Jazz as Dance
While few people understand the true origins of Jazz as a music form, fewer people still understand the origins of jazz as a style of dance. Jazz is very much a fatherless child. More than that however, jazz as music and dance seem to have many mothers despite the fact that they have no father. By this I mean that there are many influences to this colorful form of music and dance though no one influence is notable enough in the new creation to be considered the ‘father’ or ‘mother’ for that matter of jazz.
Though jazz has many supposed birth places it really only has one true home and that home would be New Orleans. Much like the music this city is famous for, New Orleans is a city without a father too. New Orleans was a melting pot in the truest sense of the word before we had any real clue what it meant to be a melting pot. From the influences of the French, Spanish, German, English, and of course the population of former slaves and black free men and women, New Orleans was the perfect place for this blended and mixed style of music and dance to call home.
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It is no wonder that jazz dance emerged as the result of jazz music. There are simply no adequate dance steps for the delightful music we have come to know over the years as jazz. For this reason something new and a little bit off the main path was needed in order to keep time and pace with the new music that was emerging.
As a style of dance, jazz was much more ‘brazen’ than dances in the past had been and in some circles considered to be singly unseemly. Polite society certainly had no interest in this particular form of dance. The good news for those who enjoyed this style of dance is that there were plenty of places in which jazz, as a form of dance and music, was readily embraced. You had to go off the beaten path a little in order to find it but for many it was well worth the effort.
Jazz music and dance was popular for quite a while and then seemed to go underground except in cities such as Memphis, New Orleans, Kansas City, and St. Louis where it was an ingrained part of the history and culture. We have seen a reemergence of this once popular style of music and dance in recent years however with some notable musicians bringing back the swing and ‘big band’ sound that went hand in hand with jazz as both a music form and a style of dance.
You should understand however, that when it comes to jazz dance, much like the music, there are no definitive rules that you must follow in order for it to be jazz. There are no rigid dance steps that must be adhered to for the ‘jazz’ effect. Jazz dance is often confused as ‘tap dance’ because tap music was often set to jazz music. It is important however to realize that jazz isn’t limited to tap dance and that other styles of dance fall under the rather large umbrella of ‘jazz dance’.
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Some of the more common jazz dances include: Black Bottom, Boogie Woogie, the Cakewalk, the Charleston, the Jitterbug, the Lindy Hop, and swing dancing. Each of these styles of dance seems to be making a rather remarkable comeback in popularity over the course of the last two decades and are very interesting to watch, as well as in which to participate should you ever have the opportunity.
If you have considered jazz dance lessons for you or your children, I hope you will decide to indulge. Not only is the music for this type of dance excellent and uplifting but also the style of dance in and of itself is quite fun and enjoyable. There are very few styles of dance that can compete when it comes to allowing artistic license, going with the flow, and simply dancing for the sheer joy of dancing. As an art form and as a form of entertainment jazz music and dance are tops in my book.