Thursday, November 6, 2008

The Changing Face of Jazz

Jazz dance is a technique that shifts shapes with the passing of time. It's always been a technique that is somewhat hard to define. Jazz is done to a combination of many different musical forms from negro spirituals to modern day pop music, and its technique is gathered from a palette that is just as varied. Many different people have influenced jazz, Jack Cole, Gus Giordano, and Bob Fosse to name a few. Gus Giordano wrote in his book, "…just when I think I've figured it out it takes a new turn and I start thinking again." This constantly changing look kind makes jazz what it is. What influences jazz today? Jazz is clearly not a dance form that has stayed the same since it became popular in the past 100 or so years. What made something that was so cool yesterday not so 'hot' in today's jazz world? We'll see if we can find the answers.

The founders of jazz all had they're distinct styles that were influenced by their lives. What influences us today? One answer is the media that we're involved with daily, like TV. And one of the most popular things right now is reality TV. Americas Next Top Model, Dancing With The Stars and So You Think You Can Dance have had a huge impact on dance in America. I don't think any dancer who has watched Americas' Next Top Model and heard Tyra Banks say 'Fierce' has been able to refrain from using it to describe how someone else dances. Is it possible that after so many years Bob Fosse is still influencing movement with the hands on the hips? Yes, its possible, but probably not as influential as Americas' Next Top Model. I don't believe I've ever seen so many hands on hips. I'm afraid it's true, jazz has begun to trade in jazz walks and Fosse's hands on the hips for runway walks and striking a pose. So You Think You Can Dance and Dancing with the Stars have also done their part to change the face of jazz. I find that anywhere I go, the first thing people ask when I tell them I'm a dancer is 'oh like on that one TV show…SYTYCD or Dancing with the Stars?' When it comes to what people think of when they hear the words dance, or jazz, these two shows are what come to mind. These shows have brought many choreographers (Mia Micheals, Brian Friedman, Dan Karaty, just to name a few) into the public eye and their styles are contributing to what jazz is being perceived as today.

The internet has also influenced jazz dance. Music videos and performances are now available at the click of a button. It's become so easy to be influenced by what we see online. Random things, weird things, funny things, things like 'The Yes Dance.'

This one performance, as it said in the end is a new epidemic, and changed the face of dance and jazz forever. Although they can borrow the snaps from classical jazz dancers like Jack Cole

I have no idea where the rest of the random stuff in The Yes Dance came from, but its everywhere you go now.
So what influences jazz trends, what decides what comes and goes, what stays and what is yesterdays news? We can look at music, tv, and internet, but the only real answer is that jazz is a reflection of our culture. As we continue to adapt and change in our various cracked out ways jazz will also, and that's what makes it versatile, expressionistic art form.

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