The word "ballet" comes from the Italian word "Ballare," meaning "to dance." Ballet first developed during the 15th century as a form of entertainment for Italian royalty. Male dancers first ruled the stage, and it took a Mademoiselle de Lafontaine dancing in Le Triomphe de l’Amour to lead the way for female dancers.
Formal ballet training began in the 1661, when the French king Louis XIV established the Royal Academy of Dance. Official ballet vocabulary and terminology is rooted in the French language, and many original steps and positions that were taught at the Royal Academy of Dance remain the same today.
From ballet’s beginnings during the Italian Renaissance, it evolved and spread to France, Russia, and beyond, developing its own stylistic character. During the 1920s, Russian-born George Balanchine brought the art of ballet to America, establishing the School of American Ballet. It was in 1963 that Balanchine helped E. Virginia Williams establish New England’s first professional repertory ballet company, Boston Ballet.
Ballet has become increasingly stylized and challenging over time, evolving into the intricate and highly choreographed art form that is known today.
BARRE: A long wooden pole, affixed to the wall horizontally, at about waist height. Traditionally, the beginning of ballet class is done at the barre and this portion of class is called "barre work." Young pupils learn each new ballet movement facing the barre and holding onto it with two hands. For most of the "barre work" dancers stand sideways to the barre and maintain their balance by lightly holding on with one hand.
BATTEMENT TENDU JETE: Similar to the battement tendu except that it is usually done more quickly, with a sharp quality, so that the toe is taken off the floor and the legs make a 25- or 45-degree angle to each other.
BATTEMENT TENDU DEGAGE: A quicker and smaller version of the battement tendu jeté, where the toe of the gesture leg just clears the floor by one or two inches.
DEVELOPE: A développé is done by drawing the toe of the gesture leg (which bends at the knee and hip) up the front, side, or back of the supporting leg, until it reaches knee height. It is then "unfolded" to its full extension, either to the front side or back of the dancer’s body.
EPAULEMENT: Literally means "shouldering." This term refers to poses when the dancer stands at a slight angle to (rather than directly facing) the audience. These poses show off the dancers’ lines to the best advantage and add dimensionality to choreography.
GRAND BATTEMENT: Begins like the battement tendu and battement jeté, but the working leg is thrown high into the air so that at its highest point it makes more than a 90-degree angle to the supporting leg.
PAS: Means step or dance, as in PAS DE CHAT, which means "step of the cat," or PAS DE DEUX, which means "dance for two."
PIROUETTE: Literally means "whirligig," which is an old fashioned name for a child’s top. Pirouette is now used to describe the many kinds of turns that dancers do either on demi-point (on the ball of the foot) or on full point for the women (on the tips of the toes with the support of point shoes).
PLIÉ: Most movements in ballet technique begin and end with a plié, which is a bend and stretch of the hip, knee, and ankle joints. Demi- and grand-pliés are done as an exercise at the beginning of the barre work and are done as half-bends and full-bends of the knee.
PORT DE BRAS: Literally means carriage of the arms. It refers to the set positions of the arms as well as the manner in which the arms are moved from position to position.
CORPS DE BALLET: The group of dancers in a ballet company that specializes in ensemble work. In traditional ballets like Swan Lake the corps de ballet dances in large group formations, often moving and turning in intricate lines and patterns. It is the difficult task of the corps de ballet to move with a sense of unison: striving for harmony in line and timing.
TURNOUT: The characteristic that most distinguishes ballet from other forms of dance. It refers to the outward rotation of the legs in the hip socket, so that if one were to look at the feet in first position (heel to heel), they would appear to make a straight line.
LEOTARD: A one piece, fitted garment, made of a light stretch fabric that fits like a second skin to cover a dancer’s torso. Leotards are worn for class and rehearsal so that the teacher may see the workings of the students’ muscles and joints.
BATTEMENT TENDU: A movement in which the dancer stands on one leg, either stretched or bent, and slides the other foot along the floor (with a stretched leg) until the foot is fully articulated and the toes pointed. This movement can be taken to the front, side, or back of the dancer’s body.
ADAGIO or ADAGE: From the musical term adagio, which means "slow" or "at ease". Adage exercises are done both as part of "barre work" and "centre work" and consist of slow, sustained movements. They are meant to build strength and balance, as much of the exercise consists of standing on one leg while extending the other leg high into the air. They also give the dancer time to develop fluidity in "ports de bras" and supple movements of the upper body.
