates to thereading. The article talked about howthe clapping of hands was used in place of drums when the slaves danced on theplantations. In class we experiencedsame thing. Since we didnt have propermusic, the teacher told us to clap our hands at certain times of ourdance. I also mentioned that jazzdancing was sometimes used as a form of competition. There was definatleycompetition felt in our class, because there was another higher-level danceclass mixed in with our class, learning the same dances. It seemed as though every time we were taughta new dance, and it was time to perform it, they tried to do better thenus. At certain points in the dances wewould try to out do each other, by giving our best struts, high kicks and showstopping footwork. This is pretty muchthe same as a cakewalk mentioned in the article, except unlike a cakewalkwhen u try to out do each other with partners, we did it individually.
When givinga description of jazz dance the article said that no movement is dull and thereis an unabated theatricality about jazz. I would have to agree with that statement, the moves that we were makingin class were anything but dull, I felt like we were always in constantmovement, as if we were performing. Another thing mentioned in the article washow jazz dance was based on improvisation. Improvisation was what the jazz dance teacher stressed to us the wholeclass, to do your own thing. The freedomto dance how u wanted to, was what made the whole jazz dance class an enjoyableexperience.



Jazz dance dates all the way back to 5,000 – 9,000 years ago. Although many people believe that jazz dance originated from United States, it actually came from early African cultures. In Africa, natives danced to celebrate cycles of life such as birth, puberty, marriage, and death. Child, adults, and the elderly depended on jazz dance to express their culture and beliefs. People from Africa who were later sold into the slave trade around the late 1800’s to mid 1900’s brought the dance with them to the Southern plantations in which they now lived on.

The dance took on more of a European style over time. The only place where jazz danced stayed in its original African form was Congo Square in New Orleans. Slaves were allowed to dance while being supervised by French and Spanish Catholics. The Catholics believed that by letting the slaves dance, they could monitor them to make sure they weren’t planning escapes or practicing voodoo rituals. After seeing the slaves dance, whites began to paint their faces black and began copying their styles.

The very first dance to imitate slave dancers was by Thomas Rice in 1828. It was called “Jump Jim Crow. ” It copied the movement of a slave who had been crippled. This became the basis for the era of American entertainment founded on stereotyping slave dancers. The movement quickly spread to the audience and public, and the result was that dances like the Charleston, Jitterbug, Boogie Woogie and Swing began to develop.

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