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Dance History

Dance History: Original Style Jazz Dance

*Disclaimer: This dance history section is based on our own research, interviews, discussions with pioneers and also knowledgeable dancers in the community. Everything written here is aimed primarily towards the non-dancers, or those who aren’t well informed about these dance styles and seek to learn more. Our goal is to try and provide them with a starting point for more insight and also help point them in the right direction for more information. If you’d like to contribute to any of these dance history sections, feel free to contact us. Enjoy!

When people think Jazz dancing, they think of “Chicago” or “Fosse” style. But the dance we want to feature here is the 1920s & 30’s style, that came out of the streets and the clubs. Just like any street style, jazz dance revolved around it’s social dances with moves like the blackbottom, shim sham, charleston, the shimmy, shorty george, suzie q, applejack, etc.

Towards the late 20s, dancers created a more upbeat partnered style dancing called the Lindy Hop. By the mid 30’s the dancers took Lindy Hop to the next level and incorporated stunts by carrying their partners through the air, spinning and flipping as they danced. Mainstream audiences most likely know this style as swing.

While swing and lindy hop are still being taught today, it seems that the original style of Jazz Dance (as far as all the social dance steps) as it was back then, has been lost throughout the years. The style of jazz being taught in majority of the studios now seem a lot closer to ballet and modern movements. Seems that only a small number of teachers still teach the original dance steps in their jazz classes (let alone teach to jazz music itself, not other genres of music). We’re quite interested in learning why this is so, and where the disconnect started?

Notable names of Jazz dance include Al Minns and Leon James, Frankie Manning, Snake Hips Tucker, Norma Miller, etc. I’m still trying to do more research on this. The more we keep digging for more info on the street dance aspect of jazz, the more intriguing things get!

The Documentary SPIRIT MOVES is a 3 part jazz dance documentary that looks really informative. I’ve seen parts, but not the complete version. Also check out the trailer for ill Kosby’s dance documentary, “Everything Remains Raw”. I saw a preview of this in SF and it has a lot of great information on street dance history! This is what inspired us to research more on original style jazz dance.

*We’ve created a short playlist for you to visually see original style jazz dance. These are definitely worth checking out! Note some of the similarities with the moves in the clips below in comparison to some street dances of today. Look familiar?



5 Responses to “Dance History: Original Style Jazz Dance”

  1. Gwiz, Kashmir Leese bought me here, an amazing mind from the UK scene attempting to restore some dignity and pride to this tradition, heritage and culture. Please drop me an email as I am doing similar work and would like to collaborate/contribute.

    Posted by omalone1 | 01/30/2017, 10:36 am
  2. sweeeet

    Posted by nik | 10/09/2009, 2:52 pm
  3. lindy hop vid is ill! good job on the new site fam!

    Posted by soulciety | 10/08/2009, 7:54 pm
  4. To me, the Lindy Hop has got to be one of the most mind-blowing styles of any dance, EVER.

    Posted by kay0ss | 10/07/2009, 12:18 am
  5. Test comment

    Posted by soulo | 08/26/2009, 5:28 pm

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