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History of Jazz Dance
Transcript of History of Jazz Dance
Birth of Jazz Dance
The origins of jazz music and dance are found in the rhythms and movements brought to America by African slaves. The result was an intermingling of African cultures that created a new culture with both African and European elements. The style of African dance is earthy; low, knees bent, pulsating body movements emphasized by body isolations and hand-clapping.
White American’s enjoyed the music and dance the slaves had created and found it entertaining. They imitated their slaves in shows called ‘minstrel shows’, where they painted their faces black and mocked them. The shows were composed of a troupe of up to fifty performers who traveled from city to city, the Minstrel show portrayed African American's as slow, shuffling idiots or sharply dressed dandies.
Minstrel shows lost popularity and were replaced by the rise of ‘vaudeville shows’. These involved a series of separate, unrelated acts grouped together in the one show. Types of acts included popular and classical musicians, dancers, comedians, trained animals, magicians, female and male impersonators, acrobats, illustrated songs, jugglers, one-act plays or scenes from plays, athletes, lecturing celebrities, minstrels, and movies.
Developed by Kathryn Wilson, the Charleston became a popular dance craze in the wider international community. The Charleston is most frequently associated with ‘flappers’; young Western women in the 1920s who wore short skirts, bobbed their hair, listened to jazz, and flaunted their disdain for what was then considered acceptable behavior. In the Charleston, dancers used body isolations, hand-clapping and foot-stamping that were a direct link to the dance’s African origin.
This was the era of Bill "Bojangles" Robinson; an American tap dancer and actor of stage and film. Audiences enjoyed his understated style, which rejected the frantic manner of the Charleston in favor of cool and reserve; rarely did he use his upper body, relying instead on busy, inventive feet, and an expressive face. He is best known today for his dancing with Shirley Temple in a series of films during the 1930s. As the movements of the tap dance became more flexible, the lightness of Robinson’s style influenced the future of tap dance by changing the placement of the tap steps from the full foot to the ball of the foot, creating ‘jazz tap’.
Musicals found their fame in Hollywood, and Fred Astaire became the leading man in these movie musicals. He created a unique dance style that brought elegance to the dancer’s image. He blended the flowing steps of ballet with the abruptness of jazz movements and was the first dancer at that time to dance every musical note so that the rhythmic pattern of the music was mirrored in the dance steps. He is particularly associated with Ginger Rogers, with whom he made ten films.
Dance in Films
In this era, Jazz dance was influenced by ballet and modern dance. By blending the classical technique of ballet with the natural bodily expression of modern dance, jazz developed a sophisticated artistic quality. Unlike early jazz dance, which was performed by talented entertainers without formal training, modern jazz dance was performed by professionals trained in ballet and modern dance.
As the demand for groups of trained dancers for film work grew, and Jack Cole emerged as “Father of Theatrical Jazz Dance”. He was the one who started developing these trained jazz dancers the Hollywood movie musicals His impact on jazz was his individual, energetic dance style that combined athletic, gymnastic qualities with jazz and tap.
Professional Jazz Dance
As jazz dance continued to evolve as a profession, it burst onto the stage with the landmark Broadway production of West Side Story, choreographed by Jerome Robbins. It’s popularity on stage grew through the next 30 years and its popularity surged again in the 1980’s with the influence of Andrew Lloyd Webber. His musical hits include Jesus Christ Superstar, Phantom of the Opera, and the hottest musical Cats, with choreography by Gillian Lynne.
Theatrical Jazz Dance
Bob Fosse became the outstanding name is jazz dance. He performed on Broadway and in films, but his true success was as a choreographer. His work includes the films All That Jazz and Sweet Charity, the Broadway hit Dancin, and the television special Liza With a Z, among many other famous works. He choreographed a reproduction of Chicago in 1975. Fosse’s style was distinct; it was highly creative and often included bizarre movements; it was slick, erotic and intense. He was a one man jazz phenomenon whose style continued to make its mark on the Broadway stage and in Hollywood throughout the 1980s.
Jazz dance in the 1980s received a tremendous boost from prominent movies of the decade: Fame, Flashdance, Footloose, Staying Alive, Breaking and Dirty Dancing. Attendance in jazz dance classes skyrocketed with students eager to conquer this exciting dance form. American businesses noticed the large audience appeal of jazz dance and moved in quickly to capitalize on the craze. As never before, jazz dance appeared in television commercials for Panasonic, Coca-Cola, and many fast food chains.
Jazz in Pop-Culture
The 1980s also saw the introduction of MTV a new medium for dance and professional dancers. When MTV began broadcasting in 1981, music videos combined high-energy jazz, ballet, street dance and social dance in striking and innovative ways. Some major choreographers of the period were Michael Peters, Jeffrey Hornaday, Lester Wilson, Toni Basil, Paula Abdul, Madonna, and Janet Jackson. The supreme video star of the 1980s was of course, Michael Jackson. Michael Jackson made a major impact on the direction of jazz dance with his creative dance steps, his videos, his presentation and his choreography, most of which was done by Michael Peters, or by Jackson and Peters as a team.
Street dance is inner city dance taken directly from the street corners with performers using “boom boxes” as their accompaniment. Street dancing is an umbrella term to describe dance term that encompasses funk, popping, breakdancing, and hip hop. The dance style uses the whole body including complex footwork, body isolations, breakdancing and gymnastic moves. Hip hop is a style of clothing, attitude, dance and music
Current jazz dance has reached a wide variety of performance platforms, including cabaret and lounge shows, cruise ship entertainment, and touring dance companies. Concert shows with musical superstars feature dancers as an integral part of their concert entertainment. Jazz dance, and in particular musical comedy, has become a primary theme park entertainment. Music videos, major television productions, such as award presentation galas, and industrials (promotional business shows) still prominently use jazz dance.
History of Jazz Dance