This is an excerpt from Beginning Jazz Dance by James Robey.
The quickest answer to the question, "Why study jazz dance?" is that it is joyful. Jazz dance grew out of the social dance forms that young people had used over many decades. It is what people do when they are celebrating, relaxing, and enjoying themselves. Jazz dance today, in all its forms, still maintains that joyous excitement. But studying jazz dance offers benefits beyond just sheer enjoyment, such as physical fitness, artistic expression, and practical cross-training skills for aspiring dancers.
Health and Physical Fitness
The health and physical fitness benefits of jazz dance include increased strength, flexibility, coordination, and endurance. The athletic, full-bodied nature of jazz dance develops arm strength from floor work, leg strength from jumps, and core strength from coordinating the limbs. Jazz dance classes consist of stretching sequences that lengthen the larger muscles of the legs and lower back. Increased flexibility and range of motion in the hips, shoulders, and spine commonly develop from jazz dance training. Challenging steps and combinations, in which the upper and lower body parallel and contrast each other in numerous ways, create increased coordination in jazz dancers. Remember the old challenge to rub your head and pat your tummy? That task becomes simple for jazz dancers who learn complex rhythmic patterns. Besides the strength, flexibility, and coordination developed in jazz dance, the infectious, high-energy rhythmic music of a jazz dance class leads to increased endurance and stamina.
As a dance student, you need to be able to distinguish good pain from bad pain. Good pain comes from strength, stretching, and endurance exercises that expand the ability of the body. These pains may feel uncomfortable, but they are beneficial. Bad pain comes from pushing the body too far too fast, and it leads to injury. These pains tend to be sharp and sudden. Listen to your body to find the edge of good pain and do not go past it.
Alongside the physical benefits of jazz dance, the ability to express the creative self through movement allows a full-bodied approach to sharing personal emotions and artistic insights. Because the body explores physical movement in jazz dance class while simultaneously allowing a free flow of personal expression, both a release and a strengthening of the mind - body connection occur. Euphoric feelings that jazz dancers sometimes refer to as a rush or high often result.
Besides gaining the physical and emotional benefits of studying jazz dance, dancers who study other forms of dance gain in further practical ways. The emphasis in jazz dance on rhythmic complexity and dynamic performance helps ballet and modern dancers enhance their ability as dancers. Although ballet training develops incredible grace, the codified technique often becomes rhythmically predictable and dynamically smooth. Modern dance training often creates organically connected and grounded dancers who may become restricted dynamically. Ballet and modern dancers trained in jazz dance add intricate rhythmic coordination and the ability to add dynamic performance qualities to their range, making jazz dance an important part of training for versatile dancers. Combining these practical skills for aspiring dancers with enhanced physical fitness, artistic expression, and an overall joyful experience provides a self-evident answer to the question, "Why study jazz dance?" Now that you have learned the definition of jazz dance and reviewed the benefits, you will want to know the rules of class.
Learn more about Beginning Jazz Dance.