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Jazz English Glossary


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African Caribbean jazz dance: A theatrical jazz dance style incorporating African and Caribbean dance with traditional jazz dance.


alignment: The organization of body parts in relationship to each other.


attentive repetition: Working with full mental focus on a skill repeatedly by finding deeper layers of challenge.


authentic jazz dance: A highly individualized and syncopated traditional jazz dance style derived from early social jazz dance traditions such as the cakewalk, Charleston, black bottom, big apple, jitterbug, and Lindy hop.


axial movement: Action organized primarily around the axis of the spine and in relatively stationary space.


beat: The regularly occurring pulse of the music.


big apple: A partner and circle dance created by African Americans to swing music in the 1930s that, in its form, draws comparisons to square dances.


black bottom: A dance that originated in New Orleans in the 1910s, became popular in nightclubs in Harlem, New York, in the early 1920s, and became a national craze in 1926.


body-half connectivity: The relationship between one side of the body and the other.


body shape: The overall structure of the body during a single step or string of steps.


breath connectivity: The relationship between breathing and movement.


cakewalk: A popular dance tradition for slaves on plantations in the 19th century that was appropriated by white performers and presented in minstrel shows.


causal body: The part of being aware of the present moment by being centered, focused, and mindful.


centering: The process of focusing the mind.


Charleston: The most popular of 1920s dance crazes and an iconic symbol of the Jazz Age and flapper culture.


classical concert jazz dance: A concert jazz dance style that emerged in the 1950s from theatrical jazz dance forms being presented on concert stages.


classical jazz dance: A theatrical and concert jazz dance style that emerged in the 1950s and combined traditional jazz dance styles, developments in musical theater jazz dance, and ballet training.


commercial jazz dance: A form of jazz dance that consists of styles that derive from studio training and often accompanies trends in popular music.


combination: An extended movement sequence that combines the skills being worked on in class and explores specific stylistic and performance aspects of jazz dance.


concert jazz dance: A jazz dance form consisting of styles that derive from highly technical studio training and parallel classical ballet, modern concert dance, and contemporary concert dance in their aesthetic approach.


connected breathing: A subtle ensemble skill that helps with spacing, flocking, and timing.


connectivity: The pattern of relationship between body parts.


contemporary commercial jazz dance: A commercial jazz dance style that integrates elements from contemporary dance practices, such as somatics and inversions, with the presentational qualities of jazz dance, often contrasting between moments of flow and isolation.


contemporary concert jazz dance: A concert jazz dance style focused on artistic expression that integrates elements from postmodern and contemporary dance practices, such as somatics and inversions, with the qualities of jazz dance, often contrasting between moments of flow and isolation.


coordination exercises: Exercises performed to integrate isolated body parts while developing correct posture, coordination of leg and arm movements, and articulation of the feet and ankles.


core-distal connectivity: The relationship between the muscles of the torso as they support and provide stability for the limbs in space.


cross lateral connectivity: The relationship between diagonally opposing parts of the body.


direct space: Specific and exact use of shape, pathway, and focus.


disco: A trend in music and dance in the 1970s that featured complex partner and line dances done in nightclubs, or discotheques, complete with mirrored balls, strobe lights, and fog.


effort actions: The combination of one element of space (either direct or indirect) with one element of time (quick or sustained) with one element of weight (strong or light).


fad dances: Widely popular dance crazes that appeared during the 1960s at incredibly more frequent rates.


flocking: The ability to adapt movement spontaneously while also maintaining spacing.


flow: A state of optimal inner experience characterized by absorption in the moment from the merging of action and awareness.


focus: Orientation of attention to the surrounding space.


follow-through: The residual movement after the main action.


forward pelvic tilt: The top of the pelvis moves forward of the centerline of the body while the bottom of the pelvis moves behind the centerline of the body.


head-tail connectivity: The relationship between the crown of the head and the tip of the tailbone.


hyperextension: The ability of a joint to go beyond extension.


impact: Phrasing that starts easy and slow but speeds up and gets stronger along the way until you reach full speed and strength at the end of the movement.


impulse:  Phrasing that starts with a pulse of energy but then gradually fades away.


indirect space: Nonspecific and general use of shape, pathway, and focus.


initiation: How the movement begins.


inner initiation: Movement that begins from a central point in the body and moves outward.


intonation cues: The use of pitch in delivery of words or sounds to convey information about movement.


isolations: A series of exercises that mobilize one body part at a time to develop refined, specific control.


jitterbug:  A traditional jazz dance style from the 1930s done to big band music that became popular in ballrooms such as the Savoy Ballroom in Harlem.


