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  • Writer's pictureHixon Dance

Ballet technique is NOT the basis of jazz dance.


Ballet technique is NOT the basis of jazz dance. Jazz dance originated in Black American social dances (and shares roots with tap dance). Through a complex history, jazz made its way to the stage via minstrelsy and vaudeville. It eventually arrived on Broadway, where it became whitewashed with European aesthetics and elements of ballet technique.

We see people trying to sell ballet as the basis of jazz dance, or thinking that ballet technique is fundamentally the same as jazz technique or contemporary technique. That is simply incorrect! It is really important to understand the social and historical contexts of all of these dance forms.

Ballet has a lot to offer, I’m not saying it doesn’t. But I am saying that calling ballet the basis of Africanist dance styles (like jazz dance) is ignorant of both forms at best, and systemically racist for its erasure of the origins of Africanist forms like jazz and the contributions of generations of Black dancers and choreographers.

Many of us were told this myth as kids growing up by teachers who were, in turn, told this myth by their teachers. They were likely not taught much beyond steps associated with each style, probably through follow-along-and-repeat rote memorization teaching. However, I believe in the value of teaching students the historical and cultural contexts of the dance forms they are learning, so they can become critical creative thinkers who understand the dance form and honor its past.

~ Rachael

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