Jazz Xchange. Photo by Frank Stewart.

Jazz Xchange. Photo by Frank Stewart.


Jazz Dance Genres

Competition Dance – Events where choreography or performance are adjudicated and awarded prizes.

Concert Dance – Jazz choreography conceived for the concert stage.

(Editor’s Note: Jazz Dance Direct does not include concert dance in the list of jazz dance styles, as this genre of dance may include any jazz dance style).

Showcase Dance – Performances intended to be exhibition of dancers’ skill.

Jazz Dance Styles

The list of styles used to tag institutions, companies, and conferences/events is heavily influenced by the list of jazz dance styles in the book Jazz Dance: A History of the Roots and Branches (University Press of Florida, 2014), of which Melanie George is a contributor. The list of styles in the book evolved from an extensive discussion, over many months, among the twenty-five contributors to the text.

Afro-Caribbean Jazz – Emphasis on the roots of jazz dance as an Africanist dance form, by way of the Caribbean. Includes the jazz work of Katherine Dunham.

Authentic Jazz - Jazz and social dance movement developed from the 1920s-1940s with jazz music accompaniment. Includes the work of Pepsi Bethel and Frankie Manning.

Classical Jazz - Codified jazz technique heavily influenced by ballet and modern dance forms. Includes the techniques of Gus Giordano, Luigi, and Matt Mattox.

Commercial Jazz – Entertainment driven jazz meant to sell or promote a product. It may include jazz dance in music videos, television film, and for-profit performance venues.

Contemporary Jazz – A current form of jazz that shares movement characteristics with contemporary modern dance. Emphasis is on expression, extension, and turns.

Improvisation – Improvisation in jazz differs from improvisation in other dance forms because of its deep connection to its accompaniment. Improvisation is not a jazz style, but is a recognized method for training jazz performers and developing choreography.

Latin Jazz – A blend jazz and Latin American movements, rhythms, and musical accompaniment.

Lyrical Jazz – Rooted in the classical ballet. Movement is inspired by the lyrics or quality of the accompaniment.

Modern Jazz – Developed in the 1950s to encompass jazz influenced by modern dance, often developed for the concert stage. Further developments incorporate somatic theories. Includes the technique of Lynn Simonson.

Neo-Jazz – A historically-informed, contemporary jazz technique. Emphasis on groundedness, weight shifts, isolations, improvisation, musicality, and a connection to jazz music.

Pop Jazz – Performed to contemporary popular music. Practiced in dance competitions, conventions, and private studios, and commercial jazz venues.

Rhythm Generated Jazz – Rooted in African American dance and music traditions. The body is grounded, rhythm is visible, emphasis on the groove. Adjacent to African American stepping, and tap. Includes Billy Siegenfeld’s Jump Rhythm technique.

Funk Jazz – Emphasizes the down beat, isolations, and angular movement. Developed from the grooves of funk music.

Street Jazz – Also called Urban Jazz. Blends funk, hip hop, and elements of classical jazz. Early versions of this style can be seen in the music videos of Paula Abdul and Janet Jackson.

Theatrical Jazz -  A fusion of styles, including ballet, vernacular jazz, and tap dance. Entertainment driven. Influenced by the work of Jack Cole. (Editor’s Note: Jazz Dance Direct does not make a distinction between musical theatre jazz, Broadway jazz, and theatrical jazz).

Vernacular Jazz – Jazz dance developed from social dance of any era, often originating from African American culture.  Connected to authentic jazz, funk jazz, hip hop, and street jazz.

West Coast – A blend of classical, commercial, and street/funk Jazz. Popularized by California-based Joe Tremaine in the 1980s.