How to dance jazz ballet

What is Jazz Dance? (with pictures)



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Jazz dance is a form of modern dance which is heavily influenced by the sounds, rhythms, and techniques of jazz music. Like jazz music, this type of dance is highly individual, with an emphasis on showcasing individual skills, and dancers who specialize in it are skilled at improvisation as well as working with other dancers to achieve a desired look and feel. Many regions of the world offer classes in this type of dance, and some very accomplished dancers and choreographers work in this field.

Like the music which inspired it, jazz dance has its roots in the African-American community in the United States. Various forms of jazz dance were being performed as early as the late 1800s, and by the First World War, it had become an accepted and well known genre. This dance form went on to heavily influence Broadway choreography and, in turn, Hollywood choreography, and it has also seeped heavily into ballet and modern dance.

Most talented jazz dancers start out in the field of ballet. In ballet classes, they learn control, skill, and grace, and they tone and condition their bodies for dancing. Once dancers have mastered the discipline of ballet, they can pursue additional training in jazz dancing, which hones improvisation skills, teaching dancers to move with the beat and to riff off each other in performance. Skilled dancers with jazz training can be in great demand, appearing in films, Broadway productions, and dance performances all over the world, with some noted choreographers working in a wide variety of genres, from television commercials to drill teams.

Jazz is known for being heavily syncopated and unpredictable, thanks to its African influences, and jazz dance is the same way. Dancers may be slow, dreamlike, and graceful, or they may move abruptly and sharply, executing fantastic leaps and other feats. As a result, they must be physically very flexible, and very attuned to the music they dance to.

Some jazz dance is heavily structured and choreographed, while other performances build in room for improvisation. In group performance, improvisation must be carefully executed, with the dancers working together so that they do not clash or distract from the harmony of the piece, just like jazz musicians. This form of dance does not necessarily have to be performed to jazz music, although it often is, and it can integrate skills from other fields of dance, like tap; the original jazz dance, in fact, was tap dance, with dancers branching out into other styles only in the early 1900s.

Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a MusicalExpert researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a MusicalExpert researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

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Jazz Dance Terminology – CLI Studios

July 15, 2021 March 7, 2022 / 3 minutes of reading

Like any genre of dance, Jazz dance has its own terminology which is sometimes specific to itself – but often shared with other styles of dance. Here are a few of the more commonly used terms to get you started in your understanding of the style.

Axel Turn

A spinning rotation in which the dancer performs a knee bend and kick in the air before bringing the legs together again on the ground.

Ball Change

A basic move found in most forms of modern dance, a ball change is a transfer of weight from one foot to the other, often performed quickly. The “ball” refers to the ball of the foot, which is the thick muscular pad just below the toes.

Barrel Turn

A spin that is executed by putting a leg forward, kicking off that forward leg, and using the outstretched arms as a means of gathering momentum for the spin. A barrel turn requires tight coordination between the feet and the arms for its success.


A popular dance from the early days of jazz and swing, the Charleston has at its core a front-to-back weight shift accompanied by a forward kick, often performed with a partner and with arm motions and sometimes jazz hands.


Borrowed from ballet, a chassé–from the French meaning, “to chase”– is a kicking forward motion where one leg “chases” the other. Often performed with arms forward or overhead, a chassé is a good set-up step for a leap.

Fan Kick

Requiring a great degree of flexibility, a fan kick is where one leg travels in a circular motion from in front of the other leg, up into the air at the full range of motion, over the head, and finally down in a resting position. It is named after its imitation of an opening hand fan.

Jazz Hands

A highly stylized and exaggerated splaying of the fingers on open, extended palms. Used to convey rhythm and feeling, very popular in Broadway productions.

Jazz Square

A version of a box step where the dancer creates a square on the ground using a four-step sequence that imitates walking without any forward movement beyond the fourth step. Usually performed as side, back, side, forward.

Jazz Walk

A forward-moving strut, the jazz walk is meant to convey a cool image, and to give the dancer a sultry and slinky gait when in motion.

Stag Leap

A high forward leap in which the dancer imitates the actions of a male deer, with arms up and the knees bent like a prancing animal.

Lindy Hop

A mixture of preceding jazz dances like the Charleston, as well as tap dance, the Lindy Hop (named after aviator Charles Lindburgh’s groundbreaking 1927 transatlantic flight) is a partnered dance that serves as the centerpiece of the swing dance style. It remains a popular dance because of its improvisational style and fun, stylized movements.

How to learn to dance jazz modern

Teaching jazz modern dance is a rejection of the standards that surround us. This is a change in worldview, movements set to music and allowing us to be who we are, and not the way others want to see us.

What is modern jazz? This is a fusion of the energies of two styles that merged and gave birth to modern jazz, dances that combined the choreography of jazz and shocking modern.

Jazz arose by improvising African ritual dances, simply and naturally overcoming the strict canons of the classics. It originated at the beginning of the last, twentieth century, combining the experience of the past and new, extraordinary ideas. An original interpretation of traditional movements, an interesting synthesis of jazz and ballroom schools reveals new features of the dance.

