Like tap, jazz’s roots come from African dance brought to America and Europe by force through the transatlantic slave trade. American jazz dance began in New Orleans at the turn of the century, where it gained popularity alongside jazz music.
Without disposable income, many young people turned to social dancing during the Great Depression. The Lindy hop and the Charleston, both upbeat spontaneous jazz dances, crossed racial lines and became cemented in American popular culture.
Jazz-style dancing made its way from clubs to stage and studio with choreographers like Jack Cole, Catherine Dunham, Bob Fosse, and Luigi. This transition moved jazz away from its improvisational origins. Eventually, studio jazz began to include elements of acrobatics, ballet, pop, and commercial dance. While original jazz dancing required jazz accompaniment, that has become less common in studio circles. At ADC, we try to give our dancers a full spectrum of jazz education, from traditional and improvisational to contemporary and commercial.