Lindy hop: A partnered, athletic, and acrobatic traditional jazz dance style developed from the jitterbug in the 1930s and 1940s out of the Savoy Ballroom in Harlem and performed to big band music.


locomotive movement: Action organized primarily around the task of changing location in space from one place to another.


lyrical: A commercial jazz dance style that became popular during the rise of dance conventions and competitions in the 1980s as a contrast to the percussive nature and fast tempo of jazz dance in studios.


mambo: The most popular Latin dance craze in the United States in the 1950s because of its sensual quality and rhythmic intricacy that reflected the influence of jazz music.


minstrel shows: Performances in the 19th century consisting of comic skits, music, and dance performed by white performers in blackface.


modern concert jazz dance: A concert jazz dance style characterized by a focus on shape, technical achievement, performing barefoot, and rational, abstract thematic content.


musical theater jazz dance: A theatrical jazz dance style that joins the rhythm, weight changes, and steps from traditional dance with formal training techniques from ballet and classical jazz dance.


novelty fad dances: Dances of the mid- to late 1980s made popular by music videos and often named after pop culture items.


outer initiation: Movement that begins from the outer edges of the body or from the environment and moves toward the center.


pathway: Route the body takes between shapes.


percussive: Phrasing that is precise and sharp and works well in synchronized movement.


primary curves: Spinal curves that are concave, hollowing out toward the front of the body.


progression: A series of exercises performed moving across the floor that incorporates learned movement vocabulary with a focus on traveling through space from one point to another.


rhythmic cues: The patterned delivery of words or sounds to convey information about movement.


secondary curves: Spinal curves that are convex, bulging out toward the front of the body.


sequence: Order in which movements occur.


sequential sequence: Movement that follows one after the other in nonadjacent body parts.


shape: Position of the body in space.


shifting transition:  Abrupt movement changes from one step to the next.


simultaneous initiation: Body parts all beginning to move at once.


simultaneous sequence: Movements occurring at the same time.


sinking hip: Moving the pelvis off center and shifting body weight more toward one side.


sock hop: An informal social dance gathering done in American high school gymnasiums in the 1950s to early rock ’n’ roll music in which the dancers had to remove their shoes to protect the gym floor.


spacing: The position within a group that a dancer must maintain, requiring an understanding of personal space as it relates to general space..


spatial sense: An awareness of space and the way in which objects, including the self and others, occupy space.


street jazz (also called jazz funk):  A commercial jazz dance style that incorporates street steps from hip-hop or novelty fad dances with dance studio training.


subtle body: The part of a person’s being that senses inner energy fluctuations and neuromuscular connectivity.


successive sequence: Movement that follows one after the other in adjacent body parts.


swing (dance): A partnered traditional jazz dance style derived from Lindy hop that entered mainstream American culture as a more moderate, less acrobatic version of partner dance done to big band music.


swing (phrasing): Phrasing that oscillates between moments of full release and moments of suspension.


syncopation : The placing of an accent unexpectedly on the upbeat rather than the downbeat.


theatrical jazz dance : Also called musical theater dance, consists of styles that derive from studio training and are performed on stage.


traditional jazz dance (also called vernacular): A form of jazz dance consisting of styles that derive from social dance trends and accompany jazz music.


transformational transition : One step gradually evolving into the following one.


transition: A follow-through that connects one movement to the next.


tucking under: The bottom of the pelvis rounding forward and under.


upper-lower connectivity: The relationship between the lower body (hips and legs) and the upper body (torso and arms).


vaudeville: A type of theater popular in North America in the late 1800s and early 1900s that developed out of minstrel shows and included several unrelated acts of music, comedy, magic, dance, and other variety arts.


vibratory: Phrasing that alternates in quick, rapidly changing patterns.


visualization:  A mental preparation technique that uses the imagination to prepare the neuromuscular connection for upcoming tasks.


vogue:  A competitive dance form that came out of the gay ballrooms in Harlem, New York, and was characterized by model-like posing, stylized walking, and angular arm and leg movements.