Jazz is NOT dead
The understanding and technique of Jazz dance could be described as a little black dress, or strand of pearls; it will never be out of fashion – a classic lives forever. This notion that ‘jazz is dead’ or that we need to ‘bring it back’ feels to me like it’s coming from a perspective that is simply less willing to see that it is evolving. Jazz is foundation/technique, and jazz is fun, and jazz is style, and jazz is often directly correlated to much of what we do in many other classrooms or jobs. It is alive and well, and living in so many beautiful, exciting, inspiring, enlightened places. It is merely growing, as all things hopefully do… it is important to honor and preserve, and equally so to allow new perspectives and ideas to evolve. Growth, in anything, is a good thing.
Jazz, by definition, thank you Merriam Webster, is (sometimes clinical is helpful),…
As a Noun
1a: American music developed especially from ragtime and blues and characterized by propulsive syncopated rhythms, polyphonic ensemble playing, varying degrees of improvisation, and often deliberate distortions of pitch and timbre
b: popular dance music influenced by jazz and played in a loud rhythmic manner
2: similar but unspecified things
3: empty talk
As a Verb
2: to play in the manner of jazz
What these definitions so greatly allow is interpretation. The notion of Jazz’s very first definition, which is inclusive of the idea of rhythms, improvisational ideas, and distortions, says to me that there is room for subjective understandings and variance of thought… both of which allow growth and progression.
For me, when I think of Jazz Dance, I think of it as ideas of technique that then have styles layered on top of them. Jazz is my starting ingredient; the base of the recipe from which something delicious will come. Contemporary, Lyrical, Street, Theater, Commercial, Modern, African, Fusion, Funk, and then more site specifically, Fosse, Mattox, Luigi, VOP, and so on and so forth, could all be placed prior to the word Jazz to elicit the specific style. If art is meant to continually grow, then our perspectives must be willing to grow too. There can be both an understanding and use of material from where we have come from mixed simultaneously with ideas that take that understanding and material to a new place. Without a willingness for this type of evolvement, we wouldn’t have a lot of the incredible dancing that we have now. To remain stagnant in an idea that allows so much room for individual thought process would almost be criminal.
I love Jazz, and I love all of its current variances, and the ones that I’m sure are to come in future. It has never been dead, it has simply been called other things and not given due credit for enabling them to happen as well as they are able. Our girl, Jazz, is right here, right now, showing off her versatility and killing it; I can’t wait to see what the next iteration will bring.