ALLEGRO: Also a musical term meaning "merry" or "quick and lively." Allegro work in ballet is often qualified as "petit" or "grand." "Petite" or "little" refers to quick, small jumps and fast footwork, whereas "grand" or "big" describes larger jumps and expansive moves.
ARABESQUE: A position of the body balancing on one leg while the other leg is extended (usually) to the back. The complementary arm positions vary according to the different schools of technique.
ATTITUDE: A position of the body, related to the arabesque, where the extended leg is bent at the knee.
Until the mid 1950s, jazz dance referred to the dance styles that originated from the African American vernacular dance of the late jazzimages1800s to mid-1900s. Jazz dance often referred to tap dance because tap dancing, set to jazz music, was one of the predominant dances of the era. Jazz dance evolved over time to spawn a diverse range of social and concert dance styles. During the later jazz age, popular forms of jazz dance included the Cakewalk, Black Bottom, Charleston, Jitterbug, Boogie Woogie, swing and the related Lindy Hop. Today, many of these dance styles are still popular and continue to be practiced and taught.
After the 1950s, pioneers such as Katherine Dunham took the essence of Caribbean traditional dance and made it into a performing art. With the growing domination of other forms of entertainment music, jazz dance evolved on Broadway into the new, smooth style that is taught today and known as modern jazz, while tap dance branched off to follow its own, separate evolutionary path. The performance style of jazz dance was popularized to a large extent by Bob Fosse’s work, which is exemplified by Broadway shows such as Chicago, Cabaret, Damn Yankees, and The Pajama Game. Modern jazz dance continues to be an essential element of musical theatre, and it can often be seen in music videos and competitive dance.
Jazz dancers wear leather jazz shoes, colored either black or beige, to help them move smoothly when executing turns. Prior to dancing, dancers typically perform exercises in order to warm up and stretch muscles so as to prevent injuries. In addition, core strengthening exercises are often used for conditioning.
Modern jazz dance is frequently influenced by other dance styles such as ballet, contemporary, lyrical, and hip hop. In turn, many other dance styles are influenced by jazz dance.
As in most forms of dance, technique is the foundation for all modern jazz dance movement. In particular, jazz dancers benefit from a sound working knowledge of ballet technique and, consequently, jazz dance curriculum commonly includes ballet training. Dancers who have mastered jazz dance technique are free to focus on the stylistic and performance aspects of dance.
Modern jazz dance encompasses various techniques, Center control, the body’s center is the focal point from which all movement emanates, thus making it possible to maintain balance while executing powerful movements. Spotting, this enables dancers to maintain balance and control while executing turns such Pirouettes and fouettés.
During the 1930s, 1940s, and 1950s, the best tap dancers moved from Vaudeville to cinema and television. Steve Condos, with his innovative style of percussion tap, created a whole new tap style that he introduced to audiences in Vaudeville, and later to the audiences of film and Broadway. Prominent tap dancers of this period included Fred Astaire, Ginger Rogers, Shirley Temple, John W. Bubbles, Charles "Honi" Coles, Vera-Ellen, Ruby Keeler, Gene Kelly, Ann Miller (credited as the fastest recorded tap dancer, a record she still holds), Jeni LeGon, Fayard and Harold Nicholas of the Nicholas Brothers, The Clark Brothers, Donald O’Connor, Eleanor Powell, Rita Hayworth, Betty Grable, PrinceSpencer, Bill "Bojangles" Robinson, and Jimmy Slyde.
During the 1930s tap dance mixed with Lindy Hop "Flying Swing Outs" and "Flying Circles" are Lindy Hop moves with tap footwork. In the 1950s, the style of entertainment changed. Jazz music and tap dance declined, while rock and roll and pop music and the new jazz dance emerged. What is now called jazz dance evolved out of tap dance, so both dances have many moves in common. But jazz evolved separately from tap dance to become a new form in its own right. Well-known dancers during the 1960s and 1970s included Arthur Duncan and Tommy Tune.
No Maps on My Taps, the Emmy award winning PBS documentary of 1979, helped begin the recent revival of tap dance. The outstanding success of the animated film, Happy Feet, further reinforced the popular appeal NATIONAL TAP DANCE DAY in the United States, now celebrated May 25, was signed into law by President George Bush on November 7, 1989. (May 25 was chosen because it is the birthday of famous tapper, Bill "Bojangles" Robinson.)
