The jazz style of dance in America today arose from varieties of African movements and rhythms that were carried over by the slaves in the 1600s, now reflecting our social history and the diversity of the American people. Jazz dance originated from the “roots in Black American society” and has influenced several American forms of dance and music in society today. After the African slaves were brought over to America and adapted to their labored lives, “the Slave Act of 1740 prohibited slaves from performing African dances”, which was seen as unfair because the form of art was a major part of their “cultural identity” (Nalett). The intricate movements of “foot stamping and taping, hand clapping and rhythmic vocal sounds,” have evolved into a popular form of dance that American people admire (Nalett). Jazz was first introduced into American culture “in the 19th century” when white Americans “decided they enjoyed the music and dance” that the slaves had incorporated into their lifestyles and culture (Nalett). Unfortunately when white dancers and performers began to showcase this new form of dance, “it was difficult for a black dancer to gain structure as a part of a dance troupe”, which is unfair since jazz originated from their own people and descendants. This unfairness caused many black performers to move to Europe where their talents “were more well received than in America” (Nalett). Throughout the 1900s, the jazz style of dance evolved and had been used in many performances and films, quickly becoming one of the most popular ways of movement in the dance world. In 1923, jazz music directly influenced the jazz style of dance as it was “spread from New Orleans to Chicago and New York” (Nalett). During the 1930s, specifically at the time of the Depression, many “people escaped into dance competitions in hopes of winning a cash prize” to help themselves financially (Nalett). In the 1940’s, “jazz dance was influenced by ballet and modern dance” allowing the styles to blend and develop “a sophisticated artistic quality” (Nalett). The years of 1950 through early 1980, the jazz style of dance was taken to the big stage of Broadway in productions such as West Side Story and Dancin’ as well as in films such as All That Jazz, Footloose, and Dirty Dancing. Jazz was also seen through performers like Jack Cole also known as the “Father of Theatrical Jazz Dance”, The Jacksons, Backstreet Boys, N’Sync, Madonna, and Micheal and Janet Jackson. Breakdancing was also introduced during this time period and was soon a part of the mainstream of American dance culture (Nalett). It is amazing how quickly the small foreign movements of African culture became a part of American history, influencing many people, arts, productions, and music. Through the style of jazz dance and music, the citizens of America have found a common interest, allowing individuals of all races and backgrounds to join together and express themselves without focusing on their differences. Today, jazz dance has evolved into a much more intricate, competitive, and fun activity for people of all ages, races, and backgrounds across America, but it is important to look back at the history and influence of where each style of dance came from and how it became a major part of American culture. Thanks to the “earthly; low, knees bent, pulsating body movements emphasized by body isolations and hand-clapping” of African culture, America has been blessed with one of the most popular styles of dance and music in history (Nalett).
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October 19, 2021 2:14 pm

Awesome evidence supporting your claim of jazz dance and how it has impacted our society in America. I loved how you took the reader through the history of jazz and focused on how it brought diverse cultures in America together by, “expressing themselves without focusing on their differences.” However I wish you would have elaborated more on how African Americans reclaimed their dance style and how it grew popular again because it would’ve showed the strength and more of the history of jazz. I overall LOVED reading this blog!!

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