Jazz Dance - So Many Aspects to Discuss

Here I am, working in jazz dance for 40 years now, and every day still thinking about its nature, value, and future prospects.  Each of these aspects could be a book...but maybe I'll settle for just advancing my opinions here.  What's a blog for, anyway?

Let's start with jazz dance nature.  I've published my thoughts on what jazz dance is in the 2014 anthology
Jazz Dance - A History of the Roots and Branches.  And that chapter is also reprinted in my 2015 compilation Comments on Jazz Dance 1996-2014.  It's titled The Family of Jazz Dance.  In this chapter I advance the idea that there truly is a formative jazz dance of purity - which would be the social jazz dances of the 1920s and 1930s - charleston, lindy, big apple, susie q, etc.  These dances can be broken down into movement characteristics, and these characteristics were then mixed with the concert dance forms of ballet and modern dance in the 1940s.  Much of this formation was seen in commercial theatrical shows - Broadway, Hollywood films, nightclubs (rather than on the concert stage).  And this example held fast until the street dance trends of the 1980s.  Once we get past the influence of hip hop, and then the killer punch of "contemporary" dance, much of new jazz dance has simply morphed into non-jazz dance.

To hear it from the younger dancers, classes in 'jazz dance' can encompass bland contemporary jazz dance, commercial diva dance in spike heels, and trick laden competition dance.  These all may be valid forms of dance, but I'm telling you, it ain't jazz dance!  Jazz dance requires having some element of the founding characteristics of jazz dance - grounded relaxed hits that emanate from the pelvis outward, judicious use of body isolations, sense of "cool,"inclusion of rhythmic sophistication, manipulation of dynamic impulse, etc.  I don't think that actual jazz swing music is a requirement, but I do think that using harsh beat 4/4 music will make it harder to classify a dance as jazz dance.

This is all a long segue into what I really think is my point here.  
That forms of dance that are NOT jazz dance are routinely taught in classes labeled AS jazz dance.  Again, nothing against these other forms, but if its not jazz, then don't call it jazz.  Don't cheapen the value of jazz by saying a dance is jazz but its really bland contemporary.  Don't eliminate the accessibility to real jazz dance by teaching a non-jazz dance form in its place.  Most of all, KNOW the history of jazz, KNOW the qualities of jazz, and have the RESPECT to honor the form by accurately labeling and discussing its existence.

So often non-jazz dancers define jazz dance, and their opinions carry weight due to their implied knowledge, from their lofty concert dance stature (I'll write more about this later...see UC Irvine).  And this is the crux of the pigeon-holing of jazz dance, as non-artistic and as not worthy of serious consideration as an art form.  
Jazz dancers should define jazz dance.  And the jazz dancer's definition should be the definition that is accepted by all others.

A reasonable request, don't you think??

More to come on this topic, and much more concerning... jazz dance.