Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Synergy Arts Camp: Jazz Dance

Wednesday - we jazz it up!  I'm most excited about this handout because of my personal background in jazz dance with musical theatre performance.  It's energetic, it's full of expression, it's fun and exciting to watch!  My informal jazz training has come from years of musical theatre choreography, and I've got a handle on some of the basic stuff to know about jazz.  We tried a couple of moves in the Bob Fosse page - Sinead and I gave the Crane a try, both as a pose and a jump.  Our Stack looked pretty nifty, and especially cute with all those different sized arms!  Take a look at the rest of the Bob Fosse poses, as well as some jazz stretches, isolations and dancewear - all in the handouts!  Enjoy!

Jazz dance has its roots in African American free-form dance styles of the late 1800s to mid-1900s.  Tap dance was considered part of the jazz dance form in the mid-1950s, being the main performance dance at the time, and it was also choreographed to jazz music.  Tap and jazz began to evolve into separate dance forms, and many different jazz steps became popular.  Everything from swing dancing to the Charleston, boogie woogie to the Lindy Hop all became forms of jazz being danced everywhere! 

The pioneers of jazz dance start with the vaudeville star Joe Frisco, who, in the 1910s, danced in a loose-limbed style close to the ground while juggling his derby, hat and cigar.  Much of the musical theatre and modern jazz style can be credited to famous choreographer Bob Fosse, who's work can be defined in such musical theatre productions such as Chicago, Cabaret, Damn Yankees and The Pajama Game.   Other artists famous for their work in jazz dance are Jack Cole and Gus Giordano, who’s techniques are still used in modern jazz!

You'll find jazz everywhere nowadays!  It's the backbone of musical theatre choreography and it's all over television, movies, music videos and pop concerts.  Teen favourites such as Hairspray, High School Musical, So You Think You Can Dance and Glee are all great examples of some of the best modern and musical theatre jazz dance!

Jazz Dance Warm-ups and Stretches 

Jazz stretches also include ballet positions, the most common being the second position.  Check your ballet handouts for the proper starting position for your stretches!

Side Stretches (left, right and centre)
  • Begin by standing in second position.
  • Bend at the waist and stretch down towards your right leg and try to touch your ankle.  Try to keep your knees straight and your left hand on your back.
  • Hold the stretch for 30 seconds.  Straighten up slowly and repeat the stretch down to the left leg, then to the centre.
Torso Side Stretch (left, right)
  • Begin by standing in second position with your hands on your hips.
  • Bend at the waist and stretch your left arm over your head, reaching towards the right side.
  • Keep your hips square and your knees straight while you stretch!
  • Hold the stretch for 30 seconds.   
  • Repeat the stretch on the left side.
Flat Back Stretch
  • Stand with your feet together, back straight and shoulders relaxed.
  • Reach both of your hands above your head.
  • Bend at the waist, keeping your hands above your head, keeping your knees straight and back perfectly flat, like a table.
  • Hold the stretch for 30 seconds.
Point and Flex Leg Stretch
  • Lie on your back with your legs straight, leaning on your elbows.
  • Raise your right leg into the air and hold it as close to your head comfortably.
  • Keep your knee straight and point and flex your toes of the raised foot.
  • Switch legs and stretch the left foot.
Jazz Isolations Warm-ups

Isolation routines help warm up specific parts of the body that are used during dance.   When you practice you isolation exercises every day, you will learn how to move certain parts of your body while you stay in control.  These isolation moves can also be used in your choreography. 

A few tips on isolations warm-ups:
  • Begin by standing in second position with your knees slightly bent. 
  • Keep your hands on your hips with your arms rounded. 
  • Keep your shoulders square and facing front during each isolation. 
  • Bend only as far as you’re comfortable!  Flexibility comes with practice – the more you practice, the more flexible you’ll become!
Jazz Dancewear  

Jazz Choreo by Bob Fosse!

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