How did jazz dance start

jazz dance | Definition, History, Characteristics, Types, & Facts

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jazz dance, any dance to jazz accompaniments, composed of a profusion of forms. Jazz dance paralleled the birth and spread of jazz itself from roots in Black American society and was popularized in ballrooms by the big bands of the swing era (1930s and ’40s). It radically altered the style of American and European stage and social dance in the 20th century. The term is sometimes used more narrowly to describe (1) popular stage dance (except tap dance) and (2) jazz-derived or jazz-influenced forms of modern dance. It excludes social dances lacking jazz accompaniment—e.g., the rumba and other Latin-American dances.

Jazz dance developed from both 19th- and 20th-century stage dance and traditional Black social dances and their white ballroom offshoots. On the stage, minstrel show performers in the 19th century developed tap dancing from a combination of Irish jigging, English clog dancing, and African rhythmic stamping. Tap dance and such social dances as the cakewalk and shuffle became popular vaudeville acts and appeared in Broadway revues and musical comedies as these replaced vaudeville early in the 20th century. In addition, comedy, specialty, and character dances to jazz rhythms became standard stage routines. By the 1940s elements of jazz dance had appeared in modern dance and in motion picture choreography.

Although the stage popularized certain social dances, many others were transmitted mainly in social gatherings. The dances that gave rise to social forms of jazz dance developed from rural slave dances. In both early dances and 20th-century jazz dances, there is a noticeable continuity of dance elements and motions. The eagle rock and the slow drag (late 19th century) as well as the Charleston and the jitterbug have elements in common with certain Caribbean and African dances. In addition, the slow drag contributed to the fish of the 1950s; the ring shout, which survived from the 18th into the 20th century, in isolated areas, influenced the cakewalk.

About 1900 the cakewalk, popularized through stage shows, became a craze in European and American ballrooms. In its wake appeared other social dances such as the Charleston (1920s), the jitterbug (1930s and ’40s), the twist (1960s), and disco dancing (1970s). Some, like the fox-trot, borrowed European dance steps and fitted them to jazz rhythms. The growth of radio, television, and recording, which popularized Black music among wide audiences, greatly aided the diffusion of these dances. Fusing ballet with jazz has led in recent years to the formation of such troupes as Canada’s Les Ballets Jazz.

The Editors of Encyclopaedia Britannica This article was most recently revised and updated by Adam Augustyn.

Brief History of Jazz Dance

Although jazz dance is thought to be as American as apple pie, its roots are in Africa. This form of dance quickly became popular in early America and has continued to evolve, while enriching the lives of people of all age brackets. Put simply, jazz dance is any type of dance movements to jazz accompaniments. What’s more, it’s made up of a variety of forms. Here’s a brief history of jazz dance, along with why it can benefit your young child.


Jazz dance is rooted in African traditions, a culture which integrated dance and music into their daily lives. These dances were brought to America via the slave trade. Enslaved Africans performed traditional dances such as the Cakewalk and the Pattin’ Juba on plantations, and these dances laid the groundwork for the evolution of the Jazz Dance technique we know today.

Soon, the dance moves and choreographies were mimicked by traveling musicians. Drumming was influential as, like in African dance, jazz dance mimicked and accentuated the rhythm of the music into isolations and movements of the body. One of the main cities where jazz dance took off was New Orleans. Jazz musicians here were known for creating “the blues”, along with spirituals, marches and ragtime music.  Jazz dance evolved alongside the evolution of jazz and blues music.


It was during the latter part of the 19th century and into the new century that these new dance moves resulted in dance trends, including the Jitterbug, the Charleston, Swing, Boogie-Woogie and other fads. The rhythms of jazz even permeated classical, formal European ballet, which added a unique American flavor to traditional dancing.

This paved the way for the various forms of dance that began in the 1920s and continued into the mid-20th century. Jazz dance was a popular feature in ballrooms of the 1940s and 1950s. It was around this time that jazz dance started to become a studied technique and not just a form of social dancing.

Some of the primary jazz dance performers and choreographers of the 20th century include:

  • Jack Cole—In the 1930s, this popular jazz dancer started to include African and East Indian dance moves into his dance choreography. This led to Mr. Cole becoming a major influence for many jazz performers of the 20th century.
  • Katherine Dunham—Besides being a dance choreographer, she was also an anthropologist. This woman was one of the first pioneers in black theatrical stage dance.
  • Gus Giordano—This Chicago jazz dancer is known for creating precise and clean dance moves.
  • Bob Fosse– Considered perhaps the most influential innovator of jazz dance, Bob Fosse created a technique that merged elegance and burlesque with a bit of quirkiness. You may know him for his choreography in Chicago, Sweet Charity, Pippin, Cabaret, Kiss Me Kate, or the Pajama Games.


