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Jazz dance is rooted in African folk dances. The African people believed in using the whole body as a means of dance expression and made dance and music an integral part of their daily lives.
African slaves were brought to the Americas from the 16th to the 19th centuries and the white society which was initially appalled by the abandon with which the black slaves danced, adapted the dance forms to include arm swings and body movements.
Jazz as a dance form allows for the dancer's unique style and originality to shine through. It is a highly energetic form of dancing involving specific moves, fancy footwork, and big leaps and jumps.
Jazz dancers who master ballet techniques find that learning the skill, control, and gracefulness involved in ballet strengthen their bodies and improve overall balance.
Jazz music soared in popularity in the 1920s across the Americas and brought with it the first notable change in fashion in 1921.The ‘drop-waist' dress was introduced, and accessories such as long strings of glass beads and pearls became all the rage. The dresses further evolved to resembling ‘shifts', that were loose(to keep up with the dance form), had no waistlines and skirts that were knee length.
The standard ensemble for an evening jazz dance gathering then is described as sleeveless mesh dress embroidered with gold sequins, a low V-shaped neckline, a loosely fitted bodice and a flared short skirt. Gold kid shoes, a matching handbag, and pearls completed the look.
The present day's jazz dancewear has evolved to being form-fitting, as a dancer has to be able to move without restraint, which requires flexibility not only on her part but also in her clothing. Since jazz dance form has movements that are structured showing off sharp, clean lines, the dress ensures that there is no restriction of the view of positions, stances, and fluidity.
Jazz dancers can wear tights and leotards, but most opt to wear jazz dance pants that are flared or boot-cut, so ankle movement is not restricted. Other options include wearing dance shorts or capris and form-fitting tops such as a t-shirt or tank top.
Jazz dancewear allows for a considerable amount of creative freedom when it comes to colors. Flashy loud colors are synchronized with the other dancers in a group performance.
The colors are also used to highlight the movements of the dance steps for a particular performance. In theme based dances, the colors too are chosen to match the meaning of the actions, which the dancer is trying to portray.
Halter tops, racer backs, sequin tops, and other fitted tops like crop tops are very popular. Less clothing that does not come in the way is essential, and as a result, dance shorts, tights, capris and fitted pants that are flared are the favorite choices for jazz dancers. These days, there are superior clothing blends such as lycra and dry-fit that allows for more flexibility and comfort.
Jazz dancewear incorporates a lot of embellishments such as sequins, crystals, trims, glitter, etc. are considered very in these days. These add glamor and glitter to any stage performance.
Male dancers have equal freedom to experiment with fabrics and colors, a black full sleeved shirt worn with fitted jazz pants or a full sleeved white shirt with the cuffs rolled up and teamed with red sequined vest and a matching red top hat is sure to add a fiery detail to the outfit.
While the dancewear may seem similar (with dancers wearing tights and leotards), the stage costumes are vastly different. Ballet dancewear designs have a pale color scheme; white, nude, light pink, black are the usual choices. Ballet dancewear is minimalistic and the designs subtle. In contrast, jazz dancewear by design is flashy, bold and full of spunk, incorporating plenty of props and accessories such as hats, sticks, gloves, and hair accessories that add to the drama and theatrics!
Jazz dance shoes like ballet shoes are lightweight and simple in appearance - but don't be fooled by their looks, because there are a lot of technicalities that go into both of these types of shoes. Going to a store that specializes in dance shoes and having a good salesperson fit them out is highly recommended.
Jazz shoes have a slight heel and are available in neutral and black. They are usually made of leather or canvas with leather jazz shoes being more expensive than canvas, but also being more long-lasting.
Jazz dance shoe jazz allows for the flexibility needed without hindering movements. Off late, the lyrical shoes are also gaining popularity and are worn to both classes as well as performances. It gives the illusion of a dancer not wearing any shoes.
Apart from being used for jazz, jazz shoes are also used for many styles of dance including lyrical, line dancing and pole dancing as well as practice shoes for Ballroom and Latin dance.
The split-sole jazz shoes allow for enhanced shoe flexibility, making it possible to flex the foot more easily. Most have rubber soles, which provide traction and also help to cushion the foot. Some jazz shoes have thicker heels for better shock-absorption. Some have a suede patch under the ball of the foot to facilitate turning.
The jazz dance shoe should provide ample arch support while feeling supple and nimble on foot. When out buying new shoes, you can try bending them to see how flexible they are.
Another important consideration is how snug the shoes fit. Dance shoes should allow a dancer to flex and bend her foot quickly and comfortably. Do ensure your shoes are not so snug that your toes feel jammed into the end of the shoe.
Some jazz dance shoes are lace-ups, and they help achieve a closer and more secure fit while others are slip-on. Some jazz shoes like the Bloch ‘elastabootie’ have a flexible panel built into the sides, and this provides an even better litheness for the dancer.
Try on different types of shoes to select a pair that best suits unique needs, so don't shy away from asking the salesperson to show all they have on offer. You can choose from the jazz boot, sandal, and the sneaker as well as from various other versions.
Jazz dance is often known to be hip and glamorous, the accompanying dazzling costumes fitted perfectly for the dancer. Here are five trends on dressing up for a hot jazz dance -
If you would like to experiment with shorts, pairing black stretch-crepe shorts accompanied by a garter and stockings will give a rock star chic look. Pair it with a sequin polyester top in vest style, and a felt beret. Add a choker and sizeable faux diamond earrings, and you will have a hard to miss ensemble.
Whether it’s for a dance recital, competition or a performance a one of a kind jazz skirt, jazz dance pants, leotards and glamorous accessories that are all part of jazz dancewear will scream sass and attitude, and at the end of the day, that’s what jazz music and dance are all about!
Do drop us a note to share what your experience with jazz dancewear and jazz dance has been.