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The History of Jazz Dance in America
Jazz dance paralleled the birth and spread of jazz itself from roots in black American society and was popularized in ballrooms by the big bands of the swing era. Because the 1920s jazz dance has meant a constantly evolving type of common and artistic dance movement. As well-known culture adjustments, so does jazz dance. Vital to jazz dance is individuality and improvisation. In both early dances and 20th-century jazz dances, there is a noticeable continuity of dance components and motions. The eagle rock and the slow drag as well as the Charleston and the jitterbug have elements in widespread with specific Caribbean and African dances. In addition, the slow drag contributed to the fish of the 1950s the ring shout, which survived from the 18th into the 20th century, in isolated regions, influenced the cakewalk.
About 1900 the cakewalk, popularized through stage shows, became a craze in European and American ballrooms. In its wake appeared other social dances such as the Charleston, the jitterbug, the twist, Black Bottom, Boogie Woogie, Swing, Lindy Hop and disco dancing. Some, like the fox-trot, borrowed European dance measures and fitted them to jazz rhythms. The development of radio, television, and recording, which popularized black music among wide audiences, drastically aided the diffusion of these dances. Fusing ballet with jazz has led in current years to the formation of such troupes as Canada’s Les Ballets Jazz.
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