Dance forms, their history and benefits

What is Jazz Dance Style all about?

 Jazz dance is a classification shared by a broad range of dance styles. Before the 1950s, jazz dance referred to dance styles that originated from African American vernacular dance. In the 1950s, a new genre of jazz dance modern jazz dance emerged, with roots in Caribbean traditional dance. Every individual style of jazz dance has roots traceable to one of these two distinct origins. Jazz was a big hit in the early 50's and it is still a well loved style of dance all over the world. Moves Used In Jazz Dance include Jazz Hands, Kicks, Leaps, Sideways Shuffling, Rolled Shoulders, and Turned Knees.

Jazz dance, any dance to jazz accompaniments, composed of a profusion of forms. Jazz dance paralleled the birth and spread of jazz itself from roots in African American society and was popularized in ballrooms by the big bands of the swing era (1930s and ’40s). It radically altered the style of American and European stage and social dance in the 20th century. The term is sometimes used more narrowly to describe (1) popular stage dance (except tap dance) and (2) jazz-derived or jazz-influenced forms of modern dance. It excludes social dances lacking jazz accompaniment—e.g., the rumba and other Latin-American dances.
Jazz dance developed from both 19th- and 20th-century stage dance and traditional black social dances and their white ballroom offshoots. On the stage,minstrel performers in the 19th century developed tap dancing from a combination of Irish jigging, English clog dancing, and African rhythmic stamping. Tap dance and such social dances as the cakewalk and shuffle became popular vaudeville ( acts and appeared in Broadway revues and musical comedies as these replaced vaudeville early in the 20th century. In addition, comedy, specialty, and character dances to jazz rhythms became standard stage routines. By the 1940s elements of jazz dance had appeared in modern dance and in motion picture choreography.
Although the stage popularized certain social dances, many others were transmitted mainly in social gatherings. The dances that gave rise to social forms of jazz dance developed from rural slave dances. In both early dances and 20th-century jazz dances, there is a noticeable continuity of dance elements and motions. The eagle rock and the slow drag (late 19th century) as well as the Charlston and the jitterbug have elements in common with certain Caribbean and African dances. In addition, the slow drag contributed to the fish of the 1950s; the ring shout, which survived from the 18th into the 20th century, in isolated areas, influenced the cakwalk.

What are the benefits of jazz dance?

Jazz dance has been a huge hit all over the world for decades. This form of dancing originally found its roots in African American culture, with influences of Caribbean traditional dance introduced after the 50s. There are unique benefits of jazz dance as a form of exercise, artistic expression, and stress relief.
Jazz dance is a fast-paced form of dancing that engages participants’ stamina, balance, and focus. There are often complex moves, twists, and sequences that push a dancer’s physical and mental boundaries. So, what are the benefits of jazz dance? Here are several fun benefits of jazz dance:

The first benefit of jazz dance is that it provides an incredible cardio workout. The quick-paced moves require maximum physical effort and the sequences can last for several minutes, meaning that you are engaged for large chunks of time. That much cardio is sure to get your heart racing and release endorphins that come after good physical exercise.
The second benefit of jazz dance is that it challenges your body physically. All of that cardio exercise is really going to push the limits of how much stamina you have, and ultimately your ability to do longer and more intense sequences will improve. Like other cardio workouts, jazz dancing is going to release those “feel-good” hormones called endorphins that will leave you happy and stress-free.
The third benefit of jazz dance is that it pushes the boundaries of muscle memory. Your brain will also have to really challenge itself to perform each minute movement the dancing requires for each sequence. While your body is working hard to keep up with the fast paced dancing, your mind will also be exerting itself to commit the moves to memory. All of the focus required to perform each movement will leave no room in your mind for other worries. Because of that, jazz dance is a great way to relieve stress and focus your thoughts.
Jazz dancing can be an intense and fun way to workout, challenge your limits, and relieve stress. For more than 60 years it has been a favorite past time and it will continue to be.

Svar Vandana Music & Dance Academy has schedules packed with fun and educational programs for kids and adults of all ages and abilities, including Jazz.  Whether it’s for an absolute beginner with just a desire to learn, or the elite level performer looking to advance their training and turn their passion in to a serious career.  We cater for it all! 

What is Kathak Dance all about?


Kathak is one the eight classical dance forms in India. The name itself is derived from the Sanskrit word – Katha (Story). The narrator of a story is called Katthaka in Sanskrit. Hence this dance form which narrates a story through the expressions and body movements came to be called Kathak.
The dance form of Kathak has three main schools which have their own unique style and instruments. The schools known as Gharanas are Lucknow Gharana, Banaras Gharana and Jaipur Gharana.
The first two Gharanas are the ones from Uttar Pradesh. The Lucknow Gharana has a lot of Mughal influence reflected in it. The Banaras Gharana showcases a lot of use of the dance floor, not only for movement of the feet but also a flop down movement which shows the danseuse hugging the floor.

