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Jazz Dance

A History of the Roots and Branches

Lindsay Guarino

Publication Year: 2014

The history of jazz dance is best understood by comparing it to a tree. The art form's roots are African. Its trunk is vernacular, shaped by European influence, and exemplified by the Charleston and the Lindy Hop. The branches are many and varied and include tap, Broadway, funk, hip-hop, Afro-Caribbean, Latin, pop, club jazz, popping, B-boying, party dances, and much more.

Unique in its focus on history rather than technique, Jazz Dance offers the only overview of trends and developments since 1960. Editors Lindsay Guarino and Wendy Oliver have assembled an array of seasoned practitioners and scholars who trace the many histories of jazz dance and examine various aspects of the field, including trends, influences, training, race, gender, aesthetics, the international appeal of jazz dance, and its relationship to tap, rock, indie, black concert dance, and Latin dance.

Featuring discussions of such dancers and choreographers as Bob Fosse and Katherine Dunham, as well as analyses of how the form's vocabulary differs from ballet, this complex and compelling history captures the very essence of jazz dance.

Published by: University Press of Florida

Title Page, Copyright Page

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pp. i-iv


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pp. v-viii

List of Figures

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pp. ix-x

List of Tables

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pp. xi-xii

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pp. xiii-xiv

The idea for this book evolved out of a conversation at Providence College in the spring of 2010. While making copies of jazz dance–related articles, we lamented over the lack of a textbook that would best serve our college students. We went on to discuss exising jazz dance textbooks, and our consideration...

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Wendy Oliver

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pp. xv-xx

The term jazz dance has multiple meanings and styles of expression that have evolved over the past century. These multiple definitions have been an obstacle to creating a comprehensive history and discussion of the art form, since the question of what to include must be answered before the story of...

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Part I: What Is Jazz Dance?

The opening section of this book includes individual statements on the nature of jazz dance and a brief discussion of jazz dance styles. Using a personal perspective, four authors answer the question “What is jazz dance?” based on knowledge and experience as...

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1. Jazz Dance as a Continuum

Patricia Cohen

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pp. 3-7

I find the multitude of jazz dance labels and descriptions fascinatingly analogous to the story of the elephant and six blind men. While each man describes a different entity based on the body part he has touched, the wise reader knows that they are referencing the same animal. The linking element...

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2. The Family of Jazz Dance

Bob Boross

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pp. 8-11

Since jazz dance is a shared creation of countless individual contributions, there can be no definitive answer to the question “What is jazz dance?” Yes, the initial manifestation was a recognizable product of a particular time and circumstance. But as time passed and circumstances changed, so did jazz...

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3. A Twenty-First-Century Jazz Dance Manifesto

Sheron Wray

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pp. 12-16

Jazz dance is centered on four principles derived from an African aesthetic: rhythmicity, a formidable relationship with the music, improvisation, and dynamic play. Rhythm is intimately connected to music. There is, however, also independence in how this rhythm manifests. It is not like the concept of music visualization...

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4. If Jazz Dance, Then Jazz Music!

Billy Siegenfeld

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pp. 17-23

In 1959, Marshall Stearns, noted jazz author and founder of the Institute for Jazz Studies at Rutgers University, wrote an article for Dance Magazine entitled “Is Modern Jazz Hopelessly Square?” In it he questioned whether the dancing of the day that people called jazz did in fact reflect the essential...

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5. Jazz Dance Styles

Lindsay Guarino and Wendy Oliver, with author contributions

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pp. 24-32

Here is a brief overview of jazz dance styles that are all part of the jazz dance tree. Styles are grouped in a way that suggests shared roots and aesthetic principles. Readers are encouraged to refer to this section as a glossary, but keep in mind that, just as branches of a tree intertwine and give way to new...

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Part II: Jazz Dance History

Jazz dance history is rich and extensive. Part II explores this history from its origins to today. For the purposes of this book, the history has been divided into four sections: the roots of jazz dance during the slavery period in the United States; from emancipation through...

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6. The African Origins of an American Art Form

Takiyah Nur Amin

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pp. 35-44

Jazz dance, a uniquely American dance form, is rooted in and informed by African movement idioms and aesthetics that traveled to the United States with the trafficking of African people, commonly referred to as the Middle Passage or the transatlantic slave trade. During the enslavement era, African...

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7. Jazz Dance from Emancipation to 1970

Jill Flanders Crosby and Michèle Moss

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pp. 45-58

The history of jazz dance is intimately tied to the history of jazz music. Collectively, as jazz expression with common histories and shared aesthetic characteristics, their entwined history from emancipation to the 1970s is complex. Their parallel histories reveal a multiplicity of aesthetic approaches...

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8 Jazz Dance from 1970 into the Twenty-First Century

Jill Flanders Crosby and Michèle Moss

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pp. 59-68

As dancers from the 1970s to the present, our bodies tried on many styles called jazz in the classroom and in performance that told us multiple and sometimes divergent stories. As audience members at many musicals employing “jazz” dance and at jazz concert dance performances, we experienced...

