How To Jazz Dance? Types, Steps & Top Jazz Songs


How to Jazz Dance
28 May, 2024


Jazz dance stands out among various dance forms due to its liveliness and energy. It is a unique blend of ballet, modern dance, and African dance, creating a distinct style. The grace and beauty of jazz dance moves, style, and posture are a sight to behold, captivating viewers and inspiring dancers to delve into the world of jazz dance.

Here, we will discuss how to jazz dance, its steps, iconic styles, songs, and movements, and give a brief overview of this dance form.

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What Is Jazz Dance?

Jazz dance, an expressive dance form, has its roots in the mid-20th century and is deeply connected to African American culture. It’s a fusion of traditional African steps and European styles, giving birth to popular moves like Charleston, Lindy hop, and Cakewalk. As jazz music evolved, so did jazz dance, becoming a dynamic and ever-changing art form.

Types of Jazz Dances

Classical Jazz

Classical jazz is a basic and traditional dance form that originated in New Orleans. Jazz dance includes ballet techniques such as balancing with pointed feet, understanding the turnout, and gracefully using beautiful arm movements.

It is a versatile and influential form of dance with improvisational qualities that attract audiences worldwide and teach individuals how to jazz dance. It is performed on the stage with upbeat jazz music played on soft rhythms and focuses on its styles and posture. The versatility and influence of jazz dance make it a fascinating and intriguing art form to explore.

Swing Dancing

Swing dancing is a popular American pastime that originated in the 1920s and 1940s in the dance halls of Harlem. Swing dancing is a group of social dances in swing style, along with jazz music. Swing dance styles are the foundation of other dance styles, including hip hop and disco.

Contemporary Jazz

Contemporary jazz dance is a form that mixes traditional dance with contemporary style. It became popular worldwide in the 1980s. Contemporary jazz dance is all about smooth footwork and flexible body movements set to jazz music.

Some contemporary choreographers who made this style famous are Travis Wall in shows like “So You Think You Can Dance,” Bob Foose, Mandy Moore, and Alvin Ailey.

Commercial Jazz

Commercial jazz is a style of jazz dance that emerged in the late 20th century and is heavily influenced by popular culture, commercial music, and entertainment industries such as film, television, music videos, and stage productions. Commercial jazz includes dance styles, such as Hip-Hop, Street, Jazz, and Contemporary dance.

Latin Jazz

Latin jazz is a form of dance that merges both steps of Latin and American dance styles with jazz music. This fusion of Latin jazz originated in the 19th century. It includes genres like salsa, mambo, rumba, cha-cha and tango. It became a big band style and fusion of jazz structure and Latin rhythm. Latin Jazz, also known as Mambo, was used by Tito Puente and Perez Prado. The two main categories of Latin jazz are Afro-Cuban Jazz and Afro-Brazilian jazz.

Notable Jazz Dancers

Bob Fosse

Bob Foose was an American actor, choreographer, dancer, and director born in Chicago. He was an influential personality and a great jazz dancer in the dance world. He was known for his unique styles and techniques and for teaching artists how to jazz dance.

Bob Foose drew inspiration from Jack Cole and popularized many dancing styles, including sideways shuffling, rolling shoulders, and jazz hands. He was recognized for his trademark ‘Hat.’

Gus Giordano

Gus Giordano was an American jazz dancer and choreographer regarded as the ‘Father of American jazz dance.’ Giordano merged ballet elements into jazz, creating a unique style. He established the famous Gus Giordano Dance School in Chicago.

He authored many books on his dancing styles, techniques, and how to jazz dance, including Anthology of American Jazz Dance. He also founded the American Jazz Dance World Congress event.

Jack Cole

Jack Cole was an American jazz dancer, choreographer, and teacher, often known as ‘The Father of Theatrical Jazz Dance.’ He is an important figure and inspiration in dance history. He debuted professionally 1930 at Lewisohn Stadium, City College of New York.

Jack Cole choreographed dances for many Hollywood movies, albums, and theaters including Tars and Spars, The Farmer Takes a Wife, and Something for the Boys. His innovative approach and techniques inspired many artists to learn how to jazz dance.

How To Jazz Dance?

Warm Up

The primary step in starting your practice or performance of how to jazz dance is to warm up your body. The warm-up is crucial because it activates the nerve senses and makes your muscles loose, stretchable, and flexible. It reduces the chances of injury or soreness and increases blood flow in your body.

Learn Jazz Basics

To learn how to jazz dance, let’s know the basic techniques:

  • Always begin your practice with a warm-up to prepare your body for complex moves and make it flexible.
  • Stand on your feet and step forward on the left or right foot.
  • Swing your hips from side to side while keeping your chest and legs still.
  • Focus on the energy and style that bring grace to the movements.
  • Practice different steps such as Jazz square and ball change.

