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Behind Ballet Austin

In Search of All That Jazz

June 28th, 2011
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When I think of “jazz,” the music of Bourbon Street or from a favorite Broadway show pops into my mind. But Jazz encompasses a wide range of music from hip hop, reggae, contemporary, and other countries, just to name a few. With such an eclectic mix of music, what exactly is jazz dance?

Several classes at the Butler Community School (BCS) fall into the “jazz” category: Broadway Jazz, Contemporary Jazz, Jazz Turns & Jumps, Jazz Funk, and just plain ol’ Jazz!  Because I get so many questions about jazz as well as the differences between each class, I decided to share some interesting facts about the dance form.

Jazz dance has a rather long and rich history that has evolved over the years. Jazz had its roots in African culture, where people depended on dance to tell stories and express their beliefs. This interpretive dance was brought to America. The style later changed even more with European influence, but it still continued to be a dance of expression.

Since the 1920s, Jazz has continuously evolved – Jazz dance changed as our culture changed. From the Charleston of the 1920s, jazz evolved into swing jazz during the 1930s big band era. People like Jack Cole, Bob Fosse and many others made theatre jazz popular in the middle of the century. In the 80s, FAME, FLASHDANCE, and FOOTLOOSE left their mark. Each decade brought something new and fresh. The evolution of Jazz has lead to jazz funk, lyrical, and the contemporary jazz of today. But even today,  despite the range, just mention jazz to one person and it will mean something quite different than it might to another.

In spite of such diverse influence and change, or maybe because of it, jazz classes are some of the most popular dance classes around today. At the BCS, the legacy of Jack Cole can still be found in a Broadway Jazz class. Contemporary Jazz offers a more commercial style with a mix of lyrical, pop, and contemporary often seen on So You Think You Can Dance. Jazz Turns & Jumps is a technique class, designed to work on movement and learn tricks. Jazz Funk falls in line with the hip hop classes, cool and funky to the hottest pop music. And then there is just Jazz, a fun, upbeat, New York style jazz class.

Despite all the changes over the decades, and all the different styles, one thing’s for sure: Jazz is fun. There’s a style for everyone, too, so let go and express yourself. It’s what Jazz is all about!

 

Click for more information on Jazz classes at the Ballet Austin Butler Community School.

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