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Learn the history of jazz dance and basic jazz dance steps. Find local jazz dance audtions.

Jazz dance is a form of self-expression.  Even though it mixes different dance styles, each jazz dancer must rely heavily on originality and improvisation. Jazz dances can be performed to any type of music from African rhythms to modern day hip-hop.

Jazz dancers also use bold, dramatic body movements, including body isolations and contractions, fancy footwork, big leaps and quick turns, and their gracefulness and balance usually comes from a strong jazz training. There are two main jazz tehniques: center control, where the body's center is the focal point from which all movement emanates, thus making it possible to maintain balance while executing powerful movements, and "spotting" which allows a dancer to do Pirouettes and fouetté's without getting dizzy. This jazz dance technique requires the dancer to focus on a main spot in front of them until right before the body turns and the head whips around back to the same focus.

During the jazz age, popular forms of jazz dance were the Black Bottom (dance),the Jitterbug, the Boogie Woogie, and the Lindy Hop.  In the 1950’s, jazz was popularized by Bob Fosse and was incorporated into Broadway musicals, such as Chicago.  Today, jazz dance is present in many different forms and venues. It is commonly taught in dance schools and performed by dance companies around the world. It continues to be an essential element of musical theatre and cabaret.  Jazz dancers also perform in music videos, in competitive dance tournaments, on the television show, “So You Think You Can Dance,” and the new movie “Make it Happen,” which mixes jazz and hip hop styles.

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Since jazz dances are derived from many different dance styles, jazz dance steps and techniques vary depending on the dancer's interpretations. However, there are basic jazz dance steps and techniques used by all jazz dancers.

  1. Jazz Square – This iconic jazz dance step consists of stepping forward, then crossing the other foot over, stepping back with the first, and then bringing the feet side by side. It can be done to the left or right side, and usually is done with some extreme movement in the upper body, exaggerating the motion.

  2. Isolations – One of the key skills for any jazz dancer is to be able to move parts of their body individually. For hands and other extremities, this is pretty easy, but to master jazz you need to be able to isolate the chest and hips as well, and this is almost always a part of any jazz dance warmup.

  3. Chassé – This jazz dance step draws from the ballet dance style. The chasse is literally a "chasing" step, where one foot steps forward, and the other is brought up behind, the first stepping off immediately, which forms a sort of skipping move across the floor.

  4. Jazz Layout – This is another classic jazz dance step. Jazz layout is basically a straight kick high up in the air while simultaneously doing an extreme back bend, head arched back and arms extended. Jazz dancer must have excellent balance and extreme flexibility. This jazz dance step is a popular image used often to symbolze jazz dance.

  5. Jazz walk – It is impossible to really describe the "jazz walk," as it is something like art: you know it when you see it. The jazz walk is an example of how different dance styles and personal attitute is injected into the art of jazz dance, where it is not always expected that jazz dancers will do everything in synchronization.

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