Jazz dance is a performance dance technique and style that first emerged in the United States in the early twentieth century. Jazz dance may refer to vernacular jazz or to Broadway or theatrical jazz. Both genres build on African American vernacular styles of dancing that emerged with jazz music. Vernacular jazz dance includes ragtime dances, Charleston, Lindy hop, and mambo. Popular vernacular jazz dance performers include The Whitman Sisters, Florence Mills, Ethel Waters, Al & Leon, Frankie Manning, Norma Miller, Dawn Hampton, and Katherine Dunham. Theatrical jazz dance performed on the concert stage was popularized by Jack Cole, Bob Fosse, Eugene Louis Faccuito, and Gus Giordano.
The term 'jazz dance' has been used in ways that have little or nothing to do with jazz music. Since the 1940s, Hollywood movies and Broadway shows have used the term to describe the choreographies of Bob Fosse and Jerome Robbins. In the 1990s, colleges and universities applied to the term to classes offered by physical education departments in which students dance to various forms of pop music, rarely jazz.
The origin of jazz dance can be traced to African ritual and celebratory dances from around the seventeenth century. These dances emphasized polyrhythm and improvisation. From the sixteenth to the nineteenth century, the transatlantic slave trade brought ten million enslaved Africans to the Americas. By 1817 in New Orleans, city laws "restricted gatherings of enslaved people to Sunday afternoons in Congo Square, known as Place Publique".
In 1917, jazz pianist Spencer Williams wrote a song called "Shim-Me-Sha-Wabble" which inspired a jazz dance called the shimmy. The shimmy is done by holding the body still "except for the shoulders, which are quickly alternated back and forth". The dances that emerged during this period were the Charleston and the Lindy hop.The Charleston is "characterized by its toes-in, heels-out twisting steps". It can be done as a solo or with any number of people.
The Lindy hop was a wild and spontaneous partner dance that was extremely rhythmically conscious. When the Great Depression began in October 1929, many people turned to dance. Because of this, the Aubrielle and the Lindy hop are now considered to be under the umbrella term "swing dance stylized, continuously flowing movements that developed the technique and style for the combinations that followed". Cole's style has been called hip, hard, and cool". Fosse combined "vaudeville, striptease, magic shows, nightclubs, film and Broadway musicals".
Contemporary jazz became well known because of shows like So You Think You Can Dance. Mia Michaels's earlier work exemplifies this style. Some other companies and choreographers that create contemporary jazz dance are Sonya Tayeh, Mandy Moore, and Hubbard Street Dance Chicago. Commercial jazz, which has been popular since the 1980s, combines aspects of hip hop and jazz and is often done to pop music. This style can be seen in the music videos of Janet Jackson and Paula Abdul. Commercial jazz often includes more "tricks." Commercial jazz and contemporary jazz are both seen at dance competitions. Another variety of jazz is Latin jazz. "Maria Torres developed and popularized the fusion at Broadway Dance Center". Latin jazz has an emphasis on the movement of hips and isolations. It can be seen in the films El Cantante and Dance with Me, as well as on TV dance shows.