Origin and History of Kathak

As per the literary records at Kameshwar library at Mithila, Kathak had it’s origin in the 3rd or 4th century BC. Even mythological stories like the Mahabharata talk about Kathak. It was during the Mughal era; in 16th century A.D. that Kathak received Royal patronage and was performed in the courts to entertain the Royals. During this period, Kathak received elements of fusion from other dance forms like the Persian dance form wherein the art of straight leg movements was introduced as also the spinning movement. In the following years, Kathak received the royal patronage of the Nawab of Awadh – Wajid Ali Shah who was the main moving force behind the creation of the Lucknow Gharana in the 19th century. The Lucknow Gharana reached it’s pinnacle of perfection under the guidance of Thakur Prasad Maharaj who was the chief court dancer in the Nawab’s court. His legacy was carried forward by his sons- Bindadin Maharaj and Kalkadin Maharaj. Around the same time the Banaras Gharana also evolved. This Gharana was developed by a gentleman by the name of Janakiprasad. During British rule in India, Kathak came to be referred to as an uncouth entertainment form stereo cast as something associated with the trade of immoral women. Here on, Kathak saw a sharp decline in its popularity. During early 20th century, Kalka Prasad Maharaj, a decendent of Thakur Prasad Maharaj brought Kathak back on to the world stage. His work was carried forward by his following generations.
Kathak Dancers (Source: wikimedia)

Styles of Kathak

Notably, there are two styles of performing Kathak. The first one is Nritta which has a structure of pure dance in which the performances moves from slow to a faster pace and then reaching a crescendo at the climax. It often has two kinds of compositions. The shorter ones are called tukra and the longer pieces are known as toda. The second style is called Nritya which focuses on expressions as the main mode. This style uses pieces of expressions to convey a story. This performance style is also known Bhaav Bataanaa. The modern day Kathak uses more of Nritya style. The Nritya style is more associated with the Lucknow Gharana while Nritta is associated more so with the Banaras Gharana. In early years, the performers wore sarees due to the Hindu influence. With the advent of the Mughal influence, the attire changed to anarkali suits with pyjamas and lehenga with choli. A dupatta or an Odhni (veil) is tied across from the right shoulder to the left side towards the waist. A kamarbandh (Waist belt) made of either zari with precious stones or cloth with meenakari work is used. Ghungroos (anklets) are for the feet. The unique aspect of Ghungroos in Kathak is that unlike other classical dance forms, the bells are not fixed on to a patch of leather. Instead, they are woven through a thick string. The Ghungroos also possess 100 bells. An option being explored nowadays is that of a small peaked cap which is worn during performances. Traditionally, fabric made from silk was used for the clothing for the body. However with passage of the time,cotton is increasingly being used. Jewellery for the Kathak danseuse includes a bindi (teardrop or round shaped gold attached at the forehead), and jhumka (earrings).

Innovations in Kathak

The Anarkali suit or the churidaar & kameez for the Kathak performer is designed such that it is fitted tight around the waist and the skirt portion below the waist has a flared style so that when the dancer executes a movement of going round and round while standing at the same spot, it gives a wonderful spinning effect.
Traditionally, bangles were not used. The sleeve of the jacket used to have an embroidered stitching which would give a virtual effect of bangles. However nowadays, the real bangles are being used.

Influences over the Years on Kathak

The biggest influences for the Lucknow Gharana are the descendents of Thakur Prasad Maharaj. In today’s times, Pandit Birju Maharaj has carried forth that legacy. The Banaras Gharana has it’s own famous face in the form of Sitara Devi, daughter of Pandit Sukhdev Maharaj.

Interesting Facts and Comparisons about Kathak

  • Similarities have been pointed out between Kathak and the Spanish dance of Flamenco especially in the way feet movements are done.
  • Kathak has been showcased in many Hindi movies including the iconic Pakeeza, Mughal-e-Azam, Shatranj Ke Khiladi and more.
  • In contemporary times, Kathak Yoga as part of the kathak movement techniques have been introduced by Pandit Chitresh Das.  

Health benefits of dancing

Dancing can be a way to stay fit for people of all ages, shapes and sizes. It has a wide range of physical and mental benefits including:
  • improved condition of your heart and lungs
  • increased muscular strength, endurance and motor fitness
  • increased aerobic fitness
  • improved muscle tone and strength
  • weight management
  • stronger bones and reduced risk of osteoporosis
  • better coordination, agility and flexibility
  • improved balance and spatial awareness
  • increased physical confidence
  • improved mental functioning
  • improved general and psychological well-being
  • greater self-confidence and self-esteem
  • better social skills.