A conflation of many dance styles, modern jazz or jazz dance has become a favorite among beginning and amateur dancers who love twisting and turning in their jazz shoes. Modern jazz dance emerged from the golden age of jazz music in the 1950s. Before it was popularized as a distinct genre of dance, modern jazz still belonged to a broader classification called jazz dance, a style culled from African American vernacular dance. Tap dancing, Boogie Woogie, and Jitterbug were some of the other dance styles under jazz dance category.
It was until the ‘50s when Katherine Dunham transformed the genre, and then came modern jazz. Other styles separated and developed individually, while modern jazz became a staple on Broadway shows, incorporating a smoother, fluid style of dance that is practiced today. Shows like Chicago and Cabaret are two of the most famous examples exhibiting the modern jazz dance style.
Beginners need to get acquainted with basic modern jazz knowledge. Performers wear jazz shoes, which usually are split-toe slip-ons with leather soles. Jazz shoes allow for ease of movement, especially when doing turns.
When it comes to technique, modern jazz embraces an array of dance styles, primarily ballet, hip-hop, contemporary, and lyrical. Modern jazz is often performed with a nod to its Afro-Caribbean roots. Many type of dancers find it relatively easy to perform modern jazz, but those with a strong ballet foundation excel.
Center control is highly regarded in modern jazz. This refers to the dancer’s ability to execute movements that seem to rise from a center of balance. Control and balance are important when performing dance moves that normally should disrupt one’s balance. Expect also plenty of fouettés and pirouettes, controlled by a dancer’s excellent spotting. As with ballet, modern jazz values being on point. Dancers align their toes with their legs while performing in jazz shoes.
Dancer wear for modern jazz depend on a given performance piece, but beginners should start with a good pair of tights and leotards. Jazz pants, a lighter and tighter version of sweatpants, is also an option. Female modern jazz dancers can also wear dance skirts with shorts or throw a ballet skirt over their tights.
Beginning modern jazz dancers must possess superb flexibility. The movements that modern jazz commands require you at your most flexible, lest you break our center control. Before starting your modern jazz training, you should undergo some strength training as well. This will prepare your muscles for the strain of performing modern jazz movements. You are required to stretch and use your muscles at maximum. Early on, practice some flexibility exercises, such as stretching your leg muscles until you are able to perform splits, back bends, and lift your leg that it touches the side of your head.
Expressiveness is another element that beginners need to take heed. With its close ties to musical theater, modern jazz requires a dramatic presence. Performers should be ready to project a range of emotions through movement, from desire, apathy, rage, sadness, to joy. The dance requires you to execute the technical complexity inherent in ballet, while also bearing the passion and expressiveness of a theater actor.
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