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While discussing jazz dance and its techniques, it is necessary to consider some historical fundamentals on a dance style. First of all, it should be pointed out that jazz is recognized to be African-American vernacular dance. The word Jazz started to be used in times of the First World War. The modern and ballet dance styles can be also applied to jazz, as the kind of popular dance styles involves a wide range of dance elements.
Swing and tap dance as the examples of jazz
Generally, there is a need to point out that jazz requires a strong background in ballet, folk and modern dances, as grace and balance are extremely important in one of the most popular dance styles. Although jazz is based on unique moves and should reflect a dancer’s originality, one is to remember that a high level of energy is the key characteristic of a well-known dance style.
Swing and tap dance are considered to be the most vivid forms of jazz dance, which reflect the so-called nature of the kind of a well-known dance style. The most important variations of the second form of jazz include Broadway tap and rhythm tap.
Swing styles involve a wide range of substyles, namely the Savoy style, Lindy style, West Coast Swing, Whip, Push, Supreme Swing, Imperial Swing, Carolina Shag, DC Hand Dancing, East Coast Swing, Ballroom West Coast Swing, Country-Western Swing, Cajun Swing, Pony Swing and Live (Heikkila, n. d.).
The basic techniques of jazz
Isolation, suspension and contraction are recognized to be the basic techniques of jazz dance. Thus, isolation requires one part of a person’s body to be active; while another one should remain still. Suspension, in its turn, is to be based on moving through certain positions. In other words, one can conclude that when suspension occurs, balancing in positions is not allowed. Contraction jazz steps involve a wide range of turns, including piques, pirouettes, etc. Dancers can show jazz walks in various ways. Gus Giordano, Bob Fosse and Jack Cole are considered to be the most famous choreographers of jazz. They emphasized such famous techniques as quick directional changes, inward knees, long knee slides, full-body isolations, etc.
Jo McDonald (n. d.) characterizes jazz in the following way:
Parallel and inverted leg lines are dominant. Angular lines and sharp movements are juxtaposed with long, curving lines and flowing movement. Complex rhythms including polyrhythms and syncopation are paramount; as are isolations of body parts such as the head, shoulders, ribs and hips; stylish poses and gestures; and fast, complex foot work (para. 8). In other words, it seems to be evident that jazz is considered to be one of the most difficult dance styles.
As far as jazz may include numerous elements of ballet, folk and modern dances, it is necessary to highlight some similarities and differences between dance styles. Thus, on the one hand, jazz involves numerous classical lines and repetitions, which are originated from ballet and folk dances; on the other hand, numerous adaptable elements jazz also includes are considered to be characteristic features of modern dances; the principal difference, however, is that lines, forms and repetitions taken from ballet are to be performed extremely quickly. In other words, the main difference between popular dance styles is that jazz is always to be aggressive. In jazz, turnouts and strict postures are rarely emphasized.
Heikkila, L. (n. d.). History of Swing Dancing. Centralhome.com. Web.
McDonald, J. (n. d.). Jazz Dance – Has It Got The Cred? Danceinforma.com. Web.