Prominent modern tap dancers have included Brenda Bufalino, Jay Fagan, Savion Glover, Peter tapirish Briansen, Gregory and Maurice Hines of Hines, Hines, and Dad, Ayodele Casel, LaVaughn Robinson, Jason Samuels Smith, Chloe Arnold, Jared Grimes, Joseph Wiggan, Sarah Savelli, Jason Janas,Acia Gray,Mark Yonally, Dianne "Lady Di" Walker, Martin "Tre" Dumas, Dormeshia Sumbry Edwards, Omar Edwards, Michelle Dorrance, Max Pollak, Derick Grant, Jumaane Taylor, Sam Weber and Grant Swift. Indie-pop band Tilly and the Wall also features a tap dancer, Jamie Pressnall, tapping as percussion. Orchestral-pop band Born Again Floozies combines tap dance, hoofing, and stomp dance with orchestral percussion and low brass as its rhythm section.
Tap dancers make frequent use of syncopation. Choreography typically starts on the eighth or first beatcount. Another aspect of tap dancing is improvisation. This can either be done with music and follow the beats provided or without musical accompaniment, otherwise known as a cappella dancing.
Hoofers are tap dancers who dance primarily with their legs, making a louder, more grounded sound. This kind of tap dancing, also called "rhythm tap", came primarily from cities or poor areas. Today this is not the case, especially with such a wide variety of styles spreading throughout the world. Steve Condos rose out of his humble beginnings in Pittsburgh, PA to become a master in rhythmic tap. His innovative style influenced the work of Gregory Hines, Savion Glover and Marshall Davis, Jr. The majority of hoofers, such as Sammy Davis Jr., Savion Glover, Gregory Hines, and LaVaughn Robinson are African American men, although today the art form transcends racial and gender stereotypes. Savion Glover is the best-known living hoofer, who helped bring tap dance into mainstream media by choreographing and dancing for the major motion picture Happy Feet, a film about a tap dancing penguin. Another well-known tap film is 1989’s Tap, starring the late Gregory Hines and many of the old-time hoofers.
Early dancers like Fred Astaire provided a more ballroom look to tap dancing, while Gene Kelly used his extensive ballet training to make tap dancing incorporate all the parts of the ballet. This tap style of tap led to what is today known as "Broadway style," which is more mainstream in American culture. It often involves high heeled tap shoes and show music, and is usually the type of tap first taught to beginners. The best examples of this style are found in Broadway musicals such as 42nd Street.
Common tap steps include the shuffle, shuffle ball change, flap, flap heel, cramproll, buffalo, Maxi Ford, single and double pullbacks, wings, Cincinnati, the shim sham shimmy (also called the Lindy), Irish, Waltz Clog, the paddle and roll (also called the paradiddle), stomp, brushes, scuffs, and single and double toe punches, hot steps, heel clicks, single, double and triple time steps, riffs, over-the-tops, military time step, new yorkers, and chugs. In advanced tap dancing, basic steps are often combined together to create new steps.
Hip-hop dance refers to social or choreographed dance styles primarily danced to hip-hop music or that have evolved as part of hip-hop culture. This includes a wide range of styles notably breaking, locking, and popping which were developed in the 1970s by Black and Latino Americans. What separates hip-hop dance from other forms of dance is that it is often freestyle (improvizational) in nature and hip-hop dancers frequently engage in battles—formal or informal freestyle dance competitions. Informal freestyle sessions and battles are usually performed in a cipher, a circular dance space that forms naturally once the dancing begins.
These three elements—freestyling, battles, and ciphers—are key components of hip-hop dance.
More than 30 years old, hip-hop dance became widely known after the first professional breaking, locking, and popping crews formed in the 1970s. The most influential groups include the Rock Steady Crew, The Lockers, and the Electric Boogaloos who are responsible for the spread of breaking, locking, and popping respectively. Parallel with the evolution of hip-hop music, hip-hop dancing evolved from breaking and the funk styles into different forms. Moves such as the "running man" and the "cabbage patch" hit the mainstream and became fad dances. The dance industry in particular responded with studio/commercial hip-hop, sometimes called new style or L.A. style, and jazz funk. These styles were developed by technically trained dancers who wanted to create choreography to hip-hop music and to the hip-hop dances they saw being performed on the street. Due to this development, hip-hop dance is now practiced at both studios and outside spaces.
As technical form of dance, hip-hop dance (L.A. style that is) is characterized as hard hitting involving flexibility and isolations—moving a certain body part independently from others. The feet are hiphop2imagesgrounded, the chest is down, and the body is kept loose so that a dancer can easily alternate between hitting the beat or riding through the beat. This is in contrast to ballet or ballroom dancing where the chest is upright and the body is stiff. In addition, L.A. style hip-hop is very rhythmic and a lot of emphasis is placed on musicality—how sensitive your movements are to the music—and being able to freestyle.