Most jazz dance, by the 1980s, did not include jazz music as its main inspirational source. Jazz dance became popular on stage and on screen. Music videos and movie musicals pumped more life into the technique and style.

As American culture continues to change, jazz dance continues to grow and change right along with it. There are many different branches of jazz dance in our culture today- vernacular, Broadway, commercial, modern- and each brings a new spice and life to the traditions jazz dance is honored to come from.


The possibilities are endless as to the directions that today’s jazz choreographers and dancers may go. Even though we may not be able to imagine what’s in the future for jazz dance, we can be sure that it will continue to reinvent itself as well as discover new fans. In other words, jazz dance will remain as a popular American way to dance, besides continue to be a mixture of different world cultures.


There are several perks of jazz dance lessons and especially for children. These benefits include:

  • Improved physical fitness—Does your child spend way too much time staring at a computer screen or other type of electronic device? Jazz dancing is one of the best ways to get your child away from electronics and physically active.
  • Better emotional and mental health—Besides boosting strength, flexibility and coordination, jazz dancing can also serve as an excellent way for children to express their emotions and gain confidence in their individuality!
  • Muscle memory is another benefit as children must keep in step with fast pace of the music.


  • Jazz dance continues to evolve.
  • Throughout the history of jazz dance, this form of dance continues to develop alongside the popular music of the day.
  • This type of dance is highly beneficial for kids.

For more information on our wide selection of dance classes, contact us.

What is jazz, history of jazz

What is jazz, history of jazz

What is jazz? These are exciting rhythms, pleasant live music, which is constantly evolving and moving. With this direction, perhaps, no other can be compared, and it is impossible even for a beginner to confuse it with any other genre. The ingenuity, as well as the passion that jazz compositions are filled with, has no limits. And here is the paradox - to hear and recognize this extraordinary music, capable of expressing the whole gamut of human feelings: from boundless joy to uncontrollable anger, it is easy, but it is not so easy to describe in words. Many-sided and diverse, it is constantly being improved, and therefore the concepts and characteristics used today become obsolete in a year or two.

Read the history of jazz and many interesting facts on our page.

Jazz - what is it

Jazz is a direction in music that originated in the USA at the very beginning of the 20th century. Rhythms, ritual chants and work songs of African Americans are closely intertwined in it, as well as the harmonic component inherent in the music of white settlers. In other words, it is an improvisational genre that emerged as a result of the mixing of Western European and West African music.

What are the characteristics of jazz music?

The first and most important feature is improvisation. Musicians must be able to improvise both in an orchestra and solo. Another no less significant feature is polyrhythm. Rhythmic freedom is perhaps the most important feature of jazz music. It is this independence that makes the musicians feel weightless and constantly moving forward. Remember any jazz composition? It seems that the performers play some wonderful and pleasant to the ear melody at ease, there are no strict limits, as in classical music, only amazing lightness and relaxation. Of course, jazz works, as well as classical ones, have their own rules, however, thanks to syncopated melody and a special rhythm called swing (from the English swing), such an extraordinary feeling of freedom arises. What else is important for this direction? Of course, a beat, that is, a regular pulsation.

Popular jazz songs

" What'd I Say ". This wonderful composition by American artist Ray Charles , recorded in 1959, captivated millions of people. The song appeared by chance during a concert performance, as an improvisation, which had to fill an unexpectedly formed pause, and as a result became the ancestor of a new style of jazz music called soul.

"What'd I Say" (listen)

« Hello, Dolly! "The song was created in 1963 by composer Jerry Herman for the musical of the same name, and gained worldwide fame after its performance by the famous jazzman Louis Armstrong . The composition was awarded the Grammy Award and recognized as a jazz standard.

"Hello, Dolly!" (listen)

" New York, New York ". This composition is the hallmark of the outstanding American singer Frank Sinatra . The song, written by composer John Kander and lyricist Fred Ebb, was first performed by Liza Minnelli in the 1977 film of the same name. Two years later, the composition with minor changes was recorded by Frank Sinatra and became a truly cult.

