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What is Broadway Jazz?

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By Becky Dimock / Edited by Samantha Bellerose, B.Ed, Dip.Dance(Performing Arts)

Broadway jazz, or theater jazz originated in the 1920’s.  It was the first time dance was an important part of a play’s plot, and viewers fell in love. It is a unique blend of ballet, modern, and jazz and is distinguished by its emphasis on exaggerated movements, high energy, and story-telling. It is almost always performed by a troupe of dancers, with few solos. 

Jack Cole is considered to be the father of Broadway jazz (although he referred to the style as “jazz-ethnic-ballet”).  His work spanned three decades, starting in the 1920s. He choreographed for Broadway, night clubs, film, and television, and taught many jazz dance legends, such as Bob Fosse.  

One unique characteristic of Broadway jazz is that it evolves substantially over the years, with choreographers regularly creating new styles and hybrids.  For example, in the 1940’s and 50’s Bob Fosse created such a unique style of jazz, it’s often considered a separate style. Modern Broadway jazz or Fosse Jazz.

Almost every dance student will be required to take classes in different styles of jazz, including Broadway jazz.  If you want to perform for a commercial enterprise or in a musical, you will need to be familiar with Broadway jazz techniques.

This page is just one of hundreds of definitions of the many styles and genres of dance. This library is being continually added to by the writers and contributors of Dance Parent 101!