The history of jazz dance is bold and complex and has undergone an evolution of music and
movement from the late 19th to the early 20th century.
The foundations of jazz dance were based on African and European social dances. Since jazz dance originated from the social dances of the early 20th century, it evolved with popular music. As the social music scene changed, dance changed with it.
That is why, even though jazz dance began intermingled with jazz music, it is now typically practiced and performed to today’s popular/social songs.
There are a few beginner jazz dance moves that every child should learn. These moves will give them
a foundation to build on as they continue to learn more complex moves.
Some basic jazz dance moves for kids include: jazz walk, ball change, box step, and pas de bourree.
Foundational concepts: rhythm, weight shifting, personality
Base Movements: jazz walk, ball change, box step, pas de bourree
Jazz Walk: The jazz walk is an important component of this style of dance.
This dance step lets the performer add flair and personality to a simple walk. As one leg steps out to the side, the opposing leg drags and crosses one in front of the other pausing in a deep plie.
The walk continues as the step repeats, one foot out, the other crossing over. This step can be accented and stylized with shoulder rolls, sharp arm movements that create high and low shapes, changes in height, etc.
Ball Change: This transition step is where the dancer places their weight on the ball of one foot, then
shifts their weight right back stepping onto the other foot.
This step can be done front to back, side to side, and with a kick.
Box Step: The jazz box step, also known as a jazz square, uses the feet to create an imaginary box on
This step can be difficult to master for students at first but using imagery to visualize a box or four corners on the floor can help.
For example, the first step with the right foot is the top opposing corner of our box. The left leg now crosses in front of the right to complete the top of the box.
Now to complete the square, the right leg steps back behind the left, and the left foot steps back next to right. This touches all four corners of our box. The step can be repeated on the other side beginning with the left leg and right crossing the front.
Pas de Bourree: If you are familiar with ballet technique you have heard of this traditional step.
However, in the jazz technique, a pas de bourree is typically performed with a grounded feel. This step may be done with a deep plie to prepare the dancer for a turn. When learning this move, repeating side, back, front may be helpful to remember where each foot goes.
The right leg will step side, the left behind, and the right in front. The step repeats on the other side beginning with the left foot, starting from the back, then stepping to the side.
These foundational movements are a great place to begin for a young dancer looking to step into jazz.
To complete our list of Jazz Dance Moves for Kids, we must express the importance of performance. When a dancer performs they are expressing themselves through movement and telling a story with their body.
While there are set moves and steps, dancers should feel free to express themselves and have fun. Once your child is comfortable with these steps, they can progress into learning leaps, turns, and more dynamic movement.
In conclusion, jazz dance has a full and vibrant history that has evolved to create the technique that we see today. The choice of music and emphasis of movement was born out of the African and European traditions that continue to influence not only dance culture, but the popular music we dance to today.
The steps listed in the article above only represent a fraction of jazz dance technique, but are great place for children to start.
If your child is interested in learning jazz dance, you can enroll them in a free class.
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