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Essays History Of Jazz Dance Video

On March 4th Jazz Choreography Enterprises and Quinnipiac University worked together once again to bring students the opportunity to take a Signature Experience mini-course in jazz dance. The Honors Program students learned about the history of jazz, studying videos and essays about the style’s origins all the way up to more modern times.

The students then traveled into New York City to take a jazz dance class with JCE artistic directors Marian Hyun and Merete Muenter. They learned some basic jazz dance movements—the Black Bottom from the 1920’s and some Lindy Hop steps—during the first half of the class, led by Hyun. They then tackled a combination put together by Muenter, giving them a fuller idea of what a jazz dance class is like.

 

 

Following the class, I reached out to the students to hear their thoughts on the experience and learn what they think about jazz dance. Below are their responses:

What was your interest in jazz dance, or why did you choose to sign up for this class?

I chose to sign up for this class (Jazz Dance) because I thought that the course would be thought-provoking. I had never seen dance as an art form before and thought it would be interesting to not only learn about it, but be able to do it as well. After taking this class my perception of Jazz has certainly changed. I now value dance much more, and think of Jazz as a unique art form that is way harder to do than it seems. My expectations for the class were to learn about Jazz. This class has far exceeded my expectations. Being able to learn about something and then do it yourself is why I chose to be an honors student in the first place. What better way to truly experience something in a unique way.  

— Rebekah Fuchs

 

I initially just wanted to learn more about disciplines that I had not previously studied. Jazz dance was one that I had never really inquired about.

— Tovah Williamson

 

Previously, I was very involved in dance.  I danced for almost 15 years of my life, and jazz has always been my favorite style. When I learned that I could take a jazz class and learn about the history of jazz dance, I jumped at the opportunity!

— Elyssa Wrubel

 

When I was younger, I danced for about 11-12 years and I really enjoyed it! I have done Jazz Dance at my dance studio before and I was interested in taking this class because I wanted to see it from a new perspective

— Sarah Santo

 

I have been dancing for the past 16 years of my life and it was quite exciting to see an honors class cater to something that I love.  While I would consider myself well trained in the various styles of dancing, especially Jazz, there were still many aspects of jazz that I was unfamiliar with prior to studying for and taking this class.

— Gabrielle Garizio

 

I used to dance when I was younger and I always loved it, but I had to quit because I got too busy once I started high school. I have always missed dance since I quit, so when I saw that there was a jazz dance signature experience I knew I had to do it. Although I was never too experienced with jazz dance, I had always loved this type of dance and I wanted to learn more about it.

— Colleen Smith

 

I personally have no interest in dance. My sisters were the dancers of the family while I simply gave it a shot and was far too clumsy. I chose to sign up for the class because it scared me. I knew that if I could do this, I would and could then do even more things that scared me. I have never done anything like this before and I am so glad I did as it opened my eyes to how many different and amazing things are out there. I have also realized it is not all about being the best or being perfect but so much about learning and being vulnerable. After taking this class, my perception of jazz dance has changed so much. I only saw jazz dance through my sisters learning rigorous routines and performing on stage at competitions. I never experienced what goes into it and the feeling you get when you are just dancing and not thinking. I would never have expected jazz dance to be so fluid and involve so little thinking once it is nailed. I am not quite sure what to expect from the performance but I know that after doing the class I will be far more amazed than I ever could have been as I now have a better appreciation for the arts and the work people do.

— Amelia Toye

 

Have you studied dance before? If so, what style or styles was it?

I have never studied dance before, which made the possibility of studying jazz dance more intriguing. I have seen ballet dancing performed, though I never learned enough to perform it or understand its meaning.

— Tovah Williamson

 

Yes, I have studied a variety of styles: jazz, tap, ballet, modern, lyrical/contemporary, Broadway, hip hop, etc.  I was on the competition team at my dance school for 5 years, and so we were trained in all of these styles, but my school was focused mainly on ballet/classical training.

— Elyssa Wrubel

 

Yes, I have studied dance before. When I danced when I was younger, I studied tap, ballet, jazz, hip hop, and contemporary.

— Sarah Santo

 

Yes, I have danced before! In my 16 years of dancing, I have taken ballet, pointe, jazz, lyric, hip hop, and some modern classes.

— Gabrielle Garizio

 

I danced from the time that I was 3 years old until I was 14. I tried almost every style, including ballet, tap, jazz, lyrical, and hip-hop, but as I got older I mostly stuck with hop-hop and lyrical. I did have some experience with jazz dance, but it was many years ago so I did not remember much.