"New York, New York" (listen)

" Chattanooga Choo Choo ". The song, composed by poet Mac Gordon and composer Harry Warren, was first recorded by Glenn Miller's Jazz Orchestra in May 1941. Sounded in the same year in the film "Sun Valley Serenade", it immediately took the top line of the US charts, and soon the disc with the composition became the first "golden disc" in the history of recording, as its sales significantly exceeded one million copies.

"Chattanooga Choo Choo" (listen)

" Caravan ". One of the most famous compositions, written by Duke Ellington in creative tandem with Juan Tizol at 1936, recognized as a jazz standard. The popularity of the piece among musicians is so great that at the present time it is difficult to list all the cover versions and arrangements made by jazzmen who are not indifferent to it.

History of Jazz

It is well known that the birth of jazz as a musical movement took place in the United States at the end of the 19th century, but it should be noted that its origins should be sought far from America - on the African continent. It all started with the discovery of a new continent by Columbus, to which, at the beginning of the 17th century, the British began to import black slaves. The brought slaves, being from different tribal communities, at first did not understand each other. In order to survive in completely new conditions, they had to not only find ways to communicate, but also create a single culture, including music, which was based on the rhythms and motives of their native Africa. Exhausted by hard work and enduring the cruel treatment of white masters, slaves during their rest hours initially comforted themselves with ethnic ritual songs, with their characteristic complex rhythms. Since African Americans did not have musical instruments, their singing was always accompanied by a kind of dance clapping and stomping. Over time, forced migrants began to adapt to new conditions. Other tunes appeared in their lives that were influenced by the culture of the white masters, such as spirituals: filled with improvisation, very emotional spiritual chants or field holler: roll call songs sung by slaves while working on plantations.

After the civil war of 1861-1865, slavery was abolished in the United States, but such changes did not make life easier for the black population of the country. African Americans had to wander from city to city in search of work. On the roads of the country, minstrel shows began to travel with black musicians who amused the randomly assembled audience with songs and dances, for example, such as cakewalk, which later became the forerunner of ragtime, one of the most important sources of jazz. Around the same time, as a reflection of the woeful life of black American citizens, blues - songs of loneliness and despair, which were another paramount component of jazz music. So the long-term interaction of African musical culture, which was distinguished by improvisation, plasticity and rhythm, as well as American folk music of white settlers with its inherent harmony and melody, led to the emergence at the very end of the 19th century of a completely new musical direction, later called jazz.

New Orleans is considered to be the cradle of jazz music. It was in this South American city at the very beginning of the twentieth century that the outlandish near-ethnic style began to change significantly. The founders of New Orleans jazz, which later became known as "traditional" and also "Dixieland", were Jelly Roll Morton, Buddy Bolden and Kid Ory. Thanks to the work of these musicians, "syncoped music" began to rapidly gain popularity and actively spread throughout the country.

Small ensembles of black musicians - the first jazz bands, at first performing in restaurants in New Orleans, began to tour different cities in search of better income. So 1917 was marked by the beginning of a new stage in the development of jazz, but already in Chicago. Jazz orchestras began to be actively created there, which performed compositions that differed not only in complicated arrangements, but also in special performing techniques. Outstanding representatives of "Chicago jazz" are Joe King Oliver, Carroll Dickerson and the incomparable Louis Armstrong .

The process of development and modification of jazz music has become more and more intensive every year. For example, in New York, the jazz violinist Paul Whiteman formed a large orchestra in 1920 and approached jazz music in a special way. He was the initiator of a new style, which he himself called " Symphonic Jazz ". It was Whiteman who ordered from George Gershwin the famous " Blues Rhapsody " - a piece that revolutionized the music world.

The next stage in the development of jazz is associated with the emergence of large jazz orchestras - big bands that could perform various dance melodies. They practiced a completely new style, in which deviations from the rhythmic pattern were clearly felt, and bright solo improvisation was superimposed on an intricate accompaniment. This kind of orchestral jazz music is called "swing". The most popular in the mid-twenties, as well as in the thirties, were jazz orchestras conducted by Duke Ellington , Fletcher Henderson, Glenn Miller, Benny Goodman , Count Basie.

Of course, such a departure of swing from the features inherent in early jazz, from national melodies, caused dissatisfaction among some connoisseurs of jazz music. That is why big bands and swing performers are beginning to be opposed by the play of small ensembles, which included only black musicians. Thus, in the 1940s, a new style of bebop emerged that stood out clearly from other areas of jazz music. He was characterized by incredibly fast melodies, long improvisation, and the most complex rhythmic patterns. Among the performers of this style, 9 figures stand out0003 Charlie Parker and Dizzy Gillespie.