A feature of the jazz style is that the body is a kind of reflection of the rhythm of the music, acting as a musical instrument. First of all, dance training consists in the fact that the emphasis of the step is shifted to the setting of the foot. Awareness and development of the fact that the impulse of movement goes to the support. Learning to dance in jazz style is giving independence when moving parts of the body, the ability to move, following your personal rhythm.

The second component of jazz modern, modern dances, which are the avant-garde of ballet art. Modern destroys traditional ideas about ballet, endows the dance with broken movements and acrobatics.

The development of Art Nouveau was a response to classical ballet, when the dancers went to the strict limits of the classics. Modern is a technique of free dance. Movement in it arises from an impulse that gives the body the freedom to float in space.

As you can see, jazz and modern have a lot in common. But, nevertheless, classical ballet was the father of modernity, and jazz was born from various forms of dance. From the synthesis of these free styles, jazz modern was born, dances that today are danced by thousands of people around the world.

Thanks to the huge variety of expressive elements, teaching jazz modern dance is accessible to people of almost any age. All you need is the desire and desire to reach the heights. In modern jazz, thanks to its democratism, people dance who do not have the skills to practice classical ballet.

You can dance modern jazz barefoot, beautifully dressed or with a minimum of clothes, and sometimes without music. Teaching jazz modern dance is learning a new language of movement. This is a dance that is free from established rules and conventions, but at the same time, behind it stands the dance experience accumulated over the centuries.

Jazz modern - dances that allow you to get out of the stupor in which our soul and body are. It is unpredictable and has no boundaries. And therefore, teaching jazz modern dance is a real challenge to the creative, mental and physical abilities of a person, where the possession of various techniques, elements and ligaments goes by the wayside.

Jazz modern - dances that require high physical exertion, the work of thought and the free flight of fantasy. All this is combined, in the full sense of the word, in super-expressive, very often broken and rhythmless movements that allow you to liberate your soul and body, to be involved in one of the most demanding dances in the world. Learning to dance, and especially achieving notable success, is a joy that can be compared with the joy of climbers who have conquered the summit.

Thanks to the jazz technique, the dancer's body acquires plasticity, flexibility, strength and endurance. Jazz modern dances are sometimes performed very simply, and sometimes with the maximum application of strength and skills. Thanks to this, dance training acquires a special interest.

Teaching jazz modern dance is a rejection of the standards that surround us. This is a change in worldview, movements set to music and allowing us to be who we are, and not the way others want to see us.

Therefore, modern jazz is an opportunity to come to oneself, an opportunity to relax, throw off the burden of conventions, completely liberate yourself and become free and independent. As we said above, jazz modern does not require special physical preparation from beginners, everything else will come in the process.

Description of modern, jazz and modern jazz dance styles

Jazz dance is the oldest form of choreography on the list. They dance it, as you might guess, to jazz music or music with such motives. Jazz dance arose later than music in this style, in order to make it more convenient to move in jazz, they came up with special shoes, which they called jazz shoes, both the male and female versions of these shoes do not differ at all, since percussion is quite common in jazz, flasks, step, the shoes have a small wide heel. Once upon a time, this dance could be found in public catering establishments with live jazz music, where everyone could dance jazz for their own pleasure, at that time the dance did not have any name, only then it was given wide meaning and introduced to styles and varieties of choreography. Oddly enough, jazz takes its origin from Africa. Of course, today it is already difficult to recognize that old, original jazz in today's jazz, by the way, sometimes jazz was performed in pairs, but this trend has not been preserved, today jazz is performed solo or in groups, but by no means in pairs. If once jazz dance was performed on the parquet, low, almost without taking off the legs, then in today's jazz ballets we can find: high batmans (leg throws), many technical turns and even acrobatic elements.

Modern dance is a type of choreography that arose thanks to classical choreography, the entire base of the modern dance style consists of a ballet base. The Art Nouveau style carries clear lines of arms and legs, all classical positions are performed in the same way as in ballet, only in some moments there are parallel and not deployed lines. As for the form of clothing and costumes, shoes in which modern dance is danced, there are no specific obligations here, modern loves lightness and simplicity, being as close to nature as possible, therefore, most often danced modern barefoot or in half shoes that cover only the toes . Musical accompaniment in modern is usually very concise and simple, it can be one musical motive from beginning to end, or vice versa with sharp unexpected transitions, it can also be vocal accompaniment without music or the sounds of nature, or the sounds of only one musical instrument.

Jazz modern, as you might have guessed, is a combination of two styles - jazz and modern, so it appeared a little later, the performance of this genre of dance is almost the same as modern, there is much less jazz in it.

A dance school that has modern must have a part of the classical exercise in the lessons, and ideally, it would be a separate lesson for the classics, because only then can a dancer perfectly perform modern when he knows the basics of classical ballet.

What jazz modern is based on

In order for this style of choreography to look at its best, the dancers must have full control of their bodies, have good stretching, plasticity, jumping and coordination. Although modern jazz was reborn from ballet, it belongs to modern choreography, so improvisation also takes place here, as in all other modern street dances. In addition, the so-called jazz ballets or jazz modern ballets began to exist, which in a fairly short time received no less popularity than classical ballets that have existed for several centuries. Jazz modern ballet is built in the same way as the classical one, which is familiar to us, on the storyline, often the modernized ballet is danced in its own way, the old classical ballets are already ready.

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