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9. Historical Movement Chart

Tom Ralabate

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pp. 69-72

Following are lists of jazz walks, steps, and jazz movements in a historical context. These lists and terms are divided into specific eras and are specific to American culture. Each heading also contains musical styles that were dominant during that era. Familiarity with these terms allows for practical...

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Part III: Master Teachers and Choreographers, 1930–1990

During the twentieth century, jazz dance took a journey of transformation, codification, and appropriation. Artists interpreted jazz dance in a variety of different ways, as influenced by society, culture, and their previous scope of training and experience. Many artists...

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10. The Authentic Jazz Dance Legacy of Pepsi Bethel

Karen Hubbard

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pp. 75-81

Alfred “Pepsi” Bethel’s life was cogently summed up in his obituary by leading jazz dance historian Terry Monaghan: he “had an extraordinary career starting with a self-improvised dance company in North Carolina and finishing up on Broadway, having rescued a major slice of American dance from...

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11. Jack Cole and Theatrical Jazz Dance

Teal Darkenwald

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pp. 82-88

Jack Cole is called the father of theatrical jazz dance; however, he remains relatively unknown outside of dance circles. His best known contributions include choreography for nightclubs, Broadway musicals, film, and television, but scholars identify the development of the Cole style and his specific...

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12. Katherine Dunham’s Mark on Jazz Dance

Saroya Corbett

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pp. 89-96

Katherine Dunham (1909–2006) is revered as one of the great pillars of American dance history. Her world-renowned modern dance company exposed audiences to the diversity of dance, and her schools brought dance training and education to a variety of populations sharing her passion and...

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13. Bob Fosse’s Jazz Revolution

Cheryl Mrozowski

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pp. 97-102

Robert Louis Fosse—better known to audiences, critics, and scholars of theater and cinema as Bob Fosse—reigned as Broadway’s foremost choreographer/director during the late 1960s and throughout the 1970s. His musicals spanned three decades: The Pajama Game (1954), Damn Yankees (1955), New...

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14. The Legacy of Gus Giordano

Michael McStraw

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pp. 103-108

Pioneers, inventors, visionaries: more often than not, these agents of change make their contributions from afar, secure inside laboratories, warehouses, or offices and removed from the world they intend to alter. In stark contrast, Gus Giordano—the twentieth-century jazz dance innovator, master educator...

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15. Frank Hatchett’s Jazz Dance

Bob Boross

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pp. 109-112

Frank Hatchett’s name instantly refers to what is hot and fresh in the world of jazz dance. As a teacher and choreographer for more than thirty years, Hatchett has been a driving force in taking the latest steps and trends from street and social dance and translating them into a jazz dance style he calls...

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16. Luigi, Jazz Dance Icon

Patricia Cohen

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pp. 113-118

“Luigi” is an iconic name in the jazz dance community. A highly regarded and much loved New York City teacher since 1957, Luigi continues to exclaim his mantra, “Never stop moving,” in classes and conventions, in his technique book, and in articles written about him. Indisputably, Luigi’s technique...

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17. The “Free Style” Jazz Dance of Matt Mattox

Bob Boross

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pp. 119-124

Jazz dance is a collective art form, led by pioneers who have advanced its evolution with their individual formulations. One such leader is the dancer-teacher-choreographer Matt Mattox. A product of the finest concert and commercial dance training of the 1940s and ’50s, Mattox has advanced his...

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18. Donald McKayle, Jazz Dance Then and Now

Bob Boross

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pp. 125-129

Many of the pioneers of theatrical jazz dance are still with us, making it imperative for their firsthand experiences and recollections of the evolution of theatrical jazz dance to be recorded. One such person is dancer/choreographer Donald McKayle. Known for his classic modern dance works like...

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19. Lynn Simonson and Simonson Technique

Kimberly Karpanty

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pp. 130-136

Lynn Simonson is an influential dance artist whose work has profoundly affected both the artistry and pedagogy of jazz dance around the world. Her legacy is sustained by a network of dancers and educators who disseminate her passion for the movement, music, and history of American jazz dance...

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Part IV: Related Forms and Styles

Jazz dance has taken on many forms and styles since the authentic jazz dance of the early twentieth century. Some forms are easily identified as jazz dance, and others have taken on entities of their own. For example, hip-hop dance and tap dance share the same...

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20. Tappin’ Jazz Lines

Ray Miller

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pp. 139-152

Tap dance is a twentieth-century American art that has strong roots in popular theater dance forms of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries; at the same time, this uniquely American vernacular dance form continues to reinvent itself in new and interesting ways. While the tap dance community...

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21. Jazz Dance in the Broadway Musical

Kirsten Harvey

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pp. 153-163

The stock market crash of 1929 marked the end of the popular vaudeville era that had dominated the performance scene around the country for more than thirty years. As the Great Depression deepened, vaudeville houses were closing down all over America. Cinematic presentations had slowly started...

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22. The Transmission of African-American Concert Dance and American Jazz Dance

Gill Wright Miller

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pp. 164-173

We recognize in the Ailey work movement set to song lyrics, a tight corps de ballet configuration, wide spread jazz fingers, syncopated rhythms, and emotional expressionism. What genre is this dance? Could this opening from an African-American concert dance be considered an American jazz dance?...

