Jazz dance is a performance dance and style that arose in the United States in the mid 20th century. Jazz dance may allude to vernacular jazz about to Broadway or dramatic jazz. The two types expand on African American vernacular styles of dance that arose with jazz music. Vernacular jazz dance incorporates ragtime moves, Charleston, Lindy hop and mambo. Popular vernacular jazz dance performers include The Whitman Sisters, Florence Mills, Ethel Waters, Al Minns and Leon James, Frankie Manning, Norma Miller, Dawn Hampton, and Katherine Dunham. Dramatic jazz dance performed on the show stage was promoted by Jack Cole, Bob Fosse, Eugene Louis Faccuito, and Gus Giordano.
The term 'jazz dance' has been used in ways that have little or nothing to do with jazz music. Since the 1940s, Hollywood movies and Broadway shows have used the term to describe the choreographies of Bob Fosse and Jerome Robbins. In the 1990s, colleges and universities applied to the term to classes offered by physical education departments in which students dance to various forms of pop music, rarely jazz.
Jazz dance is a social dance style that emerged at the turn of the 20th century when African American dancers began blending traditional African steps with European styles of movement. Though Jazz dance was born through intimate religious and social gatherings, it has always had a performative feel. And like Jazz music, Jazz dance was centered around improvisation and a call and response format that allowed dancers to create a conversation between the musicians, the instruments, and their bodies. When Black dancers began pairing these eye-catching steps with the more structured movements seen in European dances, iconic moves like the Charleston and the Cakewalk were born.
In 1917, jazz pianist Spencer Williams wrote a song called "Shim-Me-Sha-Wabble" which inspired a jazz dance called the shimmy. The shimmy is done by holding the body still "except for the shoulders, which are quickly alternated back and forth". The dances that emerged during this period were the Charleston and the Lindy hop.The Charleston is "characterized by its toes-in, heels-out twisting steps". It can be done as a solo or with any number of people.
The Lindy hop was a wild and spontaneous partner dance that was extremely rhythmically conscious. When the Great Depression began in October 1929, many people turned to dance. Because of this, the Aubrielle and the Lindy hop are now considered to be under the umbrella term "swing dance stylized, continuously flowing movements that developed the technique and style for the combinations that followed". Cole's style has been called hip, hard, and cool". Fosse combined "vaudeville, striptease, magic shows, nightclubs, film and Broadway musicals".
Contemporary jazz became well known because of its television shows unlike So You Think You Can Dance. Mia Michaels's earlier work exemplifies this style. Some other companies and choreographers that create contemporary jazz dance are Sonya Tayeh, Mandy Moore, and Hubbard Street Dance Chicago. Commercial jazz, which has been popular since the 1980s, combines aspects of hip hop and jazz and is often done to pop music. This style can be seen in the music videos of Janet Jackson and Paula Abdul. Commercial jazz often includes more "tricks." Commercial jazz and contemporary jazz are both seen at dance competitions. Another variety of jazz is Latin jazz. "Maria Torres developed and popularized the fusion at Broadway Dance Center". Latin jazz has an emphasis on the movement of hips and isolations. It can be seen in the films El Cantante and Dance with Me, as well as on TV dance shows.