Katherine Dunham: A Very Brief History Of Jazz Dance

1158 Words5 Pages

Despite its complexity and evolution throughout history, jazz dance, at its core is a form of communication that was developed within West African culture. During the Atlantic slave trade, slave owners restricted slaves from dancing unless it was for their entertainment, resulting in it to develop a discreet meaning, only known amongst the slaves. As time progressed and black social dances recieved attention from white people, these dancers were later imitated and used for the benefit of white people. Hypocritically, the same dances that were originally resitricted against, were later used as entertainment and mockery of the black community. These series of events resulted in the need for pioneers of jazz dance to establish what jazz dance …show more content…

After learning that much of the root and base of black culture in modern America had begun in Africa, and she decided to major in Anthropology and to focus on dances of the African diaspora. After graduating with a Masters and Ph.D. in Anthropology she opened a dance school in the 1930s, and formed her Chicago-based dance company, Ballet Négre, which was the first self-supporting black modern-dance troupe. After the Ballet Négre didn’t succeed as predicted, Dunham consults Speranzeva who advises her to forgo ballet, to focus on modern dance, and to develop her own style. A year later, 1933, Dunham decides to follow through with her plan and opens the Negro Dance Group, in Chicago which visited more than fifty countries on six continents. The group toured extensively after World War II, showing off its unique style of foot stamping, hip and shoulder shaking, and African dancing. By collaborating with Lester Horton, Katherine Dunham was able to discipline jazz dance to help it evolve to what it is today. With the development of jazz technique, it has evolved to commonly be fused with other codified techniques, such as modern, hiphop, contemporary, etc. Therefore, improvisation or freestyle often involves a combination of multiple techniques that the dancer feels drawn to or familiar …show more content…

With camera work, dancers are performing to create a specific image or storyline. Directors have the freedom to have multiple takes of a specific scene to get the “perfect shot.” Since not all dancers are constantly seen by the audience, the choregraphy is given more dimension by including close up shots, different angles, and different perspectives. Additionally, dancers have to constantly cater to the aesthetic of the project by incorporating not only dance technique, but also acting skills. On the other hand, with stage work, dancers have one opportunity to apply the corrections they are given and perform to a large audience. Since the choreography is viewed from a wide angle, it’s important for all dancers to embody the vision for the piece, without the aesthics that camera work can provide. Regardless of their differences, whether they are working for the camera or for the stage, dancers must strive to communicate the aesthetic, or director’s vision of a

Open Document