JAZZ DANCE TIMELINE Jazz dance was recognized as a style in its own right after World War one but the foundations of Jazz Dance go back much further in American history. Africans shipped to North America as slaves brought there performing traditions with them and over time these dances gradually fused with European and Asian forms of dance practised in the USA to become Jazz. Jazz and Tap are both American creations but are really hard to define as they keep changing irrevocably linked as they are to popular music. IMPORTANT DATES IN THE DEVELOPMENT OF JAZZ DANCE 1740 The Government passes a law prohibiting beating drums and blowing horns. African born slaves therefore turn to their bodies as instruments incorporating the same percussive rhythms. MID TO LATE 1800S(Following Abolition Of Slavery) In Northeastern cities African Americans and European immigrants discover similarities between their dance styles. A hybrid form evolves, fusing the toe heelwork of the British Jigging and Irish Clogging with the African dance’s syncopated foot stomping and expressive upper body. These improvised dancers (all European though) start appearing on stage. 1830-1890 The rise of the Minstrel Show, the first professional performing outlet for African Americans. Two circuits evolve segregating white and black performers. Both groups have black faces performing numbers like the “Cakewalk “that developed from plantation dances. The most celebrated dancer of the time was a freeborn black named Master Juba. Who danced with different rhythms in different parts of his body simultaneously? This style becomes the bedrock of Jazz and Tap dance and its distinguishing features of Syncopation and Isolation. 1890-1910 People of all races and socio-economic backgrounds flock to supper clubs to watch people perform Ragtime, the precursor to Jazz music. African dance based steps using the hips and torso with names like the “Grizzly Bear” and “Turkey Trot “ become popular and make it to Broadway by the turn of the century. 1918- 1929 In the Jazz age people embrace highly syncopated music and dance, celebrating musicians ability to improvise and dancers ability to express their individuality. In ballrooms in Harlem blacks and whites hit the same dance floor. On Broadway whites flock to “Shuffle Along” an all black musical comedy, which combines Jazz music and dance. 1930s The end of the Harlem renaissance and the onset of the depression. White choreographers are hired in the burgeoning film industry, which is interested in Ballet but wants Tap; social and exotic dance numbers as well. Black artists such as Katherine Dunham are hired as assistants. 1936 George Balanchine’s “Slaughter On Tenth Avenue” number in the Broadway musical ’On Your Toes” marks the beginning of a successful relationship between ballet and popular dance on Broadway. Balanchine’s elegant and sexy choreography in this musical is defined as Jazz. 1944-48 Jack Cole considered the father of Theatrical Jazz dance develops “The Dance Workshop” a group of highly trained Ballet, Modern and Acrobatic dancers that perform in LA nightclubs and theatres. Cole’s study of Bharatanatyam (Indian Classical dance) that involves isolations and quick directional changes further influences the style of Jazz. Cole created dances for 11 musicals and 24 films. 1944 Jerome Robbins choreographs “Fancy Free” which blends Ballet, Swing and Soft Shoe for the American Ballet Theatre. A full- fledged Broadway musical is developed from this and is a smash hit. 1945 Katherine Dunham opens the “Dunham School of Dance and Theatre” in NYC and teaches Shoulder, Rib, Hip and Pelvis isolations while crossing the floor. These moves become standard practice for Jazz classes. 1950s Studios start offering Jazz classes in a variety of styles, Freestyle fast moving ballet based technique, Musical Theatre, Afro Caribbean, Blues and Tap 1954 Bob Fosse choreographs “The Pyjama Game” and brings a new dimension to Jazz with his trademark hat and gloves; hip grinds deadpan looks, knee slides and love of detail in movement. He goes on to be a major Broadway choreographer choreographing and directing some of the most famous and copied routines of all time (See Fosse notes) 1955 Jerome Robbins conceives, choreographs and directs “Westside Story “which fuels the popularity of Jazz dance. 1957-1964 Jazz dance groups start appearing on American television as back up dancers for popular singers and musicians further spreading the popularity 1967-1970 Jazz dance classes become part of College Dance Department curriculum. Funk, Hip Hop and Disco become features of Jazz movement. In NZ the NZAMD starts the Jazz Dance syllabus for dancers to develop through levels such as they do in Ballet. 1980’s The Age of The music Video. Singers employ dancers to sell their songs. Modern choreographers such as Twyla Tharp start incorporating Jazz into modern dance bringing it to a whole new audience. 1990 Gus Giordano starts the annual World Jazz dance congress where Jazz is propagated, preserved and developed. This is now held across the globe in different locations giving dancers access to maser classes, discussion panels and resources. 2000 On Jazz dance is celebrated through TV programmes in particular “ So You Think You Can Dance”, now a world wide franchise, Many conventions and competitions are held around the world and styles vary as they continue to merge with street dance and, ethnic dance styles and more.
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