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23. Jazz Dance, Pop Culture, and the Music Video Era

Melanie George

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pp. 174-183

The key to the evolution of jazz dance is its bond with popular culture and a willingness to adapt style and vocabulary to the times. More than any other dance form, jazz dance is closely aligned with trends and contemporary popular music. In part, this is what makes jazz dance so difficult to define...

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24. Hip-Hop Dance as Community Expression and Global Phenomenon

Moncell Durden

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pp. 184-194

Hip-hop represents a form of communication that emerged out of a marginalized society in the concrete jungle of the New York City Bronx neighborhoods. Shaped by sociocultural and sociopolitical circumstances in the 1970s and developed during economical struggles and environmental turmoil...

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Part V: Perspectives on Teaching and Training

Whether taught at a university, public school, private studio, or community center, jazz dance must be passed on from teacher to student in order to survive and thrive. While people can and do learn dance from images on the internet, film, and television, the...

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25. Jazz Dance Training via Private Studios, Competitions, and Conventions

Lindsay Guarino

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pp. 197-206

Today’s dance studios offer a wide range of opportunities to those who wish to train as jazz dancers. Studios vary with respect to the size of the student body, the size of the facilities, the experience of the faculty, the range of class offerings, the number of performance opportunities, whether they are...

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26. Jazz Dance in Higher Education

Kim Chandler Vaccaro

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pp. 207-216

There exists a potent intersection between an argument for the inclusion of jazz dance in higher education and the work of dancer and anthropologist Mura Dehn. Multicultural valuation, Gardnerian Theory, the National Standards of Dance, the influence of African-American and Popular Culture...

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27. Jazz Dance as a Gateway to Community Engagement

Lynnette Young Overby

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pp. 217-228

Students enrolled in jazz dance will gain new knowledge, skills, and techniques designed to promote their continuing development as dancers and as human beings. Their knowledge of African and African-American contributions to United States history and to dance in general will be explored...

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Part VI: Contemporary Topics in Jazz Dance

The discourse in the field of jazz dance today includes conversations among scholars, teachers, choreographers, dance company directors, dance writers, and performers. Part VI addresses the particular concerns of some of these jazz dance practitioners and...

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28. Jazz Dance and Racism

Carlos Jones

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pp. 231-239

Discussions about the history of the United States eventually wind their way to the subject of racial biases. Comparably, conversations on jazz dance, either its aesthetics or its history, slide head first into the world of racism. To discuss jazz dance and not acknowledge the issue of race greatly diminishes...

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29. Vernacular Jazz Dance and Race in Hollywood Cinema

Susie Trenka

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pp. 240-248

The manifold varieties of jazz dance have always dominated dance in mainstream American cinema. Given jazz dance’s African roots and its many manifestations in the African-American vernacular, it is not surprising that its use in film almost always implicates issues of race and racism. This article...

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30. Jazz Dance as American Export in France and the United Kingdom

Sheron Wray

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pp. 249-260

American culture is readily identifiable within the idiom of jazz music, and it has penetrated every continent in the world. Jazz is global, and the intimate relationship between the dance and the music has, over time, formed localized movement vocabularies. Both social and theatrical dances have been...

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31. A Study of the Power of Club Jazz in 1980s London

Michèle Scott

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pp. 261-267

In the 1980s, a few young DJs began playing jazz music in English clubs and at all-day dance events. Jazz music, with its complex layering of rhythm and phrasing, presented a challenge to dancers more familiar with disco and funk. The search for a dance style that fitted the music resulted in a return...

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32. Performing Energy: American Rhythm Dancing and the Articulation of the Inarticulate

Billy Siegenfeld

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pp. 268-278

In the 2005 documentary Rize, Li’l C says this about the explosive urban dancing he does called “krumping”: “People have problems, you know, didn’t get this, didn’t get that. . . . Just the fact that you can get krumped, you can channel that anger, anything that negative that has happened in your life, you...

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33. A Journey into the Heart of Jazz Dance

Jill Flanders Crosby

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pp. 279-288

In 1981, I began a long artistic and scholarly journey in search of jazz dance. I already considered myself a jazz dancer, for I took “jazz” classes in high school, college, and professional studios in New York City.1 I was in love with the form and identified its aesthetic as primary to my artistic voice. University...

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Appendix: A Sampling of Twenty-First-Century Jazz Dance Companies

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pp. 289-284

There are several professional jazz dance companies around the world, and their identities vary widely. While there are many concert dance companies that perform jazz-influenced choreography, few dedicate their mission primarily to jazz dance choreography. This listing offers a glimpse of companies from the United...

List of Contributors

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pp. 295-300


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pp. 301-310

E-ISBN-13: 9780813048741
E-ISBN-10: 0813048745
Print-ISBN-13: 9780813049298

Page Count: 320
Illustrations: 2 tables, 3 illustrations, 47 b&w photos
Publication Year: 2014