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Jazz, musical theatre, and tapChapter 9 from Learning About Dance textbook by Nora Ambrosio
History of Jazz • Origins of jazz can be traced back to Africa • In the 1600’s slaves were brought from Africa to America • The slaves continued to dance and drum on the plantations • Slave owners banned drumming • Slaves kept their rhythms alive by clapping, stomping their feet, and singing the songs of Africa • Slaves danced for their own enjoyment, for the entertainment of the slave owners, and for competitions between each other and other slaves on different plantations
Minstrel Shows • Minstrel shows began in the 1830’s • They showcased black songs and dances • They were performed in theatres • Blacks were not allowed to perform in public • Whites performed the black dances in “black face” and performed parodies of songs and dances from black culture Minstrel Show Video
Black Minstrel Shows • Blacks began to perform in minstrel shows in the 1860’s • They performed for other blacks and Irish immigrants • Black minstrel shows soon became as popular as white minstrels because of the “cakewalk” • Cakewalk came directly from the plantations • It “was a contest among dancing couples who attempted to outdo each other in the mock imitation of the white man’s manners and behavior”1 • Dancers showcased their best struts, high kicks, and show-stopping footwork • 1. Richard Kislan, Hoofing on Broadway (NY; Prentice Hall Press, 1987), p. 19. Cakewalk Video Clip
Vaudeville • Vaudeville included a wide variety of song and dance • Uniqueness and diversity were encouraged • Vaudeville was a training ground for performers destined for Broadway, nightclubs, and film • Black performers continued to create new movements in line with African technique and rhythms (staying connected to the earth) – hence the repeated use of plié in jazz technique • Jazz music emerged during this time period – Ragtime and the Blues • Dancers began to connect movements to the syncopated rhythms of jazz music Vaudeville Historic Footage Blacks and Vaudeville - PBS documentary (caution: racial language)
The Harlem Renaissance • The Harlem Renaissance lasted from 1921-1933 (The Roaring Twenties) • Exclusive clubs in Harlem, New York, such as the Cotton Club, were the social places to be for the white people of New York • The clubs had elaborate shows that featured black dancers and singers • White people came to the clubs to learn the latest dance crazes from the black dancers • This was the only public place that Blacks and Whites were allowed to intermingle • Dance crazes during this time period were the Charleston and the Black Bottom. • The Charleston became famous through out the United States and Europe • Flappers – women with short bob hair cuts and short fringe dresses are often associated with the Charleston The Charleston The Charleston 2 Black Bottom Black Bottom 2
Television and Movies • Jazz was mainly seen in movies, night clubs, television, and on the stage • In the 1950’s and 1960’s variety shows such as “The Lawrence Welk Show” and “The Ed Sullivan Show” featured jazz dance. • Many great jazz dancers, such as Fred Astaire, Gene Kelly, Ann Miller, and Ray Bolger often danced on television.
Definition of Jazz Dance Today • Jazz can be defined in several ways - Sensual, visceral, improvisational, syncopated, hot, cool • Essential characteristics of jazz are: • Use of syncopated rhythm • Varying rhythms and dynamics • Ranges of energy • Changing levels, directions, shapes and floor patterns • Use of diagonal, curved or asymmetrical lines Summary of Jazz History • Jazz should not be just high kicks, multiple turns, “dance tricks,” dancers staying in one place and dancing to one set rhythm, always having symmetrical lines, and “squareness” where all movements happen on the count of 1. • Jazz is very theatrical – dancers should perform with full commitment to the energy, focus, facial expression and intent of the character or situation that the choreographer created.
Musical Theatre History • Early musical theatre examples can be traced back to Ancient Greece and Rome. 18th century France, England and Germany also had productions that combined music, dance, and theatre. • American musical theatre has its roots in jazz dance. • The Black Crook (1866) is one of the first notable musical theatre productions . It used dance to move the story along. It started a trend that is now musical theatre. • 1921 the musical, “Shuffle Along,” was the first major musical by African Americans to gain national fame. It featured music by jazz great Eubie Blake. Chorus girl, Josephine Baker, later became an international star and helped to make the Charleston and Black Bottom dances popular. • 1926, dance director Seymour Felix introduced the idea of seamlessly integrating script, music, lyrics and dance as an important aspect of musical theatre. He was determined to make the dances unified with the story and music of the show rather than just an entertainment filler. I’m In Love with You Pre-show Dance Number (1929) Great Gabbo – I’m In Love with You Production Number (1929)
Oklahoma and Agnes De Mille Oklahoma Dream Sequence (part 1) Oklahoma Dream Sequence (part 2) • 1943 – Agnes De Mille choreographed the dance sequences for Oklahoma • She created an artistic dance sequence called the “dream sequence” • The sequence added to the story line while also being its own dramatic piece. • This piece raised choreographers to the same status as the director, composer, and playwright in the musical theatre production.
