Ballet has always played an important role in the evolution of popular dance. Originating in Italy during the Italian Renaissance, and later popularised by the French courts at the turn of the seventeenth century, ballet requires an incredible amount of discipline to be performed correctly. In mastering such intensive, demanding technique, ballet dancers achieve such levels of grace that they look as though they are “heavenly beings, floating gently upon the ground”.
Such ethereal intentions of classical ballet deter many people from the art form as they believe ballet to be patrician. Ballet, however, provides the building blocks and form required to succeed in all forms of dance, and though often intended to portray a sense of superhuman elegance in its flowing movements, can portray any story, be it comical or dramatic.
Jazz dance was inspired by the African slave dances in the United States that Southern plantation owners would encourage their slaves to perform. Even then, dance was seen as an uplifting, recreational activity, and was therefore healthy for both the slaves’ psyche as well as their bodies.
First brought to the stage by white dancers mimicking the black slaves they had seen, jazz has since gone through a turbulent history; transforming from what was once considered one of the most lewd and inappropriate forms of dance to one of the more widely known and practiced.
Today in the United States, jazz is even blended with other forms of dance and music to create slightly different flavoured styles such as theatre jazz, contemporary jazz, lyrical jazz, and jazz funk.
CONTEMPORARY / MODERN
Contemporary dance is an amalgam of systems , it defines several forms as: dance theatre, physical theatre, contact improvisation, video dance among others. For me contemporary dance is very close to the definition of postmodern dance, because it also uses the fusion of other genres.
As a technique, Contemporary dance is actually a mixture. If you take a modern class, it is generally one technique, like Graham, Horton, Cunningham or Limon. A contemporary teacher builds its own vocabulary from one or many of these techniques.
Perhaps one of the most misunderstood dance forms, hip hop is also one of the newest. Originating in the early 1970s, with its roots deep in Afro-American dance, hip hop dance is the direct result of a marriage of two separate movements from the United States: the “b-boy” movement from the ghettos of New York, and the “West Coast Funk” movement from the streets of Los Angeles.
The b-boys and b-girls of New York City were largely influenced by Capoeira (a Brazilian form of self-defence disguised as dance), tap, the lindy hop, James Brown’s ‘good foot’, salsa, Afro-Cuban and various other African and Native American dances. West Coast funk dance styles, such as pop and lock, were similarly inspired by the funky chicken, Chubby Checker’s ‘twist’, James Brown’s ‘the popcorn’, ‘the jerk’, cartoon animation, and other such movement from every day life.
Style of American theatrical dance using precise rhythmical patterns of foot movement and audible foot tapping. It is derived from the traditional clog dance of northern England, the jigs and reels of Ireland and Scotland, and the rhythmic foot stamping of African dances. Popular in 19th-century minstrel shows, versions such as “buck-and-wing” (danced vigorously in wooden-soled shoes) and “soft-shoe” (danced smoothly in soft-soled shoes) developed as separate techniques; by 1925 they had merged, and metal taps were attached to shoe heels and toes to produce a more pronounced sound. The dance was also popular in variety shows and early musicals.