Jazz Dance Lessons

The Swing, the Jitterbug, and the Boogie Woogie

A brief article on the Jazz style of dance, our Jazz dance lessons are designed to suit all ages and levels of ability.

These are all classic and familiar types of dances classified under the popular Jazz dance.

Characterized by its fun and energetic moves, it is a type of dancing wherein each dancer’s original style and individuality is showcased as they execute and interpret steps in their own manner and fashion.

A melting pot


The Jazz dance is a melting pot of various dance styles and techniques and has been influenced by a broad range of dance forms ever since its birth.

This is due to the fact that throughout its history, it usually evolves and develops in parallel to popular music.

Harlow Dance Scene provides all the necessary facilities and resources to ensure that you can accomplish your Jazz dance goals.

It was only during World War I that the term “Jazz” was coined to describe a certain style of music and dance.

Jazz dance’s unique history

The Jazz dance’s unique history however originally stems from the African American vernacular dance, before the 1950’s, when the African slaves were brought to America on ships.

Dances in Africa during that time were done in celebration to the different life cycles such as birth and death, puberty and marriage.

From the young to the old, they all utilized dance as a form of expression of their cultural beliefs.

The beats were set by various drums, chimes, string instruments, reed pipes and other percussion instruments for the dancers.

Permission to dance

Despite being captured, the Africans carried on with their expression through dance. During the slaves’ travel, they were given permission to dance so that they would remain fit, and this continued until they arrived on American soil.

It was in New Orleans, Louisiana, the center of the southern slave trade, that the dance form developed along with jazz music in the early 1900s.

Needless to say it was the black Americans who lead the jazz movement and through jazz dance lessons it spread like wildfire throughout the country.

Dances such as the Boogie Woogie, the Jitterbug, and the Charleston began to develop.

From the 1930’s to the 1960’s

Jazz dance evolved from its original vernacular form to a type of dance that required a highly trained dancer.

It was in this period that choreographers from ballet and modern dance experimented and incorporated the jazz style to their performances.

Dance Scene Logo, classes in Harlow
Dance Scene Logo, classes in Harlow

Choreographers such as Agnes de Mille, Jack Cole, and Michael Kidd influenced jazz by instructing dancers that are highly trained to perform a fixed set of movements,.

Straying away from the original colloquial form that came from New Orleans.

No jazz dance performer isn’t familiar with the name .

This is because he is one of the greatest influences of jazz dance.

Born in 1911, this choreographer and theatre director is sometimes even referred to as the father of jazz dance.

Jack Cole Jazz Dance Lessons Harlow Dance SceneHis contribution of various ballet-based movements and theatrical expressions became the foundations of contemporary jazz dance.

Another great name in jazz dance is Bob Fosse.

Influenced by the work of Cole, he himself had a great influence in the growth of the style by the latter part of the 20th century.

As a young dancer, he refused to conform to the stiff forms of ballet, causing him to integrate hunched shoulders, inward turned knees and a sensuality that is burlesque-inspired into his choreography.

The use of bowler hats, chairs and canes often characterized his unique style.

In the time that the jazz dance was developed, European dance, known for its stiff upper body, was poles apart from the African American’s social dancing that was characterized by a looser, more relaxed and fluid type of dance.

Here are a few types of jazz dances that were developed and became popular among its audience:

 The Black Bottom

The name of this type of jazz dance was earned from the act of slapping the bottom during the dance.

Either danced in as solo or as a couple, performers hopped back and forth, stomped their feet and gyrated their pelvises while slapping their own bottoms.

This dance became popular in the early 1920’s and originated in New Orleans.

 The Cakewalk

Developed in the days of slavery, Cakewalk was the socially accepted manner in which slaves made fun of their owners (other names for this dance included “chalkline-walk” or the “walk-around”).

These dances were in fact performed in the master’s house and were sometimes even held as a competition.

Winners received cake as the reward, hence the name “cakewalk.” The slaves were required to line up in a straight line, and the person who had their turn should mimic their master or other aristocrats.

By the 1920’s, this style had died out.


The Charleston

Another jazz dance that became popular in the 1920’s, this style is still being performed until this day.

It is named after the harbor city of Charleston, South Carolina in which the rhythm was made popular in the United States by a song called “The Charleston,” composed by pianist James P. Johnson.

It is characterized by its basic step wherein the feet is being pivoted in and out while the knees are being straightened and bended.

From foot to foot, the weight is shifted, and the foot without weight is being kicked out at an oblique angle.

The Jitterbug

The Jitterbug is associated with other types of swing dances including Jive, the Lindy Hop and East Coast Swing. In the 20th century, “Jitterbug” was used as a slang to refer to alcoholics who suffered a case of the jitters.

Swing dancers performed without any knowledge or any control of the dance, and in pop culture, the jitterbug was generalized as a type of swing dance.

The Boogie-Woogie

Under the classifaction of the Jitterbug, the term Boogie-Woogie is used in Europe mostly, whereas in the United States it is called the East Coast Swing.

Dance Scene Logo Harlow Ballet ClassesIn the 1950’s, the Boogie Woogie would have been the people’s “rock’n’roll.” It may be danced to a musical style called boogie woogie, however it is more commonly danced to different kinds of rock music.

It is in general a fast swing style that involves feet flying, stomps, hops and jumps.

In other parts of the world the boogie woogie is usually in danced as a competition, but in Europe it is performed as a social dance.

 Jazz Dance Lessons Harlow

Throughout the years, jazz dance has become one of the most popular forms of dancing.

It can be seen in so many movies, TV shows, commercials and music videos. Because of its fun and animated moves, it is no wonder that people are highly entertained when watching jazz dance.

So come and join us in our Jazz dance lessons in Harlow, give it a try.

Lorraine Hodges:       07711 745193    lorraine@dancescene.me.uk

Kate Tozer:                 07843 274221    kate@dancescene.me.uk



Come and join us in Harlow Essex, and help create a real dance fusion tDance Scene logo Jazz dance classes and lessons in Harlow areaogether! Brenda Taylor

As we have said, we have two fantastic venues in Harlow. So if you are in Matching, Bishops Stortford, Sawbridgeworth, Little Hallingbury, Nazeing, North Weald Bassett, Moreton, Sheering, Hatfield Broad Oak, Matching Green, Roydon, Church Langley, Hoddesdon, Stanstead Abbotts, or Thornwood we are ideally located for you.

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