— Colleen Smith

 

What were your expectations going into the class?  Which of those expectations were fulfilled and which differed?

My expectation going into the class was that I would be able to recognize jazz dance techniques after learning about them, and this expectation was fulfilled in that I can still recall dance moves from the lesson. Another expectation that I had was to understand the meaning behind jazz dance, which I was able to learn during the required readings.

— Tovah Williamson

 

Although I did not really know what to expect going into the class, I thoroughly enjoyed being there.  I thought that the technique was going to be very simple due to the wide variety of experience of my fellow students, but I was surprised by the difficulty of some of the choreography.

— Elyssa Wrubel

 

I expected to have fun and learn something new and all of my expectations were filled! I had fun and definitely learned new things.

— Sarah Santo

 

Going into the class, I was actually a bit nervous.  I never felt that I was incapable of participating in this class, it was more of the fact that we were traveling to “the city” to take a class.  In the dance world, this has great significance, and many dancers consider themselves lucky to have such an opportunity like this.  I did believe that the class would be set up the same, if not similar, to classes back at my own studio.  It would begin with some sort of warm up in the center, probably across the floor, and then choreography.  As we studied a brief history of jazz dancing before taking the class, I became more familiar with the unique style that jazz brings to the table.  I did not know what to expect choreography wise because it was a different from what I had been studying.

— Gabrielle Garizio

 

I really did not know what to expect going into the class. I was a little nervous because I had not danced in quite a few years. I was unsure of how difficult the class would be and whether or not I would enjoy it, although I assumed I would have fun. Once we began dancing I realized I had no reason to be nervous and I began have a good time. I was pleasantly surprised that we did do a somewhat difficult routine, but I think that this made the class much more enjoyable.

— Colleen Smith

 

After taking a class, how has your perception of jazz dance changed, if at all?

Before experiencing this jazz workshop, I studied Ukrainian folk dance for 11 years. My instructor was very strict with how he wanted our movements to be performed, and the only time emotion could be put into our movements was for pantomimes during one or two rare dances that he choreographed. I took an interest in this workshop because I always loved to perform but never knew much beyond my own style. Jazz dance ended up being a complete 180 from what I am used to from a dance rehearsal. Although I was awestruck by the ability to interpret my own movements, I really enjoyed being able to simply let the music carry me through the dances rather than just the motivation to complete all of the steps. I never realized just how emotional jazz dance was before I took this class, but it was so interesting to empower the ideal that dancing could be anything I wanted it to be for once.

— Melanie Szahaj

 

Jazz used to be something I thought of in a foreign light, and now after being exposed to it, I can better picture what the dancers would look like and how they would perform, much in the same way that I can picture a ballet. I can compare this to the feeling of an initial perception of a person, and the final perception of that person after spending time and understanding them fully.

— Tovah Williamson

 

Although I have had prior experience with jazz dance, this class allowed me to really see and understand the various cultural influences that jazz dance entails.

— Elyssa Wrubel

 

I have learned that there is so much more to Jazz than I had originally thought. It is so interesting learning how it came to be and how it has developed. I really loved learning about that in the class too.

— Sarah Santo

 

Jazz dance is certainly a lot more than I had expected.  The history that comes with it is simply amazing, especially once you trace the growth and evolution from its African roots to the modern style many are familiar with today.  Also, the class definitely helped me reaffirm my love for dance.

— Gabrielle Garizio

 

My perception of jazz dance has changed a little bit after taking this class because I have realized how much work goes into just one performance. This class showed me how there is much more to a performance than just learning the difficult choreography, which has helped me develop a greater appreciation for jazz dance. 

— Colleen Smith

 

What parts of the class did you find to be the most fun?  What parts would you not want to repeat?

I found that learning the full dance with the rest of the class to be the most enjoyable, as it was a challenge to remember all of the moves and it is something I can take away with me because of all of the times we practiced it. Since I am not able to teach jazz dance, I am not qualified to take any part of the learning process away, but one thing I found I would do differently is to make the class more about the full dance in order to allow each individual to understand the separate parts better and have more time to practice. However, taking away the initial separate steps taught to us, as well as the warm-up, might create an even larger dissonance between the students and the teachers due to the lack of exposure to jazz dance.

— Tovah Williamson

 

I thought the entire class was quite fun, although going across the floor was a bit more stressful than the rest.  I really enjoyed learning the choreography, especially when we “performed” the combination with the music.

— Elyssa Wrubel

 

I think the whole class was fun! I really liked the introduction and then going on to learn the routine. It was great because the introduction really helped me to learn the steps in the routine better.

