Dancing with the Stars Wiki
Genre: Jazz Dance
Time of origin: Early 1900s
Country of origin: New Orleans, Louisiana, USA

Jazz is a dance performed on Dancing with the Stars. Jazz was first performed in Season 15 by Apolo Anton Ohno and Karina Smirnoff on Week 9 of the competition. On Week 2 of Season 16 the dance was performed by four couples.


The term "jazz" was first applied to a style of dance during World War I. Jazz in a dance form, however, originates from the vernacular dances of Africans when they were brought to the Americas on slave ships. Jazz dance first appeared in African American culture in the United States. The dance form is linked with native music of African slaves, featuring "free conversation-like style of extemporaneous improvisation." Beginning with slavery, the constant mockery of different cultures, portrayed through dance, created new styles and genres that continued to evolve. After the end of Minstrelsy and vaudeville shows, dance as entertainment took two routes: jazz, as a popular social dance, and burlesque, a non-reciprocal form of dance, but both had a huge presence in the social and entertainment life within New Orleans. Jazz dance in particular developed alongside jazz music in New Orleans in the early 1900s. New Orleans was an incubator of dance because of the many cultural clashes that took place in the history of the city. Beginning in the 1930s and continuing through the 1960s, jazz dance transformed from this vernacular form into a theatre-based performance form of dance that required trained dancers. During this time, choreographers from the modern and ballet dance worlds experimented with the jazz dance style. These included choreographers such as George Balanchine, Agnes de Mille, Jack Cole, Hanya Holm, Helen Tamiris, Michael Kidd, Jerome Robbins, and Bob Fosse. All of these choreographers influenced jazz by requiring highly trained dancers to perform a specific set of movements, which differed greatly from the colloquial form of New Orleans in the 1900s. Also during this time period (circa 1950) jazz dance was profoundly influenced by Caribbean and other Latin American dance styles introduced by anthropologist and dancer Katherine Dunham.

Jazz dance is still a popular form of dance, and many dancers have flocked to New Orleans, Louisiana for the connection the city has with music. With the prominence of jazz music and the laid-back attitude of the city, many professional swing-dancers have moved to New Orleans in an attempt to kick-start a revision of the neo-swing dance movement. People can find many opportunities in New Orleans to show off their jazz dance skills or get the opportunity to learn, including programs like the Ultimate Lindy Hop Showdown, January Jump' n' Jive, or with schools such as Dance Quarter, which hosts both events and dance classes.


Jazz in New Orleans developed with community life such as brass band funerals and music in park picnics or ball games. The spirit of New Orleans and jazz music connected the performer to the audience, offering a link through which all parties could participate; this allowed for the growth of dance around the city's musical style. In New Orleans, big bands in the 1930's and 1940's made a living by playing in large ballrooms, amusement parks, hotels, and other venues for dancing.

Funky Butt Hall: Officially Kinney's Hall or McKenna's Hall, but known to ragtime musicians and dancers as Funky Butt Hall, this church/dance hall housed many weekend night dances to the population of New Orleans. This dance hall was popular because of the repeated attendance of Buddy Bolden and his band, one of the biggest musicians to have an influence on the development of Jazz music, and directly dance.

Economy Hall: A dance hall located in Treme, near Storyville, dances were held because of the numerous social aid and pleasure clubs that had events in the hall. These organizations provided a variety of services, including brass band funerals and dances, to the New Orleans' black community.


Throughout its history, jazz dance has developed in parallel to popular music. Jazz dance takes place with an existing song or movement pattern, and dancers "feel and fill out" impromptu variations based on the feelings of the performer and the audience's response to the music. This pattern of development has resulted in a few elements of movement key to the dance style, the most important being that jazz is the physical embodiment of the popular music of a given time. An example of this is that during a down time of jazz dancing from 1945–1954, when big bands and dance halls were declining, the vernacular of the dance followed less jazz music and leaned more toward rock and roll, creating moves like "The Monkey" and "The Jerk".

Syncopated rhythm is a common characteristic in jazz music that was adapted to jazz dance in the early twentieth century and has remained a significant characteristic. It was first introduced by Louis Armstrong with his "late beat sing" and was translated from jazz music to dance.

Isolations are a quality of movement that were introduced to jazz dance by Katherine Dunham.

Improvisation was an important element in early forms of jazz dance, as it is an important element of jazz music.

A low center of gravity and high level of energy are other important identifying characteristics of jazz dance. Other elements of jazz dance are less common and are the stylizations of their respective choreographers. One such example are the inverted limbs and hunched-over posture of Bob Fosse.