Beginning in 1950, jazz began to develop in two different directions. On the one hand, classical jazz adherents decided to return to traditional music and, pushing bebop aside, created cool jazz, which was distinguished by emotional restraint. On the other hand, the second line continued to develop bebop. On this basis, hard bop arose, returning traditional folk intonations, a clear rhythmic pattern and improvisation. This style developed in conjunction with such trends as soul jazz and modal jazz. They brought the music closer to the blues most of all.

In the 1960s, various experiments and the search for new forms are carried out. As a result, jazz-rock and jazz-pop appear, combining two different directions, as well as free jazz, in which performers completely abandon the regulation of rhythmic pattern and tone. Among the musicians of this time, Ornette Coleman, Wayne Shorter, Pat Metheny became famous.

In subsequent years jazz continued its intensive development. New styles emerged, including smooth jazz, acid jazz, jazz funk, nu jazz, dark jazz. As a result, there are more than forty diverse stylistic offshoots in jazz today.

Jazz in Russia

The first acquaintance with jazz music in Soviet Russia took place on October 1, 1922, when the theatrical figure Valentin Parnakh, returning from Paris, organized the first performance of the “First Eccentric Jazz Band in the RSFSR ". This group did not last long, but it was replaced by large orchestras of Alexander Tsfasman and Leopold Teplitsky. The concert programs performed by them mainly consisted of fashionable dances, such as the foxtrot and Charleston, as well as jazz arrangements of works by classical composers and pop compositions by contemporary foreign authors.

Since the popularity of such groups in the USSR quickly gained momentum, in the following years several more large jazz orchestras were created, including Leonid Utyosov's TEA Jazz, Georgy Landsberg's and Boris Krupyshev's Leningrad Jazz Capella. A little later, the orchestras of Yakov Skomorovsky, Alexander Varlamov were formed, and in 1938 the State Jazz Orchestra of the USSR under the direction of Matvey Blanter and Viktor Knushevitsky.

However, at the end of the forties, in the era of the struggle against cosmopolitanism, jazz music was persecuted: jazz orchestras were renamed into pop-symphony orchestras, and real jazzmen went “underground”. With the onset of the “Khrushchev “thaw”, the persecution of musicians was weakened, and only the Moscow Festival of Youth and Students launched the revival of real jazz music in the USSR, which then successfully entered the international arena in the person of such outstanding musicians as Igor Bril, Leonid Chizhik, Viktor Fridman, Alexei Kozlov, Nikolai Levinovsky, Gennady Golshtein, David Goloshchekin.

Interesting Facts

  • The first recording of jazz music was made in New York in 1917, however, not by African Americans, but by white musicians. The record "Original Dixieland Jazz Band" with compositions of New Orleans jazz rapidly gained great popularity.
  • The origin of the term jazz has not yet been established, but there are a lot of options. According to one version, it comes from the French word, which translates as chatter, according to another, from the English word for persecution. In one of the African dialects, the sound of drums was called a similar word, but there are suggestions that black slaves used it as a cry of approval.
  • Jazz was so popular in the twenties of the last century that historians often refer to this period as the Jazz Age, and Paul Whiteman as its king.

  • Typical jazz instruments are drums, guitar, piano, saxophone , trumpet, clarinet , trombone and double bass .
  • The United Nations has designated April 30 as the official International Jazz Day.
  • It is customary to celebrate the birthday of Russian jazz on October 1st. It was on this day at 19In 1922, the debut performance of a jazz band created in our country for the first time under the direction of V. Parnakh took place.
  • In the Soviet Union, the eight-year period that began in 1948 entered Russian history under the name "the era of saxophone extension." As a result of the decision of the All-Union Communist Party of Bolsheviks of February 10, the saxophone and jazz, as hostile elements, fell into disgrace. The phrase has become very common: “Today he plays jazz, and tomorrow he will sell his homeland!”

Even today jazz is constantly and dynamically developing, there are many directions and styles. This music continues to absorb sounds and melodies from all corners of our planet, saturating it with more and more colors, rhythms and melodies.

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The origin of jazz music | Calm Radio

Jazz music celebrated 100 years of its first recording at 1917 year. Although jazz has had a significant impact on the perception of pop culture in society since that period, its origins are still fraught with many mysteries. In this article, we will explore the origins of the phenomenal innovations that shaped the jazz genre.

The first jazz recording

Despite the lack of an exact date for the appearance of jazz, we know that this genre has developed over a couple of hundred years. The earliest references to the first jazz recording date back to February 26, 1917. On this day, 5 members of the Original Dixieland Jass band went up to the 12th floor of the Victor Talking Machine building on 38th Street in New York, where they recorded the song "Livery Stable Blues".