— Sarah Santo

 

I can genuinely say that I would take the whole class again!  I enjoyed the atmosphere that was created, the choreography that was taught, and both the choreographers could not have been any sweeter and more knowledgeable. 

— Gabrielle Garizio

 

The parts of the class that I found to be the most fun were the different routines that we learned. I really enjoyed all of the different moves we learned and how we then put them all together. The parts that I would not want to repeat are when we went across the floor in the very beginning of the class. Although this part should not have been difficult, I found myself more nervous than I should have been because I was towards the back of the line and I was watching everyone before me go across the floor. Watching other people confused me and made me nervous that I would do something wrong. I soon learned that when I stopped watching these people and stopped thinking too much about it I was able to do everything much better.

— Colleen Smith

 

Having studied the art form and taken a class, would you have any interest in continuing to study jazz dance in any way?

I probably would not continue to study jazz dance, mainly because my primary interest in science overwhelms any other interests and I must stay focused to achieve my dream. However, I believe that new knowledge is always beneficial, and this experience has made me more aware of my surroundings, which can ultimately help me. 

— Tovah Williamson

 

Absolutely—I had to stop taking dance classes two years ago, but this experience reminded me how much I miss it.  Taking this class definitely sparked my interest in dance again, especially jazz, and I would be eager to continue studying jazz dance if given the opportunity.

— Elyssa Wrubel

 

Yes, I think I would still like to study Jazz in a fun way, not necessarily a competitive way. I would take this class again!

— Sarah Santo

 

I would absolutely love to continue studying jazz dance or even any type of dance for that matter.  There is a new found appreciation for any style of dance after learning about its history and physically taking a class.

— Gabrielle Garizio

 

I don’t know if I would continue taking jazz dance classes after this class, although I did have a lot of fun, but I feel that I will now have a different perspective when seeing dance performances and I may also want to see more jazz dance performances to continue studying jazz dance.

— Colleen Smith

 

What are your expectations for the performance?  What sort of pieces do you think you will see or are you looking forward to seeing?

I believe that this performance will have some synchronization, as done in class, but also some dancers that complement others with separate moves. I hope I am able to recognize some of the skills they exhibit so I can test this newfound knowledge.

— Tovah Williamson

 

Although I do not really know what to expect from the performance, I am very excited to watch professional dancers perform in this style.  I have never heard of a jazz “concert,” and so I am unsure of what this experience will be like, but I am both excited and interested to see many different pieces and interpretations of jazz dance!

— Elyssa Wrubel

 

I am really excited to see the performance. I expect to see very different moves and different styles. I am looking forward to seeing different choreographers’ steps and how the dancers embrace the music and the moves.

— Sarah Santo

 

I have been to many performances over the years, and even participated in a handful myself.  I expect to see different styles from different choreographers. This could mean that a different emotion is portrayed, dancers may perform each piece differently, even costuming and music choice will differ depending on who choreographs. Although, I am very excited to see the choreography come to life and how well dancers can adapt to different choreography.

— Gabrielle Garizio

 

I am really looking forward to seeing the performance because I want to see how the dancing that the professional dancers do differs from the dancing that we did in the class. I feel that we will see many different types of pieces at the performance, and I am looking forward to seeing many different aspects of jazz dance.

— Colleen Smith

 

Jazz Choreography Enterprises strives to keep the love an appreciation of jazz dance, an American art form, alive through its performances, dance classes, and educational experiences like these. It is with your support that we are able to create events like these and bring the experience of jazz dance to new audiences every year.

 

Edited by Lindsay Guarino and Wendy Oliver

University Press of Florida; 310 pages; $34.95

The idea for this book—a collection of essays by jazz practitioners and scholars on the past and present of jazz dance—first took root when professors Lindsay Guarino and Wendy Oliver shared their frustration that no definitive text on jazz had been published since 1968. In response, they have assembled more than 30 writings on jazz masters like Jack Cole, Bob Fosse, Matt Mattox, Luigi, Katherine Dunham, Gus Giordano, Frank Hatchett and Danny Buraczeski.

The anthology is divided into six parts: an overview of styles; history; influential teachers and choreographers; hybrid forms that have grown out of jazz; pedagogy practices (with a chapter devoted to “Jazz Dance Training via Private Studios, Competitions, and Conventions”); and contemporary reflections. Jazz Dance is a wonderful tool for teachers looking for in-depth profiles of historic jazz figures or a sampling of the second half of the 20th century’s jazz ideologies for a dance history course.

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