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Master Turns and Spins

If you want to maintain balance and coordination in turns and spins, you should focus on the technique of the style, which leg should be turned, and in which direction—front left, right, or back left, right.

  • Begin by mastering the basic turn elements, such as spotting, balance, and alignment. Spotting involves quickly turning your head to focus on a fixed point as you rotate, helping to prevent dizziness and maintain balance.
  • Start with simple spins, such as single turns or pirouettes, and then progress to advanced ones, such as multiple turns, chainé turns, and fouetté turns.
  • Develop core strength in the leg muscles.
  • Practice turns and spins regularly to maintain coordination.

Learn Jazz Walks and Runs

Jazz walks and runs are important styles and steps in jazz dance. They teach beginners how to jazz dance. Each step combines dancing and walking with a toe tip.

  • Move forward with the left or right foot.
  • Move the hips slowly according to the step motion.
  • Bring the feet side by side.
  • Turn the feet alternately with shoulder movements.
  • Cross the other foot and then step back with the other foot.

Choreography and Routine

The more beautiful jazz dance appears during a performance, the more challenging its choreography and routine tend to be.

Here are some major tips and tricks to choreograph how to jazz dance and bring it into routine:

  • Select the music and the types of genres that inspire and excite you to move your body along with jazz tunes.
  • Break the music into different sections to connect it with the beat and rhythm of the songs.
  • Practice steps like turns, spins, or cakewalks according to the demands of the rhythm.
  • Create transitions between the different dance moves for smooth flow and better performances.
  • Make and rehearse formations regularly for proper strength and balance in your dance moves.

Performance and Expression

Performance and expression are the two major elements in connecting with the audience’s souls and communicating with them through emotions and choreography, which are important elements taught in learning how to jazz dance.

Each expression becomes the medium of conversation. Many jazz dancers convey or tell their stories through body gestures and facial expressions. They use these performances and expressions to portray someone’s character and tell stories through body movements.

Top Jazz Songs

Take Five

Take Five, composed by Paul Desmond and recorded in 1959 at CBS 30th Street Studio in New York City, is considered one of the best-selling jazz songs of all time. The track is written in the key of E-flat minor. Celebrating freedom and individuality, it became a sleeper hit in 1961. “Take Five” has been covered by various artists and falls under West Coast cool jazz.

So What

So What was recorded by Pink and released digitally on August 11, 2008, and is one of the most popular songs in jazz music. Its duration is approximately 3 minutes and 35 seconds. This song defines Pink’s emotional journey, encompassing heartbreak, personal experiences, and empowerment. It was recorded at Maratone Studios in Stockholm.

Take The ‘A’ Train

Take The A Train” was written in 1939 and composed by Billy Strayhorn. The song is about the “A” subway train in New York City and was recorded by Duke Ellington. It became the theme song of Duke Ellington, which he performed throughout his lifetime. This track is also considered one of the precious songs of jazz.

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What is jazz dance?

Jazz Dance is an expressive form of dance featuring rhythm, isolations, footwork, and flexible body movements.

Types of jazz

  • Classical jazz
  • Swing dancing
  • Contemporary jazz
  • Commercial jazz
  • Latin jazz

Famous jazz dancers

  • Bob Fosse
  • Gus Giordano
  • Jack Cole

How to jazz dance

  • Warm-up
  • Learn jazz basics
  • Master turns and spins
  • Choreography and routine
  • Performance and expression

Top jazz songs

  • Take Five
  • So What
  • Take The A Train


How to jazz dance?

To learn jazz dance, start by learning basic techniques

  • Warm-up
  • Turns and spins
  • Footwork and jumps
  • Performance and expression

What are the different styles of jazz dance?

The different styles of jazz dance include

  • Broadway jazz
  • Street jazz
  • Contemporary jazz
  • Commercial jazz
  • Black bottom
  • Charleston

How often should I practice jazz dance?

Jazz practice depends on the goal and schedule to maintain stability and quality. To improve flexibility in your hand and leg muscles for jazz dance, practice it at least twice to four times weekly.

What skills do you need to perform jazz?

To perform jazz dance effectively, you need:

  1. Technical proficiency
  2. Flexibility and strength
  3. Coordination

What are some famous jazz dance routines or choreographers?

Some famous jazz dance choreographers and their notable dance work are:

  • Alive and Kicking by Jack Cole
  • Moonlight in Havana by Lester Horton
  • Dance Me a Song by Bob Fosse

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