Jazz is a good alternative to ballet or modern dance. Performed to popular music, Jazz is fun and fast paced.

What is Jazz?

Jazz dance first became popular back in the mid 1950s where Jazz music, popular in the day, was combined with tap dancing, the most popular form of dance at that time.

Both Jazz dance and modern dance techniques are based on the basics of the old ballet tradition. To excel in Jazz dance, the dancer must master ballet techniques.

Most dance schools teach Jazz, as it is the most popular dance form for amateur dancers. The essence of Jazz dance is entertaining audiences, a form of dancing which is easy to understand for anyone seeing it.

Jazz, unlike other dance forms, is fast paced but its movements are still soft. The dancers are taught to be graceful, for example, to always have their toes pointed, fingers cupped and extended softly.

The dancers’ motions flow with each other, thus forming the rhythm of dance. Jazz is usually taught through first learning the basic techniques such as extensions, turns, and leaps. Once the dancer has learned the basic forms, they then are usually put together with music to form a routine.

Jazz is seen as an alternative to ballet which is very structured and slower paced, and to modern dance which is also slower paced but not extremely structured.

Jazz combines modern Jazz technique, taught with today’s popular music. Jazz dance isn’t generally performed to Jazz music, but rather to the popular music, soloists and groups gracing our mainstream airwaves and stereos.

Jazz will improve balance, co-ordination, and rhythm. It’s fun for all, and is offered for ages five to adult. A very popular class among dance schools and academies throughout the country.

Where do you learn Jazz?

Most centres around the country have dance schools or studios. Some only specialise in one particular type of dance such as ballet or highland. Others cover several dance forms. You will need to phone around and preferably join a school offering tuition in all dance styles, including Jazz.

While it varies from school to school, most teach in a class environment only. There are advantages with the group tuition, where young children interacting with others, creates an enjoyable synergy which is stimulating and fun.

As the young dancer progresses individual tuition is available through private teachers. However, the dancer would generally be expected to be fairly well advanced.

What age can your child start Jazz?

For Jazz, most dance schools take pupils from age five. Several schools offer pre-school classes, but these are usually dance and music appreciation classes, where the youngsters are encouraged to explore music and movement rather than a specific dance style.

How do you progress over time?

Many schools combine jazz with either tap dance, hip hop or ballet for the first few years. This provides the child with a range of dancing skills and, after a period of time, allows them to continue with the dual dances, or specialise in one.

Jazz examinations are available. Most schools offer the examinations, and although not compulsory, dance students are encouraged to follow the examination path. This course of study is viewed by dance teachers as practical and a great way for the student to set tangible goals for themselves. Progress can then be monitored on a practical level over time.

Also, should the young dancer decide to follow a performing or teaching career, such formal qualifications are viewed favourably.

Most schools offer examinations from the Jazz Dance New Zealand (JDNZ) syllabus. The dancer passes through several grades from beginners (Prep) to Advanced.

To reach advanced status requires several years of dedicated practice. A young dancer would generally be well into their late teens or older before attaining the highest level.

Many dance schools will put on a public show, perhaps twice a year. These shows are a great way for the young dancers to showcase their talents and are an exciting time for the kids.

Jazz, as with any dance, is about more than simply dancing. Any dance teacher will tell you that the chance to perform regularly before others generates self esteem and self confidence, putting the young person at ease around peers and in public.

Some dance schools also provide group singing classes in addition to dance. These classes are seen as a way for the young students to develop all-round entertainment skills, as Jazz dancers can be expected to sing should they become involved in stage shows. As the dance student progresses into their teens, teachers will often encourage formal singing lessons for this reason.

What equipment do you need for Jazz?

The cost to get set up is minimal. A Leotard and tights are the standard uniforms and of course a pair of Jazz shoes. These are designed specifically for Jazz. They need to be a good fit. Avoid buying larger ones to give your child ‘growing room’.

There will or should be heaps of practice at home, so a stereo system is essential, as is a place to practice. Any decent size room or garage is preferable, with good lighting, ventilation and away from distractions.

How much does Jazz cost?

Dance school charges vary depending on several factors. These include class size, age group and also whether the class is just providing dance instruction for Jazz or a combination of dance forms such as Jazz and Tap.

  • For a 30 minute class you will pay around $75 – $125 per term.
  • Leotard: $35 – $50
  • Jazz Shoes: $65 – $95

How much time does Jazz take to learn?

Beginners classes are usually 30 minutes in duration and increase to 45 – 60 minutes depending on the pupil and class.

Practice at home is expected. Most dance teachers recommend 30 minutes daily for beginners and increasing to 30 – 60 minutes.


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This information was compiled by the Kiwi Families team.

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