Surprisingly, this group consisted of five white guys. When recording "Livery Stable Blues", Original Jass borrowed elements of the African American music they heard in their native New Orleans. This single has sold over one million copies.

The Origins of Jazz Music

The lesser-known history of jazz extends well beyond 200 years into the social and cultural structures of African Americans in early American society. The origin of jazz is attributed to the colonial period, when Africans were transported to the American continent and were still in slavery.

This period of history brought about a huge influx of African culture and musical traditions to the south, which greatly contributed to the emergence of early blues techniques in the 1800s. For example, an interesting technique was the use of homophonic, heterophonic harmonies and parallelism in the performance of songs. This means that when the singers sang at the same time, the pitch of their voices differed from each other by exactly one third. One of the most important musical achievements of this time was the blues note. These are lowered 3rd and 7th notes in the scale, which give the melody a hint of sadness, which is still widely used in jazz music and blues.

Another aspect of the sub-Saharan region that was prominent in early blues practices is the tribal question-and-answer vocal style. These songs initially served as a form of democratic participation in civil and religious affairs. During the colonial period, such musical characteristics were preserved in the early origins of the blues, when western-influenced African slaves combined them with elements of ragtime, gospel and other European Christian musical traditions.

Over time, the advent of brass and marching bands in the late 1800s formed the forefront of popular culture. This was mainly due to the growing importance of musical patriotism, which had a strong influence on American and European societies in the 1890s and up to the 1920s. Many African-American musicians freed from slavery participated in the formation of the increasingly popular brass band. Over time, they began to incorporate traditional elements of ragtime, blues, and gospel to return to their own cultural heritage.

Although the development of the blues has shifted from the South to Chicago and the Midwestern states, the South has been at the forefront of musical development. Gradually, typical French Catholic culture mixed with African culture, paving the way for a "Creole" culture in America. This subculture has developed its own variations of language, values, food and of course music over time.

The rise of Creole culture in New Orleans led African American musicians in the region to combine their music with popular brass band dance tunes in the early 1900s. This new trend contributed to the music of cornetist Charles "Buddy" Bolden between 1895 and 1900. He used improvised blues with the rising tempo of popular dance tunes. For this reason, many early jazz musicians consider him an innovator who paved the way for what would become "jazz" in the history of music.

This development also explains why many jazz formations focus primarily on brass instruments rather than strings, which was a common form of arrangement for the chamber set of the time. Along with social laws that deprived the Creoles of their special status in society, these musicians used more musical styles from the improvisational style of the fringes. This trend led to the emergence of the typical New Orleans jazz band, which consisted of cornet, clarinet and trombone.

In the early 1900s, early jazz music became an important part of social events. The result of this has been the emergence of many employment opportunities for musicians. Jazz has become a regular part of life in and around New Orleans. As it progressed successfully, early jazz began to spread to other cities as well. This genre was widely used in show tours, and its first commercial success was only a matter of time.

The Birth of Jazz

Back on February 26 1917 years old. The musical composition of the "Original Dixieland Jass Band" recorded their song in New York, which achieved great success. From this point on, jazz became known as a separate musical genre. Although rooted in the African-American community, the success of jazz has skyrocketed thanks to "white" musicians in New York.

More and more jazz musicians moved north because of the new demand for jazz music. As a result, there were more job opportunities, and better social conditions were created in the northern states for African American citizens. Many famous names emerged during this period, such as Joe "King" Oliver, Sidney Bechet and Louis Armstrong. All of them contributed to the tradition of early New Orleans jazz. From the brilliant combination of Armstrong's solo art to the piano works of Jelly Roll Morton, which laid the foundation for the "swing" era. All this had its origins, which should never be forgotten.

Pianist Euby Blake, in an interview with National Public Radio before his death in 1983, said: “When Broadway started using this word, they pronounced it J-A-Z-Z. Even though it wasn't pronounced like that. The original name was "J-A-S-S" which had an obscene meaning, and if you knew about it, you would never say this word in front of the ladies."

A few months after recording Livery Stable Blues, the band permanently changed its name to the Original Dixieland Jazz Band.

Would you like to know more? Listen to many jazz music channels on Calm Radio on the Internet. For example: Dixieland channel, Ragtime music channel, Jazz piano channel, Jazz guitar channel, Bebop jazz music channel and don't forget the Blues music channel.

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