Before the 1950s the term “jazz dance” referred to a range of dance styles that originated from the African American vernacular dances of the late 1800s to mid 1900s. During the 1950s, modern jazz dance appeared on the scene which was rooted in Caribbean traditional dance and had a very different style. There are many different styles of jazz dance which can all be traced back to one of these earlier styles.
Until the 1950s, the term jazz dancing was often used to refer to tap dancing. This is because tap dancing was one of the most prominent forms of dance of the era and was often performed to jazz music. Over many years, jazz dancing evolved and from it were born a range of social and concert styles. The origins of many popular forms of jazz dancing can be found here. Such styles include the Cakewalk, Charleston, Black Bottom, Jitterbug, Boogie Woogie and Swing – many of which still remain popular today.

It was after the 1950s that the modern jazz dance which is recognised by audiences and dancers around the world began to develop. During this period, there was an increased supremacy of other forms of entertainment music, and jazz dance evolved onto Broadway with a new smooth style that is epitomised by musicals such as Chicago and Cabaret. These popular musicals were choreographed by Bob Fosse who is largely responsible for popularising jazz dancing. He took much of his influence from choreographer Jack Cole who is often considered the father of jazz dance. To this day, modern jazz is an indispensible ingredient of musical theatre, which is very apparent in many contemporary music videos and competitive dances.

Modern jazz dance frequently influences other styles of dance such as ballet, contemporary and lyrical to mention just a few. It’s also ever-evolving as it is equally influenced by the styles of dances that it influences. As with most forms of dance, any proficient jazz dancer will require an excellent technique. The best jazz dancers benefit from a good working knowledge of ballet and as a result, training the jazz dancer often includes ballet training.

As with any style of dance, jazz dancing requires the dancer to wear a specific type of dance clothing. The most important of which are the dance shoes which are called jazz shoes. They usually have suede soles to allow the dancer to easily execute spins and turns whilst still providing adequate traction to move around the performance space without slipping over. The jazz shoe upper is usually made from soft leather which enables the dancer to easily flex the foot. Over time, the soft leather will also mould to the shape of the dancer’s foot to make them highly comfortable and enable the dancer to give their best possible performance.

There is a huge choice of jazz shoes on the market today which gives the dancer great choice. Jazz shoes can be high rise, low rise, slip on or lace up. Whilst they will almost always have a soft leather upper, they can occasionally have a pvc upper and even mesh insoles. They’re available from a wide range of brands such as Bloch, Dance Gear, Capezio and So Danca. These popular dancewear companies manufacture jazz shoes as well as a wide range of other dance clothing, bags and other dance accessories that dancers often use in dance class and for fashion.

By: Ian James Evans

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