What to Expect: Your First Jazz Class

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Unlike your first ballet class, the content of any new jazz dance class can be full of surprises! Jazz dance, which was a big hit in the early ’50s, (think moves like the Charleston and Jitterbug!), is an art form that continues to be a key element in musical theatre choreography.

Like any other dance class, what you do in a jazz dance class can vary wildly from teacher to teacher and across different dance studios. Because we Rockettes want you to be prepared, here are a few things you can 5-6-7-8 … er, count on:

Pop music. Jazz dance has always had a direct relationship to music trends in pop culture. Though we can’t guarantee it will always be what’s on today’s top 40 charts, the soundtrack of your jazz class is sure to contain popular music of some era.

Style to spare. Jazz dance is all about style. The same basic steps can be found within most jazz dance classes—ball-change, jazz square, turns and leaps, to name a few. The way you perform these moves depends on the music and type of jazz class you are taking and who you’re taking it from. A chassé in a musical theatre-style jazz class may be lifted and airy, while the same step in a hip hop-influenced class might be low and aggressive. Compare those to a contemporary jazz chassé with the torso off-center. Jazz dance also encourages personal expression … so don’t be afraid to be yourself!

Flexible fashion. The dress code for a jazz dance class is usually more relaxed than that of a ballet class. Some studios may require dancers to wear a leotard, but most just expect jazz dancers like to wear form-fitting tops and bottoms that give you freedom to move and express yourself.

Jazz dance footwear comes in a variety of styles. You may see jazz dancers in half-socks or footies, split-sole jazz shoes or sneakers, or even character shoes. If you are uncertain what’s best, ask about the style and dress code before your first class.

Energy! Jazz dance movements are almost always energetic and bold. Whether you are warming up, practicing steps or crossing the floor, your teacher will want you to “go for it” during every moment of your jazz class. Be prepared to sweat and smile, because no matter what you’re doing, what is coming out of the speakers or what you’re wearing, you can expect to have fun!