Create a Jazz Age display or presentation, using images and music. Have students research and bring in images and music from the 1920s and 1930. Discuss the changes going on in American society during that period and how that was reflected in the music and dance.
Research and play different types of jazz music, such as swing, big band, cool jazz, hot jazz, etc. How does jazz compare to contemporary rap and hip-hop?
Look for someone in your school or community who knows how to do the Charleston or Lindy Hop and ask them to come into your classroom and teach it to your students. Have students talk about how these dances compare to the dances they do today.
Have students practice isolating body parts, e.g., move head side to side or up and down; shoulders up and down; rib cage forward and back; hips side to side. Do this to jazz music.
Explore syncopation and swing. Have students count in 4s while stepping in place. First step only on the 1 and 3, then only on the 2 and 4. Next step on the 1 and 3 while clapping on the 2 and 4. Listen to jazz music and see students can hear beats 2 and 4 being accentuated in any way. This syncopated accenting of the music creates a feeling of “swing” in the music.
The art of jazz is one of America’s most unique contributions to dance and music. Jazz traditions are rooted in the interaction and inter-connectedness of music and dance—the musician responding to the dancer and the dancer responding to the musician. Jazz dance grew out of this relationship and communicates both the rhythmic complexity and emotional dynamics of jazz music.
Jazz also melded dance traditions that people from other countries had brought to America—from African ceremonial dances to European waltzes, jigs, and reels.
Jazz dance began as a social/vernacular dance form with dances such as the Charleston, the Big Apple, and the Lindy Hop but evolved to become a performance art as well.
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