What Are Jazz Shoes

For any jazz dancer, wearing a comfortable pair of jazz shoes that enables them to give their best possible performance is very important. However, before we can fully explore what a jazz shoe is, we must first take a look at the art of jazz dancing itself.

Jazz shoes are designed specifically for the type of movements found in contemporary jazz dancing. They’re available in many fabrics such as PVC and canvas though leather is by far the most popular. This is because it is lightweight, highly flexible and breathable. This allows the dancer maximum flexibility of the foot – critical for a highly polished performance of jazz dance. Each pair of jazz shoes also has excellent traction to allow for good control whilst dancing. 

Jazz dancing is a very high energy dance with a very unique style. Its roots can be found in the dancing of African slaves in the 1800s who danced on the ships for exercise when travelling to America. These new styles of dance continued to evolve and merge with other styles throughout the Twentieth Century. For example, the first recognised jazz dancer Joe Frisco wore leather shoes with a short heel so he could incorporate shuffles and camel walks into his act. Later, Vaudeville performers developed shoes with taps attached to the soles. Some dancers were evan known to put ball bearings in the platfords of their shoes so they cold turn quickly while performing backbends.

By the 1920s, new styles of dance such as the Boogie Woogie, Charleston and Jitterbug were becoming increasingly popular. These styles meant that dancing was no longer just for professionals, but took place in more casual settings so those taking part didn’t always wear traditional jazz shoes. Over time, the use of the innovative and elaborate shoes of the Vaudeville era diminished.

Over the years, jazz dancing continued to develop and eventually made its way to Broadway via iconic directors such as Bob Fosse. Fosse’s choreography incorporated inward turned knees, hunched shoulders and burlesque-inspired movement. These movements have since developed into Contemporary Jazz Dancing which range from upbeat movements to those of a more balletic style.

Jazz shoes are designed specifically for the type of movements found in contemporary jazz dancing. They’re available in many fabrics such as PVC and canvas though leather is by far the most popular. This is because it is lightweight, highly flexible and breathable. This allows the dancer maximum flexibility of the foot – critical for a highly polished performance of jazz dance. Each pair of jazz shoes also has excellent traction to allow for good control whilst dancing.

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