The History of Jazz Dance

I started Jazz dancing at the age of six and it soon became my favorite style of dance!  Jazz has roots dating back to the 1800s.  The first official American “jazz dancer” was Joe Frisco who danced around the year 1910.  Jazz moves were created by slaves who often danced and sang as a source of entertainment.  Slave traders allowed them to dance during their journey over to America, as an attempt to keep them physically fit.  Not only did it work, but it formed an impressive series of dance techniques and steps that made history.  The original steps came out of Africa while Jazz dance itself came about as a crossbreed of American culture.  Jazz music obviously inspired some of the first documented jazz dance choreography.  Europe lent elegance to the technique; Africa gave it its movement and rhythm; and America allowed it to have the exposure and growing popularity that has sustained it as a cherished dance style today.  After being passed down through plantation ancestors and early restaurants and night clubs, jazz dance began to be taught in studios.

By the early 1900s, people began doing such dances as the cakewalk, Charleston, jitterbug, swing and the Lindy Hop, all of which were forms of jazz dancing.  Jazz also began to appear more in Broadway shows and musical comedies.  Modern jazz was developed by choreography greats such as Bob Fosse, whose work is emulated in the ultimate of jazz dance shows, Chicago and Cabaret.  To properly execute jazz dance steps, many teachers still believe in teaching a firm classical ballet foundation so that bodies can develop with strength and agility.  Jazz dance is able to be traditionally peppy and bright, but can also take on a flowy and soulful feel.  There are no limits to its creativity, and this has continued to rank it as one of the most popular forms of dance available in studios today.  Over the last year, I decided to focus on classical ballet, but my dance school also teaches jazz.  I take one jazz class per week and I still love it more than ever!

History of Jazz Dance
About Jazz Dance History

Velocity - Ainsley 2014 -3a Velocity - Ainsley 2014 -4a

This is me last year in costume for a jazz dance to the song, Knock on Wood.  It was a fast paced disco song, but the dance style was jazz.

Velocity - Ainsley 2014 -5a Velocity - Ainsley 2014 -6a

And this is me last year in costume (postal worker) for our jazz dance to Return to Sender by Elvis Presley.  This dance was slower, but still a jazz dance.

Sunday Evening Tired – The Sequel!


Holy moly! Where do I begin? It’s late! I should be on my way to bed. Instead, I’m just waking up from a loooong nap. My mom said that I could stay up for an hour then I had to go back to bed. You thought I was tired last Sunday evening, well today I couldn’t even keep my eyes open when I got home. It was competition weekend and we won big – at least bigger than we’ve ever won before! It all started on Friday. I went to school as usual, but one of the older girls in my dance studio had a solo competing and she was scheduled to perform before lunch time, so she got out of school all day. When I got home, I had dinner and then off we went to the competition, where two other girls from my studio performed Friday night. I went to go support them and after they danced, we went home so I could get ready for Saturday, write my Friday night blog post, and go to bed early. On Saturday morning, I got up early, ate a big breakfast, and off again to the place where the competition was being held. Just after lunch, three groups of dancers from my studio competed. Two of those groups were at their first competition and danced in the 5 – 6 age range. After they danced, I went back home to get my hair and make-up done and to eat lunch, then we packed up to go back to the competition site. I had three dances competing on Saturday. My first call time was at 3:45 p.m. There was a trio that performed from my Company first, then I danced a duet with an older girl in my Company, who is a really, really good dancer. We went on around 5:35 p.m. Then I had to hurry and go change my clothes for a small group number that performed just after 6:00 p.m. After we danced, I went again to get my make-up done and change into the costume for our last number of the night, a large group number that performed around 8:40 p.m. I had a two hour break before the last number, so I got to watch other girls from my studio perform in two more small group numbers and I could eat and rest. The awards ceremony was held at 9:00 p.m. My duet was a musical theater number to the song Strongest Suit from the Broadway musical, Aida. My small group dance was a jazz dance called Postman, and we danced to the song Return to Sender by Elvis Presley (who my mom loves, by the way). And then our final dance on Saturday was Beetlejuice and it was in the open category, which is a mix of all dance types. We had tomb stone props and everything! There were almost 700 hundred dances over the three days of competition in all different categories broken down by age group, division (which is how much time you spend in the dance studio during the week), and by the number of people in each dance (solos, duets and trios, small groups, large groups, and lines). So, chances are each of your dances is competing against another 40 to 50 dances at least.


Well, Strongest Suit got gold and placed 11th overall in its category. Postman got a platinum and placed 1st overall in its category! Beetlejuice got a high gold and placed 7th overall in its category! Then, at the end of the night, Postman received the overall high score in its age group (teen – even though I am only 11, thank you very much)! We got a big trophy!!! By the time I got home on Saturday night, it was almost 11:00 p.m. I took off my make-up and fell into bed. Then it was back to the competition this morning for one more dance. My call time was at 10:45 a.m. We danced around 12:45 p.m. to Knock on Wood. It was a small group jazz dance. We had lunch and then went to awards at 3:00 p.m. We scored a high gold and got 13th overall. In all, it was a really good weekend. Actually, this is my fourth year doing dance competitions, and this is the best our dance company has ever done!! Every single dance that competed scored in the overalls – even the little kids’ dances! It was awesome! When I got home around 5:00 p.m., I was Sunday Evening Tired – The Sequel! This brings me back to the beginning of tonight’s post and now I have to go back to bed. Good night!