Brief History of Jazz & Musical Theatre Dance By Wendy Oliver Gus Giordano Jazz Dance Co.
Origins of Jazz Dance Found in the rhythms and movements of African dance brought to the US by slaves. As slaves, Africans were cut off from families, languages, and tribal traditions. Slaveowners forbade drumming and African dancing, yet slaves found ways to express their cultural identity by stamping, clapping, and making rhythmic vocal sounds. African Americans created new, hybrid forms of dance that blended elements from new and old cultures; eventually these dances evolved into jazz dance. Adzido Pan-African Dance Co.
Characteristics of Jazz Dance Movement Today Bent knees, low center of gravity Body isolations Syncopation Pirouettes & high kicks Movement emanating from torso and pelvis Percussive movements
1920’s After WWI in the 1920’s, jazz dance and music became part of the American social scene. Dixieland jazz music was popular, along with the Charleston (first use of isolations in social dance) Partnered social dance to jazz music was the “popular dance” of the era. Bill Bojangles Robinson was a master tap dancer of this era
1930’s: Swing Era The time of Duke Ellington, Louis Armstrong, and big bands. Well-known dances of this time were the jitterbug and the boogie-woogie. Ginger Rodgers and Fred Astaire danced in many famous movies during this time. Jazz music and jazz dance were inseparable.
1940’s: WWII Era WWII put a stop to the popularity of social jazz dance. Also, jazz music was evolving into a style called “bebop,” which was rhythmically complicated and hard to dance to. Jazz dance moved from the dance halls to the stage, becoming prominent in Broadway shows and movies. Jazz dance became influenced by ballet and modern dance as it became more professionalized. Jazz choreographers developed specific techniques to train dancers for shows. Fred Astaire & Ginger Rodgers 1944
Katherine Dunham An African-American dancer who studied towards a doctorate in anthropology Researched Caribbean dance and brought vocabulary back to US Rekindled an interest in Black roots of jazz dance Had her own dance company and dance technique;also choreographed for Broadway Her 1939 show Tropics & Le Jazz Hot was an immediate hit Eventually established a school in East St. Louis Cabin in the Sky
Mid-century Musicals In 1943, Oklahoma marked the beginning of dance as a major part of musicals; choreographed by Agnes DeMille. Singin’ in the Rain was choreographed by Gene Kelly in 1952, starring Kelly and Debbie Reynolds. West Side Story was choreographed in 1957 by Jerome Robbins, also known for his work in ballet. Musical theatre choreographers blended jazz with other dance forms to create dances that worked with a specific story. Oklahoma Singin’ in the Rain
Singin’ In The Rain Donald O’Connor, Gene Kelly,and Debbie Reynolds (only 18 at the time) starred in this 1952 classic movie about the early days of talking pictures. Dance (including tap, soft shoe, ballroom) played a large role in this movie. The title number shows Kelly kicking and splashing in the gutter during a downpour, brandishing his umbrella and jumping on a lampost to express his exhuberance.
Jack Cole, “Father of Jazz Dance Technique” Developed an innovative training technique using body isolations and movements borrowed from Eastern culture Choreographed for film and Broadway including the shows Kismet (1953), Man of La Mancha (1966), & Gentlemen Prefer Blondes He also served as a movement coach to Marilyn Monroe and other actors.
In the 1960’s, dancer Luigi became famous Developed his technique as result of car accident which left him paralyzed on right side. Doctors said he’d never walk again, but operations, physical therapy, and his own dance technique brought him back to health. His technique requires extreme muscle control, and grace; it is influenced by ballet. In his youth, he danced in many movies including “Singin’ in the Rain,” “Annie Get Your Gun,” and “White Christmas.” Known as a master teacher rather than a choreographer Luigi
Bob Fosse Performed in vaudeville and Broadway beginning as a child Became famous in the 1970’s for shows such as Sweet Charity (1967) and Chicago (1975). Movie All That Jazz (1979) was about his life in the fast lane First director to win an Oscar, Tony, and Emmy in one year (1973). His style has been called “slick, erotic, and intense.”
Jazz Dance & Music Most jazz choreographers today work with current popular music, not jazz music; jazz dance has mostly separated from its original source However, there are a few jazz choreographers who believe that jazz dance should be done to jazz music Danny Buraczeski says “Jazz is such rich music. I don’t use it as atmosphere or background. The music is the subject matter.” Danny Buraczeski
More About Music Billy Siegenfeld says that jazz dance must have “swing,” which is a syncopated rhythm (accents on the offbeat) He says “jazz dance must be judged for its “jazzness” by the same criterion applied to jazz music…It’s the rhythm…not the melody, and not the harmony.” “As a proponent of swinging jazz dance…I feel that this yoking of rock music and jazz movement constitutes a paradox. I am interested in challenging this practice.” His company is the Jump Rhythm Jazz Project Billy Siegenfeld
Jazz & Musical Theatre Dance Today Musical Theatre Dance today is still strongly based on jazz dance, although other influences are also apparent There are many varieties of jazz dance today, including African, lyrical, modern, and rock Jazz dance has responded over the decades to the needs and desires of those doing it, from social dance to professional performance Related trends like break dancing and hip hop have also influenced jazz dance Jazz dance remains strongly linked to the popular music of our time