Jazz Dance History and Famous Choreographers

Jazz Dance History and
Famous Choreographers
The student will have a clear understanding of the
development of jazz dance as an American art form.
Identify the major works of historically significant
jazz dance choreographers.
 Compare and contrast the works of these
choreographers using proper dance vocabulary.
Definition and Origin
Definition of Jazz Dance
A stylized form of theatrical dancing conceived in
America, given birth by the established and varied
techniques of dance (folk and classical) brought to us
by our ancestors from every corner of the world, and
influenced by the musical styles of each succeeding
decade. Jazz is a blend of African dance, European
classical dance and American Modern dance.
Jazz Dance Styles
The Blues:
Modern Jazz
West Coast
Katherine Dunham
Katherine Dunham: combined Afro-Carribean styles
with modern and ballet idioms. She was very
influential on the development of jazz dance in
America. She researched folk forms from her birth
place of Haiti and theatricalized them.
Appeared in 1940 dancing in Le Jazz Hot
1943: Her dancers appeared in the film, Stormy Weather
Katherine Dunham
Pearl Primus
Pearl Primus: incorporated more African dance
traditions into her movement. During the 1940’s she
performed mixed elements of dance including:
African, Carribean, African American rhythms to her
Concert Dance Performer
Pearl Primus
a. Agnes De Mille: originally came from a ballet
background but stepped out of those roots to ad
emotional connections to the story line and express
the writers ideas solely through movement. It was
her choreography that spawned the use of jazz, folk,
ethnic, ballroom, classical ballet combinations to
create what we know as jazz. Shows
choreographed include:
i. Oklahoma: 1943
ii. Carousel: 1945
iii.Brigadoon: 1947
Agnes De Mille
Gene Kelly
Gene Kelly: was actually a teacher in Pittsburg at
the Gene Kelly school of dance. Went off to
Broadway and much success. He later went on to
choreograph, dance, act and star in feature films.
His style was acrobatic, airy and comical. Musicals
choreographed include:
Anchors Aweigh: 1945
Zeigfeld Follies: 1946
American in Paris: 1951
Singin in the Rain: 1952
Gene Kelly
Jerome Robbins
Jerome Robbins: his choreography was graceful
and elegant but added comic elements. He is
sometimes noted as the true father of jazz dance
and he required his dancers to act as well as move.
This took dance direction of a musical to a new
level. His works include:
Wonderful Town: 1953
Fiddler on the Roof: 1964
West Side Story: 1957
Jerome Robbins
Bob Fosse
Bob Fosse: sexy, provocative and on the cutting
edge. Was a performer and trained dancer in
musicals before he went onto direction and
choreography. Used isolations heavily in his style.
Basically took what Robbins did and pushed the
Damn Yankees: 1955
Sweet Charity: 1969
Cabaret: 1972
Chicago: 1975
Bob Fosse
Read Article and we will share thoughts on the
development of jazz dance in America. Please answer
questions on the worksheet.

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