Musical Theatre Choreographers • Many ballet and modern choreographers choreographed for musical theatre. • George Balanchine • Jerome Robbins • Katherine Dunham • Twyla Tharp • Today’s style of jazz is often credited to Jack Cole who used his Denishawn training (greatly influenced by Eastern dance styles) to create a jazz-ethnic-ballet style that we still use in musicals, films, commercials, and television today. • Cole is considered the “father of jazz” • Bob Fosse and Jerome Robbins were greatly influenced by Jack Cole’s jazz style. Balanchine – The Goldwyn Follies Jerome Robbins – Broadway works Katherine Dunham Twyla Tharp - Movin’ Out Twyla Tharp -Come Fly Away Jack Cole – Kismet Jack Cole – Beale Street Blues Bob Fosse – Clips of Bob Fosse Dancing
Popular Musicals • Most musicals are made for live theatre and then recreated for the movie screen. • It is extremely expensive to produce a musical for Broadway. This is why there are fewer and fewer musicals being made every year. • Some of the most popular musicals are: • Rent • Chicago • West Side Story • Cats • Beauty and the Beast - Continued • Wicked • Lion King • Phantom of the Opera • Les Miserables
Tap Dance • Tap is a blend of the Irish Jig, English Clog, and “Negro” Shuffle • Rhythmic sounds are produced by the feet • Metal taps are worn on the bottom of the shoes • Tap gained popularity in minstrel and vaudeville shows in the late 1800’s • Tap has a vocabulary of steps, but it is also highly improvisational • Hoofers – call attention to their intricate footwork (Savion Glover and Gregory Hines) • Class Acts – have elegant body movements and execute steps in a refined manner (Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers) • Flash Acts – Combine tap dance with acrobatics (Nicholas Brothers) • Soft Shoe – Skim the floor and produce soft muted sounds (George Primrose)
Famous Tappers • Bill “Bojangles” Robinson – Vaudeville tapper who joined the Vaudeville circuit at the age of 12. He is one of the first African American performers to have regular employment in the white theatre and movies. He is famous for tap dancing with Shirley Temple.
Famous Tappers • Sammy Davis Jr. – started on the Vaudeville stage. He was known for being a triple threat – singing, dancing, and acting. He became one of America’s most popular entertainers. His movie, Tap, inspired the general public to gain a new interest in tap dancing. Sammy Davis Jr. and Gregory Hines tapping together
Famous Tappers • Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers – made tap popular in musical theatre productions. They also included ballroom dancing in their dance sequences. Top Hat – The Piccolino Dancing Dancing Cheek to Cheek Swing Time • Gene Kelly- popularized tap dance. He was known for his athletic ability. His style of tap was very athletic – not graceful like Astaire and Rogers. His most famous tap dance is in Singin’ in the Rain. I’ve Got Rhythm It’s Always Fair Weather
Famous Tappers • Gregory Hines - starred in several movies that highlighted tap sequences. He danced and trained with some of the best known tappers, Sammy Davis Jr., The Nicholas Brothers, and Sandman Sims. • Paula Abdul – used tap in her music videos. By placing tap in music videos, it introduced tap to a younger audience and increased the popularity of the dance form. Tap with Steve Martin White Nights Dancing with the Masters Tapping at a concert Opposites Attract
Famous Tappers • Savion Glover – was a child tap prodigy. He trained with Gregory Hines. Glover developed the choreography for the Broadway show Bring in ‘da Noise, Bring in ‘da Funk which mixed tap, hip hop, and break dancing. He won a Tony award for this. He has tapped on several TV shows and movies. His focus now is to bring tap back to its African roots and back to the forefront of black culture. He is known as the greatest tap dancer in the world. Bring in ‘da Noise, Bring in ‘da Funk Sesame Street Dancing with the Stars Happy Feet